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This Week in Sustainable Transportation, 3/20
Mike Millikin, 20 Mar 05

Each week, Mike Millikin of Green Car Congress brings WorldChanging readers the best of the week's sustainable transportation news. Here's this week's installment:

Policy and Legislation

It was a big week for policy and legislation. Probably the most reported was the Senate’s approval of opening up drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve (ANWR). The decision is notable for many obvious reasons, not the least of which are the potential environmental impact and how little a quantitative effect ANWR would have on the purported goal: energy independence.

Just on the numbers side, given government estimates about production volume, timing, and the ongoing increase in oil consumption in the US, ANWR would reach its peak production in 2024 at less than 1 million barrels per day, reducing the forecast US reliance on imported oil then by four percentage points—from 70% to 66%. (GCC)

Even if ANWR were at peak production today, the US would still be importing than 9 million barrels per day.

ANWR oil, in other words, doesn’t make much of a dent. Match that with the risks of arctic drilling and the potential environmental impact, and you have bad policy—assuming the goal is to reduce dependence on imported oil. Strong efforts on conservation combined with an aggressive fuel efficiency program would do much more in a much shorter period of time.

But one of the themes that began to emerge during the ANWR debate from some drilling supporters is one that will be refined and used often as global oil production approaches and then passes its peak over the next few years: there is no such thing as a “bad” energy source. In other words, if it’s there, drill it. Every drop will be needed.

That argument will become more widely compelling to a broader base depending upon the timing of peak production and the state of demand globally for oil. It also does not address the underlying problem, nor would the resulting solutions, like ANWR, make enough of a difference in sufficient time to warrant the diversion. It’s bad math, bad environmental stewardship and bad policy all rolled up into one big mass.

Separately, Republican Senators re-introduced legislation for a national Renewable Fuels Standard.

The new measure would reportedly require 6 billion gallons of renewable fuels be blended into the nation’s fuel supply annually by 2012. This represents a 1 billion gallon (20%) increase from the amount initially proposed in the RFS proposed in 2001.

But 6 billion gallons in 2012 represents only 2.8% of projected 2012 gasoline and diesel fuel consumption in the US. By comparison, the European Union has set an intermediate target of a 5.75% renewables component for its fuels by 2011, with 20% being the goal for 2020. (GCC)

In Canada, the federal government says it plans to regulate greenhouse gases as pollutants under the purview of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, and will introduce a bill to that effect as early as next week. (GCC)

The Washington state House passed a bill adopting California’s emission standards for light- and medium-duty passenger vehicles. While this would put Washington in the LEV-II/PZEV/ZEV camp, it does not include the provisions of the more recent Pavley Bill that restricts CO2 emissions from new vehicles. (GCC)

Washington would be the ninth state to adopt California’s lower emissions standards instead of the federal standards.


The Burbank, California city council approved spending some $350,000 to work with California’s South Coast Area Quality Management District (AQMD) to convert five Toyota Priuses to hydrogen-electric hybrids for testing and use in the Burbank fleet.

The converted cars will use hydrogen as a fuel in the existing internal combustion engine rather than gasoline. The Toyota Hybrid Synergy Drive will be unmodified.

As part of the initiative, first proposed by AQMD in June 2003, the agency will spend $1.4 million to convert the Priuses and build the requisite hydrogen fueling station for the city.

Quantum Technologies is developing and integrating the hydrogen internal combustion engine fuel system.

Japanese truck makers are accelerating their rollouts of hybrid models, especially diesel hybrids.

Toyota’s Hino is currently the market leader in Japan. Domestic sales of hybrid trucks and buses surged 14-fold in 2004 from a year earlier, due largely to the brisk sales of Hino's Dutro Hybrid light truck, released in November 2003. Hino is expanding its presence in North America.

Earlier this year, Hino released a new version of its diesel parallel hybrid bus in Japan. The new system improves fuel consumption by 10%–20% and reduces CO2 emissions by 9%–17% over conventional diesel buses.

Isuzu Motors, Japan’s top seller of trucks and buses in 2004 excluding 660cc minivehicles, is due to release a lightweight diesel hybrid ELF-series truck using Isuzu’s own hybrid system this spring. Mitsubishi Fuso Truck & Bus Corp., the No. 2 player in 2004, plans to release a similar vehicle by year-end. Mitsubishi Fuso introduced a diesel series hybrid bus last year. (GCC)

On a retrospective note, DaimlerChrysler CEO Dieter Zetsche in a speech to the Detroit Economic Club said that several automakers—including DaimlerChrysler—had misjudged the market impact of Honda and Toyota’s hybrids, but said that they had learned and are acting.

Lexus announced it will unveil the new GS 450h high-performance hybrid luxury sedan, the first rear-wheel drive hybrid ever offered, next week at the 2005 New York International Auto Show. The SULEV (Super Ultra Low Emissions) vehicle reflects the emerging trend of using hybrid powertrains to deliver high-performance balanced by fuel efficiency, rather than emphasizing fuel-efficiency balanced with performance and handling.

Emissions Control

Two of the US national laboratories were out presenting different new developments that could improve the efficiency of the catalytic reduction of NOx in vehicle exhaust.

Improving NOx reduction could bolster the use of more fuel-efficient lean-burn gasoline engines (which produce more NOx than conventional engines, and could offset the increased NOx production from biodiesel use.

Researchers at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) developed a new catalysis process to reduce NOx in diesel engine emissions.

“Reformer-assisted catalysis” has three stages: creation of a “syngas”, using the syngas to create a reductant, and the subsequent catalytic reduction of NOx in emissions.

In this process, a portion of diesel fuel is passed through an on-board reformer to create a syngas. The syngas is then converted to dimethyl-ether (DME). This is a version of the same process used to synthesize DME in quantity as a clean alternative fuel—it just happens on-board a heavy-duty truck and in very small amounts, rather than in a large plant next to natural gas fields.

The DME is then injected into the exhaust, enhancing the performance of certain catalysts that reduce the NOx. (a href="">GCC)

Work at Brookhaven National Laboratory may lead to catalytic materials that are better at cleaning up auto exhaust, and/or to more-efficient ways of generating hydrogen. The researchers used a new technique to synthesize nanoparticles of ceria (cerium oxide), and then studied how its composition, structure, and reactivity changed in response to doping with zirconium.

Adding zirconium improves ceria“s ability to store and release oxygen. The Brookhaven work discovered why: zirconium changes the ceria’s structure to increase the number of oxygen “vacancies”—places for oxygen uptake and release. Furthermore, they found that the ceria nanoparticles have much better performance—higher chemical reactivity—than the bulk form of ceria currently used in catalytic converters.


Distributed Energy Systems’s subsidiaries Proton Energy and Northern Power are partnering with EVermont to build a PEM electrolysis hydrogen fueling station in Vermont.

PEM Water electrolysis uses electricity, a catalyst and a proton exchange membrane (PEM) to split water into molecules of hydrogen and oxygen. PEM electrolysis is essentially the reverse of a PEM fuel cell operation, in which hydrogen is the input and water and electricity the outputs.

The system, based on a Proton Energy H Series electrolyzer, will produce up to 12 kg of hydrogen per day, using water and electricity from the grid. The hydrogen will be compressed and stored on-site and then dispensed for hydrogen-fueled vehicles.

Electricity for the project will be supplied by Burlington Electric Department, which generated 42% of its power from renewable sources in 2004, including a wind turbine located adjacent to the Public Works site.

On the vehicle side, DaimlerChrysler suggested that its first hydrogen fuel cell cars will be for sale in 2012. (GCC)

In other developments, Volkswagen announced that it will extend warranty protection for the use of B5 biodiesel (5% biodiesel) to all of its US-market diesel automobiles. (GCC)

The newly formed Zinc Energy Storage Technology (ZEST) Consortium is focusing on developing the technology and the market for zinc-based energy storage devices. The Consortium is initially focusing on the electric vehicle market in Asia, with a push for the upcoming Olympic Games in Beijing in 2008. (GCC)

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Uh nope. The fact is we wont be using more oil in 2012 then we do now because we wont HAVE more oil. We might be using more FUEL but what that fuel will be is anybodies guess.

As for what this does do... it gives us a 35 or so year supply of 900 million barrels a day. about 1/11th of current WANTS but how much of our current NEEDS? As for conservation and all yup high gas prices kinda get that moving real fast. This isnt about that its about supply and making sure we have SOME oil for x years for those things that REALY need it.

Or do you realy think many cars are going to use oil based fuels in 2020? Power plants sure dont use it anymore. Factories dont.. who does use oil now? Who will in 5 10 15 years?

Posted by: wintermane on 20 Mar 05

The best way to address the world's dependence on oil and to also reduce the power of the oil cartel is; make oil a minor part of day to day living.
The technology to do this is available today..
Cars that run on used vegetable oil etc.
Buildings that are cooled, heated and powered by energy from the sun, the wind, water etc.
Everything that oil does play a part in, can be better designed, made energy efficient or has an more enviromentally safe alternative.
Americans are under-informed about what is currently available as to more efficient, and safer alternatives to Oil.
Once these technologies become part of our every day life, then we will no-longer be dependent on Oil and; the power of the Oil Cartel is broken.
So not only will our planet's resources go farther, but the world will never again have it's children die in wars over oil..

Posted by: Jackie on 20 Mar 05

Oppsy ment 900 THOUSAND not million barrels a day;/ anyway it might seem like a little but remember very likely through alot of its timeline it will be a fairly signifigant portion of all the oil we will have access to.

As for the oil catel in case you handt noticed by now the oil catel has been packing its bags and preping the escape shuttles for decades now. The entire industry is in end of life mode.

Posted by: wintermane on 21 Mar 05

Why do people still think that OIL dependency can be addressed by insulating HOUSES?  Only a very small fraction of oil goes for heat; the majority of it goes for transportation, and transportation technology is what's going to have to change to address this.

You can cut transport oil needs by 70-80% using plug-in hybrids.  You can get the electric power "for free" during the heating season using domestic cogeneration.  Doing both of these at the same time yields huge bonuses:  petroleum use potentially eliminated, natural gas use cut, pollution radically reduced, carbon emissions cut as much as 2/3, and all of this likely cheaper than the status quo.

But to make it work, you've got to be able to walk into a car dealer and drive out in a vehicle that not only fits your needs and desires, it has to have a plug on it to drink from the electrical grid in addition to the filler to drink from OPEC.  If we can't buy them off the lot, this is not happening.

Posted by: Engineer-Poet on 24 Mar 05



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