Friday, October 26, 2007

Car Gas Economy, Hybrids, All-Electric and Ethanol

America is playing around with vehicles, oil, moonshine and climate change. Federal car gasoline economy standards are 27.5 miles per gallon and the current energy bill wants to raise that to about 36 mpg. Will not happen. John Dingell is Chairman of the powerful House Energy & Commerce Committee and he believes increased standards will hurt Detroit. And he represents Detroit.

Hybrids still use gasoline so such vehicles will reduce but will not eliminate carbon dioxide and smog forming emissions. All electrics still have lithium ion battery technology hurdles to overcome before becoming commonly available. The batteries do not like heat. Think laptops spontaneously combusting around heat.

And ethanol will create more smog because it produces more nitrogen oxides, a component of smog. The 10 percent ethanol additive decreases mileage by about 3% according to some estimates. Congress wants to use the current energy bill to increase the 2005 Energy Policy Act requirement of 7.5 billion gallons of ethanol as the oxygenate additive to 36 billion gallons by 2022. There is also a 54 cent per gallon tariff on imported ethanol to protect domestic ethanol profits. Ethanol is also suffering from overproduction, which has led to a glut and low prices at the same time ethanol refiners are paying more for corn to produce ethanol.

Yet none of these measures will significantly reduce global warming, our dependence on imported oil or smog. And we hate sounding like gloom and doom deep ecology eco extremists. But we thought you should know.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Midwest In Center Of Energy Bill Tax Incentives

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont) is considering tax incentives for the energy bill being debated on the Senate floor this week. Vehicles and coal, Midwest staples, are front and center. Fuel economiy standards and coal-to-liquids are getting lobbied from supporters and opponents, along with other clean energy proposals. Automakers want to weaken proposla to significantly increase Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards. The legislation proposes about 46 mpg, automakers say they 'could' do 'maybe' 36 mpg and AAEA wants about 40 mpg.

The Coal to Liquids Coalition, a consortium of coal producers, unions, airlines and railroads, wants $200 million in investment tax credits to help in building 12 coal-to-liquid (CTL) refineries. AAEA supports coal-to-liquids mostly for military use, although we want CO2 sequestration from these plants and we support Senator Barck Obama's legislation (notwithstanding his clarification). AAEA also believes CTL producers should be required to finance nuclear plants, solar power and wind turbines as carbon dioxide offsets.
The total energy bill tax incentives package for cleaner energy sources, ethanol, animal fat diesel, CTL, fuel economy standards and more will be about $14 billion over 10 years. (The Wall Street Journal, 6-18-07)

Midwest Ethanol Prodcuers Will Have To Consolidate?

Ethanol is problematic because most American cars can only use about a 10% blend with regular gasoline and it cannot be moved via pipeline like gasoline because of it corrosiveness. Most ethanol is shipped from the Midwest by rail to terminals. So what is the ethanol industry to do? Consolidate? Possibly. There is also the expensive proposition of building specially constructed ethanol pipelines. Brazil is considering such pipelines.

Archer-Daniels-Midlands (ADM) controls about 20% of U.S. ethanol capacity. Small farmer-owned ethanol producers account for about a third of the market with midsize companes make up the rest. Some of these midsize companeis include: Aventine Renewable Energy Holdings, Inc, US BioEnergy Corp, and VeraSun Energy Corp. In order to increase market penetration the ethanol industry might have to bulk up by partnering up. There is also the question of purchasing or building an ethanol plant. An acquisition costs about $2.30 per gallon and building a new facility is about $2.00 per gallon. (The Wall Street Journal, 6-18-07)

E85 Biofuel Needs More Cars and More Stations

Wall Street Journal reporter Matt Vella drove a FlexFuel Chevrolet Suburban 1,907 miles on a round trip from New York City to Indianapolis to see if it was convenient to use a car that uses 85% ethanol and 15% gasoline. His findings: limited availability of flex fuel vehicles, E85 shortcomings but cheaper gas. He found a high concentration of stations that carried E85 in the Midwest, but stations are rare back East.

He found other pros and cons. E85 is a renewable energy source, it is cheaper and it provides an alternative to imported oil. E85 has a lower energy content and cuts fuel economy by 30%. Vella found that there weren't many 'cool' vehicles because Midwesterners that purchase most flex vehicles drive larger, less fuel efficieint models like the Ford Crown Victoria, Dodge Durango, Jeep Commander and Saturn Relay. And most of the stations are in middle America.
Vella found that the biggest reason people liked E86 was price, not environmental or foreign policy benefits. The highest E85 price was $3.11 in Philadelphia with a low of $2.39 in Moroevill, Pennsylvania. Regular gasoline was $3.50. (The Wall Street Journal, 6-19-07)

Center Establishes Midwestern Office

James Mosley has agreed to be Director of the Center's Midwest Office. This will enhance Center's outreach and increase our ability to address the issues affecting the Midwest. At the top of this list are ethanol, coal and nuclear power.

Mosley is an energy expert and a longtime environmentalist. This is an exciting time for us and the country. Mr. Moseley brings a wealth of knowledge and skills to our little organization. We continue to be small but very powerful.