Ford of Europe CEO Jim Farley believes evermore costly emission control technology could eventually make cars unaffordable for most consumers
Vehicle emission regulators in Europe “need to consider affordability, or risk creating an elitist industry where cars are only attainable by the wealthy.” — Farley told the Financial Times
The obvious conclusion to draw from Ford’s position is that FUELS must become several orders of magnitude cleaner. And with today’s technology, that is entirely possible.
(1)In South Africa, SASOL has been taking the dirtiest grade of coal (brown coal) and turning it into one of the cleanest burning fuels on the planet since 1950.
Cars in South Africa only require minimal emission controls due to the extremely clean burning petrol which has a minimum blend of 30% CTL fuel (Coal-to-Liquids)
During hot summer days with their higher pollution levels (from coal-fired power plants, from marine shipping and from rail) SASOL simply increases the CTL percentage in its fuel — neatly countering the air quality problem in South African cities.
It should be said that CTL blended fuel is easier on petrol powered engines than conventional petrol.
(2) Brazil uses biofuel sourced from sugar cane and now that they are collecting the bagasse (stems, leaves, roots) of the sugar cane, instead of burning it in the fields, it is a quantum leap forward for the environment.
Ethanol from sugar cane dramatically lowers CO2 tailpipe emissions compared to conventional petrol, and the next growing season ‘eats’ every bit of the CO2 that was produced and then comes out of those Brazilian tailpipes. (Two crops per year in Brazil, growing plants eat a lot of CO2)
It parallels the normal CO2 recycling of Earth ecosystems.
Again it is the case that ethanol blended fuel from sugarcane is easier on petrol powered engines than conventional petrol.
Yet again! It is the case that biofuel fuel blends are easier on petrol powered engines than conventional petrol.
Until all cars are electric vehicles (or in later decades when Hydrogen fuelled vehicles become economically viable) all of our effort should be going into making fuels cleaner and dropping some emission controls for petrol cars — except for the obvious, like Crankcase Ventilation (CCV) and those that serve to lower emissions during engine warm-up.
Petrol powered cars are here to stay whether some like it or not. But we need to put the focus on making vehicle fuels cleaner as we’ve long ago reached the point of diminishing returns on vehicle emission controls.
Sincerest congratulations are due to COP21 (Conference of the Parties) for inking a remarkable agreement to limit global warming to 2 degrees by 2050/2100
It’s a global achievement, one that saw 200 countries come together in a unified purpose to protect our Commons
By agreeing to unprecedented GHG emission targets at COP21 in Paris, world leaders have shown the man-made problems that we alone have created are not above our ability to solve
Our leaders are bigger than our problems — and that is a very comforting sign indeed!
We’ve Got Our CO2 Targets. Now What?
As laudatory as all of that sounds, it begs the question, “Now that we’ve agreed on strict GHG limits, how do we actually set about achieving those limits?”
Listed in the order of maximum effect, irrespective of convenience or cost, the following proposal must rank among the least costly ways to achieve our COP21 targets within the timeframe specified.
ONE: Eliminating coal-fired primary power generation by 2020
By far, coal-fired power generation is the largest single contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, and aside from the obvious heavy CO2 load, many toxic gases are produced due to the impurities found in raw coal.
Not only that, but billions of dollars of damage to exterior metal and concrete occurs every year due to the effects of coal-fired acid rain hitting everything from bridges to skyscrapers to outdoor art installations.
Almost worse, is the heavy water usage (to control coal dust migration and to lower the burn temperature at coal-fired power generation facilities) which average 1100 gallons per MegaWatt(MW) of electricity produced.
For the record, natural gas-fired power generation requires 300 gallons of water per MW, while nuclear power generation uses 800 gallons of water per MW and solar power and wind power generators use 0 gallons per MW.
Another serious problem in regards to coal burning is the disposal of millions of tons of toxic fly ash, which is the ashes left over from burning millions of tons of coal annually.
Each year, millions of tons of toxic fly ash must be cooled, transported tens or hundreds of miles away, and then buried deep underground far from aquifers.
TWO: That’s not to say that the coal industry should die. Far from it. Some of the purest liquid fuels on the planet are already made from coal by employing the Fischer-Tropsch (catalytic) process. Such fuels are known as CTL fuels (Coal-to-Liquid) fuels and are noted for their almost clinical purity
Some countries, notably South Africa, have been blending the very clean-burning CTL fuel (30%) with conventional petroleum-sourced gasoline (70%) since the 1950′s in order to create an exceptionally clean burning gasoline (petrol) for use in cars and trucks. That mixture lowers CO2 and other GHG emissions by more than half with the potential for 50/50 CTL and gasoline blends in the future!
In addition to that, the aviation fuel ‘coal oil’ that is produced from South African coal — is purer and therefore, cleaner-burning than conventional petroleum-sourced ‘kerosene’ aviation fuel.
Over 2% of the world’s CO2 emissions are produced by general aviation. By switching to coal oil blended with conventional kerosene, global aviation emissions would drop by half, or better.
We could decrease our automotive and aviation emissions by half thanks to coal! and instead of witnessing the death of the coal industry, we would witness a coal renaissance!
THREE: All coal-fired power generation over 1MW should be switched to natural gas which upgrade is known as Coal to Gas (CTG). It’s already a mature business model in the U.S. where many coal-fired power plants have been converted to natural gas in order to meet increasingly stringent air quality standards
The benefits of this are quite obvious. All of the infrastructure is already in place to deliver the electricity from the existing power plant to demand centres.
Natural gas-fired power generation (thermal) operates similarly and can use the same facilities as coal-fired power generation.
Natural gas burns up to 1,000,000 times cleaner than lignite coal (brown coal) and up to 10,000 times cleaner than the highest quality black coal (anthracite coal).
The news gets even better for aquatic life as natural gas uses only 300 gallons per MW — and there is no dirty, black, coal-dust-laden water pouring into ditches, streams and rivers downstream from coal mines, coal-fired power stations, and along the thousands of miles of railway tracks that transport coal.
The bigger the natural gas market, the lower the per unit price for natural gas. Until now, natural gas-fired power generation has been used to add expensive ‘peaking power’ to the grid as it can ramp up quickly to provide additional power during peak demand sessions, such as happens when many air conditioning units suddenly switch on in the afternoon.
However, as more coal power stations have converted to natural gas, the (Henry Hub) spot price for natural gas has lowered accordingly. We’re now seeing natural gas prices falling to historic lows (under $2.00) due to increased baseload demand.
FOUR: As great as it is to add biofuel to transportation fuels in order to help them become (much) more clean-burning, all ethanol that is obtained *from corn* must be stopped by 2020
By a significant margin, corn is the worst plant to grow in order to produce biofuel due to the obscene water and pesticide use required to grow corn.
Corn must be replaced with a less demanding crop such as sugarcane. In Brazil, sugarcane is grown for sugar (primarily) and biofuel (secondarily) and the technology has advanced to the point where even the leaves and roots of the plant (the ‘stover’) are used to produce biofuel via the cellulosic biofuel method.
In Brazil, by law, a minimum of 24% of each gallon of gasoline must be bio-ethanol sourced. Costa Rica and some other Latin countries have advanced bio-ethanol programmes and likewise show corresponding drops in vehicle emissions.
Other crops, such as sweet sorghum are even more promising than sugarcane and are only a few years away from making a massive impact as an ethanol feedstock.
By banning corn for biofuel use and replacing it with sugarcane or sweet sorghum, water usage levels would fall by billions of gallons per state, annually. Pesticide use, land management and other environmentally costly processes would be dramatically minimized.
Every gallon of gasoline that is sold in the world should have a 50% biofuel or CTL component and it should be noted that CTL fuels are just as clean-burning as ethanol derived from biofuel crops such as sugarcane or sweet sorghum.
FIVE: The shipping industry produces over 2% of the world’s emissions only because old ships burn incredibly toxic bunker fuel — while newer ships burn clean natural gas. Regulating global shipping to upgrade to natural gas can dramatically lower emission levels across the industry
If these bunker-fuel-burning ships (‘old clunkers’) are no longer allowed in the world’s ports, they will be useless to their owners and will be sold for their scrap metal value.
By recognizing that our use of coal must change by 2020 we can employ natural gas in place of coal for our primary power generation — while adding CTL fuels and 2nd-generation biofuels to our transportation fuel — for a ‘cleaner burn’ to meet our electricity and transportation energy needs while easily meeting our GHG emission reduction goals.
Boeing is leading local and global collaboration for the complex challenges our world faces now, and looking to the future. We support industry-wide approaches to align on ways to improve the environment. And whether it’s through the development of sustainable aviation biofuel or by working with communities globally on important environmental issues, we’re making a difference.
From working to improve the environmental performance of our products and services to working together for the benefit of our homes and communities, Boeing is building a better planet. — Boeing website
Boeing (NYSE: BA) and Japanese aviation industry stakeholders have charted a course to develop sustainable aviation biofuel for flights during the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo, when millions of people are expected to visit Japan.
South African farmers will soon harvest their first crop of energy-rich tobacco plants, an important step towards using the plants to make sustainable aviation biofuels, South African Airways (SAA) and American aeroplane maker Boeing announced yesterday
SAA and Boeing, along with partners SkyNRG and Sunchem SA, also officially launched Project Solaris, their collaborative effort to develop an aviation biofuel supply chain using a nicotine-free, GMO-free tobacco plant called Solaris.
Company representatives and industry stakeholders visited commercial and community farms in Marble Hall, Limpopo Province, where 50 hectares of Solaris have been planted.
The test crop will be harvested for the first time in December.
Oil from the plant’s seeds may be converted into bio-jet fuel as early as 2015, with a test flight by SAA as soon as practicable.
“SAA continues to work towards becoming the most environmentally sustainable airline in the world and is committed to a better way of conducting business,” said Ian Cruickshank, the airline’s environmental affairs specialist.
It plans to scale-up its use of biofuels for its flights to 20-million litres in 2017, before reaching 400-million litres by 2023
“The impact that the biofuel programme will have on South Africans is astounding: thousands of jobs, mostly in rural areas; new skills and technology; energy security and stability; and macro-economic benefits to South Africa; and, of course, a massive reduction in the amount of CO2 that is emitted into our atmosphere.”
It would also lower the fuel costs of SAA, which contributed between 39% and 41% of the state-owned airline’s total operating costs.
“It is very exciting to see early progress in South Africa towards developing sustainable aviation biofuels from energy-producing tobacco plants,” said J Miguel Santos, the Boeing International managing director for Africa.
“Boeing strongly believes that our aviation biofuel collaboration with South African Airways will benefit the environment and public health while providing new economic opportunities for South Africa’s small farmers.
“This project also positions our valued airline customer to gain a long-term, viable domestic fuel supply and improve South Africa’s national balance of payments.”
The farm visits followed the announcement in August that SAA, Boeing and SkyNRG, an international market leader for bio-jet fuel, based in the Netherlands, were collaborating to make aviation biofuel from the Solaris plant, which was developed and patented by Sunchem Holding, a research and development company based in Italy.
If the test farming in Limpopo is successful, the project will be expanded in South Africa and potentially to other countries.
In coming years, emerging technologies are expected to increase aviation biofuel production from the plant’s leaves and stems.
Sustainable aviation biofuels made from Solaris plants can reduce lifecycle carbon emissions by 50% to 75%, ensuring it meets the sustainability threshold set by the Roundtable on Sustainable Biomaterials (RSB)
Airlines have conducted more than 1600 passenger flights using aviation biofuel since the fuel was approved for commercial use in 2011.
Boeing is an industry leader in global efforts to develop and commercialise sustainable aviation biofuels.
Project Solaris began in 2012 with two hectares of crop, rising to 11 hectares in 2013, before expanding to the current 50 hectares.
The partners aim to expand the project to 30,000 hectares by 2020, leading to the production of 140,000 tons of jet fuel, the creation of 50,000 direct jobs and a reduction of 267 kt of CO2 emissions.
They envisage 250 000 hectares by 2025, according to SkyNRG chief technology officer Maarten van Dijk.
The burning of fossil fuels over the past 90 years has released gigatonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere over that time.
Previous to the large-scale commercial extraction of petroleum beginning around 1920, the carbon embedded within coal and oil was permanently stored underground and had stayed there since the time of the dinosaurs.
It wasn’t going anywhere near the surface of our planet or into our atmosphere anytime in the next billion years — until mankind started bringing it up to the surface and burning it
The burning of fossil fuels extracted from deep below the surface of the Earth is a huge source of new CO2 introduced into our present-day atmosphere. — John Brian Shannon, Biofuel Central
Plant-based biofuels on the other hand, utilize plant matter that grows in our 21st-century — plants which absorb CO2 out of our modern-day atmosphere every day of the year
Jatropha trees, for instance, live 40 years. Only the plentiful fruits (several tonnes per hectare) are harvested each year for processing into biofuels while the rest of the tree continues to draw CO2 out of the air every day of the year. Because that’s what trees do.
After breathing in CO2 and exhaling oxygen for 40 years, at the end of that tree’s life almost exactly the amount of CO2 it captured during its lifetime returns to the environment, making the Jatropha’s carbon footprint, zero. (Exactly what it captured, it released, over its 40 year lifetime)
Then, new Jatropha trees are grown and a new carbon-neutral process begins.
Not so for fossil fuels. Carbon-heavy coal and oil are a huge source of new carbon that we bring up from deep underground which, as we burn it, continuously adds new CO2 to our atmosphere
Therefore ALL fossil fuel burning adds to the overall CO2 load of our atmosphere – while plant based biofuels are CO2-neutral, as they merely recycle the same carbon dioxide, many times over.
Where am I going with this?
We should blend our fossil fuels with CO2-neutral biofuels (50/50) to taper our dinosaur era, petroleum based, CO2-additions to the atmosphere.
Biofuels now come in three generations
1st generation biofuels were the first on the market, but required massive subsidies to be economically viable.
2nd generation biofuels were next-up and as the technical problems are now solved, new 2nd generation biofuels are surging ahead and show dramatic CO2 reductions.
3rd generation biofuels are in the pilot programme stage at this point, but early indications are that negative CO2 emissions may be possible — as megatonnes of waste carbon dioxide from nearby factories are used in algae biofuels production and the profitability of this new generation of biofuels (even without subsidies) seems likely.
The three generations of biofuels
Corn, palm tree, and sugar-cane are examples of 1st generation biofuel crops. They are poor choices for biofuel production as they have their own environmental negatives attached to them and they require massive subsidies to compete in the marketplace.
1st generation biofuel crops require billions of gallons of precious water, plenty of fertilizer, pesticides and land management.
And it goes without saying of course, that replacing food crops with biofuel crops is a very bad idea.
Fortunately, 2nd generation biofuel plants grow in conditions and areas which are inhospitable for food crops.
Some examples of 2nd generation biofuel plants which grow in semi-arid regions are; Jatropha, Millettia and Camelina and the cultivation of these provide plenty of jobs for developing nation labourers.
Biofuels that are produced with algae or enzymes are known as 3rd generation biofuels and are the most efficient way of producing biofuels, using only water, plant matter, relatively small amounts of algae and microscopic enzymes to do the work.
And talk about good karma, algae thrive when CO2 is added to the conversion chamber (called a ‘biofuel reactor’ which is basically a 500,000 gallon soup pot) and helps to convert the ingredients into high quality gasoline.
In the new algae-to-gasoline plants, tonnes of CO2 from nearby industry are added to the ingredient list to help boost the speed of the process and to increase the final amount of gasoline produced.
Like any other green plant, algae ‘eats’ the CO2 and emits pure oxygen just like the trees in your neighborhood.
Each batch takes 5 days and at continuous production that means CO2-eating and oxygen production is happening every day of the year.
It’s better to continuously recycle a large amount of carbon-neutral plant-based CO2 (recycling it millions of times over) than to bring new carbon in the form of coal and oil to the Earth’s surface with it’s carbon-heavy load to burn it, thereby adding unfathomable gigatonnes of new CO2 to our 21st century atmosphere.
Yet another biofuel bonus
Lower CO2 emissions are a well-known bio-jet fuel benefit, regardless of which biofuel generation they hail from.
Boeing’s Sustainable Biofuels Research & Technology Program reported 80% lower CO2 emissions for camelina bio-jet fuel when compared to conventional jet fuel.
All 1st, 2nd, and 3rd generation biofuels are low carbon fuels (at the combustion stage) but only 2nd generation biofuels are economically viable at this point in time. New formulation 3rd generation biofuels look to have even lower CO2 emissions than the 2nd generation biofuels already on the market.
Depending on the type of biofuel crop employed, lowered CO2 emissions (as compared to conventional petroleum-based jet fuels) in the range of 50-80% are proven
New algae bio-jet fuels are showing CO2 emission reductions of better than 90% when compared to petroleum-based jet fuel.
There is every hope that within 10 years that new algae bio-jet fuel will prove to be CO2-negative as the algae requires huge volumes of carbon dioxide gas to grow at best possible speed.
Airline operators and the U.S. military note that the new bio-jet fuels extend engine life, emit less soot and smoke, and are easier on fuel system components such as fuel pumps and injectors
Notes about sugarcane:
Sugarcane moves from its present 1st generation biofuel ranking to 2nd generation biofuel ranking if certain guidelines are followed.
Sugarcane is usually considered a 1st generation biofuel crop, but;
1) if farmers refrain from burning sugarcane fields after each harvest (twice yearly) and 2) if the rest of the plant (not just the ‘cane’ but also the roots and leaves) are converted to biofuels via a new type of cellulosic bioreactor, and 3) where sugarcane fields aren’t displacing food crops, sugarcane is an excellent choice for a high-yield 2nd generation biofuel.