There are all sorts of opinions on the Keystone Pipeline. Many environmentalists are very much opposed, while many people concerned with weaning ourselves off of Mid East oil are in favor of it, even with all the new oil American is producing through fracking. The Arkansas oil spill complicates the issue of course.
Here’s T. Boone Pickens discussing natural gas, oil and the pipeline.
If you’re looking for a hybrid with superior mileage per gallon, then compressed air may be your thing. PSA Peugeot Citroen says its new C3 VTi 82 hatchback–which it unveils at a motor show next month–will go 81 miles, in optimum conditions. That’s compared to the Toyota Prius’s roughly 45 mile performance. And there’s no need for expensive, and heavy, lithium batteries. The compressed air system provides power as well as storage: as with other hybrids, it recovers energy from a gasoline engine when you brake or slow down.
From the video, you can see that the Air Hybrid system works in three modes, depending on the neighborhood. Above 43 miles per hour, it uses a conventional engine. Around town, it goes on air alone. And then there’s a combined mode when you need more power at lower speeds. An electronic management unit switches modes automatically.
The idea of powering a car using compressed air isn’t particularly new–several companies have explored the technology. But PSA Peugeot Citroen is the first major one to go big on it, developing a drive-train it hopes to use across several models, including light commercial vans. The company hasn’t released prices yet, saying only that the vehicles will be “competitive both in European and international markets,” but that is likely to be a major draw. Lithium batteries remain uncompetitively expensive.
Hybrids and plug-in hybrids offer incredible potential, and we’re seeing progress with hydrogen fuel cells as well. But with compressed air you have a novel approach that produces ZERO emissions when in that mode. That’s pretty impressive. Expect to hear much more about this, as it’s also much more practical than things like the AIRpod, which relies totally on compressed air but doesn’t have the size and range of this hybrid.
As a company, Google has a bunch of issues. They have absurdly terrible customer service and treat their affiliates like crap.
But they treat their employees well, and they are also one of the companies leading the charge in carbon emissions and sustainability.
As the double-decker bus turns onto Charleston Road and starts winding through Google’s Mountain View, Calif., campus, I stretch out in the business-class-size seat, admiring the smoothness of the black leather and the plush gray carpeting at my feet. A spacious table expands to hold a laptop, which can connect to the vehicle’s Wi-Fi system. This $800,000 luxury double-decker is one of 73 buses that Google owns and operates. (It leases 26 others.) Each day the fleet transports about 4,500 employees, or about a third of those working at the Googleplex, as the company’s headquarters is known.
It turns out that Google (GOOG) isn’t offering a free ride simply as an employee perk — the buses actually save the company money. Yes, there’s the added productivity of 4,500 employees working an extra couple of hours each day while riding to and from work. But Google’s bus service is about much more than that. Real estate in Mountain View is expensive. Underground parking spaces cost as much as $85,000 to construct. (Really!) If Google had to build a parking space for each of the bus riders, the price tag would run to almost $400 million. And that’s not counting the lost opportunity cost of not using that land for new office buildings.
Google has made other investments in transportation too. If, during the day, a Google-ite needs to run an errand or pick up a sick kid at school, he or she can hop into one of 52 electric and hybrid cars parked on campus. The company also encourages employees to drive electrics. It has spent an estimated $3 million to $4 million to install 395 chargers — the largest corporate electric-vehicle infrastructure in the country.
Finding creative solutions to energy issues has become a major priority for Google co-founder and CEO Larry Page in recent years.
Read the entire article. Other companies may not have the resources to do everything Google is trying, but they can set a great example when it comes to cost-effective solutions for responsible companies.
Algae looks pretty disgusting in the old swimming pool pictured above, but the power of algae is now being harnessed by those hoping to exploit it as a powerful biofuel. Fortune has an interesting article about a huge new biofuel farm in New Mexico.
On a 2,200-acre expanse of desert scrub in Columbus, N.M. (pop. 1,678), Sapphire Energy has built the world’s first large-scale farm to grow algae and produce crude oil. The five-year-old company has spent about $60 million constructing an array of about 70 ponds, each the size of a football field, and a refinery, which began producing oil this past summer. The first barrels are rolling out now.
Algal oil “has the potential to change the world,” says Cynthia Warner, Sapphire’s chief executive, because the process by which it is grown will allow any nation to produce oil. Warner joined Sapphire after 28 years in the oil business, most recently as head of global refining at BP (BP). She couldn’t resist the allure of algae. Productive and versatile creatures, they grow fast, don’t need to be fed, and build up oil in their cells after being exposed to sunlight and CO2. They like salty or brackish water, so ponds can be built on cheap land where not much else will grow. Into each pond go genetically engineered single-celled algae that grow to maturity in about five days, after which they are skimmed from the water and put through a thermo-chemical “wet extraction” process to separate the oil. The company plans to make about 100 barrels of oil a day in New Mexico. If all goes according to plan, commercial production of perhaps 10,000 barrels a day will begin in 2018.
A ton of money has been plowed into the green space as venture capitalists try to capitalize on the desire for clean energy and renewable fuels. Read the rest of the article to get more information on this project. It will be fascinating to see if this project becomes economically viable. In an era where fracking is lowering the costs of natural gas and increasing oil output in the United States, it will be more difficult for projects like this to make money without subsidies.
Even as hybrid vehicles increase in popularity, many drivers remain misinformed about the pros and cons of driving a hybrid. Here is a look at some of the most common myths and misconceptions.
Hybrids Are Electric Cars
Hybrid cars have electric engines under the hood, right alongside their gasoline combustion engines. This is why we use the term “hybrid.” Most of the waste and smog generated by a combustion engine is due to stop and go city traffic. Idling, braking and accelerating all waste fuel. Hybrids overcome this problem by using an electric engine at speeds below around 25 miles per hour, and never idling. When travelling on the highway at higher and more consistent speeds, hybrids use their gasoline combustion engines. The electric engine is reserved for passing and quick acceleration.
Hybrids Are Too Small or Too Slow
Because hybrids are powered by regular gasoline engines, with the addition of an electric motor, many models offer more power than their traditional counterparts. Like traditional vehicles, the most affordable hybrids are compact and lack muscle. In addition to those economy models, an increasing number of luxury sedans and heavy pickup trucks are available. Watch for the Mitsubishi Pajero to join the Cadillac Escalade and Chevy Tahoe in the hybrid SUV fray, perhaps as soon as next year. Porsche is producing high performance hybrids for competition as well as for the consumer market.
Hybrids Are Too Expensive
We all know by now that hybrid drivers save money on gasoline, but many drivers consider the initial cost of a hybrid to be too high. Like most new technology, hybrids were expensive when they first hit the market. Now that hybrids are entering the mainstream and competition among car makers is increasing, hybrids are becoming more affordable every year. Hybrids have also become more affordable to maintain. More mechanics are prepared to work on them, and replacement parts have become more widely available.
The Battery Will Not Last
This myth is easy for drivers to believe, particularly if they have ever owned a laptop that was several years old. Unlike laptops, mobile phones and most other rechargeable electronics, a hybrid car never fully charges its battery. By maintaining a maximum charge of around 50%, hybrid engineers have ensured that their batteries will have a long life cycle. Normally, the warranty on a hybrid battery is good for 80,000 to 100,000 miles. Batteries tested up to 160,000 miles have performed like new.
All Hybrids Need to Be Plugged in
Some hybrid models must be plugged in to charge. Others charge their batteries using technology called regenerative braking. When the driver brakes, kinetic energy that would be wasted in a traditional vehicle is captured by the electric motor, and stored in the battery. Many hybrids use a combination of both methods.
General Motors first began selling the Chevy Volt, as the first ever plug-in hybrid vehicle, in December of 2010. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Volt achieves about 94 miles per gallon. However, with a price tag of around $40,000, consumers have been slow to jump on board with the plug-in electric car concept. In fact, production was halted back in March-April, 2012, due to sluggish sales. However, General Motors resumed production this past April, a week earlier than planned, as Volt sales have begun to turn around. Some say that this past summer’s high gas prices have encouraged more consumers to invest in the Volt. The following is an article, out of the NY Daily News, discussing the Volt’s return:
What a difference a few months made for the Chevy Volt. From underselling political deadweight to automotive press darling, GM’s plug-in hybrid electric vehicle went back into production this week after a shorter-than expected shutdown announced in early March to reduce the inventory levels of unsold vehicles.
At that time, the Volt’s future looked bleak — it was being rounded on by US Republican presidential candidates and was still suffering from the aftereffects of a series of damaging headlines after a federal investigation into battery safety.
But that was then and this is now.
Check out the entire article. It’s inspiring to see that although progress has been slow, we are moving closer to achieving energy independence and reducing our carbon footprint…One car at a time.
Energy resources like oil and natural gas can have a huge impact on a nation’s fortunes. It’s for this reason that it will be so difficult to wean ourselves off of fossil fuels. The riches associated with them are staggering, and it leads to political power in foreign relations as well. Environmentalists and anyone interested in global warming needs to acknowledge this fact, and it’s probably more important to promote alternative fuels and conservation as opposed to trying to stop people around the world from drilling. That just isn’t going to happen.
Actual production is still miniscule, but evidence is accumulating that the Promised Land, from a natural resource point of view, could be an El Dorado: inch for inch the most valuable and energy rich country anywhere in the world. If this turns out to be true, a lot of things are going to change, and some of those changes are already underway.
Israel and Canada have just signed an agreement to cooperate on the exploration and development of what, apparently, could be vast shale oil reserves beneath the Jewish state.
The prospect of huge oil reserves in Israel comes on top of the recent news about large natural gas discoveries off the coast that have been increasingly attracting attention and investor interest. The apparent gas riches have also been attracting international trouble. Lebanon disputes the undersea boundary with Israel (an act somewhat complicated by the fact that Lebanon has never actually recognized Israel’s existence), and overlapping claims from Turkey and Greece themselves plus both Greek and Turkish authorities on Cyprus further complicate matters. Yet despite these tensions, following Russian President Vladimir Putin’s surprisingly cordial visit last week, Gazprom and Israel have announced plans to cooperate on gas extraction.
Read the entire article as it goes into the geopolitical issues surrounding this development as well.
Fracking has become one the most controversial subjects in the environmental movement. Natural gas is cleaner than coal and oil, but the process used to extract it is raising questions. This article in The Economist takes an optimistic view.
The anti-frackers have reasonable grounds for worry. Producing shale gas uses lots of energy and water, and can cause pollution in several ways. One concern is possible contamination of aquifers by methane, fracking fluids or the radioactive gunk they dislodge. This is not known to have happened; but it probably has, where well-shafts passing through aquifers have been poorly sealed.
Another worry is that fracking fluids regurgitated up well-shafts might percolate into groundwater. A graver fear is that large amounts of methane, a powerful greenhouse-gas, could be emitted during the entire process of exploration and production. Some also fret that fracking might induce earthquakes—especially after it was linked to 50 tiny tremors in northern England last year.
But the risks from shale gas can be managed. Properly concreted well-shafts do not leak; regurgitants can be collected and made safe; preventing gas venting and flaring would limit methane emissions to acceptable levels; and the risk of tremors, which commonly occur as a result of conventional oil-and-gas activities, can be contained by careful monitoring. The IEA estimates that such measures would add 7% to the cost of the average shale-gas well. That is a small price to pay for environmental protection and the health of a promising industry.
For as well as posing environmental risks, a gas boom would bring an important environmental benefit. Burning gas emits half as much carbon dioxide as coal; so where gas substitutes for coal, emissions will fall. America’s emissions have fallen by 450m tonnes in the past five years, more than any other country’s. Ironically, given its far greater effort to tackle climate change, the European Union has seen its emissions rise, partly because of an increase in coal-fired power generation in response to Europe’s high gas price.
If the risks can be managed, this could present an important opportunity. It’s also a huge economic driver now in the United States, so the pressure will be there to find a solution.
Here’s some great information about the affordability of installing solar panels. This video focuses on San Diego, but the same principles apply around the country. Learn more at SolarAllianceofAmerica.com.