By Mike Nemeth, Green Energy News, March 10, 2012 —
The average fuel economy of the U.S. new-car fleet is increasing, and carbon dioxide emissions show incremental reductions.
A U.S. Environmental Protection Agency report projects average “real world” CO2 emissions dropping to 391 grams per mile in 2011 and mileage creeping up to 22.8 miles per gallon for new cars. That compares with 394 grams per mile and 22.6 mpg for 2010.
Definitely baby steps. But change, as Sam Cooke sang so sweetly, is gonna come.
Wheels start turning
Too much is going on geopolitically, environmentally and technologically to ignore. Electric vehicles are no longer just a subject of a whodunit film. Models with various ranges and engine configurations are available for even middle-income buyers. And an alternative fuel — natural gas — may even cut into the diesel market, providing a viable option for long-haul truckers and a segment of the American population willing to search out fueling stations.
“We are making significant strides toward saving families money at the pump, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and cleaning up the air we breathe,” says Gina McCarthy, assistant administrator for EPA’s unfortunately named Office of Air and Radiation, in a statement accompanying the study: “Light-Duty Automotive Technology, Carbon Dioxide Emissions, and Fuel Economy Trends: 1975 Through 2011.”
And it’s all coming from the private sector, in some cases with a little federal help.
Chevy and Chrysler plan new natural-gas trucks, joining Honda’s Civic as the only production passenger vehicles that use the fuel exclusively. Odyne Systems LLC, which has been working with the U.S. Department of Energy, is developing sophisticated plug-in hybrid systems for medium and heavy duty trucks. And CleanFUEL USA and Freightliner Custom Chassis Corp. have unveiled a propane option for the medium-duty commercial truck market.
It’s as if the debate about climate change doesn’t exist. The question is more of opportunity. Fuel costs raise the ire of Joe Consumer. Give him an alternative (or a beer) and he calms down. A six-pack costs about the same as a gallon of gas, depending on your taste in beer. . . .
Traditional energy development
The problem has been recognized. Yet the symptoms that led us to this precipice continue. Exxon Mobil Corp. says it plans to spend about $150 billion over the next five years to find more oil and natural gas, and Associated Press reporter Chris Kahn quotes Exxon Chief Executive Rex Tillerson saying: “Unprecedented levels of investment are needed to meet the scale of the energy challenge.”
Certainly, energy is important. But how it’s developed, what is extracted and how nations choose to deal with fossil fuels are likely to become increasingly contentious. . . .
Gas up 600,000 jobs
President Barack Obama has called for safe development of the nation’s natural gas reserves. In his Blueprint for America — issued about the time of the 2012 State of the Union — he says shale gas development, according to independent estimates, will support more than 600,000 jobs.
Obama, speaking before United Parcel Service workers in Nevada, called the United States the Saudi Arabia of natural gas. He said tapping the nations reserves could “power our cars and our homes and our factories in a cleaner and cheaper way,” writes Christi Parsons of the Los Angeles Times.
Obama’s goals include proposing new incentives for medium- and heavy-duty trucks that run on natural gas or other alternative fuels. He’s also engaged the Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy, known simply as ARPA-E, to work with the country’s “brightest scientists, engineers and entrepreneurs to find ways to harness our abundant supplies of domestic natural gas to lessen our dependence of foreign oil for vehicles.”
Innovate an old fuel source
Quite a bit is riding on the ability of American entrepreneurs to come up with solutions. And at least at the moment, encouragement is preferred by government over heavy-handed regulation. It’s up to consumers to buy into the change.
Certainly natural gas will start looking good when truckers see it as a viable alternative. It costs about half as much as diesel. . . .
Sustainia: a great place
Even former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has resurfaced, this time heading up the Sustania initiative, which essentially is a vision of what a sustainable world would look like and be like to live in. The group supporting the concept includes Microsoft, General Electric, Ikea, Cisco and other corporate heavyweights. . . .
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