Archive for the ‘fossil fuels’ Tag

Navistar to Launch Electric Truck for Medium Duty

This is interesting:

Navistar Launches Electric Truck in “Green” Portland WA

Navistar, Inc. announced that it will launch it’s new eStar™ truck, the first full-production, purpose-built all-electric truck, in the uber-green, environmentally sustainable city of Portland, Oregon. “Freight and service trucks present the biggest opportunity for real and significant reductions in carbon emissions and pollution, especially in the urban environment,” said Portland Mayor Sam Adams. “Because of all Portland is doing to be a more sustainable and prosperous city and encourage the electric vehicle industry, I’m proud that Navistar chose Portland as its initial launch city for the eStar purpose-built, all-electric truck.”

Navistar also announced its eStar dealer for the Pacific Northwest market will be Cascadia International Trucks of Tacoma, Wash.

via Green Car Magazine

I’m not sure what the market will have to say about a delivery truck with only 100 mile range. The article notes that the design allows for easy battery swapping, but I’m not sure that counts as “convenient” – the driver will have to return to the garage/warehouse, and be idle while the changeout takes place.

I’ll count that as a baby step in the right direction.

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Tesla, Toyota to build electric cars at Fremont, CA NUMMI plant

Tesla, Toyota to build electric cars at NUMMI plant

“Stunning” says it all.

In a stunning deal, Tesla Motors announced late Thursday that it is teaming up with Toyota to build its all-electric Model S sedan at the recently shuttered NUMMI plant in Fremont, creating more than 1,000 new jobs.

This is exactly the kind of partnership I was hoping one of the Big Three would do with Tesla.

Tesla will use the former New United Motor Manufacturing Inc. plant to begin production of the Model S, a sedan that can seat five adults and two children and has a range of 300 miles. Once it reaches full production at the NUMMI plant, Tesla expects to produce 20,000 electric vehicles each year, which will sell for $50,000.

But the Model S would occupy only a small part of the NUMMI plant, leaving room for Tesla and Toyota to manufacture other models of electric cars there.

“Long term, we think we could create 10,000 jobs, half from Tesla and half from our suppliers,” [Tesla CEO Elon] Musk said.

(via San Jose Mercury News)

Will Politics Slow the Wind?: Scientific American

A very thought-provoking article in Scientific American walks through some of the growing pains facing the wind industry (Will Politics Slow the Wind?).

Not many years ago, there wasn’t enough wind power coming from the Great Plains to worry about. Now there is, and lots of people are worrying.

A group of mostly East Coast utility companies calling itself the Coalition for Fair Transmission Policy fears that the prime conditions in the Great Plains will make the region’s wind power too cheap for its members to compete with, unless developers there are made to pay the costs of moving wind power eastward.

The article also touches on the backlash generated when a windfarm in Texas announced it would be using stimulus funding to buy turbines manufactured in China.

For years, the knock on wind energy was that it was too expensive, too unreliable, and too far away to be of any practical use. Two of those reasons are gone, and the grid upgrades needed to deliver wind energy will solve a problem that has needed attention for too long.

Carbon Capture Test Called a Success by We Energies

A test of carbon capture technology in Wisconsin shows that – in the perfect world – technology might lessen the impact of coal-burning power plants on climate change. From Journal-Sentinel writer Thomas Content (via the good people at Energy News Network):

We Energies says carbon-capture project works

An $8 million pilot project in Wisconsin successfully showed that carbon dioxide can be captured and kept from being released from the smokestacks of coal-fired power plants, We Energies and two partners said Thursday.

The project was the first real-life demonstration of technology that uses chilled ammonia to act as a magnet to capture the greenhouse gas and purify it for possible shipment into underground geological formations instead of into the air.

The Wisconsin project, at the Pleasant Prairie Power Plant, was able to grab at least 90% of the greenhouse gas, officials said, and the French company Alstom that developed the technology is optimistic its next test will capture even more carbon dioxide.

(via Energy News Network)

Since this was just a test, the captured carbon dioxide was released rather than sequestered underground. A similar test at AEP’s Mountaineer power plant in West Virginia will be the first full-scale implementation of the technology. Alstom plans to begin selling the technology in 2015.

A few potential problems are already apparent:

  • Ammonia is synthesized from natural gas. This process of ammonia synthesis generates CO2, so using synthesized ammonia to capture CO2 may not result in a net decrease. At the very least, the ammonia synthesis stage needs to calculated into the final reduction of this process for a true measure of the CO2 reduction accomplished through this process.
  • Ammonia happens to be one of the major inputs for commercial agriculture. It is used in creating fertilizer. Reducing the ammonia available for farming will have much the same impact that diverting corn into ethanol production did: reduced availability resulting in higher prices for ammonia and ultimately higher food prices.
  • The process of ammonia capture consumes between 20-25 percent of the energy produced from the coal-burning plant. This, too, has the effect of making electricity more expensive. As David Biello wrote in the Scientific American blog when the company announced the preliminary results of the test earlier this year:

    In other words, capturing that CO2 will cost between $50 and $90 per metric ton, though (Robert) Hilton [Vice President of Power Technologies and Government Affairs at Alstom] believes that scaling up the process and refining it will reduce that cost…

    The problem with the “efficiency of scale” argument made by Mr. Hilton is that he assumes a large-scale deployment of the technology. This is a circular argument, since widespread deployment of carbon-capture technology is dependent on making the technology affordable.

  • It is also important to note that there has to be someplace to but the carbon dioxide after it is removed from the plant exhaust. In this “small” test, over 58,000 tons of CO2 was captured from a small fraction of the total emissions of one power plant. Nowhere in Wisconsin is there anyplace to sequester the captured CO2 from this and other coal-burning power plants in the state. Wisconsin lacks the proper geological formations to use the same underground deep-well injection technique planned for the Mountaineer plant. Sending the gas by pipeline to a neighboring state has been proposed, but there are no plans and no funding to construct such a pipeline.

Even if all those obstacles can be overcome, it still leaves a power generation system in place that is dependent on cheap coal.
For the billions (or trillions) of dollars it will take to test, develop, and implement carbon capture, isn’t it worth at least considering something truly groundbreaking and sustainable, like improved firming capability for wind and solar energy instead?

Exxon Invests in Biofuel from Algae Production

Whether its “conventional” sources or renewable, energy is energy, and there is money to be made.

What does Exxon investment mean for algae biofuels?

By Callum James

The US Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) have recently announced that ExxonMobil are set to invest as much as $600 million in biofuel production technology, specifically biofuel produced from algae. Exxon seem to be following the lead of many other much smaller energy companies who have been researching algae as a source of biofuel for some time.

However Exxon are not doing this on their own, they will work alongside Synthetic Genomics Inc. (SGI). Together they have formed a research and development partnership focused on exploring the production of biofuels from photosynthetic algae. EERE plan on using photosynthetic algae, such as single-celled “microalgae” and blue-green algae, harnessing their ability to use sunlight to convert carbon dioxide into cellular oils along with some long-chain hydrocarbons that can be processed into fuels and chemicals.

via Biofuel from algae (via ngoilgas.com).

The are two main advantages of algae-based biofuel.

  • Algae-based biofuel could be converted into a renewable replacement for gasoline, diesel fuel, and jet fuel, without requiring major vehicle retrofitting. The flexibility to refine multiple fuels from a single source is also attractive.
  • Yield from algae production dwarfs that of even the most robust crop-based biofuels on a per-acre basis – more than three times as great as current crops can produce.

I applaud this move. The current actors in the energy markets are extremely well-positioned for this new development. The trading, distribution, and regulatory systems are already in place, no “perfect storm” of events has to fall into place (as was true of the Pickens Plan). No disruption of consumers’ patterns of consumption or lifestyles is required to transition to these new fuels.

Better living through chemistry – the 21st century version.

US subsidies of oil and coal more than double the subsidies of renewable energy

File under “Things that make me scratch my head:”

US subsidies of oil and coal more than double the subsidies of renewable energy

Jeremy Hance
mongabay.com
September 21, 2009

During the fiscal years of 2002-2008 the United States handed out subsidies to fossil fuel industries to a tune of 72 billion dollars, while renewable energy subsidies, during the same period, reached 29 billion dollars. Conducted by the Environmental Law Institute (ELI) in partnership with the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, the research shows that the US government has heavily subsidized ‘dirty fuels’ that emit high levels of greenhouse gases.

The funds provided to renewable energy sources plunges further when one takes into account that of the 29 billion dollars, 16.8 billion went to subsidizing corn-based ethanol, an energy source that numerous studies have shown is not carbon neutral and has been blamed in part for deforestation in the tropics and the global food crisis. The remaining 12.2 billion went to wind, solar, non-corn based biofuels and biomass, hydropower, and geothermal energy production.

Of the 72 billion dollars given to fossil fuels, 2.3 billion went to carbon capture and storage. The rest of the funds went to oil and coal.

via US subsidies of oil and coal more than double the subsidies of renewable energy.

I have no problem with using subsidies or the tax code to encourage private enterprise to move in a certain direction. But this boggles the mind. Why are we subsidizing businesses that have posted record profits, even in the middle of a recession, and slighting those that have demonstrated economic, employment, and environmental superiority?

Ford Engine Plant #1 Reopens to Build Fuel Efficient V6

Ford Engine Plant #1 reopened yesterday. The retooled factory is now building an advanced engine for use in the 2010 Lincoln MKS.

This is good news for the 250 or so Ford employees who were recalled. But this is at best a baby step in the right direction. According to news reports, the new 6-cylinder engine delivers performance typically seen from a V8. You could spin this as Ford being responsive to that segment of buyers that want full-size cars, but it’s not going to do much to curb dependence on foreign oil.

Why do I keep getting flashes of buggy whips going through my brain?

Ford Truck Plant to Retool to Build Electric Cars

The New York Times’ Green Inc. blog is reporting that Ford will spend half a billion dollars to retool one of its factories to produce an all-electric verson of the Ford Focus:

Amidst one of the auto industry’s largest wholesale shifts in modern history, the Ford Motor Company is investing $550 million to turn a factory that was dedicated to making large and fuel-hungry sport utility vehicles into a modern and scalable small-car plant that will eventually produce an all-electric version of the Focus.

The Michigan Assembly Plant, known as one of the world’s most profitable manufacturing sites during the S.U.V. boom of the 1990s, was once the hub for the Ford Expedition and Lincoln Navigator. The plant is expected to begin building the new Ford Focus next year, followed by production of the all-electric Focus in 2011.

via Ford Truck Plant to Build Electric Cars – Green Inc. Blog – NYTimes.com.

This is great news, if a little late. I wonder how much of the impetus to produce an all-electric version of the Focus comes as one of the strings from the auto bailout, and how much comes from Ford execs noticing the popularity of the Prius and the incredible response to the mere announcement of the Chevy Volt.

Whatever the reason, it’s about time.

Abu Dhabi sultan decrees 7 percent renewable sources by 2020

When leader of one of the countries with the largest proven oil reserves decides to get serious about renewable energy, you have to figure it’s not because of some touchy-feely “Save the Planet” motivation. No, this is a hard-nosed, practical, business decision: The sooner oil producing countries convert a significant portion of their energy economy to renewable sources, the more oil they’ll have down the road.

Sultan Al Jaber, chief executive of the state-owned future energy company Masdar, which will oversee the green drive, said at the World Future Energy Summit in Abu Dhabi that it was natural tomove into this new sector. By doing so Masdar would “provide a comprehensive solution to the world’s energy challenges and maintain Abu Dhabi’s position as a leading supplier of energy to the world.” The Gulf state, a part of the United Arab Emirates, also wants to differentiate itself from neighbour Dubai, and diversify its economy, believing a “green” infrastructure will help its image as a new tourist destination.

Can’t argue with any of that. In fact, many of the same reasons apply to the economic landscape in Houston, which is rapidly establishing itself as the economic hub for wind energy in this country.

Here’s my take: Although renewable sources – wind, solar, hydro, wave, etc. – are becoming more affordable, they still have two problems that need to be addressed. The first is critical to transforming renewables into an “industrial” scale power generation source: renewables will need a large-scale solution to the firming problem. (wind/sun/waves only available for certain parts of the day). Changing the significant parts of the energy economy to renewable sources will in itself be an enormous technical challenge. I want a non-polluting hydrogen powered car as much as the next greenie, but there just aren’t any. And the technical details of converting the transportation fleet to renewable energy is only going to happen when replacing the vehicles on the road today with as-of-now unavailable heavy EVs or hydrogen cell trucks makes economic sense. From where I sit, the best hope in the near term – say the next eight to ten years – would be some form of plug-in hybrid platform or biofuel vehicle (presuming a process for cellulostic ethanol can be made widely available – and affordable). Which means old-fashioned petro-fueled trucks are going to be around for a good long time.

If that’s the case, then hanging on to your limited and increasingly in-demand fossil fuel reserves for as long as possible makes extremely good financial sense.