Poll: Major move to hybrid vehicles may be imminent

The demographic group that Deloitte’s Automotive practice calls Generation Y, Americans aged 19 to 31, strongly prefers hybrid automobiles, according to a recent poll.

The poll states that 57% of Gen Y respondents surveyed prefer hybrid gasoline-electric vehicles, 2% prefer pure electric vehicles, and 37% prefer conventional gasoline vehicles. 89% of Gen Y respondents are looking for a fuel-efficient vehicle. They are also looking for vehicle safety and internet connectivity.

More complete poll results will be released by Deloitte shortly.

A description of the poll is at http://www.deloitte.com/view/en_US/us/Industries/Automotive-Manufacturing/automotive-survey/index.htm

The preliminary poll findings are at http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/deloitte-survey-gen-ys-embrace-of-hybrid-vehicles-may-be-auto-markets-tipping-point-137666268.html

Shale gas worse than oil in terms of carbon footprint?

Natural gas is often labelled a ‘clean fuel’, at least compared to oil. In fact, natural gas has about 20% fewer greenhouse gas emissions than oil, for the same amount of energy, but, after leaks from natural gas distribution systems are taken into account the gap between gas and oil is narrowed to a figure closer to about 10% benefit in favour of gas.

Now a group of Cornell University scientists, Robert W. Howarth et al., have published the results of research that indicate that shale gas, the product of “fracking”, has a carbon footprint significantly worse than that of oil or coal. The article states that “3.6% to 7.9% of the methane from shale-gas production escapes to the atmosphere in venting and leaks over the lifetime of a well. These methane emissions are at least 30% more than and perhaps more than twice as great as those from conventional gas.” The result, according to this research, is that the carbon “footprint for shale gas is greater than that for conventional gas or oil when viewed on any time horizon, but particularly so over 20 years. Compared to coal, the footprint of shale gas is at least 20% greater and perhaps more than twice as great on the 20-year horizon and is comparable when compared over 100 years.”

The research paper, which uses a lifecycle approach, is available in the peer-reviewed journal Climatic Change at http://www.springerlink.com/content/e384226wr4160653/fulltext.pdf

A response from other scientists at Cornell argues that leaks of gas from shale gas plants are not as large as the Howarth paper reports and that the carbon footprint of shale gas is therefore not as large or as bad as indicated. Their response is available at http://www.springerlink.com/content/x001g12t2332462p/fulltext.pdf

A competition to help assuage negative public opinion

While negative reaction to wind turbines is not nearly as strong in Europe as in Ontario, the European Wind Energy Association has come up with an interesting activity to help overcome some of the opinion that wind projects are an eyesore. The European association has launched a global photography competition in which “photographers are invited to let their imaginations take the lead and show wind energy technology in a new way, in line with the competition title, Wind in Mind”.

The six winners will receive a €1,000 (~$1300) Amazon voucher or one of five €250 vouchers, will be chosen by an expert jury, and will be announced shortly after Global Wind Day (15 June 2012). The winning pictures will be displayed in public in the EU area of Brussels.

The Communication Director of the European Wind Energy Association is quoted as saying “Wind turbines are an icon: symbols of the fight against climate change, of sustainability, of our modern age. While some people noisily oppose wind turbines there are many others who love them and find them a graceful addition to our landscape”.

GallonDaily thinks this is an innovative and creative way to attract at least some positive attention to wind turbine technology. The competition is open to photographers from any country, so someone from rural Ontario could be a winner, especially if the Canadian Wind Energy Association helps to promote the competition in this country!

Each person may submit up to three entries. Details and entry information at http://www.globalwindday.org/

President Obama’s State of the Union on energy

President Obama’s State of the Union address was strong on an energy and energy-related environment theme. Key points included:

  • The development of natural gas will create jobs and power trucks and factories that are cleaner and cheaper, proving that we don’t have to choose between our environment and our economy.
  • We have a supply of natural gas that can last America nearly 100 years.  (Applause.)  And my administration will take every possible action to safely develop this energy.
  • Tonight, I’m directing my administration to open more than 75 percent of our potential offshore oil and gas resources.
  • I’m requiring all companies that drill for gas on public lands to disclose the chemicals they use.  Because America will develop this resource without putting the health and safety of our citizens at risk.
  • Because of federal investments, renewable energy use has nearly doubled, and thousands of Americans have jobs because of it.
  • The differences in this chamber [Congress] may be too deep right now to pass a comprehensive plan to fight climate change.  But there’s no reason why Congress shouldn’t at least set a clean energy standard that creates a market for innovation.
  • I’m directing my administration to allow the development of clean energy on enough public land to power 3 million homes.
  • The Department of Defense, working with us, the world’s largest consumer of energy, will make one of the largest commitments to clean energy in history -– with the Navy purchasing enough capacity to power a quarter of a million homes a year.
  • The easiest way to save money is to waste less energy.  So here’s a proposal:  Help manufacturers eliminate energy waste in their factories and give businesses incentives to upgrade their buildings.
  • Building this new energy future should be just one part of a broader agenda to repair America’s infrastructure. . . . We’ve got . . . a power grid that wastes too much energy . . . .
  • We’ve subsidized oil companies for a century.  That’s long enough. It’s time to end the taxpayer giveaways to an industry that rarely has been more profitable, and double-down on a clean energy industry that never has been more promising.  Pass clean energy tax credits.  Create these jobs.


For the full text of the address visit http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2012/01/24/remarks-president-state-union-address

US Government draft climate adaptation strategy for wildlife

The US Government has published as a draft for public consultation a National Fish, Wildlife and Plants Climate Adaptation Strategy. The goal of the strategy, which is not an operational plan but does provide themes for new policy and program initiatives, is to “inspire and enable natural resource administrators, legislators and other decision makers to take action to adapt to a changing climate.” The Strategy has been prepared by an interagency task force with state and aboriginal participation. One of the lead participants is the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies which includes Canadian Federal, Provincial and Territorial members as well as ngos.

The Strategy includes seven goals:

  • Conserve habitat to support healthy fish, wildlife and plant populations and ecosystem functions in a changing climate.
  • Manage species and habitats to protect ecosystem functions and provide sustainable cultural, subsistence, recreational, and commercial use in a changing climate.
  • Enhance capacity for effective management in a changing climate.
  • Support adaptive management in a changing climate through integrated observation and monitoring and use of decision support tools.
  • Increase knowledge and information on impacts and responses of fish, wildlife and plants to a changing climate.
  • Increase awareness and motivate action to safeguard fish, wildlife and plants in a changing climate.
  • Reduce non-climate stressors to help fish, wildlife, plants, and ecosystems adapt to a changing climate.

The Strategy includes a second and third level of detail, including lists of projects and policy opportunities to achieve the suggested goals as well as some recommendations to reprioritize existing funding to help achieve goals. Engagement of the private sector is also discussed in many of the action recommendations.

Details, including webinar and physical consultation events, are available at http://www.wildlifeadaptationstrategy.gov/public-review-draft.php The deadline for comments is March 5, 2012.

Report proposes short-term measures to slow climate change

The UN Environment Programme has recently published a synthesis report on mitigation of short-term climate forcers: black carbon, tropospheric ozone, and methane. The report claims that reducing emissions of these substances will significantly slow climate change in the short term and will provide significant air quality benefits. To some extent the report is addressed to developing economies but many of the recommendations also have the potential for real benefits in developed economies such as Canada.

The 53 page report provides a detailed analysis of the benefits that could be realized through reduction of emissions of these three substances. Some of the recommended policy initiatives, presented as a low-cost approach to achieving significant temporary slowing of climate change using readily available technology, include:

  • Cooking and heating with clean burning stoves instead of conventional stoves and/or clean fuel (LPG/biogas) instead of biomass stoves in developing countries.
  • Recovery and utilization of vented associated gas during oil production.
  • Separation and treatment of biodegradable municipal waste with no biodegradable waste disposed of to landfill.
  • Replacing coal with coal briquettes in cooking and heating stoves in developing countries.
  • Reduced leakage during gas pipeline transmission.
  • Recovery and utilization of vented associated gas during gas production.
  • Farm-scale anaerobic digestion on large farms with liquid manure management.
  • Replacing traditional brick kilns with more efficient kilns.

The report, which makes very encouraging reading, also includes lists of suggested moderate and higher cost policy initiatives.

Find the report at http://www.unep.org/publications/contents/pub_details_search.asp?ID=6232

Office workers may be exposed to polyfluorinated chemicals

A recent report in Environmental Science & Technology, a peer reviewed journal, suggests that office workers may be exposed to enhanced levels of polyfluorinated compounds (PFCs), including perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS). PFCs are persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic chemicals. Both PFOA and PFOS are associated with increased risk of kidney disease in humans. The new study, from researchers at the Boston School of Public Health, Duke University, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Environment Canada, shows that, in many of the sampled office situations, levels of polyfluorinated compounds in the blood of workers correlate with levels of the same compounds in the air. The authors suggest that potential sources include carpeting, furniture, and/or paint.

The study is available, abstract free, full article fee applies, at http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/es2038257

Dupont: health of business depends on energy efficiency

Dupont Sustainable Solutions has published a slide deck which makes a powerful case for industrial energy efficiency and describes a coherent path for implementing an energy efficiency program.

In the deck Dupont states that “Overall, the health and welfare of the organization [Dupont] and its product lines would be at risk if we didn’t act”. The Dupont goal is to achieve 5% ($50 Million USD) annual decrease in energy use, consistent with sustainability goals. The Company achieved 19% decrease in energy use, 20% increase in production and $5B in cost savings between 1990 and 2009. Co-benefits include reductions of 92% in air carcinogens, 77% in releases of US Toxic Release Inventory substances, and 75% in releases of air toxics.

The approach described in the slides involved:

  • Identifying and elevating energy cost as a strategic business issue
  • Implementing a vertically integrated management approach to drive results
  • Developing skills and capabilities of people in the organization
  • Identifying and executing the right projects to drive highest gain results

Flow charts in the slide deck provide further analysis of the approach which is somewhat similar to the Managing for Sustainability program often recommended and applied by GallonDaily’s parent sustainability consultancy, CIAL Group.

The Dupont slide deck, prepared by Davide Vassallo, Global Practice Leader for Dupont Sustainable Solutions for the 2011 International Energy & Environment Fair and Conference held in Istanbul, Turkey, can be viewed at http://www.icci.com.tr/dosya/2011sunumlar/O19_Davide_Vasallo.pdf

US Government announces battery innovation centre

Last week US Energy Secretary Dr. Steven Chu announced an Innovation Hub “to develop fresh concepts and new approaches to making batteries that last longer, go farther, and cost less”.  This new research centre is intended to dramatically improve battery and energy storage technologies for vehicle and grid applications and to ensure that the United States wins the race for dramatically new energy storage technologies. GallonDaily commends the US for taking the lead on a technology leap that is vital for the transition to a low carbon economy.

Some of Chu’s targets, which he admits may not all be met, include:

  • increasing the fuel economy of light-duty vehicles by more than 50 percent.
  • supporting research and development of high-tensile strength steels, aluminum and magnesium alloys, and carbon fiber composites with the goal of reducing body and chassis weight by 50 percent.
  • recovering waste heat in automobiles, with the goal of increasing fuel efficiency by up to 10 percent.
  • significant progress in reducing manufacturing costs for automotive fuel cells.
  • returning leadership in battery manufacturing shift from Asia to the United States, pushing the limits of energy density and cost for lithium-ion batteries and exploring even more advanced battery concepts such as lithium-air, lithium-sulfur, and a whole class of metal-air batteries.

The Obama Administration has proposed standards that will increase U.S. fuel economy to nearly 55 miles per gallon for cars and light-duty trucks by Model Year 2025.

Secretary Chu’s speech to the Detroit Economic Club can be read in full at http://energy.gov/articles/secretary-chus-remarks-detroit-economic-club-prepared-delivery

UK industry pushes for green growth

For Canadians accustomed to the lack of green enthusiasm of many major corporations and our federal government the idea that a leading industry association is pushing for green growth comes as something of an unusual situation but such is the situation in the UK where the country’s leading manufacturing association has published a report on “Green and Growth: solutions for growing a green economy”.  The legend on the front cover states:

Manufacturers will provide the building blocks for
low‑carbon technology and innovative production.
Government green and growth policies must
complement each other by rebalancing the economy
and delivering the UK’s contribution to tackling global
carbon emissions.

Contained within this recently published report are the following industry proposals to itself and to government:

  1. Establish a 2030 energy decarbonisation target to drive future energy policy: Government should establish a 2030 carbon reduction target for energy supply to set long term ambition and certainty. The target must encompass all forms of low carbon energy on a time frame consistent with R&D and investment horizons. Unless the long-mooted industrial benefits of the renewables target materialise soon, it will become increasingly difficult to justify that cost. So the government needs to subject the costs and benefits of the target to close review.
  2. Focus energy policy on Feed in Tariffs and scrap Carbon Price Floor as soon as fiscally possible: Feed in Tariffs (FITs) provides a more cost-effective mechanism than Carbon Price Floor (CPF) as consumers pay for low-carbon electricity only when it is generated. The government should scrap the CPF as soon as fiscally possible and deliver FITs based on Contracts for Difference (CfD) planned as part of the on-going electricity market reform programme.
  3. Adopt just one UK carbon reduction scheme: By 2015, the government should establish just one UK carbon efficiency scheme aimed at all significant energy users regardless of energy intensity. It should achieve this by scrapping the CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme (CRC) and extending Climate Change Agreement (CCA) to all sectors prepared to agree to deals to improve their energy efficiency.
  4. Promote life cycle analysis: The government should address the barriers faced by many SMEs when seeking to collect and share carbon footprint information with suppliers and customers by working with industry to develop a national database for carbon footprint data of commodity products.
  5. Move to Carbon Intensity Targets for certain sectors: The government should support the contribution sectors such as steel can make to reducing global emissions by developing carbon intensity targets for globally traded sectors.
  6. Promote global action through International Sector Approaches: Globally agreed sector targets can be a stepping stone to a full global agreement on reducing carbon emissions. The government has an important role to play in driving forward progress by working in partnership with industry to establish global sector agreements.
  7. Ensure the Green Investment Bank delivers for UK manufacturing: The ambition of the Green Investment Bank (GIB) should be expanded to include support for a wider range of projects including environmental technologies and not just infrastructure. In order to get the most out the GIB’s initial funding of £3bn, government should expand the scope of the fund to help manufacturing invest in further energy efficiency and low-carbon product development.
  8. Seek to become a global leader in Carbon Capture and Storage: It is vital that we capitalise on the UK’s major strengths that could enable it to be a World leader in CCS technology, which has significant global potential. The government should support industrial CCS by opening up its CCS competition and funding to industrial projects.
  9. Supporting Investment: The government must help industry bring forward the investment it wants and needs to make. Key areas for it to address include ensuring that the tax system provides effective and immediate support for investment in capital equipment, improving the costs and availability of finance both from banks and outside the banking sector and ensuring that skills provision and qualification respond rapidly to manufacturers’ changing needs.
  10. Working more closely with public sector suppliers: The government must deliver on its commitment to use public procurement to develop the capacity of domestic suppliers by giving them greater visibility of future order flows and working more closely with them ahead of placing major orders.

While GallonDaily can criticize the details of some of these proposals the overall approach is so compelling compared to anything yet seen from large Canadian industry groups that detailed nitpicking is rendered almost irrelevant.

More detailed analysis of these UK industry association proposals can be found in the report available at http://www.eef.org.uk/manufacturingagenda/green-and-growth.aspx