Alternative Fuels

The Economist: Global Car Fleet Growth Requires Electrification

Blogging from Kabul, Seattle Times reporter Hal Bernton is struck by how the post-Taliban proliferation of private vehicles has boosted smog and air pollution, threatening public health. Now picture the possibilities in places such as China and India, where rapidly multiplying populations are enjoying new opportunities and car ownership is seen as an important step on the economic ladder. The small, affordable, fuel-sipping Tata Nano is a success story in India, yet The New Delhi-based Center for Science and the Environment recently warned of carbon emission risks posed by a growing percentage of bigger vehicles in the nation’s fleet, combined with a failure to set fuel economy standards. (Open Microsoft Word doc. after clicking here). The Times of India confirms the sport utility vehicle market there is heating up. In addition to the tiny Nano, Tata Motors, India’s largest auto manufacturer, makes many types of mid-sized and larger rides, including SUVs such as the Safari Dicor, the Sumo Victa, the Sumo Grande and the Xenon XT pick-up (pictured, right). Plus commercial trucks, now enjoying a sales boom in India. The “50 By 50 Global Fuel Economy Initiative” report highlights a projected tripling of the world’s light vehicle fleet by 2050, with 80 percent of that growth occurring in rapidly developing countries.
The report concludes that improving the average fuel economy of the global car fleet 50 percent by that year will “mainly involve incremental change to conventional internal combustion engines and drive systems, along with weight reduction and better aerodynamics.” Important aims to be sure, but “50 By 50” unfortunately consigns the eventual wide adoption of green vehicles such as plug-in hybrids and all-electrics to “icing on the cake” status, and largely sidesteps environmentally beneficial congestion reduction measures. In contrast, The Economist’s approach to controlling greenhouse gas emissions from a growing global fleet of light vehicles starts with a strong call for a carbon tax calibrated to vehicle type, and includes other economic incentives and electrification.

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Seattle Region In Violation Of Clean Air Act

This just in, from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Seattle is in violation of the Clean Air Act for the first time since the 1990s. Going over the legal limit for smog over the weekend means officials here will have to start hammering out a plan to improve air quality. That could feature a number of measures to put the brakes on pollution, including requiring reformulated, more expensive gasoline for the region. The final violation of the smog standard needed to push the Emerald City and the Puget Sound region into official violation of the act occurred Saturday afternoon, when a monitor at Enumclaw in south King County went over the official limit. It’s thanks to ozone emissions, which at ground level Read More ›

Electric Cars Charging Station

Domestic Demand Strains Global Oil Market

It seems the global oil market isn’t immune to at least one law of nature: The apex predator has the most voracious appetite.The New York Times reports that the very oil-exporting countries that are experiencing remarkable domestic economic growth because of the global demand for oil may soon become victims of their own success. Experts say … several of the world’s most important suppliers may need to start importing oil within a decade to power all the new cars, houses and businesses they are buying and creating with their oil wealth. … The report [by Canada-based CIBC World Markets] said “soaring internal rates of oil consumption” in Russia, in Mexico and in member states of the Organization of the Petroleum Read More ›

Seattle Taxis Going Green?

Like any big city, Seattle has a diverse fleet of yellow, orange, and every color in between, taxi cabs. If you’ve taken a taxi in Seattle in the past month, you may have noticed something different about the car that picked you up. At least one taxi company is allowing gas-electric hybrids including the Toyota Prius to join its fleet. Which company is behind this “green” technology trend? According to the Seattle PI, it’s the same one that has faced criticism in the past for its monopoly at Sea-Tac airport: For the airport drivers, the hybrids have taken some of the frustration out of the county’s system, in which STITA drivers can pick up passengers at the airport and take Read More ›

Greening The Highway From Baja To B.C.

Our Cascadia Center held a leadership forum Weds. Sept. 19 titled “Greening The Highway from Baja to B.C.,” emphasizing the need for a unified West Coast effort to cut greenhouse gas emissions and congestion in the I-5 corridor through increased use of alternative fuels; diesel emission reduction programs; and on-board and in-roadway technology to save truckers and motorists time and fuel. Here’s our discussion brief on the initiative, and here’s a related radio story (and transcript) featuring Cascadia’s director Bruce Agnew. From the discussion brief: An important opportunity is emerging for a concerted West Coast strategy to unify alternative fuel infrastructure and green vehicle development, diesel fuel emission reduction, and intelligent transportation system technologies. Together these could yield substantial environmental Read More ›

Big Vehicle Import Center, Biofuels Plant Eyed for Vancouver, WA Port

The Columbian reports this morning that an affiliate of a Swedish-Norwegian shipping concern has announced its preliminary intent to build a big vehicle import center as part of the Port of Vancouver, Washington’s Columbia Gateway industrial development. On Tuesday, port officials signed a letter of intent with Wallenius Wilhelmsen Logistics Americas to develop the $453 million facility that would dwarf the port’s existing Subaru operation and match the Port of Portland’s auto business. Wallenius Wilhelmsen would build a marine terminal and processing facility on 344 acres that the port would make construction-ready, according to the deal. The facility, projected to generate a $62 million annual payroll, could be operational by late 2010 or 2011. …the facility will be able to Read More ›

Wanted: “Alternative Fuels Highway” – Not “Hydrogen Highway”

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and British Columbia Premier Gordon Campbell meet tomorrow in Vancouver to strategize on greenhouse gas reductions. The Governator has made climate change Priority One for his administration, winning new state goals to lower carbon dioxide emissions in coming decades, and recruiting other Western U.S. governors and Campbell to commit to similar targets. Campbell and Schwarzenegger have also been talking up a so-called “hydrogen highway” stretching from California to B.C. The idea is that in the future, lower-polluting cars powered by hydrogen fuel cells will become prevalent, and an infrastructure of hydrogen fueling stations will be established along major north-south corridors such as I-5 and Route 99. Campbell has announced plans for such a network within B.C., Read More ›

“Green Wheels Spinning For Venture Backers”

In a Puget Sound Business Journal op-ed titled “Green Wheels Are Spinning For Venture Backers,” Cascadia Center Director Bruce Agnew and Senior Fellow Steve Marshall write that transportation’s sizable contribution to carbon dioxide emissions necessitates more investment in green vehicle technology. They say such investment can yield further improvements in promising battery technology for low-emission electric and electric-biofuel hybrid cars; plus intelligent systems to integrate plug-in hybrids with the power grid and with intermittent renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power. Drawing on a presentation from Cascadia’s “Jump Start To A Secure, Clean Energy Future” forum last month at Microsoft’s Redmond campus, Agnew and Marshall write: Tom Alberg, a managing director of Madrona Venture Group, of Seattle, said Read More ›

BC To Push For More Green Taxis

“Provincial Government Wants Cab Companies To Go Green,” is the top story today in Vancouver, B.C.’s morning paper, The Province. British Columbia Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon is urging the regional board charged with granting taxi licenses to dispense them only for highly fuel efficient or hybrid vehicles, in order to help reduce the province’s cumulative greenhouse gas emissions by at least one-third in the next 13 years. Fewer tailpipe emissions from petroleum-based fuel, combined with greater use of cleaner liquid fuels plus ongoing adoption of liquid fuel+electric-powered hybrid vehicles, is green. Eventually, as lithium ion battery technology continues to improve, expect to see more plug-in hybrids in Vancouver’s taxi fleet and on the streets of Cascadia’s big cities – Vancouver, Read More ›

In The News: “Jump Start” Conference On Hybrids, Flex Fuels

Monday, May 7th’s “Jump Start To A Secure, Clean Energy” conference – staged by our Cascadia Center of Discovery Institute with the cooperation of co-sponsors and event host Microsoft – garnered front-page, top-fold coverage the next day in the Seattle Times. The article was titled, “Fans Of Plug-in Cars Build Their Power Base.” The same story, by reporters Hal Bernton and Mike Lindblom, ran in the Yakima Herald-Republic. The Seattle-Post Intelligencer’s Robert McClure covered the conference as well; in “Visions Of A Northwest Hybrid Car Future Abound.” Crosscut publisher David Brewster provided reportage, background and analysis, in “Will Plug-in Cars End The Age Of Oil?” Along with several other newspaper editorialists and opinionators, Gary Crooks of the Spokane Spokesman-Review attended Read More ›