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Biofuels May Hinder Antiglobal-Warming Efforts

Wall Street Journal – February 8, 2008

This is a different twist over what I usually propose.  In general, I am for increasing our use of ethanol and other biofuels to reduce our CO2 production as well as to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels from the Middle East. Most people are aware that one of the downsides to this issue is the pressure on food that results. This article points out that the conversion of non-agrarian land to crop land will result in a net spike of increased carbon dioxide release.

Toyota Will Offer a Plug-In Hybrid by 2010

The New York Times – January 14, 2008

Toyota is not going to be out-done by GM.  Yesterday, I discussed that GM is spending a lot of effort and money to develop alternative fuels and alternative propulsion options. This article shows that Toyota is not going to stand still in that important competitive battle.

Toyota will offer the first plug-in hybrid in 2010. Plug-in hybrids are important because it is far more efficient to produce electricity at an industrial power utility plant than it is to burn gasoline in your car in the form of a “traditional” hybrid vehicle.

GM to partner with biofuels start-up Coskata

BloggingStocks.com – January 13, 2008

I am very intrigued with biofuel as an alternative source of liquid fuel to propel our trucks and automobiles down the road. This source combined with plug-in electric technology seems like a very effective method of breaking our addiction to liquid fossil fuel.

GM has been on this site a lot lately (here, here, and here). It is obvious that they are trying very hard to show themselves as a “green” company. I wonder if it is really working.

General Motors announced this weekend at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit that it would partner with Coskata Inc., an Illinois-based renewable energy start-up company that plans to produce ethanol from agricultural, municipal, and industrial waste byproducts.

New Fuel Standards Are Poised to Advance

Wall Street Journal – December 1, 2007

An important step has been taken in a new bill to increase the required fuel mileage per gallon required for US cars.  Late Friday evening a deal was struck with the major players in the House which should lead to passage in the House.

The new CAFE standard (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) will increase 40% and must be attained by 2020. It should reduce the amount of CO2 produced by autos slightly as well as slightly reduce the dependence on foreign oil.

The estimated cost increase to the consumer should be about $1400 and save the consumer about $200 in gas costs.  Frankly, I never believe these estimates as they tend to be worse than global climate models in their accuracy.

Can you buy a greener conscience?

Los Angeles Times – September 2, 2007

P.T. Barnum supposedly said that there was a sucker born every minute. Sometimes, when I read about carbon credits, I am not sure who the sucker is – the person buying, the person selling, or the general public for thinking it is helping!

I really don’t like carbon credit schemes.  I have written about them multiple times and most of what I read simply doesn’t make sense and is closer to scam than it is to solution.

In order for credits to be feasible and to be more than a “feel good” gesture, we need solid accounting, accountability, and penalties. We have none of that now and this article makes this painfully clear. We cannot allow credits to be used for minor contributions to a project. The credit must go to the cost of reducing the greenhouse gas. 

From Wales, a box to make biofuel from car fumes

Reuters – July 19, 2007

If this works out, it is very cool. This is a double whammy – capture emissions and grow algae for the production of bio-diesel.  While the process of making bio-diesel can be quite expensive, from an energy perspective, if we can rapidly increase the growing of the raw materials then it could make a big difference.

I tend to be a little skeptical on this since it seems like there is a “revolutionary” process announced every 3-4 months.  Many of these processes make great headlines but then die away quickly as the real analysis sets in.

With Corn Prices Rising, Pigs Switch To Fatty Snacks

WSJ.com – May 21, 2007

There is a much greater demand for corn with the increased demand for ethanol. This demand has had a dramatic impact on the cost of corn and has made it too expensive for some ranchers to use corn to feed their livestock. Instead, they appear to be using over-supply of food that is traditionally used for humans.

This, of course, begs the question as to the USA’s ability to effectively produce ethanol. If we are using our food to power our cars will that significantly hurt the poorest people in our nation, not to mention our exports to foreign lands that are impoverished.

Algae explored as alternative source of fuel

Phoenix Bizjournals – May 11, 2007

I don’t want anyone to think that I am advocating a company as a stock investment. In full disclosure, I have no interest or relationship to the company described in this article. I do wish them well and I am excited about the prospects of their endeavor. I talk to companies every day as part of my professional life and typically urge them to focus on one success at time – this company does not appear to be following that advice.

This article is about a company that operates a dairy farm and a bio-refinery.  Their goal is to be completely self-contained, producing their own energy. I hope that they are successful since I firmly believe that we need to find alternative sources of energy to break the addiction to foreign sources of liquid and gaseous fuel.

How Does Biodiesel Affect U.S Energy Consumption?

Renewable Energy Access – May 8, 2007

There are a lot of good reasons to want to find alternative sources of liquid fuel.  I know that this site has a wide range of believers regarding global warming but it is likely that all can agree that the United States needs more sources of liquid fuel than our current supply that comes from nations that don’t like us but tend to like our money.

Biodiesel Jetta uses far less fossil fuels than a Prius, says university biodiesel group

AutoblogGreen – May 9, 2007

AutoblogGreen is a very well written blog and you should consider it in your regular reading. This particular article discusses a study by Univ. of New Hampshire that tried to determine the fuel footprint of a variety of vehicles that are generally considered to be fuel efficient.

The one thing that I think is missing in this analysis (and tends to be missing in many articles about hybrid vehicles) is the environmental cost of huge batteries. Many of these batteries contain metals that are not good for the environment and take energy and special care to build and to dispose of after their life is over.