Posts Tagged ‘Clean energy’

Should we all drive diesels?

December 4, 2008

bmw-335d

I think so. Modern turbodiesels are 40% more efficient than an equivalent gasoline powered automobiles and they kick serious butt.  This simple change would go a long way toward our goal of getting rid of imported oil.  And I’m speaking from personal experience.  I have been driving my 1999 Volkswagen TDI for 10 years.  Currently, I have over 150,000 miles on it and I routinely get over 55 MPG when I drive a combination of 25% city and 75% highway.  I have had no major problems with the car and I’ve only had to do routine maintenance and replace the tires.

 

Diesel engines are available in two stroke or four stroke versions and can be used in anything from a lawn mower to a cruise ship. One of their original uses was as a more efficient replacement for steam engines. Since the early 1900s they have been used in submarines and ships. They are now widely used in locomotives, large trucks and electric generating plants. They have been used in automobiles since the 1930s. Currently in the USA (since the 1970s), diesel engines are mostly used in larger on-road and off-road vehicles. As of 2007, over half of all new car sales in Europe are diesel.

 

 DB2008AU00195

The Future of the Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV)

And what about the new Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles?  It looks to me like most of them for sale in the United States are going to be gasoline powered.  The Toyota Prius is currently rated at 45 highway and 48 city (see: http://www.popularmechanics.com/automotive/new_cars/4284188.html?series=19). This is why I would never consider the Toyota Prius.  What is even more disturbing is that the new Plug-in version of the Toyota Prius is also going to be gas powered. Although the fact that Volkswagen’s new concept is a diesel PHEV is quite encouraging.  See: http://carscoop.blogspot.com/2008/03/geneva-volkswagens-69-mpg-golf-diesel.html

 Available NOW

This new breed of clean diesels is clean, quiet, more efficient, more reliable, and has better performance than anything that runs on gas.  Since all our jets, trains, trucks, ships, buses, and many electric generators essentially run on diesel, why do we have gasoline engines at all? And I’m not even counting all the military equipment that runs on diesel.  We even heat many houses with a fuel that is so close to diesel fuel that they have to dye it red so truckers and diesel car drivers don’t cheat to avoid paying road taxes.

 Prices?

The only other issue is price.  It costs more to order a diesel engine than it does to order a gas engine and diesel fuel has been more expensive for some reason after 2004. I paid about $650 more for the diesel version of my 1999 VW New Beetle simply because there are fewer diesels made in the United States.  Obviously this would not be a problem if all automobiles were powered by diesel engines.  That $650 was returned to me in less than a few years because diesel cost less per gallon (at one time over $1.00 per gallon less) and due to the great fuel economy.  Since diesel now costs more than gasoline your return on investment would take longer to recover. 

The price of diesel has increased because than number of refineries have been reduced and the remaining refineries have been optimized for gasoline production (even though diesel is generally simpler to refine from petroleum than gasoline).  So think about it; if there were no gasoline used in the United States, all refineries would be optimized for diesel and diesel would be cheap.

 Here’s a partial list of the advantages that diesel engines have over other internal combustion engines.

·         They burn less fuel than a gasoline engine performing the same work, due to the engine’s high efficiency and diesel fuel’s higher energy density than gasoline.

·         They have no high-tension electrical ignition system to attend to, resulting in high reliability and easy adaptation to damp environments.

·         They can deliver much more of their rated power on a continuous basis than a gasoline engine.

·         The life of a diesel engine is generally about twice as long as that of a gasoline engine due to the increased strength of parts used, also diesel fuel has better lubrication properties than gasoline.

·         Diesel fuel is considered safer than gasoline in many applications. Although diesel fuel will burn in open air using a wick, it will not explode and does not release a large amount of flammable vapor.

·         For any given partial load, the fuel efficiency (Kilograms burned per KWh produced) of a diesel engine remains nearly constant, as opposed to gasoline and turbine engines which vary depending on throttle position.

 

How about the fun factor?

Take a look at the new 2009 BMW 335D:

http://www.zinio.com/pages/RoadTrack/Jan-09/322529683/pg-34

 

Popular mechanics likes it too. Take a look at the incredible things they say in their review of the 2009 BMW 335D

 (http://www.popularmechanics.com/blogs/automotive_news/4283090.html):

 “Diesel and high performance don’t normally sit in the same sentence, but take a look at the following figures: 155 mph, 0 to 62 mph in 6.0 seconds and 428 lb.-ft. of torque. Compare those numbers with these: 155 mph, 0 to 62 mph in 5.6 seconds and 295 lb.-ft. of torque. Okay, so which one is the performance car? The first set of figures apply to the 335d, the second to its gasoline alternative. Away from the test track the turbodiesel’s midrange torque and flexibility would absolutely smoke (but not really, this is a “clean diesel”) its gasoline counterpart. And the 335d is not only the faster point-to-point car; it also gives you a 10 mpg (U.S.) boost over the gas one. The 335d returns an NEDC combined economy of 35.1 mpg against the 335i’s 25.6 mpg. In practice, the big diesel gives around 33 mpg in our mixed running, partly because the performance is just so intoxicating and almost impossible to resist.

 

Make no mistake, this is no pure economy car—it’s real-world fast. The mandatory six-speed automatic gearbox means you can’t be quite the hooligan you imagined, but it is perfectly possible to get the rear wheels of this nearly 2-ton car to break traction. And the iron block mill provides serious grunt all the way to the 5000 rpm redline, which makes passing slower vehicles contemptuously easy. This is an oil-burning hot rod.”

 

Alternative fuels

Current diesel engines can run on standard diesel, biodiesel (produced from vegetable oils) and synthetic diesel (produced from wood, hemp, straw, corn, garbage, food scraps, and sewage-sludge) or any combination of these fuels. Synthetic diesel can also be produced from natural gas or coal. Even when produced from natural gas or coal, synthetic diesel has 30% less particulate emissions than conventional diesel.

 

Energy independence

Therefore, if all vehicles were required to have diesel engines this would simplify refining, transportation and distribution processes and result in less oil usage in United States.  The gains in efficiency combined with the production of biodiesel and synthetic diesel could potentially eliminate the need for imported oil altogether. When this strategy is used with the many other great alternative energy sources, this would be a great way to transition the United States to a cleaner and more independent future.

 

What do you think?

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McCain-Palin 2008 Energy policies

October 26, 2008

Expanding Domestic Oil And Natural Gas Exploration And Production: “Drill baby drill” Has Been the chant of their campaign.  Drilling for offshore oil is an unrealistic fallacy.  If you look it up on the government web sites you’ll find a study by the Department of Energy that say the impact would be “insignificant.” Does it make sense to you to go after the same stuff that there’s less and less of everyday?  This isn’t gonna help our pain at the pumps at all.  All the oil infrastructure that they are talking about would take about 10 years to get up and running.  And even after it was all in it would only account for about 1% overall oil usage.  What this really means is after it’s all in place you will see about one penny less per gallon at the pump.

 

Taking Action Now To Break Our Dependency On Foreign Oil By Reforming Our Transportation Sector.

 He wants to “commit a $5,000 tax credit for each and every customer who buys a zero carbon emission car, encouraging automakers to be first on the market with these cars in order to capitalize on the consumer incentives. For other vehicles, a graduated tax credit will apply so that the lower the carbon emissions, the higher the tax credit.” Now this a good start.  But it doesn’t do anything to get the inefficient trucks and SUVs off the market and our streets.  We need to charge more at the pumps for large and efficient vehicles and less for hybrids and plug-in hybrids.

 

I like the “$300 Million Prize To Improve Battery Technology For Full Commercial Development Of Plug-In Hybrid And Fully Electric Automobiles“because I believe we shouldn’t invest in new technologies.  He does, however, put all our eggs in one basket.

 

I’d don’t like that he “Supports Flex-Fuel Vehicles (FFVs) And Believes They Should Play A Greater Role In Our Transportation Sector.  It is true that Brazil runs about 85% of their vehicles on domestic ethanol.  McCain’s proposal to get rid of the tariffs on Brazil’s ethanol that is produced from sugar canes is just another imported fuel that keeps us dependent on imports.

 

His belief that “Alcohol-Based Fuels Hold Great Promise As Both An Alternative To Gasoline And As A Means of Expanding Consumers’ Choices. Some choices such as ethanol are on the market right now. The second generation of alcohol-based fuels like cellulosic ethanol, which won’t compete with food crops, are showing great potential” would make a great transition to all electric vehicles.  Any crop used for fuel would depend on powered vehicles to plant maintain and harvest them.  Today these vehicles are powered by Petroleum Products.

 

John McCain’s elimination of “Wasteful Special Interest Subsidies” is a good move.  Robert Kennedy Jr.  recently stated on a Fred Friendly’s Seminar series called “fueling our future” that gasoline prices are actually $10 to $12 dollars a gallon.  People don’t understand that the price at the pump is so low because it’s hidden in your taxes.  Subsidies to special interest groups allowed this to occur.

 

“John McCain Will Effectively Enforce Existing CAFE Standards” is a joke.  These are the mileage requirements that automobile manufacturers’ cars must meet.  They have been way too low for years and “Some carmakers ignore these standards, pay a small financial penalty, and add it to the price of their cars” which makes it even more ineffective.  The penalties have to be painful enough so the carmakers comply.  Therefore I believe John McCain’s quote that he “believes that the penalties for not following these standards must be effective enough to compel all carmakers to produce fuel-efficient vehicles” is a good policy.

 

But what he does an address is how about more and better mass transportation systems?  How about encouraging employers to push for improved telecommunications systems and encourage people to work from home as much as they can?  How about encouraging employers to take mass transportation or carpool? This would put a huge dent in our fuel usage.

 

Investing In Clean, Alternative Sources Of Energy

I like this quote “John McCain Believes That The U.S. Must Become A Leader In A New International Green Economy. Green jobs and green technology will be vital to our economic future. There is no reason that the U.S. should not be a leader in developing and deploying these new technologies.”

 

But that he was often a la-la Land. “John McCain Will Commit $2 Billion Annually To Advancing Clean Coal Technologies. Coal produces the majority of our electricity today. Some believe that marketing viable clean coal technologies could be over 15 years away.” This sounds great (sarcasm here).  Invest and another fossil fuel that’s over 15 years into the future.  What a great idea.  This would be not only of no use to us now but it would also rely on another fossil fuel.  Bad idea.

 

Protecting Our Environment By Addressing Climate Change

I also agree with the cap-and-trade idea. “That Would Set Limits On Greenhouse Gas Emissions While Encouraging The Development Of Low-Cost Compliance Options. A climate cap-and-trade mechanism would set a limit on greenhouse gas emissions and allow entities to buy and sell rights to emit, similar to the successful acid rain trading program of the early 1990s.” this is good stuff but he’s not aggressive enough on the auto industry and all other pollution sources to get their act together.

 

We need to declare war on energy waste and air pollution.  This crisis is actually worse than the economic crisis that we’re in right now.  The economic crisis will be used as an excuse not to take care of energy waste and air pollution.  This will lead to further destruction of our planet and increase the greenhouse gas problem.  We need to create a WPA type program where we take all the people that are out of work due to this economic crisis and get them busy working on wind Energy and solar energy projects that will save our planet.

 

Promoting Energy Efficiency

“John McCain Will Make Greening The Federal Government A Priority Of His Administration. The federal government is the largest electricity consumer on earth and occupies 3.3 billion square feet of space worldwide.” This is a really good idea.  It’s good to lead by example.

“John McCain Will Move The United States Toward Electricity Grid And Metering Improvements To Save Energy.” This is a really good idea that doesn’t go far enough.  We need to put huge wind farms in the central corridor of the United States and huge solar installations in the sunny desert areas of the United States.

 

As part of this policy, John McCain says “we will also need to deploy SmartMeter technologies. These new meters give customers a more precise picture of their overall energy consumption, and over time will encourage a more cost-efficient use of power.” This is also a great idea.  He does not, however, mention smart grid technology that would another great energy policy.  Smart grid technology allows the consumer to select appliances that can be turned off during the day without affecting them at all and avoid brownouts and blackouts at the same time.

Another great idea that he does not address would be another work program where people could winterize low income homes and then work their way up to middle class homes.  These homes are notorious Energy wasters.  This would create jobs were they are needed and help people that are out of work due to this economic crisis.

 

 

Addressing Speculative Pricing Of Oil

John McCain wants two find the abusers and punish them swiftly. “To make sure it never happens again, we must reform the laws and regulations governing the oil futures market, so that they are just as clear and effective as the rules applied to stocks, bonds, and other financial instruments. “ These are good ideas and should be implemented.

John McCain Does Not Support A Windfall Profits Tax.  A windfall profits tax would punish the oil companies that greatly profited from the speculation.  Personally, I’d like to see those profits taxed at a higher rate and the money used for work programs and research and development into green energy technologies.  The money could also be used for the home winterization programs.  See the exact details on McCain’s website: http://www.johnmccain.com