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  1. Here’s what I think is eminently sensible: my 1991 Ford Festiva which gets 38 MPG in stop-and-go city driving and 48 MPG on the highway (approaching 2 gallons/100 miles), using the technology that was available 18 years ago.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 23 Sep 2008 @ 11:30 AM

  2. I note that mileage is quoted in Canada (and I think elsewhere in the world) in liters per 100 km, which makes this much clearer.

    How about the person who gets rid of their old SUV and buys a hybrid compact?

    Comment by Ethan — 23 Sep 2008 @ 11:41 AM

  3. Of course someone switching from his old (8.3 gallon fir 1oo miles) to either a compact (4 gallons for 1000 miles) or a Prius (2.2 gallons for 100 miles) will do even better. Or, suppose the auto manufacturers produced larger vehicles for those who need the space which could get go 100 miles on 3 gallons.

    In passing, I saw Frank Lutz on The Colbert Report, who was explaining why GM was producing the Volt when he still doesn’t believe in global warming. Lutz came up with the old story about the 30,000 scientists who agreed with him that human activity wasn’t the cause of the warming. Colbert didn’t challenge him on that, which I think was a shame, but he did ask him just whom he expected to buy this new car if global warming was a myth.

    Comment by Leonard Evens — 23 Sep 2008 @ 11:51 AM

  4. People have a hard time comparing inverses, so gallons/10,000 miles is a step in the right direction. But 400 gallons/10,000 miles remains an abstract concept.
    4 gallons/100 miles is a concrete concept. It means something immediate.
    I do not see what the attraction is of gallons/10,000 miles. Is it just a gratuitous rejection of the (familiar to some) litres/100km measure?
    I wanted to use the word “reci…cals” instead of “inverses”, but hte spam filter saw a bad word imbedded in it.

    Comment by Peter Coates — 23 Sep 2008 @ 11:52 AM

  5. The argument loses some of its weight if we have to ignore manufacturing issues (i.e. the CO2 generated in the manufacture of a new car).

    Going a little off topic… it’s a bit like the solar energy discussions where the the CO2 generated in the manufacture is almost always completely ignored (along with the extra costs associated with regular cleaning required for both solar panels and mirrors)

    [Response: All analyses need to use the full lifecycle in order to be useful for decision making. However, this point is simpler than that. - gavin]

    Comment by Richard — 23 Sep 2008 @ 12:00 PM

  6. Yes yes, but the absolute amount of fuel required to travel those 100 “miles” still makes for a good anti-SUV argument. So what’s the point of showing that efficiency gains are more for a small improvement in a very inefficient system, rather than for a larger improvement in a very efficient system? Michaelis Menten graphs, saturation curves etc.

    Comment by Nash — 23 Sep 2008 @ 12:13 PM

  7. How to account for things like PZEV, SULEV, ULEV? Are the emissions from a 15 mpg engine actually double those from a 30 mpg engine? What about the age of the engine? What about gas vs. “clean diesel” vs ethanol blends? I’ve even known someone who ran his pickup on propane, and I have NO idea what the emissions from that are like. What about oxygenating the fuel? What about someone who replaces part of his driving with riding a motorcycle or scooter? What about a vehicle (like the upcoming Volt) that gets some of its power from plugging into the grid? How do you calculate the impact of that?

    I know, I digress somewhat, but as fuel choices get more diverse, the general public probably gets more confused …

    [Response: Emissions are very closely tied to the fuel usage. Different fuels have different emissions per gallon (depending on the molecular structure - i.e. how many carbons, denisty etc.), so you need to be careful comparing mpg from a diesel than from a petrol engine. Hopefully someone knows a good source on this? As for ethanol blends, it all comes down to where the ethanol comes from. If it's from corn in the US, emissions are basically the same as if it was pure gasoline (due to the fossil fuel use during production), if it's from sugarcane in Brazil, net emissions are significantly lower. Plug-in hybrids benefit from the more efficient use of fossil fuels in electricity generation even now and so have lower emissions than internal combustion engine cars, and if they get their juice from renewables, emissions would be very low indeed. - gavin]

    Comment by Maya — 23 Sep 2008 @ 12:22 PM

  8. What an excellent idea. Totally fresh view for evaluating mileage. Thanks for getting us thinking in that way.

    Of course total energy costs to manufacture that Prius should be considered. So I will keep my old Isuzu Pooper – and just drive it fewer miles. Because that saves all the energy that goes into a new car manufacturing.

    The next measurement consumers need is to know how much energy goes into products and services. Take for instance a cup of coffee. Measure the growing, picking, shipping, roasting, grinding, brewing, containers etc – all are energy intensive. I am sure that Starbucks knows precisely how much energy goes into a typical cup of coffee. I bet it is surprisingly high.

    All products need to show a rating of this energy – we might make a Starbuck the moniker for a standardized energy measurement.

    So any item could be rated by the starbuck standard… or without a brand name – just to think of how many coffee-cup-energy-units are in any item.

    Think of how much better decisions we could make.

    Comment by rpauli — 23 Sep 2008 @ 12:38 PM

  9. Good post. In a related matter, the exclusion of vehicles “expected” to be used for business from CAFE (Light trucks – all before, now over 8,500 lbs GVWR) is bad policy for the reasons you gave as well as because business vehicles travel far further! Thus, the argument for excluding business-type vehicles from CAFE is backwards. They should have been regulated first. Consider taxis, for example. They should all get absolutely the best mileage possible.

    Ethan, perhaps everyone should get a set amount of gas at normal prices, and as much over that as desired with a $10 a gallon tax tacked on. That might get a few folks to downsize. Too bad it would take record-keeping or ration cards or whatnot. Then again, the planet just *might* be worth the inconvenience… Captcha agrees: to permitting

    Comment by RichardC — 23 Sep 2008 @ 12:57 PM

  10. I think liters per 100 kilometers would be better than gallons per 100 miles (why 10,000 miles?). We from europe have a few problems with miles and gallons ;-)

    Comment by Samson — 23 Sep 2008 @ 1:54 PM

  11. Please be advised that we in Quebec and the rest of Canada already use liters/100km. So it’s not only in Europe!

    Richard H.

    Comment by Richard Harvey — 23 Sep 2008 @ 1:57 PM

  12. The person switching to the Prius is going to be saving a factor of 1.84 on fuel while the other switch only saves a factor of 1.5. If fuel cost is what is bothering you, you are probably already driving the compact and you have more motivation. If we really want to tackle bulk fuel use, we should go to rationing. This works better than price signals when the ability to pay is so broadly spread. It can also make an energy trasition much much less costly: http://mdsolar.blogspot.com/2008/06/oil-is-too-expensive.html

    Comment by Chris Dudley — 23 Sep 2008 @ 2:13 PM

  13. What’s always puzzled me is the “need” for a huge great big car. “So we can drive in comfort with the kids when we go on holiday”.

    So rent a big car.

    Especially in the US when there are so few holidays, they are spent like gold dust, they aren’t going to be highly contested on any one week.

    Rent it.

    Borrow it.

    And have a car appropriate for the normal use. With the *possibility* of sub-optimal use of the smaller car for transporting all the kids.

    Comment by Mark — 23 Sep 2008 @ 2:14 PM

  14. rpauli, #8.

    Do you know what the most recycled (and most efficiently recyclable) part of a normal car is?

    The batteries.

    The prius batteries WILL be re-used.

    Heck, the reason why electric cars as expensive is because the batteries are expensive. WHO THE HELL is going to throw THAT away???

    Especially when you know that a big current theft is taking the copper lines used for telecoms and selling the copper. DIGGING UP THE COPPER IS WORTH IT!!!

    Comment by Mark — 23 Sep 2008 @ 2:17 PM

  15. Richard, I didn’t say that. I suppose that there are a lot of countries besides Canada and the EU which use litres per 100 km. As far as I know only the USA uses mpg. From my point of view a change from mpg to gallons per 10,000 miles is only a small step in the right direction (I had to look up the conversion for gallon in litre and mile in km).

    Comment by Samson — 23 Sep 2008 @ 2:28 PM

  16. Perhaps it is easier to measure the emission of CO2 produced in grams of CO2 per distance. The European Union had a voluntary agreement to reach an average of 120 g/km for all new passenger cars by 2012.

    Comment by Kjartan Bleie — 23 Sep 2008 @ 2:31 PM

  17. RE #13 Mark:

    What’s always puzzled me is the “need” for a huge great big car. “So we can drive in comfort with the kids when we go on holiday”.

    I’m with you, man. We got rid of all our cars and cycle everywhere now. Just strap a kid to each thigh, one across the pannier racks and another on my back and we’re away (I only make the wife carry one kid).

    Of course, visiting the relatives on the weekend can be a bit of a chore. By the time we’ve ridden the 135 miles there, it’s almost time to turn around and go home again. But it’s worth it for the warm inner glow I get from knowing our family’s carbon footprint is almost negligible.

    Comment by mugwump — 23 Sep 2008 @ 2:45 PM

  18. Well, there is a better choice – but let’s take the lifecycle approach:

    1. Set up a solar PV manufacturing factory that derives all of its power from solar panels.

    2. You will also need a polysilicon plant to feed high-quality silicon wafers into the solar PV plant, such as this one:
    http://www.reuters.com/article/pressRelease/idUS182891+15-Feb-2008+PRN20080215

    3. Now, we have ourselves a solar breeder facility. In goes silica ore, out comes finished PV panels, and no fossil fuels are involved in the PV manufacturing process.

    4. Take those solar panels and set them on top of carparks or home garages, or feed the electricity directly into the grid.

    5. Build an electric car manufacturing factory, and surround it with enough solar panels to power the manufacturing process.

    6. Take your electric car, charge it up with your solar panels, and you have a fossil fuel-free transportation system.

    Zero emission transportation. All the elements already exist – they just have to be put together.

    Now, we can port this concept to agriculture systems, which are heavily dependent on fossil fuels – solar / wind powered water pumps, electric farm equipment, even fertilizer.

    Currently, fertilizer is made using natural gas (steam reforming of methane to generate hydrogen to feed into the Haber process) – but with the new advances ( http://www.greencarcongress.com/2008/07/researchers-at.html ), it should be possible to generate that hydrogen directly from water using sunlight; feed the hydrogen into the Haber process (energy expensive, true, but doable), and then you have your ammonia, convert half of that to nitrate, and there you have your ammonium nitrate fertilizer, which currently accounts for about 1/2 of all agricultral fossil fuel use.

    So, now you have your fossil fuel free agricultural system, zero net emissions, with equivalent productivity. Whatever you grow that you don’t use for food can then be fed into biofuel production (as well as biochar production, as a soil amendment, meaning NEGATIVE emissions), and then you have some amount of ethanol, biodiesel, or bio-based hydrocarbon product. This lead us to:

    7. Take your hybrid Prius, fill it up with that zero-emission biofuel, and you have the equivalent of a solar-powered electric car, emission-wise.

    So, those are two routes to zero-sum-emission transportation, as well as route to zero-sum-emission agriculture.

    Here’s a good question, though: how do you transport container-loads of raw materials all around the world without access to cheap fossil fuels? By sail?

    Well, ideally you don’t do that at all. Instead, you only ship high-value goods (laptops, refined chemicals, solar panels) and you eliminate the global trade in raw materials – because it is just too expensive.

    Those are the kinds of approaches that will be needed to get past the Fossil Fuel Age, which will end due to replacement by superior technology, which is also how the Stone Age ended.

    I bet the makers of stone tools were just as upset about their loss of market share to the bronze tools as our fossil fuel CEOs and investors are about their own eventual downfall. Did they also carry out massive PR campaigns in the hopes of holding off the inevitable?

    Comment by Ike Solem — 23 Sep 2008 @ 3:10 PM

  19. Interesting post. I passed it on to my SUV-loving family members…

    Gavin, I realize that the life-cycle analysis was not the point of this post, but I think it would be a great future post. Do you have access to some good articles on this topic?

    Does the life cycle analysis of a prius vs a hummer actually give the hummer a smaller carbon footprint? (I doubt this, but I’ve seen an article suggesting that it is true). I know I know, not exactly climate science…

    Comment by Karen Kohfeld — 23 Sep 2008 @ 3:10 PM

  20. So Mugwump…

    Did you miss the rest of Mark’s post on renting or borrowing a vehicle when you need more capacity or is your sarcasm of the lightweight variety???

    Comment by Mark Schaffer — 23 Sep 2008 @ 3:13 PM

  21. Another confounding factor is that, except for inexpensive staples, people use less when a product becomes more expensive, and use more when the product is cheap. Essentially, people spend more money when they make more money.

    So I suspect the answer isn’t as clear cut as it was stated in the blog post. The answer if a study were done might amaze Gavin. That is, it might not be ‘A’.

    If the driving distance is 100 miles for a person in a 12mph SUV, then the driving distance might drastically increase to 130 miles for a person in a 18mph SUV. If the driving distance is 100 miles for a person in a 25mph car, then the driving distance might only become 110 miles for a person in a 46mph hybrid.

    Then for case A the saving in fuel used is 100/12-130/18 = 1.1 gallons, while for B, you have 100/25-110/46 = 1.6 gallons.

    The confusion arises because people like to think statically about demand, not dynamically, and so tend to assume that a set relationship between change in effective supply (mpg) has identical (or no) impact on change in demand (car usage). This is not however the case – huge drops in cost for a staple that uses a perceived significant portion of income drive up usage more than they do for a huge drop in cost for a relatively cheap staple.

    :)

    Comment by ouini — 23 Sep 2008 @ 3:31 PM

  22. This analysis reminds me of relative risk versus absolute risk in risk assessment. Your analysis is certainly correct but the relative change in gas mileage for the SUV example is 33.7% (2.8/8.3) compared to 45.0% (1.8/4) for the Prius example. In relative terms, the compact-to-Prius change is greater. Did I get that right? There are many different ways to think about this, but the instincts of linear thinkers are correct in terms of environmental outcomes: assuming equivalent CO2 etc. output per gallon of gas burned, the final outcome of the SUV change is two and a half times more damaging to the environment than the outcome for Prius change.

    [Response: I disagree. The issue is the total amount of emissions, not how important the relative improvement is. - gavin]

    Comment by Tony — 23 Sep 2008 @ 3:33 PM

  23. I think that this is a good transition to make. The framing of the energy consumption will help consumers make more effective decisions on their fuel use.

    The decision of whether to switch should be separate from when to switch vehicles. If a vehicle is replaced at the end of its service life (or near it), then the issue of energy cost in its manufacture are less important. I would guess that energy costs of production of vehicles is related to the mass of the vehicle.

    I think this concept could be stretched to show the fuel consumption per 100 miles at various speeds. Over the past two weeks, I tried driving on the freeway at 60 mph instead of 65 mph. Traffic conditions allow this easily. I travel 45 miles each way on the freeway, and my fuel consumption in mpg went from 50 to 55.
    (or 2 gallons / 100 miles to 1.8 gallons per hundred miles). The cost in time: about 5 minutes. (I drive a Prius, in case anyone is wondering.)

    In addition, it would be useful to know the energy cost (or relative energy cost) of more consumer items. The EnergyStar program has some severe problems, but it is a start. Energy consumption of other items is usually ignored (computers, for example).

    Finally, I think we need some concept of a level of energy consumption, or carbon footprint (take your measurement) that is acceptable with reference to preventing AGW.

    Measuring carbon footprint is complex – if you have not tried to do this, try it. It is complicated. How do you account for the aspirations and goals of folks – often related to a standard of living measured by wealth?

    One example: if I believe that AGW is real (I do) and I should minimize my carbon footprint (I try) how much air travel can I justify for pleasure and / or business?

    [Response: One of things I've noticed with drivers of hybrids is how their driving habits change if they have the mpg numbers on a real time display on the dashboard. That is, they drive to keep the numbers up (like a video game). I'm pretty certain that increasing the use of such displays in all cars would improve overall efficiency without any change in the fleet. - gavin]
    [...though it might also increase accidents. I find I'm often looking at the darn screen instead of the road in my Prius...--eric

    Comment by Oxnardprof — 23 Sep 2008 @ 3:40 PM

  24. Efficient driving is secure, easy and fun!
    A New Fuel Saving Device Can Change the Way We Use Fuel Driving Our Car.
    Using the momentum of your car will reduce your fuel consumption; The U.S. Patent Office issued a Patent for Moment-O-Meter.
    When Tom presented me his work, I was skeptical because it was utterly simple and logical, thus not new. It took thousands of years to put wheels on our luggage because nobody thought about it.

    Clearwater, Fla. (PRWEB) August 20, 2008 — GREEN TECHNOLOGY MFG manufactures the long awaited Moment-O-Meter, a consumer friendly device that helps to reduce fuel consumption (patent # 7,411,140).

    “It may take ten years for car manufacturers to create and redesign higher fuel efficient cars, fifteen years to find and exploit fuel fossil reserves in the US and maybe twenty more years to develop safe nuclear energy providing 50% of our electricity,” said the inventor, Tom Delor.

    It takes only a few seconds to stick Moment-O-Meter to your windshield and plug it in your cigarette lighter to upgrade your car to a fuel efficient car. “Moment-O-Meter was developed and tested during the last three years, and we now manufacture it in Clearwater, Florida,” added Delor, a retired ex-aeronautical engineer who co-invented this device to help his school teacher daughter to save gas. “It all started with my daughter and I’m always looking for a good reason to spend some time in my workshop,” added Delor.
    As Speed-O-Meter indicates the speed of a vehicle, Moment-O-Meter indicates its inherent momentum allowing users to coast by, moving their car effortlessly by force of the inertial mass generated. Green light indicates you can coast, red light indicates you need to use fuel to maintain the car’s speed. It’s like a personal trainer telling you what to do.
    “Every driver can take advantage of their car’s momentum to drastically increase their fuel efficiency if they are shown how,” the inventor said. “You will save 20% to 50% gas the very first time you use it. To make it work for everyone, it had to be simple and visual. Moment-O-Meter is very simple; just react to the device’s lights to save gas. I personally save 50% but my wife saves only 32% … It still depends on the driver’s skills, but improvement is expected as driving efficiently will become second nature,” concluded Delor.
    About GREEN TECHNOLOGY MFG
    GREEN TECHNOLOGY MFG, located in Clearwater, Florida, is the developer and manufacturer of this long awaited new instrument for cars. The device uses simple visual cues to allow drivers to take advantage of the moving vehicle’s momentum. It really does not matter if the vehicle uses gas, ethanol, or electricity or if the vehicle is a small or an eighteen wheelers. Retired ex-aeronautical engineer Tom Delor is the co-inventor, and patent attorney John Rizvy from Fort Lauderdale, Florida said: “When Tom presented me his work, I was skeptical because it was utterly simple and logical, thus not new. It took thousands of years to put wheels on our luggage because nobody thought about it.” Comparatively, nobody thought about showing the momentum of a moving vehicle until now, replied Delor. With the energy crisis, necessity became the mother of all inventions and the United States Patent Office by issuing the patent confirmed that Moment-O-Meter is a genuine new invention.
    More information:
    http://www.extra-mpg.com

    Comment by tom delor — 23 Sep 2008 @ 3:49 PM

  25. http://priuschat.com/forums/prius-hybrid-news/30974-prius-vs-hummer-exploding-myth.html

    RE: Number 19 – Hummer vs Prius. the linked post discusses this illusion that is floated about on the web

    Comment by oxnardprof — 23 Sep 2008 @ 4:18 PM

  26. Instead of changing the car, why don’t we change the town. High density housing in the city, then farms and parkland. No suburbs.
    Would that fit the American dream?

    Comment by David W — 23 Sep 2008 @ 4:35 PM

  27. I agree that it’s easier for me and others to compare cars in gallons/hundred miles.

    Re the GHG cost of manufacturing, there may be a newer analysis, but I use this one: On the Road in 2020 (pdf)

    Re the cost of flying, there are lots of assumptions around because of different ways of using or ignoring a 1999 report on aviation’s role in global warming [Aviation and the Global Atmosphere] for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change—the effects of flying are much worse than would be predicted by just burning the oil.

    Atmosfair calculates GHG emissions for flying, multiplying the effects of time at high altitude by 2 (IPCC said 2 – 4) and incorporating information about whether the flight was nonstop.

    Life cycle cost of a hummer is a great deal more than for a Prius.

    Comment by Karen Street — 23 Sep 2008 @ 4:39 PM

  28. The embodied energy requirement (not just fuel economy) for replacing the entire fleet will be crucial when things get tougher. As others point out it may be difficult to produce enough metal and glass in a solar economy to even make cars let alone finding energy for propulsion. So far as I’m aware no-one has done a life cycle analysis of the Pickens plan as it affects cars. Under one scenario existing SUVs could get a $2000 conversion to compressed natural gas. Drive those cars for another 10-20 years and that saves a whole lot on replacing them with Priuses with an embodied energy equivalent to say 900 USgall or 3400L of fuel. I’ll omit the calculations.

    Comment by Johnno — 23 Sep 2008 @ 5:00 PM

  29. #3: I could very well be an anthropogenic global warming skeptic and buy a GM Volt. I think driving a noiseless e-car and possibly saving on traditional fuel could be a strong incentive, with no need to push it up with climate considerations. BTW New Scientist (20 Sep.2008) has an interesting comparison showing that plug-in hybrid electrical vehicles (PHEV) will emit about the same 95 g CO2eq/km regardless if the electric power comes from nuclear or renewabels. Greenpeace and others are trying to impose a still stricter 80g/100km maximum here in Europe, what makes me wonder if these enviros will ever be happy with an achievement, or continue to ask for the impossible , regardless of the difficult job of the scientists and engineers who made the first reduction happen.

    Comment by Francis Massen — 23 Sep 2008 @ 5:04 PM

  30. Oxnardprof wrote about the improved mileage at lower highway speeds. He notes that it took only 5 minutes longer on his 45 mile commute. Recently, I wondered how much one would “earn” as an hourly wage in terms of the money saved per hour of extra travel time due to the lower speed. For some typical cars I looked up the mpg vs speed graphs, and assumed $4/gal gas. In the end I was kind of disappointed because the hourly “wage” was only $8-9 for a 20 mpg car and less for a 40 mpg vehicle, something like minimum wage. So you save more per hour with the gas guzzler, a fact that is closely – but not obviously – tied to the original question in this post. I was hoping for a higher hourly wage because it could be a strong incentive for people to slow down. In the end I decided that a better way to present the message is to cast it in terms of dollars saved per 100 miles…or maybe in terms of a reduced effective cost of a gallon of gas. People are very sensitive to the latter.

    Comment by Larry Coleman — 23 Sep 2008 @ 5:06 PM

  31. If hybrid (or eventually all alternative fuel) cars and hybrid commercial airplanes (imagine that!) were made more affordable than the traditional vehicles, I would imagine more people would take that route regardless of how much they understand or care about global climate change.

    Comment by Figen Mekik — 23 Sep 2008 @ 5:27 PM

  32. #27, the link “On the Road in 2020″ is broken.

    Comment by Geoff Russell — 23 Sep 2008 @ 5:28 PM

  33. Miles per gallon: ug! Gallons per hundred miles: a bit less bad. Litres per hundred kilometres: better still. Kilograms per hundred kilometres, best.

    kg/100 km is an improvement because the volume of a given mass of petrol changes (very slightly) with temperature and it’s the mass (not volume) burnt which determines both the energy available and the emissions produced.

    Airliners (747-400s, I believe) flying Hong Kong/London have their fuel chilled before loading to be able to get a larger mass into the fixed volumes of the tanks.

    The UK still mostly uses miles per gallon but l/100 km is used a bit.

    Comment by Ed Davies — 23 Sep 2008 @ 5:41 PM

  34. Larry, #30.

    That would only be lost OPPORTUNITY cost.

    How much would he earn if he didn’t go for a number one and wore incontinence pants?

    How often would he lose 5 minutes from a productive work day? Would he lose *any* pay over it?

    If he’s salaried, he’d earn exactly nil.

    If he’s on hourly, he has to spend 10 minutes at work. IF anyone is minuting him that closely. Which they aren’t.

    Comment by Mark — 23 Sep 2008 @ 5:46 PM

  35. At the risk of swamping people with numbers, I’d like to see no less than three numbers quoted:

    miles/gallon, cost/mile, g CO2/mile.

    energy density, cost efficiency, and carbon intensity are three separate topics, yet all are relevant to the driver.

    This becomes more important as we begin to see a variety of fuels and blends available.

    Comment by tharanga — 23 Sep 2008 @ 6:04 PM

  36. But, when upgrading to a more fuel efficient car, you tend to sell your old car to someone else. So the effect is actually additive. There are now two cars on the road rather than one, irrespective of whether one is more fuel efficient than the other.

    So really we should be crushing and recycling our old cars, rather than trying to recoup some financial return by selling them on and feeling smug about our new hybrids. :^)

    Comment by KiwiInOz — 23 Sep 2008 @ 6:34 PM

  37. On the Road in 2020: http://lfee.mit.edu/public/el00-003.pdf

    Re the Pickens plan, I heard Lee Schipper talk a couple of weeks ago. Compressed natural gas does 10% better than gasoline re GHG emissions, except that the natural gas will come from Indonesia and there will be a lot of leakage if there are a lot of vehicles. Such was reported in a recent bus/train collision in LA.

    Comment by Karen Street — 23 Sep 2008 @ 7:04 PM

  38. Another benefit of reducing driving speed, if all drivers reduced speed, is a reduction in traffic congestion. This was discussed in the NY Times not long ago, but if there is an incident blocking traffic, and highway speeds are reduced, then fewer cars will get caught in the delay, and traffic jams are reduced. Thus reduced highway speeds in urban areas would reduce fuel consumption both by reducing gallons per mile consumed when traffic is flowing, and by reducing the duration and intenstiy of congestion when traffic is blocked.

    Comment by Oxnardprof — 23 Sep 2008 @ 7:17 PM

  39. Gavin #7
    “so you need to be careful comparing mpg from a diesel than from a petrol engine. Hopefully someone knows a good source on this?”

    Maybe this can help: http://www.epa.gov/oms/climate/420f05001.htm
    Gasoleum is a heavier oil and therefore has a higher carbon density per litre than gasoline. However, on average a diesel engine tends to be between 30% to 40% more eficient in fuel consumption than its equivelant engine size petrol counterpart, therefore, per km the diesel engine will emit less.
    The caveat here are the new hybrid gasoline engines which dramatically improve petrol fuel consumption, which coupled with the lower carbon density of the fuel make them lower emitters than an equivelant engine size diesel.
    I imagine that if a viable hybrid diesel engine is developed this will outperform the current toyotas and hondas by an equivelant margin of the other conventional engines.

    Comment by Lowlander — 23 Sep 2008 @ 7:20 PM

  40. I do my best thinking while walking, so I walk to the market almost every day. I like to bicycle for exercise, so many of my “round about town” chores are done on my bicycle. If I have to be at the EPA in SF at 9:00 in the morning, bike/BART is far and away faster considering traffic and parking. My bike will get me to BART, and BART will get me to both airports, so “round about town” includes day trips by plane. (in nice weather)

    My point is the real measure of transportation efficiency is pounds of carbon per task, and for that, even the Prius comes out way down the list.

    Comment by Aaron Lewis — 23 Sep 2008 @ 7:35 PM

  41. China and the U.S. have a similar level of net emissions, but China’s population is four times as large.

    If everyone in the U.S. had the same per capita emissions as your average Chinese citizen, we’d reduce our emissions by 75%.

    However, that would only slow the rate of increase in atmospheric CO2 by about 16%.

    Frugal dependence on fossil fuels just won’t do it. The only option is to cut out fossil fuels entirely, starting with coal and heavy crude.

    Anyone who claims otherwise is just ignoring the obvious. The carbon can’t be buried in the ground; you just have to stop burning the stuff.

    If you buy a Prius and reduce your emissions by 50% and congratulate yourself on the good deed you are doing – well, sorry, that’s delusional. All you are really doing is keeping your gasoline bill a bit lower.

    Comment by Ike Solem — 23 Sep 2008 @ 8:11 PM

  42. We appreciate people’s interest in this idea.

    As one of the authors, I wanted to answer a question that has come up a few times, which is “why gallons per 10,000 miles?”. In short, we think any measure of GPM would help car buyers recognize gains in efficiency more accurately. Shifting to “gallons per 100 miles” would be a big improvement over MPG.

    But we think there are a few advantages to gallons per 10,000 miles. Our main premise is that we’re trying to help people recognize efficiency gains at the time they’re buying a car—that’s the moment at which a car owner makes a commitment to a given level of efficiency for the next 5 to 10 years. Let’s help buyers see the magnitude of their gas consumption over longer (but realistic) periods of time.

    As a concrete illustration, here are gallons per 10,000 mile levels, at 100 gallon increments, and the corresponding MPG levels (with rounding):

    1000 = 10 MPG
    900 = 11 MPG
    800 = 12.5 MPG
    700 = 14 MPG
    600 = 16.5 MPG
    500 = 20 MPG
    400 = 25 MPG
    300 = 33 MPG
    200 = 50 MPG

    We believe that thinking in terms of gallons per 10,000 miles during the car purchase decision helps in the following ways:

    It is a distance that is close to what many people drive in a year’s time and makes total gas use for a year salient (it directly quantifies the wastefulness of the inefficient cars and helps buyers think about cost and payback).

    The base is round, which makes it (reasonably) easy to scale up or down (and preferable to other large, realistic distances such as 12,000 miles or 15,000 miles).

    And, most importantly, it makes savings in gas between two vehicles large and obvious. For example, the MPG gain from 16 to 20 looks small, as does a gain in gallons per 100 miles from 6 to 5. But stating the improvement as reducing gas use from 600 gallons to 500 gallons is large and clear. That 100 gallon savings is about $400 and a ton of carbon.

    We think having gallons per 10,000 miles on car stickers, at Consumer Reports, and at fueleconomy.gov would reach buyers at the right time in the decision process.

    Following up on a few of the earlier comments:

    More metrics–such as cost/mile and CO2/mile–would be extremely helpful. This reinforces the shortcoming of our current reliance on MPG–MPG isn’t directly useful for knowing gas consumption or its consequences(cost and CO2) without more calculations.

    The ultimate goal, proposed by an earlier commenter, is to have a single meaningful CO2 metric for comparing a range of activities (driving, flying, upgrading an air conditioner, reducing meat consumption, etc.).

    Comment by Rick Larrick — 23 Sep 2008 @ 8:11 PM

  43. I think it would be great to see a ZipCar type concept on a larger scale, and for renting pickup trucks and SUVs rather than just compacts. Or maybe just some community cooperatives. It will become more difficult to borrow one on occasion once all my friends downsize. Daily rentals from large companies are too expensive, and the taxes are ridiculous.

    Comment by The Wonderer — 23 Sep 2008 @ 8:48 PM

  44. in addition to the comments on #23 – I have a prius in Canada where all the gauges are in liters per 100km and a friend recently bought a new prius from the States so all the gauges are in mpg. It seems to me (maybe just the bias from looking at it for so long) that having an absolute bottom of zero and the linear y axis makes it far easier to discern relative difference in efficiency – filling up the entire top quarter of the guage from 75mpg to 100mpg is only a small change from 3.13 l/100km to 2.35 l/100km (assuming google has done my math correctly… using the correct gallons.)

    Just another small reason to change it.

    Comment by Jim — 23 Sep 2008 @ 10:00 PM

  45. > moment-o-meter
    (website)
    > “… In-house tests CONFIRMED THAT the USE OF moment-o-meter
    > MPG PLUS® AVERAGES 20% to 50% FUEL SAVINGS …”

    I’d like to see your data, and your analysis. Will you provide these?
    It sounds like you’re asking $250 for information I can get with a bobblehead doll on the dashboard.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 23 Sep 2008 @ 10:09 PM

  46. Perhaps it is time for the United States to get into the 19th Century and go metric. In Australia we measure consumption in Litres/100 km. Makes a lot more sense.

    Comment by Richard — 23 Sep 2008 @ 10:16 PM

  47. Re ouini @21: “If the driving distance is 100 miles for a person in a 25mph car, then the driving distance might only become 110 miles for a person in a 46mph hybrid.”

    Then again, it might not. Our annual milage went down when we sold our 10 year old Subaru and bought a Prius.

    Comment by Jim Eager — 23 Sep 2008 @ 10:32 PM

  48. 10 Samson, because 10,000 miles is a year’s worth of driving. I think 1,000 is better, though, since folks usually budget by the month.

    17 mugwump (ahh, an appropriate BS in Humour name) I’m guessing you own TWO vehicles. Your argument fails miserably, even without the rental option.

    19 Karen, the Hummer VS Prius spin assumed that GM’s vehicle would outlast the Toyota by perhaps 3 to 1 (they took the battery guarantee as the date the whole car would fry, yet strangely, didn’t take the Hummer’s guarantee for fry-time, even though GM products fry far faster than Toyotas.), and included tremendous fake recycling costs for the Toyota. (The Prius is built to make recycling easy, and Toyota gives a $200 refund for returning the battery.) The spin doctors then took the development cost for a hybrid system and leveraged it onto the few Priuses that had been built by then. The whole “analysis” was a pack of lies. Turns out 3 year old Prius resells for near its original price while the Hummer loses 54%! Turns out Toyota is making money off the development by spreading it throughout their line and also selling the tech to Nissan.

    21 Ouini, you’re right. That’s why gas prices must be artificially inflated. Another way to do it is a $10 a gallon tax, with all proceeds refunded equally per adult legal resident. Ya don’t burn gas, you get free money. Cool, eh?

    23 Gavin, I agree. I wonder when someone will come out with a video game with that premise. Pick different drivers (Little Old Lady, Eco-nut, Speed Demon), and score based on different parameters. Eric, I doubt displays cause a net increase in accidents. Folks get in the habit of leaving lots of space between themselves and other cars to allow for coasting. And accidents would be more :boinks: than ::BOOMS::.

    30 Larry, add in lives saved, wear and tear, and the fact that cruising to tunes is better than slaving in a cube, and driving a bit slower makes ECOnomic sense. Plus, it’s “found” money (no taxes) and you save time by not pumping gas as often. A chip in the car that communicates with the speed limit signs would save lots of lives and gas. Speed limit is 65? Your car CAN’T go faster and society stops wasting gas on cops. OTOH, plenty of folks adore the rush given by pounding 300 ponies to their limit.

    31 Figen, Airplanes can’t be hybridized (though I guess a 4 engine plane could have two tuned for efficiency and two for power, with the power engines turned off during cruise), but either inclined runways or launching vehicles could reduce the size of engines needed. Some safety reduction would result, and folks have shown an amazingly intolerant view of air-danger when considering their flip attitude towards car-carnage. Cars that increase danger are coveted!

    Comment by RichardC — 24 Sep 2008 @ 12:55 AM

  49. Speaking from the UK, another problem with gallons is that the US gallon is only 0.83 of an Imperial (UK) gallon. In the UK, where we still think in mpg, this has led to a widespread belief that US cars are incredibly inefficient and a sense of self righteousness that Euro cars are greatly more efficient. It’s not particularly true.

    Comment by George Marshall — 24 Sep 2008 @ 4:08 AM

  50. re 7, 39, diesel-gasoline comparison, other emissions (!)

    1 gallon diesel leads to 15% more CO2 emissions than 1 gallon gasoline.

    diesel engines are about 25% more efficient in fuel use (litres per 100km)

    Thus: if you just compare the litres per 100km of a gasoline and a diesel car, you have to add 15% to the diesel number to get a comparison of CO2 emissions.
    If you focus on a certain type of car, CO2 emissions are about 10% lower (25% less fuel use, 15% more CO2 emissions) for the diesel car.

    But: CO2 is not the only thing! A diesel car without particle filter emits in the order of 100 to 1000 times more particulate matter (which is not a good thing) and about 3 times more NOx (which is a precursor of ozone) than a gasoline car with catalyst.

    Thus: When chosing between diesel and gasoline, do not forget the lungs of the people around and only take the diesel if it is with particle filter.

    These numbers are for the Swiss car fleet, but probably is not very different from other countries (we have no car industry of our own…)

    Comment by Urs Neu — 24 Sep 2008 @ 4:50 AM

  51. re 17

    I’m with you, man. We got rid of all our cars and cycle everywhere now. Just strap a kid to each thigh, one across the pannier racks and another on my back and we’re away (I only make the wife carry one kid).

    Not so stupid – I visited friends over the weekend (by bike and train) My friend gave me a lift to the rail station on his school run. We cycled in on a triple (him on the front, me in the middle and his daughter on the back. Strapped my rucsac on the back on top of the paniers – worked fine for the 10 miles into town. I commute by bike myself 15 miles eachway. I save the car for longer journeys or where I have too much gear for the bike. So far this year I’ve saved 2200 miles by commuting on the bike.

    Comment by Tele2Dave — 24 Sep 2008 @ 5:00 AM

  52. Your calculation is of course correct, but in general it makes more sense to get the most mileage out of your liter/gallon. Driving SUVs is certainly fun but I suppose 90% of the poeple using them do not need them. Here in Europe we have a growing tendency to of using bicycles and public transport for short distances. A recent study showed that the average distance people travel in their cars is less than 5 kilometers.

    The other bloggers are right of course that it is difficult for the public to compare different fuel standards. But the real message we should get across is: only use your car when you really have to. i guess that could save a huge amount of CO2 emissions, regardless of the mileage per litre of fuel. :)

    Comment by Herwig Ranner — 24 Sep 2008 @ 5:09 AM

  53. RE #42:

    We believe that thinking in terms of gallons per 10,000 miles during the car purchase decision helps in the following ways:
    It is a distance that is close to what many people drive in a year’s time and makes total gas use for a year salient (it directly quantifies the wastefulness of the inefficient cars and helps buyers think about cost and payback).

    Why is a bigger car wasteful and inefficient?

    And I doubt you want people thinking too deeply about that cost and payback. Most hybrids have a much higher total cost of ownership than their purebred cousins.

    Comment by mugwump — 24 Sep 2008 @ 7:16 AM

  54. Doesn’t driver A only reduce their fuel consumption by 33 percent, while driver B reduces their fuel consumption by 45 percent? Sure, driver A reduces their consumption by 2.2 gallons per 100 miles, but they are not reducing their fuel consumption (on a percentage basis) as much.

    It is my opinion that Driver B made more of a sacrafice.

    Comment by Northern Plains Reader — 24 Sep 2008 @ 8:10 AM

  55. I did 90 miles yesterday in a Audi A3 2.0 TDI and got an average of 60.2 MPG. As the average MPG in the USA us 22 MPG and only 33 MPG in Europe there is a lot of scope for improving liquid energy use but a lot of people probably need to start walking again.

    Comment by pete best — 24 Sep 2008 @ 8:41 AM

  56. Another variable that would be considered when building a “more efficient” fleet of cars is the market size. Right now, the SUV market is tumbling. In a few years, increasing the SUV efficiency may only affect a few people whereas increasing the Camry efficiency would make a dramatic impact on overall fuel usage.

    Oh, and I personally like the gallons per 100 miles. I can relate to 100 miles. 10,000 miles is a bit too abstract unless you’re sitting down and looking at yearly expenses (which sadly too few of us do).

    Comment by Dean — 24 Sep 2008 @ 8:50 AM

  57. Re #17: though your tongue was clearly in cheek, allow me to point out that while cycling (and walking) can easily be superior to vehicular transport in CO2 emissions per passenger mile, it depends on the diet that produces the energy used by the muscles. The Pacific Institute has studied this; see http://www.pacinst.org/topics/integrity_of_science/case_studies/driving_vs_walking.pdf.

    Comment by Tom Prugh — 24 Sep 2008 @ 9:47 AM

  58. I like the gallons/mile (or 1000 miles or 10,000 miles) idea. I do own a large SUV for business needs. As gas prices skyrocketed the last year and a half, I took the concept one step further and began thinking in terms of $$/mile. As in the 33-mile trip to the jobsite is going to cost me ~$8. It definitely helped me focus on the necessity of a trip and looking at ways to combine multiple travel needs to reduce my overall expenses.

    Maybe in addition to gallons or liters per mile, efficiency should be posted in $$/year, assuming some standard yearly mileage, e.g., 12,000, and whatever the average price of gasoline is for that quarter.

    Comment by Bob North — 24 Sep 2008 @ 10:47 AM

  59. I don’t believe that there is any emission reduction in both cases.
    The cumulative emissions will depend on the extraction of oil, not on the MPG.
    Of course you can drive more miles per gallon (or per $) with a car with a higher MPG value. But this is an economic benefit.
    To reduce the (cumulative) emissions we would need to keep some oil or coal in the ground.

    Comment by Uli — 24 Sep 2008 @ 10:53 AM

  60. It is a mistake to ignore the upstream costs of fuel production, measured as energy input and CO2 released.

    Thus, one should compare the energy demand for gasoline derived from crude oil to that of gasoline derived from tar sands oil to that of ethanol and biodiesel derived from biomass.

    Ignoring the life-cycle analysis is not at all justified, and is highly misleading as well.

    Comment by Ike Solem — 24 Sep 2008 @ 11:50 AM

  61. has anyone figured out a way of measuring how much oil (carbon) is used in making a car?

    Comment by robert — 24 Sep 2008 @ 11:58 AM

  62. Any gasoline powered vehicle can be easily and cheaply converted to run on compressed natural gas or propane. I’ve had the Jay Storer book for 20 years.

    http://www.amazon.com/s?ie=UTF8&keywords=Propane&index=books&page=1

    We could create a network of conversion shops (think muffler shops) across the country. How badly do we want to get away from foreign oil and use domestic natural gas?

    Comment by catman306 — 24 Sep 2008 @ 12:15 PM

  63. Well mugwump shows in #53 how little he thinks if that thinking may point out his lifestyle to be wrong in ANY way.

    Muggers, when you’re driving a 3L SUV you’re driving yourself and a ton of extra car that isn’t needed to carry you forward.

    A smaller car is still more than ample for carrying you where you wish to go.

    Comment by Mark — 24 Sep 2008 @ 12:23 PM

  64. Re. Mugwump, #53:

    Most hybrids have a much higher total cost of ownership than their purebred cousins.

    This is disinformation – see here.

    Comment by Dave Rado — 24 Sep 2008 @ 12:47 PM

  65. 53 mugwump claimed, “Most hybrids have a much higher total cost of ownership than their purebred cousins.”

    Totally ludicrous. In 2008, 55% of all hybrids sold were Toyota Priuses. So that single model represents MOST hybrids. A 2005 Prius (private party 40k miles) sells for around $21k, That’s $2300 total depreciation for a car four model years old! Add in gas savings, and it’s a slam dunk. Drive a hybrid, save tons of cash.

    61 Robert, http://www.pacinst.org/topics/integrity_of_science/case_studies/hummer_vs_prius.pdf “The British auto industry trade group estimated in their 2006 sustainability report that life cycle CO2 emissions – a strong proxy for energy – are allocated 10% to manufacturing; 85% to use; and 5% to disposal.” Note that the 5% for disposal is overstated, and could be a negative carbon cost, since the results of the disposal is raw steel, etc, which eliminates the need to mine and refine more steel.

    Comment by RichardC — 24 Sep 2008 @ 1:38 PM

  66. Reply to Hank Roberts.

    You wrote: > moment-o-meter
    (website)
    > “… In-house tests CONFIRMED THAT the USE OF moment-o-meter
    > MPG PLUS® AVERAGES 20% to 50% FUEL SAVINGS …”

    I’d like to see your data, and your analysis. Will you provide these?
    It sounds like you’re asking $250 for information I can get with a bobblehead doll on the dashboard.

    ANSWER: It took us 3 years to succeed to display the momentum of a vehicle and you want believe you cab=n do it with a “bobblehead on you dash board”. I give you a free Moment-o-Meter if you prove me you can do it. Our data are backed up with a money back guarantee.

    Tom Delor, Inventor.

    Comment by tom delor — 24 Sep 2008 @ 1:48 PM

  67. #57: for the link to work, remove the trailing period.

    Comment by Maya — 24 Sep 2008 @ 1:48 PM

  68. I drive an electric car with a 6KW AC traction motor and 6 220AH 12 Volt gel cell batteries. Even with the DC to AC conversion its still quite efficient and I get speeds up to 55MPH. At $19K costs less to buy than a Prius, and the lead batteries can be completely recycled.

    I have a solar array to charge it partially, though I still connect to grid while at work.

    Perfect for everyday around town…cost to operate per mile, including, cost of grid electricity and battery replacement every 4 years is less than 5 cents per mile.

    ;-)

    Comment by Anthony Watts — 24 Sep 2008 @ 1:53 PM

  69. Mark – #34
    No, it’s not opportunity cost I’m talking about. Do you think drivers are thinking of arriving at their Dilbert jobs earlier so they can get to work earlier?

    Not me. But beyond that, a lot of people driving on the freeways are not commuting. Yet, they are still resistant to slowing down even to the speed limit. They are simply impatient. They need incentives to slow down.

    My point is that not enough thought has been given to the question of what will influence people to change their driving habits. As many posts here have shown, it is a fertile field, and there are better ways than giving mpgs, the knee-jerk response. It has been suggested that some form of gpm, e.g., would be better. I think so. Maybe dollars saved per gallon. But not what they are being paid per hour to slow down because the wage is too small. People might be moved by $50/hr, but not by $9/hr. Who is motivated by minimum wage?

    Others have suggested to me that dollars saved per 100 miles would be more meaningful because it is how much will he save on a specific trip that matters to the driver. It would be relatively easy to scale up or down from 100 miles, easier than figuring out the trip savings from an hourly “wage” which is a two-step calculation.

    Or, knowing that people will drive 5 miles out of their way to get save 2 cents/gal, perhaps the effective reduction in cost of a gallon of gas would be persuasive. I don’t know. I do know that a lot of people are driving with no apparent consideration of the effect on mileage.

    I have tried driving the speed limit on recent trips of 3500 miles (RT) and 2000 miles. This is now possible as trucks have mostly slowed to the speed limit or just below (at least in the center of the country where I was driving – the Mississipi R to Arizona). So they have discovered the savings in lower speeds. It was relaxing to settle in the righthand lane with the trucks and let others jockey around each other and the trucks.

    And yes, Mark, I wore incontinence pull-ups as you suggest I should. I recently had prostate surgery and am still on the road back.

    Comment by Larry Coleman — 24 Sep 2008 @ 2:26 PM

  70. Re Ike Solem @41: “Frugal dependence on fossil fuels just won’t do it. The only option is to cut out fossil fuels entirely….If you buy a Prius and reduce your emissions by 50% and congratulate yourself on the good deed you are doing – well, sorry, that’s delusional. All you are really doing is keeping your gasoline bill a bit lower.”

    Ike, unfortunately, for the time being we’re stuck with the infrastructure we have, and one can not currently buy a fossil fuel-free car. Until one can, the Prius is an interim step that at least uses less fossil fuel.

    Captcha: warning send

    Comment by Jim Eager — 24 Sep 2008 @ 2:31 PM

  71. Jim Eager, I would instead recommend holding off on the purchase of any new car whatsoever until the electric and added-range electrics (i.e. an electric with a internal combustion engine for charging the battery) are available.

    Second, consider the fact that tar sand crude oil generates around 35% more CO2 emissions per gallon of gasoline than does conventional crude.

    However, it does appear that a few of our politicians are aware of that issue:

    The U.S. Energy Independence and Security Act passed last December, without a fuss on this side of the border.

    Yet Section 526 of the 822-page piece of legislation should have set Canadian alarm bells ringing. The section forbids any federal agency — such as the Defense Department or the U.S. Postal Service — from buying “synthetic” fuel from non-conventional sources for any “mobility-related” uses.

    The section was authored by Congressman Henry Waxman, a California Democrat, and chair of the House of Representatives committee on oversight and government reform.

    In a letter to the U.S. Department of Defense, Waxman made the law’s intent clear:

    “This provision ensures that federal agencies are not spending taxpayer dollars on new fuel sources that will exacerbate global warming,” Waxman wrote. “This provision is also applicable to fuel derived from tar sands, which also produce signficantly higher greenhouse gas emissions than are produced by comparable fuel from conventional petroleum sources.”

    Edmonton Journal, Canada, Sept 16 2008

    Such laws should be extended to ban the import of tar sand oil to the United States, period.

    Comment by Ike Solem — 24 Sep 2008 @ 3:23 PM

  72. I would instead recommend holding off on the purchase of any new car whatsoever until the electric and added-range electrics (i.e. an electric with a internal combustion engine for charging the battery) are available.

    That’s what I’m doing, trying to nurse my 1990 Acura to at least 275K miles before replacing it with some form of plug-in/internal combustion engine combination.

    Comment by dhogaza — 24 Sep 2008 @ 3:55 PM

  73. To clarify:

    http://www.salon.com/comics/opus/2008/07/06/opus/

    Comment by Ike Solem — 24 Sep 2008 @ 3:58 PM

  74. What’s best? Swapping your SUV for the prius! C! Or maybe not. Steve Koonin – Chief Scientist BP claims that US car engine efficiency went up 23% in the decade 1990-2001. Americans responded by buying heavier vehicles and driving more. Result – more fuel burnt.

    http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=wt_mluFK7xk

    Plenty of food for thought in this clip.

    OK – public transport D or bike E.

    Comment by Mike Donald — 24 Sep 2008 @ 4:09 PM

  75. RE #71 & “tar sand crude oil generates around 35% more CO2 emissions per gallon of gasoline than does conventional crude”…

    I was wondering if either the tar sand crude or perhaps some types of biofuels might actually entail more energy (measured in calories or BTUs) in their production than the energy (calories or BTUs) gained from them. If such endeavors are being heavily subsidized, it’s possible that could happen, and people would be subsidizing boondoogles, not to mention grossly harming the environment.

    Of course, ALL energy input in the process of production would have to be accounted (including workers driving to work and eating), not only the more obvious and direct energy used.

    I know this sounds preposterous, but, well, it could conceivably happen.

    Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 24 Sep 2008 @ 4:54 PM

  76. > Our data are backed up with a money back guarantee.
    > Tom Delor, Inventor.

    Yeah? I’d like to see your data and your analysis. Where can we look at the data and the analysis?

    I’d like to see exactly what is in this data that you say is backed up by a money back guarantee.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 24 Sep 2008 @ 5:20 PM

  77. According to an IEA paper, in 2005 CE the world produced 5.9 billion tonnes of coal, two-thirds of that for electric power production.

    That’s a lot of CO2 every year.

    Comment by David B. Benson — 24 Sep 2008 @ 5:23 PM

  78. Larry, #69.

    So how is “wasting” 5 minutes a day in traveling to work costing them anything? The work schedule isn’t 100% full and 5 minutes out of a 10 hour day is 0.83%. The work schedule isn’t timed to achieve 100% efficiency. They cannot “sell” 5 minutes of their time for ANY amount.

    So how, in any sense of the word “earn”, would they lose any money by taking five minutes longer to get to work at their hourly base rate? Or even minimum wage?

    Comment by Mark — 24 Sep 2008 @ 5:32 PM

  79. Re #42

    This is an important thing to get right if you want to dislodge mpg.

    I understand your motivation for using gallons per 10,000 miles, but I think that gallons/100 miles is a far easier figure for average drivers to comprehend (and slightly easier to calculate).

    Most drivers probably (IMHO) don’t keep a close tab on how far they drive in a year, but they are aware of how far any of their regular round trips are (20 miles, 50 miles etc) and the gallons/100 miles figure is on the same scale. They can easily figure out what their existing gallons/100 miles figure is, which is important when they come to compare with the efficiency of a new vehicle.

    Determining gallons/10,000 miles sounds like too much math[s].

    Test it out, it would be a shame to not displace the mpg metric just because you picked a big number.

    Andy

    Comment by Andy Simpson — 24 Sep 2008 @ 7:15 PM

  80. Urs Neu #50

    Thank you for yor clarification, it puts clear solid figures to my vague statements. However I feel that:

    “But: CO2 is not the only thing! A diesel car without particle filter emits in the order of 100 to 1000 times more particulate matter (which is not a good thing) and about 3 times more NOx (which is a precursor of ozone) than a gasoline car with catalyst.”

    Is not an honest comparison, firstly because it is not fair to compare unfiltered diesel emissions with petrol emissions submitted to catalytic filtering process. Comparisons must be like with like in order to be valid. And would even challenge you to find automobile markets where the regulator (introduction of such devices is never a result of a “free market”) imposes catalysts in petrol without imposing filters in diesel.
    Comparing like with like, the total amount of toxic polutants is equivelant in both engines, with the difference that petrol emits mostly small particulates and diesel emits mostly large particulates, these will have impacts different points of your respiratory organs but remain nevertheless toxic and carcnogenic, in other words, different flies…
    Cheers.

    Comment by Lowlander — 24 Sep 2008 @ 7:35 PM

  81. Re Ike Solem @71: I would instead recommend holding off on the purchase of any new car whatsoever until the electric and added-range electrics (i.e. an electric with a internal combustion engine for charging the battery) are available.”

    Ike, I would agree with your recommendation if I were thinking about replacing a vehicle and there was no compelling reason that I had to buy sooner, but we bought our Prius a year and a half ago to replace a 10 year old car with 200k on it and doubled our mpg, and I have absolutely no regrets.

    As for thinking about gasoline source, how exactly is a consumer to know where the source crude came from when they pull up to the pump?

    Comment by Jim Eager — 24 Sep 2008 @ 7:36 PM

  82. Mark #78
    Either I am doing a lousy job of explaining what I mean, or you are not paying attention, Mark.

    Who said anything about the driver “wasting” time. You did, not me. It’s your term, not mine.

    The sense in which I am using “earn” is the ordinary, garden variety sense in which you get a return for the investment of your time. Just like in most everyday situations, the time spent in earning that money is not, repeat NOT, in competition with other ways you might spend that time, unless as you point out the boss is unusually time-on-job conscious.

    No, the sense of “earn” here is the same as getting a return for clipping coupons and redeeming them at the grocery. It is not in competition with other ways of earning money so there is no opportunity cost…nor is there any OC in driving more slowly (ordinarily: but if it would make you late for an appointment with the President, all bets are off). But again, Mark, most driving does not even involve commuting, so can we quit talking about arriving five minutes late to work? By driving more slowly, no matter the destination a driver saves money, which is indistinguishable from earning money (except no taxes!) for the extra time spent on the road. That’s it.

    Once again, the real question is what would motivate drivers to slow down. I would love to hear your thoughts on THAT.

    Comment by Larry Coleman — 24 Sep 2008 @ 8:29 PM

  83. If congress is mandating efficiency standards, they could easily also require all cars to have fuel use monitors. Our European turbo diesel has one, and we generally ‘video game’ it to try to stay under 6 l/100k (39 mpg) in town and 5 l/100k (47 mpg) on the road.

    Obviously liters aren’t directly comparable, since diesel has both a higher specific gravity and a slightly higher C-H ratio.

    Comment by Lab Lemming — 24 Sep 2008 @ 8:55 PM

  84. The same point was made on GreenCar.com a while back, in an article attempting to defend the “need” for huge SUVs. My reaction is that if someone who is concerned about emissions feels a “need” for an unnecessary, overpriced status symbol like the Chevy Tahoe, they’d be much better off buying something like diamond jewelry (fair-trade, of course), which emits no carbon dioxide at all when kept away from very hot flames.

    Comment by Prof. Bleen — 24 Sep 2008 @ 9:04 PM

  85. Gavin in #22:

    Dean (#56) makes the crucial point. It is really the ubiquity of the low efficiency vehicles that make them a better target for first improvements. There are military reasons to improve the fuel efficiency of the Bradley Fighting Vehicle so that supply line needs are reduced, but there is not a big CO2 emissions urgency even though they burn more fuel than an SUV.
    The fighting vehicles are rare so they can’t contribute much.

    If SUVs become rare, then we want to look elsewhere. Ultimately though, we need a way to leave carbon in the ground. Shifting off of carbon entirely is more important and it is encouraging that one of the car manufacturers is planning to introduce a plug in minivan soon: http://www.bizjournals.com/losangeles/stories/2008/09/22/daily25.html

    Comment by Chris Dudley — 24 Sep 2008 @ 11:28 PM

  86. I think the best way to educate the consumer would be a meter on the dash that showed $ of gas used that day for the first few seconds the car was on, followed by a trip cost that measured the cost of gasoline used since the car had been started. When the car pulls into the gas station, the prices are downloaded to the car via bluetooth (which is already in many new cars).

    Most people see fractions, energystar ratings, etc, and just tune out. They don’t want to be bothered with these things.

    Comment by matt — 25 Sep 2008 @ 12:53 AM

  87. We are dealing here with a threat that is gradual and a long way off compared with our Fight or Flight response. So it has to ba a very solid wall folk need to come up against to change driver behaviour. Speed limiters will make people slow down, like Lab Lemming probably has on his euro diesel, and we have on our Citroen C4. Set (using a transponder) the limiter at the city limit to 30 kph, and on the open road to 80 kph and the country would immediately meet its savings target, and crank it down as things get worse. Draconian, maybe, but the alternative is to go without.

    Good to see this discussion happening, and for most of us non-USA types its faintly amusing really, as we’ve had this ‘confusion’ resolved some decades ago! But feel free to catch up anytime! :)

    Comment by Nigel Williams — 25 Sep 2008 @ 1:01 AM

  88. I understand why lifecycle analysis wasn’t included because this article is making a simple point. But since since there is a lot of disinformation out there, some repeated here, an article on this topic would be good. In particular, I find it boggling that people are gullible enough to believe that engineers with a sharp environmental and energy-saving focus would neglect to do lifecycle analysis. It’s a whole lot more likely that engineers without either focus would neglect to do this.

    In the meantime the WikiPedia page on Net Energy Gain may interest some though it needs some work at time of writing.

    Comment by Philip Machanick — 25 Sep 2008 @ 1:48 AM

  89. Larry, 82. No, the attempt to say “your five minutes spent extra is less than the minimum wage” only makes sense when you’re trying to show that they are wasting this time.

    If you’re thinking about the money you could make, then you can’t sell your time in five minutes.

    If you mean that the time could be spent in something else, well, the best way of getting time back isn’t driving faster to work. Instead of driving forty minutes fast, get a job that’s closer. You could save forty minutes a day.

    Basically, I don’t understand why you are trying to work out the “wage” of driving slower.

    Comment by Mark — 25 Sep 2008 @ 3:18 AM

  90. Further Larry.

    Why compare it to the earnings of “cutting coupons”? Cutting coupons isn’t “a job”. Anything you earn is because you bought the product. Cutting out 150,000 coupons for 10p off “feminine products” will save a single man exactly nil pounds. If they wanted to spend their time playing games or on their hobby then they don’t think “this will cost me $150 for the evening!!!” nor even “I could be saving money by cutting coupons for 25p off a pot of jam!!!”.

    Your “point” has nothing to say about why you aren’t saving money by driving slower to work each day. Nothing relevant anyway.

    Comment by Mark — 25 Sep 2008 @ 3:23 AM

  91. mugwump writes:

    Why is a bigger car wasteful and inefficient?

    1. Kinetic energy is:

    Ek = (1/2) m v^2

    where m is mass and v velocity. To accelerate a car to a given speed that masses twice as much, you need twice as much energy.

    2. Air drag is:

    D = (1/2) rho A v^2 Cd

    where rho is density of the medium, A cross-sectional area, v velocity, and Cd the coefficient of drag, which varies with shape. Other things being equal, a car with twice as much cross-sectional area will exert twice the drag force, requiring twice the energy to overcome the drag force.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 25 Sep 2008 @ 5:55 AM

  92. In Australia we use litres per 100km along with the rest of the metric system. We changed from the old Imperial units in the early 1970s.

    Why wont the US make the change? Come on in the waters fine! And life is so much easier and more logical.

    Comment by Bruce Tabor — 25 Sep 2008 @ 7:00 AM

  93. Mark,
    Geez! I’m not talking about driving to work.

    You don’t get it. No one else is interested. I give up.

    Comment by Larry Coleman — 25 Sep 2008 @ 7:07 AM

  94. Ike (71), what is “synthetic” fuel that Waxman prohibited from imports? Oil from tar sands? Refined gasoline from oil from tar sands? Did the referenced section ban such from only Canada, or did it ban such imports from anywhere?

    Comment by Rod B — 25 Sep 2008 @ 8:46 AM

  95. The idea mentioned about putting mpg (or other measure) display on a dashboard has been recently made in one of the car magazines I read recently (Automobile? Car and Driver? I’m afraid I don’t recall.) But his point was that Prius drivers tend to pay attention to it because it’s understandable and it’s displayed, while Hummer drivers have no such display.

    Interestingly, there’s been a similar push in the electric utilities. Most people don’t really have any feedback on how much power they’re using until the bill comes at the end of the month. The new idea is to try to give users of electricity some kind of usable way that they could be more aware of their own usage, and take steps to manage it.

    Ultimately, perhaps, the most useful display for either vehicles or homes might be a $/day (or whatever local currency might be useful) to make it extremely concrete even for those who might not otherwise care much about NOx emissions or kW demand.

    Comment by Ed Beroset — 25 Sep 2008 @ 9:45 AM

  96. Just curious, did the used vehicle disappear? At my local most excellent taco stand (seriously, the best tacos on the planet and I am always the only white guy there) I’ve noted a trend. The parking lot is full of Escalades and Hummers. Used SUVs have become so cheap that immigrants are buying them like hotcakes. Last year I decided that since I drive my Honda Pilot so little, around 5000 miles per year, that it was best to just keep it. If I trade it, it’s likely the new owner will drive it a whole lot more. Our other car is a Civic. Throughout our marriage we have always selected places to live that are very close to work (no more than 15 minutes on city streets), and have always had one car that will haul the family on long vacations, and one car that gets high mileage. I know people look down on my SUV, but at the end of those noses there are a lot of people who have racked up a whole bunch more CO2 because of where they’ve chosen to live.

    Comment by JCH — 25 Sep 2008 @ 10:30 AM

  97. #84: Prof Bleen The same point was made on GreenCar.com a while back, in an article attempting to defend the “need” for huge SUVs.

    The SUV won’t go away. In fact, alt energy is a certain way to increase the proliferation of large cars. The cost for energy has fallen at amazing rates over the last 200 years, even when $150/bbl oil is factored in. There is no reason to expect the cost of energy will not continue to fall at amazing rates. Nuclear, wind, locally generated solar, etc, will all play a role.

    If moving to electric allows me to reduce my operational costs by 80%, and if my monthly energy budget stays the same, you can bet that driving larger and even more luxurious cars is coming. When gas prices rise, they drive less. When energy prices fall, they drive more. When energy costs tumble, they get a new car.

    Build more roads. They will be needed. Increase the sprawl. It will be demanded. In 30 years expect that electric “smart cars” will be able to travel in closely packed caravans traveling at 130 MPH with computers running the show. You can sleep or read while on these super freeways and you’ll only need to drive on the legacy roads.

    Sprawl is limited today by time and energy costs. Those barriers will fall.

    Comment by matt — 25 Sep 2008 @ 10:44 AM

  98. Re 80 Lowlander

    “And would even challenge you to find automobile markets where the regulator (introduction of such devices is never a result of a “free market”) imposes catalysts in petrol without imposing filters in diesel.”

    This is e.g. the case for Switzerland (and other European countries). Catalysts are mandatory here for about 30 years now, while particle filters still are not. Catalysts are much more common than particle filters, at least in Europe.

    “Comparing like with like, the total amount of toxic polutants is equivelant in both engines”

    This is new to me. A catalyst does not eliminate particles, as far as I know. I am not aware of any reports confirming this. I only have sources giving a factor of 100 to 1000 more for diesel, irrespective of catalysts. There is only one new technology for gasoline motors (direct fuel injection) which produces similar amounts of particles. What are your sources?
    It is well known that diesel soot is very toxic and is also relevant for climate (warming effect).

    I agree for NOx which is about the same for Diesel and Gasoline without catalyst. The problem here is that there is a (very common) technical solution for the gasoline NOx but only first tries for the diesel NOx

    Cheers

    Cheers.

    Comment by Urs Neu — 25 Sep 2008 @ 10:49 AM

  99. Collectively, substantial decreases in fuel use could be accomplished pending the replacement of the entire motor vehicle fleet. How about local traffic engineering depts making reducing idling time a priority in all planning. How about a cruise control which maintains throttle setting rather than speed. How about a reevaluation of the need for every overhead roadway light, and outdoor lighting in general for that matter. And on and on. What’s needed is that the issue be taken seriously and addressed simultaneously by all levels of society, from individuals right up through international organizations. Thanks to RC and all others who press the issue.

    Comment by Rich Creager — 25 Sep 2008 @ 10:54 AM

  100. The original post and the whole discussion is not relevant to cutting emissions.

    1. If you buy a car, you are supporting a massive industry that is committed to selling millions of vehicles to millions of people. A few mpg saved here or there is going to be wiped out by the fact that these companies want to sell more and more cars to more and more people across the world.

    2. The primary issue with cars is that in order for them to be used efficiently, every seat in the vehicle has to be filled. But this effectively makes them into a pseudo public transport system where the owner/driver has to schedule journeys around other peoples requirements in order to make sure the emissions per passenger is the optimum minimum. The other consequence of this way of using a car is that far fewer of them would be required.

    What do these two basic facts mean?
    No matter how you view the subject, you can only reduce passenger transport emissions by operating scheduled services that are less convenient.

    Comment by Paul — 25 Sep 2008 @ 10:59 AM

  101. Re: Ed Beroset,

    Green types have been calling for smart electric meters for some time now. Seeing what your usage is in real time, along with the associated cost, should lead to conservation. People would make a little game of it. One could directly see how much power an appliance draws whilst in “standby” mode.

    There are some such toys available commercially, but even I (who would love to have such a thing) have balked at buying one – my spending on electricity is low enough that the payback period on the gizmo would be too long.

    Comment by tharanga — 25 Sep 2008 @ 11:48 AM

  102. Matt (#97) and others are right, based on the evidence: when gas prices fall due to decreased demand or increased supply, people flee from the Prius and toward Tahoes. That is what happened over the past 20 years.

    This is cause for deep pessimism. How will we as a nation reduce our gas consumption if, by doing so, we reduce prices, which leads inexorably to more consumption?

    A related factor is that, by our unrestrained use of gasoline, we – the US – are causing an unprecedented, huge transfer of wealth from us to petrocountries, several of which are not our friends (Russia, Venezuela, Iran, even Saudi Arabia where some of the wealth ends up in unfriendly hands). This will have longterm effects on the relative strength and stability of nations, where the US becomes weaker and these countries become stronger.

    So on the one hand we want high prices to discourage consumption, and on the other we want low prices to slow down the wealth transfer. Probably the only way to accomplish both goals, based on the evidence, is to increase the gas tax in this country. Of course, this is the third rail of politics in this free-the-consumer/driver society, but it is the only thing that has been shown to work.

    Despite the weakening of the US by our short-sighted policies, conservative politicians are unwilling to do anything, maintaining the obvious fiction instead that we can drill our way to oil independence. Apparently, their professed patriotism is all talk. It is a stunning fact that they are willing to strengthen our opponents by sending our money to them instead of raising taxes to pay ourselves where we could do some good with it.

    We have a clear choice: raise gas taxes dramatically and weaken Russia, Iran, Venezuela and the terrorists…or continue to do nothing, in which case we, but not our children and grandchildren, deserve what we get.

    Comment by Larry Coleman — 25 Sep 2008 @ 1:01 PM

  103. Rod B,
    Waxman’s rule only applies to U.S. government purchases, much like the U.S. government is largely restricted to purchasing automobiles made by U.S. firms (at least, I think that’s still the case).

    However, once the various gasoline components have been refined and purified, they are blended and mixed – so essentially it is impossible to keep the tar sand gasoline out of the conventional crude gasoline, as I understand it.

    What is also remarkable about the Canadian tar sand model is how destructive it will be to Canada’s long-term energy and environmental outlooks.

    Canada has a limited supply of natural gas, and much of it is now being fed into tar sand oil production. Natural gas is the cleanest-burning fossil fuel, with the highest energy release per carbon atom (due to the higher energy release on combustion of a carbon-hydrogen bond vs. a carbon-carbon bond; methane has 4 C-H bonds per carbon atom).

    That leads to the standard phase-out rule: coal, tar sands and shale oil are the most polluting and have the least energy, conventional petroleum is in the middle, and natural gas is by far the best.

    As far as the comments about cars in this context, the whole issue is ensuring that transportation is zero-emission. I think this particular post leaves out the major issues, though.

    If we extend the argument presented, it becomes clear that the real savings will come at the trucking and agricultural equipment level. Those machines use mass amounts of fuel, and often get only 1 or 2 mpg. Electric trucks and electric farm equipment should thus be at the top of the agenda.

    Furthermore, we need laws and regulations – there are no “free-market solutions” – for one thing, the global energy market is not a free market by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, it operates largely as a cartel system, with inordinate political power. It is very clear that as a result, the U.S. government regularly intervenes in energy markets to promote fossil fuels and suppress renewable competition – this goes on at the academic level, the Congressional level, and the Executive level (i.e. DOE, NSF, etc.).

    The proof? Billions in credit guarantees for fossil fuel energy projects, and not even a stable renewable energy tax credit for renewables – let alone credit guarantees for renewable energy projects.

    This even extends to intervention in climate science projects to suppress data collection that would clearly demonstrate what’s going on. Here, we are talking about NASA and its director, Michael Griffith, who have refused to launch Triana (the Deep Space Climate Observatory) for about a decade now: http://www.iht.com/articles/2006/01/15/opinion/edpark.php

    Griffin is something else – he claimed today that “space exploration is critical to humanity’s survival” but he won’t allow the most important climate satellite ever devised to be launched:

    http://www.space-travel.com/reports/Space_exploration_key_to_mankinds_survival_NASA_chief_999.html

    What is the guy saying – let’s trash the Earth to the point where it won’t support our global population, and then go find “somewhere else?”

    That’s bad science fiction in the tradition of Michael Crichton, not responsible administration of the U.S. space agency. What a nightmare.

    Comment by Ike Solem — 25 Sep 2008 @ 1:16 PM

  104. In response to the question of the ‘pay’ for driving slower to save gas, maybe this answers the question.

    1 Assume 10,000 miles per year of driving (just to use a round number).

    2 Compare two speeds: 65 MPH and 60 MPH, and assume my 10 % increase in MPG can be generalized.

    3. At 65 MPH, I would drive 10000 miles in 154 hours. At 60 MPH, I would drive 10000 miles in 167 hours. Time difference is 13 hours.

    4. In my case, at 50 mpg, I consume 200 gallons and at 55 mph I consume 182 gallons, for a savings of 18 gallons. My last fillup was at a cost of $3.50, so I would save $63 in 10000 miles. $63 / 14 hours gives a ‘pay’ of $4.85 per hour.

    5. Let’s assume I drive a vehicle that will achieve 20 mpg at 65 mph and 18 mpg at 60 mph. In this case, I go from consuming 555 gallons (18 mph) to 500 gallons (60 mph). Again at $3.50 per gallon, I would save $193 over the 10000 miles. $193 / 14 gives a ‘pay’ of $13.75.

    Thus, the hourly value of saving fuel depends on your fuel consumption, which ties in to the original post. Thinking of fuel consumption in terms of fuel per mile is more constructive than thinking of fuel consumption in terms of mile per unti of fuel consumed.

    However, there is ‘hidden pay’ that will be gained by using energy more efficiently. The clear benefit is enjoying a lower energy bill. The hidden benefit, if all aspects of society focused on energy efficiency would be lower oil consumption, which would result in lower energy costs (supply / demand) and reduced emissions of greenhouse gases and other atmospheric pollutants.

    If we can reorient our cultural thinking towards energy efficiency, we may make more progress on developing effective public transportation in more regions of the country, better physical fitness (perhaps) if people walk more and drive less, etc etc.

    Comment by oxnardprof — 25 Sep 2008 @ 1:41 PM

  105. I wonder how relevant this is in terms of global impact. Lets assume the US would gradually reduce their average mileage to current european levels over the next ten years (ambitious when taking into account how many cars already exist that can’t simply be swapped, especially in times of financial cirsis) – how much would that reduce glocal co2 emissions?

    Comment by dagobert — 25 Sep 2008 @ 2:25 PM

  106. There I said it: “reduced”. I meant “increased”, of course. We’re talking about consumption here in europe, where “less” is “less” and not “more”. Sorry for the confusion.

    Comment by dagobert — 25 Sep 2008 @ 2:27 PM

  107. oxnardprof (#104): I think your calculations and conclusion are good. One thing I would point out, is comparing those two speeds might give people the wrong impression.

    My usual vehicle is a 2000 dodge mini-van. It has the fancier “driver info center” that lists instantaneous mpg, engine running time, and average vehicle speed. I was skeptical of the accuracy when I first used it, but it really seems quite accurate. I was very surprised to find that my average speed (after driving for a week) was about 32MPH. I live 20 miles out of town, so most of driving is at 50-60MPH on rural highways – or so I thought! My conclusion is that slowing down 5MPH would be almost unnoticeable.

    And I have generally been driving slower. At 75, I might get 19mpg. At 65 it might improve to 26mpg. (didn’t seem to help much going down to 55) My favorite is drafting behind a semi, can get 35mpg that way, but it is hard to come across that situation.

    Comment by justjohn — 25 Sep 2008 @ 3:46 PM

  108. I have a small Honda Civic which is a pretty efficient car, but I have to admit I drive very fast when I can. I’m in the Midwest, God’s great open spaces and all that.. It is very seductive if you want to drive fast. Though i know better intellectually, I keep being tempted by the notion if the road is open, why not just go? But I am being humbled and embarrassed by my driving habits as this discussion is progressing and even thinking of changing my ways :)

    Comment by Figen Mekik — 25 Sep 2008 @ 4:13 PM

  109. #102 and others – as well as price mechanisms, another way to reduce carbon emissions from cars is to… well, reduce the carbon emissions from cars. This is what the European Union have done today, in a surprise and very bold move (http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/thereporters/markmardell/2008/09/blow_to_carmakers.html). And following the recent stock market madness, regulation may not be as dirty a word today as it has been for the last 20 years or so…

    Great though all this increasing efficiency tinkering is, it is clearly nowhere near enough though. The only remotely effective response would be to ban all new petrol and diesel cars in about 10 or 15 years time, and all existing fossil fuel cars on the road given no more than another 10 years after that (parallel with colossol low-carbon electricity expansion). And all that really needs is legislation and plenty of warning so companies can adapt and a new infrustructure can be put in place.

    Easy, eh?!

    Comment by Guy — 25 Sep 2008 @ 4:46 PM

  110. You’re trying to get Americans to switch to different units?! Good luck with that.

    In NZ we switched to the metric system (or that’s what we called it) a few decades ago. People are quite comfortable with distances in km and buying petrol by the litre, but still tend to talk about fuel consumption in miles per gallon. If they don’t, they use km per litre. The official unit (litres per 100 km) is considered unintuitive.

    And NZers are much more adaptable than Americans!

    Comment by Mark Hadfield — 25 Sep 2008 @ 5:47 PM

  111. I think we have much more serious and immediate problems than the main topic of this thread implies:

    http://climateprogress.org/2008/09/25/global-carbon-emissions-jumped-3-in-2007/

    despite an economic quasi-recession, despite small beginnings of greater energy efficiency, despite …

    Comment by David B. Benson — 25 Sep 2008 @ 6:56 PM

  112. Gavin, I agree with your suggestion of a clearer statement of efficiency.

    However, my concern is that there is an great opportunity for a much larger and fairly rapid improvement that could be lost. If we could reduce the CO2 emissions due to personal transportation by 90%, we would make a serious impact on the global warming situation. This is possible if high efficiency cars were to be adapted on a large scale. People seem reluctant to change how they ride in their cars, and if a sense of improvement such as you describe, (a) by trading in an SUV for a hybrid SUV, or (b) trading in a typical car for a Prius, will lead to complacency, can be accomplished with these part steps then people will not look hard at their current operating patterns. People will not change cars all that often, so we need to get this right.

    Even worse, would be to trade in the SUV for the hybrid SUV that is a “plug-in” hybrid, or simply all electric vehicle. The electric power is really a carrier of power from central power stations, and due to economic reality and capacity of various types of power stations, this additional load will result in added coal usage. This will approximately make up for any possible efficiency improvement of central power stations compared to typical car engines. The net reduction in CO2 is not much, if any. And we are about to see $25 billion handed to the auto industry to do just that.

    Unlike Guy (109) who would ban cars, I would prefer to make high efficiency cars that could keep us in our present chosen life styles, and still accomplish a nearly complete solution to the CO2 problem from personal cars.

    Comment by Jim Bullis — 25 Sep 2008 @ 7:17 PM

  113. There is too much error in this method of analysis. MPG does not reliably correlate (inversely) to emissions when comparing older to newer vehicles.
    Many newer vehicles have low-emission engines, especially Honda, but also Subaru and others. The engine and exhaust technologies are so important that they could topple the winner chosen by using the comparison method suggested in the article.
    Another factor in choosing a vehicle that will be low in emissions is how well the engine is able to retain efficiency between regular tune-ups. That is: what is the rate of decline in efficiency between maintenance cycles? Subaru and Mercedes will often beat GM and Chrysler in this area.
    Further, proper maintenance of the vehicle is at least as important as what vehicle you buy. Something as simple as failing to keep your tires at the right pressure can reduce efficiency a lot (as well as ruin your tires’ substructure).

    [Response: CO2 emissions are related to fuel usage not post-processing of the exhaust. You are correct in terms of NOx and CO, however. - gavin]

    Comment by Sontaran — 25 Sep 2008 @ 8:22 PM

  114. Regarding the concern that increasing the use of high mileage cars will lower fuel prices and people will then return to guzzlers:

    Not so if the demand for higher mileage cars leads to economies of scales and the development of new technologies that enable electric cars with long driving ranges to be built at competitive prices.

    No matter what petrol will not get cheaper than now. And even at the prices of a few years ago most people would not be vain enough to choose to pour money into a petrol driven car if there was comparable performance alternative.

    Comment by Craig Allen — 25 Sep 2008 @ 9:09 PM

  115. Ouch, sorry about the crumby grammar in the last paragraph of my last post. What I meant is that reduced demand as people shift to more efficient cars may have an effect, but there is no reason why this would make enough people shift back to inefficient cars to bring demand and prices back to current levels. If the price of fuel was a quarter what it is at the moment, most people would still prefer not to pay it if they had a reasonable alternative.

    Comment by Craig Allen — 25 Sep 2008 @ 9:44 PM

  116. Ike (103), thanks for the clarification. What got my curiosity up was the strange use of the word “synthetic” by Waxman. I wasn’t sure at all what he meant by that or if he knew what he was talking about.

    I think you’re stretching the gov’t's support for fossil fuels and their suppression of renewables way beyond the pale. I’m not sure what you mean by “Billions in credit guarantees for fossil fuel energy projects”; and your “not even a stable renewable energy tax credit for renewables…” statement doesn’t ring true. The gov’t pumps $billions into renewable research, development and support. If you’re referring to the needs-to-be-renewed tax credit for wind power, e.g. as not being “stable”, you have an accurate point, but it’s miniscule. T. Boone would not be investing $billions in a wind farm if he had the least indication that the production credit was less than 100% certain.

    I heard someone is building a commercial all-electric train locomotive (though I don’t know exactly what “all electric” means); Do you know if this is accurate?

    Comment by Rod B — 25 Sep 2008 @ 10:19 PM

  117. Figen, Midwest! Aah! God’s country. Kansas is the best for driving. Roads that go for tens of miles with no hills, curves or other cars.

    Comment by Rod B — 25 Sep 2008 @ 10:26 PM

  118. Larry, this:

    “Recently, I wondered how much one would “earn” as an hourly wage in terms of the money saved per hour of extra travel time due to the lower speed.”

    Sounds like you ARE talking about how much you earn driving. It was soon after someone posted they drove slower and were five minutes later than normal.

    If this isn’t about driving to work, why do you care about how much you’d “earn”? You’d not earn anything. You’d merely not have to spend (which is like finding free money), so it doesn’t matter if it works out do 5p an hour, that’s 5p for one hours “work” you had to do anyway and weren’t being paid for anyway.

    Maybe you ought to explain why you wanted to do that calculation, put it up on this site as a comment and decry that it was barely minimum wage.

    Comment by Mark — 26 Sep 2008 @ 3:48 AM

  119. Mark: It is, in fact, fairly common procedure for economists to look at savings/unit time and ask “is this worth it?” Yes, this is an opportunity cost calculation, as you point out, but usually economists assumed that people value their free time at about their average hourly wage.

    Obviously in the real world people do not calculate out every action they take in monetary terms, but I would argue this that this example is cleaner than most. 5 minutes longer in a car is 5 minutes less doing everything else I want to do. If it is a work commute, than that is 5 minutes EVERY SINGLE DAY which adds up pretty quickly. Now, if you enjoy the time spent sitting in your car as much as the time spent reading a book curled up in the comfy chair at home, then, ok, that’s free money. But, if you happen to rather dislike driving, then you’d want a pretty good payback rate.

    One way to think about this: if I came up to you and said “if I offer you 5p to sit in this car for an hour” would you take it? I don’t think so. Everyone has a different point at which they’d agree to sit in that car – mine is probably on the order of $50 (unless I’m allowed to bring in the aforementioned book).

    Now, my calculation for driving is different: I don’t want to spend more time in the car, but I also gain some pleasure from “helping the environment” so in fact, saving $10 an hour plus feeling better about myself might be enough to change my driving habits. (and personally, I have chosen to live near a metro stop so I can take public transit to work and everything else so I don’t need to drive at all)

    Comment by Marcus — 26 Sep 2008 @ 10:31 AM

  120. Rod, the fossil fuel industries do get significant tax advantages and subsidies. Enforcement of the royalties they owe has been consistently lax for a number of years. I don’t know the exact numbers, so I won’t mention billions. Links to where your “billions for renewables” come from?

    Comment by Philippe Chantreau — 26 Sep 2008 @ 10:58 AM

  121. Marcus, #119.

    However, it can’t apply in this case, unless your job IS driving.

    Sell five minutes of your time.

    If you can account five minutes of a day “lost” to earning potential then each time you take a bathroom break, you’re pssing away money. Washing your hands after? Why? Your wages are FAR more potent than that!!!

    The idea is a silly one and shouldn’t be used. Heck, someone calculated that it wasn’t worth Bill Gates’ time to pick up anything less than a fifty from the floor, since he’d earn more in the time it took to bend down and pick it up than $20. But in a Two Ronnies sketch, two tramps are talking:

    Tramp1: If I was as rich as Rockerfella, I’d be richer than Rockerfella
    Tramp2: How’s that, then?
    Tramp1: I’d do a bit of window cleaning on the side.

    Comment by Mark — 26 Sep 2008 @ 12:17 PM

  122. Rod writes above — as he has before — that he’s “not sure” what people mean by referring to “billions” for fossil fuel subsidies.

    Rod, you be looking this stuff up if you wanted to know it.
    Falling for the pretense that you needed help, I’ve looked it up for you several times before.

    You paste in the same talking points. You aren’t reading the answers
    or remembering them. Why should we bother answering them again?

    Well, for the next really ignorant or uneducated person who actually doesn’t know better:

    http://www.energy.gov/news/6152.htm

    That’s from:
    http://www.google.com/search?q=Billions+in+credit+guarantees+for+fossil+fuel+energy+projects

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 26 Sep 2008 @ 12:51 PM

  123. Phillipe, I recognize the oil industry gets tax advantages; significant is relative, though it certainly is noticeable; subsidizes I’m not sure of; billions in “credits” is not even close.

    There was a recent discourse here on the $billions DOE, for example, pushes at renewables. Then there is some from the National Labs/NSF, and NASA might even be included — though not by billions….

    Comment by Rod B — 26 Sep 2008 @ 3:20 PM

  124. Rod, #123.

    Wars in the middle east.

    for the benefit of oil.

    Not just the local one. WW I was over oil. Or did you think Archduke Ferdinand WAS that highly thought of?

    Lives and money spent. For oil.

    Comment by Mark — 26 Sep 2008 @ 4:27 PM

  125. I’m sorry, but maybe my feeble brain is missing the point. I understand the importance of lowering emissions but I thought the whole point of buying a fuel-efficient vehicle is to lower our dependence on fossil fuel and foreign oil? So going from a 12 mpg SUV to a 35 mpg Toyota Corolla (let’s take out the Hybrid issue for this one) would save me from using an additional 822 gallons of gas per year based on a 15K per year rate. And forgot about the $$$ savings since it’s really about saving the environment and not about saving money.

    Comment by Marty S — 26 Sep 2008 @ 6:09 PM

  126. On Time and Speed… People spend money on cars precisely because they want to convert the chore of getting from A to B into the fun of risking life and limb. It is EXCITING to drive fast. There is little reason to buy a car with over 75 HP other than to convert utility into recreation. Thus, the whole time saved argument fails. Nobody cares about the 5 minutes; they care about the hour of BORING driving VS the 55 minutes of FUN. Plus, when some ***hole wants to compare testosterone, the satisfaction of being able to blow him away is priceless, even though it has nothing to do with one’s real prowess.

    Comment by RichardC — 26 Sep 2008 @ 6:11 PM

  127. My main fear is that the person buying the 18 mpg hybrid SUV will rest on their laurels and will be oblivious that 18 mpg is still very poor fuel economy. Also, by having another large hulking vehicle on the road, it’ll produce more of the ‘keep up with the Joneses’ effect that is behind much of the demand for SUVs.

    A much better solution is to convince or coerce (through taxes, propaganda, or education) that person to choose the smallest vehicle that will do the job (which may be no vehicle at all in some city centres) and to use it sparingly. It’s not only quite good for the environment, but it’s also pretty cheap and has a reverse ‘keep up with the Joneses’ effect in that it will reduce pressures on the neighbors to show off.

    Comment by Robert Edele — 26 Sep 2008 @ 6:21 PM

  128. Rod, the subsidies add up to about $300 billion per year according to a recent UN study.

    Comment by Craig Allen — 26 Sep 2008 @ 6:24 PM

  129. Off-topic, but some may care to read

    reCAPTCHA: Human-Based Character Recognition via Web Security Measures
    Science (09/12/08) Vol. 321, No. 5895, P. 1465; von Ahn, Luis; Maurer, Benjamin; McMillen, Colin

    Comment by David B. Benson — 26 Sep 2008 @ 7:18 PM

  130. Rod B., Billions on renewables? The entire DOE budget for solar energy in 2007 was $124 million. Wind? $49.3 million. Any wonder why we’re still dependent on oil.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 26 Sep 2008 @ 9:38 PM

  131. Rod, according to this analysis of the US tax code and federal budget, the oil companies are slated to receive more than $32.9 billion in handouts from taxpayers over the next five years. Imagine how far the US would get in converting to solar and wind energy generation, and in developing electric and fuel efficient vehicles if those industries were to get even a fraction of those subsidies.

    Comment by Craig Allen — 26 Sep 2008 @ 10:27 PM

  132. Noticeable eh? Hanks’ link is more informative, for sure.

    Comment by Philippe Chantreau — 26 Sep 2008 @ 10:39 PM

  133. 127 Craig Allen: Rod, the subsidies add up to about $300 billion per year according to a recent UN study.

    Subsidies in the US are very, very small relative to the sales. We probably spend about $1.5T in oil per year, and there’s roughly $20B in gov’t subsidies (and those I think have already gone away). So, that’s roughly 1%. But oil company subsidies don’t end up in oil company pockets. The oil companies charge what the free market will tolerate. So if they get subsidies, then the price of gas is reduced. If it wasn’t, the value of the company would rise by the amount of the subsidy, and that cash infusion would simply leak out to the stockholders. It’s like injecting $50B into a bankrupt company–the next day the shares will rise by $50B divided by the number of outstanding shares.

    Comment by matt — 27 Sep 2008 @ 2:15 AM

  134. Just to clarify re #109 and response on #112, I am not advocating banning cars! I am advocating (indeed, saying it is essential) that over the long term fossil fuel-based cars are banned. That leaves hydrogen (very unlikely technologically) or electric (already available, continually improving). It’s pretty clear that with only 10 years of further development, we should have electric family cars with ranges of hundreds of miles, and should be also a long way down the road (!) towards three-phase supplies in what were once gas stations that can recharge in minutes for very long journeys (or alternatively a simple battery changeover). There is nothing technologically difficult about any of this – as usual, it is political will (and basic engineering graft). No new technological breakthroughs required.

    But what of the supposed increase in coal power from power stations if we all went electric? If James Hansen’s genius carbon tax and 100% dividend proposal were implemented (where all money generated gets returned directly to the bank accounts of the public – http://www.columbia.edu/~jeh1/mailings/20080604_TaxAndDividend.pdf), the issue of electricty generation to fire the cars would more or less sort itself out on its own – and shouldn’t even face an otherwise-predicable public backlash. Fossil fuels would eventually become so expensive to use, that clean electricity investments would become both relatively cheap and compelling (I include nuclear in this).

    Electricity generation projects would need to be colossol in scale, and are already on the drawing board – here in Europe plans are afoot for offshore wind arrays thousands of miles long, connected by low-loss EHT cables to a European super-grid. Tidal power plugs right in (a new, cheap and efficent tidal small-scale pilot began this week in Portuagal). Across the Med and northern Africa, vast solar arrays make best geographical use of the sun’s power. Summed over thousands of miles and projects, the maths means that the supply becomes basically even, eliminating the intermittency of an individual wind or solar array. Add in nuclear for some more gigawatts and to handle the surges, and job done – secure and clean, without a lump of coal or drop of oil to rely on. And hey, we even all still drive cars!

    Sure the investements are huge (which is why the economics must change first), but only this kind of thinking and action will provide anything like an effective response to reducing overall carbon emissions. Making 30% efficiency improvements – or even 70% – may make us feel a little better and help with rising fuel costs, but it is fiddling while Rome – and the planet – burns. Fossil fuels must be left in the ground (http://columbia.edu/~jeh1/2008/Tokyo_20080704.pdf). David Benson is right in #111…

    Comment by Guy — 27 Sep 2008 @ 2:21 AM

  135. #126: My main fear is that the person buying the 18 mpg hybrid SUV will rest on their laurels and will be oblivious that 18 mpg is still very poor fuel economy. Also, by having another large hulking vehicle on the road, it’ll produce more of the ‘keep up with the Joneses’ effect that is behind much of the demand for SUVs.

    Do you think the outcome is significantly different if everyone had a 45 MPG car? It’s not. Whatever bad event might have happened in 2100 due to 18 MPG cars will instead happen in 2110. The 45 MPG car doesn’t change anything. It delays what will already happen by a few years.

    Here’s an interesting pub exercise you can do on a cocktail napkin. When someone starts going on and on and on about what dire straights we’re in environmentally, draw a quick facsimile of a map of the US, and ask each person at the table to draw a circle on the map representing the amount of waste the US will produce over the next 100 years. My friends that are most worried about the environment all draw circles that are 25% or 50% of the total US landmass.

    My friends that aren’t worried about the environment draw very small circles.

    The correct answer is that the amount of waste the US will produce in the next 100 years is less that 0.005% of our landmass when piled 200 feet high. It’s an insignificant area of the cocktail napkin map.

    This is important because it demonstrates how little most grasp the scale of the problems (or non problems) we’re dealing with. Where it gets scary is when comments such as yours begin to reveal a thought process that says it’s OK to lie to people to get them to do what you want, even if what you want doesn’t change the outcome.

    Comment by matt — 27 Sep 2008 @ 2:32 AM

  136. “The new driving style” in Holland (a.k.a. ecodriving) outlines a few fuel saving tips for driving. It also mentions the large effects of driving speed: At 120 km/h, average fuel use per km is 42% more than at the optimal driving speed of 70-90 km/h, and at 140 km/h fuel use is up by 74% (this is mainly due to the air drag increasing with the squared of the velocity, as BPL noted above).

    It also mentions the savings from shifting gears asap, at a maximum of 2500 RPM. For automatic transmission, you can improve the timing of gear shifting by not using the “sports-setting” and by avoiding the “kick-down” (whatever that may be). It is recommended to let go slightly of the gas pedal when you reached your desired speed, so the transmission will shift to the highest gear earlier.

    Btw, I agree with the call for SI units.

    Comment by Bart Verheggen — 27 Sep 2008 @ 3:21 AM

  137. Is any of this thread really relevant anymore ? From the Independent, Sept. 25th.

    Hundreds of methane plumes are now coming up from the hydrates on the sea bed, quite deep water, and not under permafrost…

    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/hundreds-of-methane-plumes-discovered-941456.html

    Comment by CL — 27 Sep 2008 @ 6:19 AM

  138. Matt #133.

    Uh, the “point” your compatriots made was “It’s not billions”.

    When it’s proven it is hundreds of billions, saying “Yeah, but that’s a small fraction of the turnover” is not gainsaying it.

    All it means is that not only do they get 300billion a year from government, they make tens of trillions a year doing it.

    This is supposed to be helping???

    PS if the trash produced in 100 years is so small and insignificant to the North American landmass, why do you send so many shiploads out to sea and dump it there? Just use your 0.0005% of landmass.

    Heck, use Washington state.

    Comment by Mark — 27 Sep 2008 @ 10:01 AM

  139. A quicky for Hank. Sorry, but you can not google to determine what Mr. X meant by some phrase unless Mr. X has his own explanatory site. The phrase I was questioning was “billions in credit guarantees..”, which commonly means something more specific, not “billions”; though when you’re whipping the devil precise syntax is not very important, is it?

    Comment by Rod B — 27 Sep 2008 @ 10:37 AM

  140. Re: 124
    “Wars in the middle east.
    for the benefit of oil.”

    If we really want to drive home the idea of ending our dependence on imported oil we might to consider measuring our transportation fuel use in lives per gallon.

    Comment by Lawrence Brown — 27 Sep 2008 @ 10:39 AM

  141. Mark, I wash my hands because I get something in return for my time. I get clean hands and I don’t get sick. Those are both worth time (or money). If in some weird society (Urinetown, perhaps) I was required to spend money in order to wash my hands, I probably would pony up.

    The point is that I don’t get anything in return for driving slower except money (well, and the knowledge I’m helping the environment) so therefore it is logical to ask how much money I am saving in exchange for the time I am losing.

    Comment by Marcus — 27 Sep 2008 @ 1:30 PM

  142. Mark #138: When it’s proven it is hundreds of billions, saying “Yeah, but that’s a small fraction of the turnover” is not gainsaying it.

    “It’s proven” is a far stretch. I know some like to count the military as part of the subsidy package. But that’s BS accounting used to simply amplify an unsound point. If we moved to solar tomorrow, we’d still have a large military in 20 years. And if a Batman-esque evil super genius deployed a large sheet to block our solar panels, then the military would intervene then too to stop this evil super genius. Thus we could say the military would be subsidizing solar too?? It’s a moronic argument both ways.

    Yes, every state should take care of their own trash. I don’t think dumping it at sea is a good plan. By keeping it on land, in a landfill, we can reclaim aspects of the waste (starting with methane, and perhaps in 100 years have robotic sorters that can reclaim various metals if the price is justified). If you dump it into the sea, you really don’t have a chance to do any of that. Plus, the ecosystem of the ocean is much more sensitive than the plains of Eastern Washington. Finally, the ocean tends to distribute the waste, while a landfill keeps it contained.

    Comment by matt — 27 Sep 2008 @ 1:32 PM

  143. Marcus 141.

    Well, driving slower gets you a cleaner world, less urgency in national energy problems and less money spent on petrol. These are as worthwhile (or moreso) as “having clean hands”.

    Your hands, even after washing are not all that clean. They don’t stay even that clean for long. So you’re washing your hands for nothing. Not even money.

    Comment by Mark — 27 Sep 2008 @ 1:34 PM

  144. matt, so where’s the counter that proves the 300Bn wrong?

    Or was that not important?

    Comment by Mark — 27 Sep 2008 @ 3:05 PM

  145. This “subsidy” business gets arcane fast which of course makes for easy spinning and misleading. First off, the $300B/yr UN estimate is unaudited and is likely the normal UN fluff; plus it’s worldwide (mostly Russia and Iran it seems), not U.S. The Friends of Earth link from Craig seems at odds with its own referenced CRS report which details mainly the 2005 Energy Act incentives from the JCT (Joint Committee on Taxation), and only alludes to the 2007 bill that eliminated most of them. In any case, one reading of the CRS report has a net tax incentive increase of maybe $200M a year, compared to Craig’s reading of $6B a year (though he may have been referring to more than just the increase), or FoE’s graph of about $1+B/year. There are numerous other discrepancies. Though I will also admit that discerning truth in spun financial reports is a daunting task and does not leave one (me included) with high confidence.

    A couple of interesting points. A big portion of the “subsidies” in the 2005 Act are given to alternative fuels but often included in that given to big oil. Second, normal new speak applies. Tax “subsidy” is a term applied, and commonly accepted, to any income that the government doesn’t tax. So if the gov’t can tax income that was spent to buy stuff (labor, equipment, resources, etc.) by saying you can only deduct part of it in the year actually spent, but then later says they’ll tax you a little less that year, somehow that becomes a subsidy to you. The preponderance of most of the 2005 Act “subsidies” are here, as are most (but not all) historical oil/gas incentives. How do you guys feel about the 70-80% of your stated income that Uncle Sam provides you as a subsidy? ;-)

    Mark wants to throw in WWI as a big oil subsidy; I’m sure the two Gulf wars, too; probably WWII; hell, maybe even Korea and Viet Nam. I can’t beat that!

    Ray, you’re looking at only the direct RD that DOE spends by and for itself. You’re leaving out the $10B or so in operating and production (actual) subsidies for alternative fuels, and the upwards of $20B (I think) in lo_an guarantees — while not an expenditure certain in any one year, pretty supportive non-the-less.

    I don’t disagree that fossil fuel industries get tax breaks, and probably more than they rightly should, though as Matt says it is relatively miniscule. I also agree that more support for alternative energy sources can and should be made, though simply throwing money at something never fixed anything. I would just like a little more accuracy and less hyperbole, spin, and huffing and puffing. Besides, all I really wanted to know is what Waxman meant, if anything, by “synthetic” in his attempt to hurt oil from shale, etc., imports. :-)

    Comment by Rod B — 27 Sep 2008 @ 3:39 PM

  146. Mark (138 & 142) — Re: using Wasington State.
    Two part round:

    Salt and pepper, vinegar, vinegar.
    Salt and pepper, vinegar, vinegar.
    Pepper, pepper, salt!

    Don’t dump your trash in my back yard, my back yead.
    Don’t dump your trash in my back yard, my back yead.
    My back yard’s full!

    Comment by David B. Benson — 27 Sep 2008 @ 4:03 PM

  147. Re #135: Do you think the outcome is significantly different if everyone had a 45 MPG car? It’s not. Whatever bad event might have happened in 2100 due to 18 MPG cars will instead happen in 2110. The 45 MPG car doesn’t change anything. It delays what will already happen by a few years.

    Transportation is about 25% of energy usage. Reducing that by 60% (18 mpg to 45 mpg with no change in usage) should reduce overall emissions by 15%. If cars are also used half as often, then reductions are 20% (out of a total 25% possible from transportation). Similar reductions can be made in the other sectors (residential, commercial, and industrial). Decreasing carbon intensity by 60% and reducing consumption by 50% over all sectors gives an 80% total reduction, which would lead to CO2 levels starting to drop immediately and temperatures following suit after a few decades.

    Comment by Robert Edele — 27 Sep 2008 @ 4:28 PM

  148. 112 Jim. I agree, but even more. Plug in vehicles are good mostly for powering the grid, as opposed to charging the vehicle. Charging HEAVY batteries for a few measly kilometres of travel only means lugging HEAVY batteries around. Batteries are only 75% efficient or so, the grid is perhaps 30% efficient, and batteries lose another 20% or so in degradation costs. Even if all these numbers are tweaked upwards (as they can be), a Stirling or diesel engine tuned for efficiency will get 50-60%, and so blow them away. No battery, no grid, no nothing can come close. Batteries or flywheels are good for peaking power, but absolutely nothing beats a Stirling or diesel (or even Atkinson cycle gas) engine for efficiency. 2-5 HP for around town, 20-40 HP for highway, and whatever electrics one wants to buy for blowing folks away with your studly acceleration.

    113 Sontaran, the Japanese solved the traditional pollution issue well enough. The only significant pollutant a well-tuned new vehicle will produce is CO2, especially since all other pollutants will drop with reduced CO2 anyway.

    114 Craig, electric vehicles are environmental nightmares. That won’t change until ultracapacitors or flywheels get big and cheap enough to substitute for chemical fuel. Batteries suck.

    116 Rod, all-electric locomotives have been in service for decades, especially in cities (the subways are 100% electric) As long as the energy is supplied by a third rail, as opposed to on-board storage, electric vehicles are grand.

    123 Rod, the US military has no use for defensive purposes. Like, who’s gonna invade the USA? Naw, one country spending over 1/2 the world’s military cost is useful for only one thing: grabbing oil. The Iraq war is legitimately called a subsidy for the oil companies- it keeps Iraq oil out of the hands of competitors, and so keeps prices and profit high. That subsidy alone is hundreds of billions a year, PLUS the hundreds of billions in excess profits! That’s about a 66% subsidy for oil. A trillion a year in the USA alone.

    135 Matt, you miss the point. You are assuming that the first step is the last. But tripling mileage gives us three times as long to find the next step. Your post fails, as it boils down to, “progress is stupid, unless it is the final solution.” Well, the final solution is preventing the end of the universe, so your post says we should do nothing until we solve that one.

    137 CL, see the sea level rise thread for more on that subject.

    141 Marcus, you can only say you get nothing in return for not spewing CO2 through ignorance. We’ve just released the Methane Dragon (see the sea level rise thread). Washing your hands is irrelevant to your well-being as compared to driving more efficiently.

    142 – sorry Matt, you’d have to give a single use for the US military other than grabbing oil to say it isn’t an oil subsidy. A REAL use. You can’t as there is none. Remember? 911 was done by Saudi Arabians who were pissed at the USA’s support of the oil kleptomocracy that enslaves them. So the US invaded Iraq because Iraq was going to Euros and letting French and Russian companies develop Iraqi oil. Iraq is ALL about keeping the oil in US/British control. (First law passed after “Mission accomplished: making it illegal for French and Russian companies to develop Iraq oil)

    143 – Mark, you’re right. And if folks use anti-bacterial soap, they just wasted time making themselves sick. The bacteria on your skin protect you from disease-causing organisms. Killing it is counter-productive.

    144 Mark, if spent outside the USA, it doesn’t count. The subsidies in the USA are trillionesque, so your point holds, but bringing up “foreigners” just makes USAians tune your argument out as irrelevant.

    And this thread is devolving into politics. I think I’ve had my last word. (but then I’m not too good at shutting up….)

    Comment by RichardC — 27 Sep 2008 @ 4:58 PM

  149. #144 Mark: Matt, so where’s the counter that proves the 300Bn wrong?

    I didn’t say the $300B was wrong. It’s about right for the entire world. Without subsidies, many couldn’t afford enough fuel to keep warm, so countries like China subsidize it. Heavily.

    I pointed out that subsidies for the US were very, very low–about 1% of the total sales. And that that amount was trivial and had no impact on the true price of gasoline. So, to those that argued above that the subsidies were significant, they are right for places where there’s a lot of poverty OR where they oil producing nations decide to give it away like water. But in the US and much of the rest of the world, any subsidies are dwarfed by taxes and are too small to factor into the equation. In other words, eliminating subsidies won’t impact consumption without impacting human well being.

    Comment by matt — 27 Sep 2008 @ 5:25 PM

  150. #134 Guy: There is nothing technologically difficult about any of this – as usual, it is political will (and basic engineering graft). No new technological breakthroughs required.

    It has nothing to do with politics. It has everything to do with volumetric and gravimetric battery efficiency, and battery cost. All the pieces (motors, multi-KW drive electronics, computers) are ready except that ONE thing. Solve that, and electric cars will displace ICE cars overnight. Literally.

    The good news is that you are welcome to throw your hat in the ring and try to invent a new battery or supercap. It’s primarily a materials problems. Venture cap firms are throwing 100′s of millions to small groups of physicists and electrical engineers to solve this problem–billions at this stage doesn’t help because there are only so many “big heads” that can work on this problem right now. And when the solution is ready, industry and wall street will come up with the billions needed to take it to market.

    Comment by matt — 27 Sep 2008 @ 5:54 PM

  151. #148 RichardC: 135 Matt, you miss the point. You are assuming that the first step is the last. But tripling mileage gives us three times as long to find the next step. Your post fails, as it boils down to, “progress is stupid, unless it is the final solution.” Well, the final solution is preventing the end of the universe, so your post says we should do nothing until we solve that one.

    Tripling mileage does NOT give us 3X more time to figure this out. Remember that in 20 years all of China and India will want to live the way you live today. So if we have 600M people “living the good life” today, then we will have 4B people living the good life in 2030. If we all get to produce CO2 equally and if we have to roll back to 1970′s levels of emissions, then you have to reduce your consumption by 94% because most everyone else will be increasing theirs by 1000%

    Highway usage (where MPG matters) is 25% of our CO2. Tripling MPG does not automatically drop that to 8%, because people will drive more. It’s been shown over and over and over. Split the difference, and tripling MPG saves us 10% of our CO2 emissions. Combined with China and India coming on line, whatever doom might have come our way in 2100 would be coming our way in 2110 (or so) instead.

    Anyone that thinks we can cut emissions by 95% by “jiggling the handle” on this machine is crazy. It has never worked. Massive rip-up and redo must be done to achieve these types of numbers. If you aren’t thinking big, you aren’t helping the problem.

    I am so tired of people sending me these articles from popular science about how college kids were able to make electricity from sea kelp. It’s just sad how people hang on to those ideas as being plausible on a large scale. If you want to know what will be delivering 20% of our power in 20 years, look to see what is delivering 0.5% of our power today. It’s that simple. We cannot take a brand new technology and ramp it up to 20% over 20 years. It just doesn’t happen, no matter how badly you want it.

    The only way we substantially reduce CO2 in 40 years is to have nuclear crank 60-80% of our base load, move over 95% to electric cars and rely on alt energies to do the rest, and then slowly dial down the nuclear as we learn more about alt energies. Those that refuse nuclear aren’t being realistic. Their selfish motives are responsible for all the CO2 the US and much of the EU has pumped out from the 80′s to today.

    Comment by matt — 27 Sep 2008 @ 6:16 PM

  152. > 139, 122, 116, 103
    Quickie backatcha for Rod

    First, Mr. X (Ike) in this case does have his own site; you’re throwing doubt as to his post here; either way, you can ask

    But you can look it up.
    Paste it in as a search: q=guarantees+for+fossil+fuel+energy+projects

    First hit:

    FOSSIL ENERGY NEWS SPOTLIGHT

    DOE Announces Solicitation for $8.0 Billion ….

    From some strange Mr. X who’s got no track record, ask a cite. For someone with a good track record, as Ike Solem has, and a website — trust, and verify.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 27 Sep 2008 @ 6:30 PM

  153. #148 RichardC: 142 – sorry Matt, you’d have to give a single use for the US military other than grabbing oil to say it isn’t an oil subsidy. A REAL use. You can’t as there is none.

    Hopefully you’ll agree WWII was a valid use of the military. Vietnam, probably not. Korea, definitely. You can, liek Michale Moore tried, state that Afghanistan was about an oil pipeline. But I think that’s a stretch. Kosovo? A lot of oil has potentially been found there, but it’s not clear at all that was for oil. Iraq? Not sure. If we were there for oil, then I’m not sure why there have been nearly 100 bidders from around the world on the contracts. Iraq would have sold oil whether or not we invaded, right? If we had taken their oil and bought it for pennies on the dollar, then you could make a convincing case. But ironically, it’s the democrats that have been screaming for us to take their oil to pay for this war.

    And as noted before, if we had 100% of our windpower generated by offshore windmills, and an army showed up to destroy those windmills, the military would stop them. That doesn’t mean the military subsidizes wind power. It simply means the military protects our interests. As it should.

    Comment by matt — 27 Sep 2008 @ 6:32 PM

  154. Matt, I know that it DOES go up, but

    a) would it be triple?
    b) why do people do that?

    I mean, especially if you’re hypermiling you’re taking longer to travel and going three times further means you’re travelling for three times longer OVER WHAT GOING SLOWER DOES.

    I mean, people are insane, but how hatstand do you think they are???

    Comment by Mark — 27 Sep 2008 @ 6:48 PM

  155. RichradC

    Where did you miss the memo: these corporations are INTERNATIONAL.

    Comment by Mark — 27 Sep 2008 @ 6:50 PM

  156. Rod B., Most of your “alternative fuel” subsidies are for ethanol–and that does not really count as an energy program. It is more like welfare for corn farmers. The expenditures by the US government on alternative energy sources that actually contribute positively to our energy banlance is woeful. And you have to ask yourself, what purpose would a fleet in the Persian Gulf serve if we weren’t trying to keep the sea lanes open for tankers?

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 27 Sep 2008 @ 8:26 PM

  157. Rod B., Most of your “alternative fuel” subsidies are for ethanol–and that does not really count as an energy program. It is more like welfare for corn farmers. The expenditures by the US government on alternative energy sources that actually contribute positively to our energy banlance is woeful. And you have to ask yourself, what purpose would a fleet in the Persian Gulf serve if we weren’t trying to keep the sea lanes open for tankers.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 27 Sep 2008 @ 8:26 PM

  158. Matt, you’re assuming that feebates don’t triple the price. Triple MPG and one must triple end-use cost per gallon. All that money is rebated to society on a per-capita basis, so there is no net cost, but the incentive remains. Punt gasoline to $15 a gallon, and all carbon-based fuels the same amount per CO2, and watch the Free Market do wonders. Efficiency goes up more? Punt gasoline to $20. Get rid of all welfare at the same time, as folks get citizenship stipends (adults only – I disagree with Hansen on this one). Solves illegal immigration, welfare, energy, and terrorism (dropping oil prices kills terrorism, especially if the USA stops propping up brutal dictatorships like Saudi.) What’s so hard about that? Please, continue with any issue which would arise from this system, and I’ll be happy to discuss solutions.

    WW2 is off topic, but the free world lost WW2. China went communist, and the USSR sucked up half of Europe. The loss of WW2 was probably due to Roosevelt’s ill health and death. Had he been healthy, he’d have kicked commie butt. Had the USA not been forced into the war, Hitler and Stalin would have killed each other off, and the free world would have mopped up the debris. Truly an unfortunate result. Why do you bring it up as a success?

    Mark, the corporations are based in specific countries. Since funds are “domestic” or “international,” folks tend to be “patriotic” and invest at “home.” What percentage of Russian oil stock is owned by Russians? And the BIG issue was Euros. Care to comment on those?

    Matt, uh, “an army shows up.” Where from? Remember, the next strongest armies in the world are all free and allied. (China and Russia have equivalent expenditures, but their hardware and tactics suck. The wars in the Mideast have proven that.) Even if some army materialized out of thin air, can you imagine the USA not trouncing them in short order? Can you imagine France and England and Germany and Canada and Japan not trouncing them? Fantasy scenario at best. Naw, there is no need for the US to have more than the strongest military on the planet. That can be done with less than 10% of the current funding (not counting the oil-wars). Besides, Afghanistan was about securing Saudi oilfields. The folks who they went after were all Saudis! Terrorism is because of Saudis screaming about the House of Saud. Hardliners always rise to the surface when people are oppressed. The solution? Stop allying oneself with oppressive dictatorships! Again, why is it necessary for the US to have more than the strongest military on the planet, if not to secure oil for low-MPG vehicles? What other benefit could there be?

    As to the fight over wind VS nuclear, it’s a no-brainer. Wind is cheaper, safer, and proven. Nuclear is good as a pre-heater for fossil fuel plants. Such a system can be retrofitted and would drop carbon emissions by perhaps 80%, but stand-alone nuclear power is a nightmare. (I’m surprised nobody has asked me to describe nuclear pre-heaters – they’re coooool beans.)

    Comment by RichardC — 27 Sep 2008 @ 8:46 PM

  159. Hank, none of your references says anything about “billions in credit guarantees”. It’s a simple question: did he mean “credit” as in a $ for $ tax reduction for expenditures (that’s the official IRS term), or something else, or just using the term loosely? If he doesn’t want to bother to answer, fine — his choice. I have no problem with that. But I shouldn’t have to go do a library search to try to figure how Ike or anyone else is using a specific term in an RC post.

    Comment by Rod B — 27 Sep 2008 @ 9:56 PM

  160. There is a thread through this thread that increasing car mpg is a losing CO2 reduction battle, because if we build a fleet of cars getting 45 mpg, say, people will simply drive more…and anyway China and India, wanting our lifestyle will more than eat up any reductions the US is able to make, by a large factor.

    This analysis makes several assumptions that might turn out to be correct, but maybe not, so we should not be too certain.

    What we could and should do in the US is ramp up the gas tax high enough to move people to buy high mileage cars, and then ramp it further, if needed, to discourage them from driving more than before, maybe high enough to encourage us to drive even less. Aside from any GW benefit, this would enhance our national security and we ought to be doing it anyway.

    What about China? There is evidence that China is already ahead of the US in its energy policy. They seem to be questioning whether the US model is the right one for them, given the increasing price of oil. In fact, they have a clear advantage over us in that their centralized administrative control lets them implement new policies without requiring the approval of 535 congressmen. I suspect they are going to do what is best for them and copying the US ain’t it. Compared to us, they will be able to turn on a dime. It is unlikely that China or India will ever approach the current per capita energy consumption of fossil fuels in the US.

    In fact, whether the world uses up our oil in the next 50 years or the next 150 hardly matters to GW. There is not enough of it to do us in even, or when, we use it all. Coal is the GW gorilla but oil is important mainly as a national security issue for oil importing countries.

    Comment by Larry Coleman — 27 Sep 2008 @ 10:22 PM

  161. RichardC (148), much of what you say is just naive pissin’ in the wind. (Other stuff you say, on a different discourse, is pretty good.) You evidently do not consider 9-11 a military invasion of U.S. What was it, pilot error??? (Similar to Obama’s sending Special Forces and attack helicopters across Pakistan’s border with guns blazing being something other than an invasion of Pakistan; God only knows what.) We had no problem getting (and paying for) Iraq oil prior to the latest skirmish. In fact many folks, most in the UN, but no oil company, got rich off it. Why then would we go to war to preserve our oil supplies again?? And how do the oil companies profit from Iraq selling their own oil? What exactly is the money flow? Something like when the Saudis glommed the oil companies’ assets there? Plus I suppose Iran is just joshin’ when they say they will blow Israel off the map?? Yeah, we can rely on that. Like Khruschchev was probably just kiddin’ when he announced at the UN that he will bury us. Holy moly!

    The “hundreds of billions in excess profits” for the oil companies (right out of the talking points manual): can you be more specific? What is excess profit versus non-excess profit? How much of each? Is there some accounting rule, or do we just ask you?

    Not as erudite as Matt, but you get my drift…

    Shift: I was aware of the electric mass transports using connected power like wire and third rail. But I heard (I think) of self-contained electric powered locomotives, I guess using batteries, fuel cells, or something. I was wondering if you or anybody else can validate this.

    Comment by Rod B — 27 Sep 2008 @ 10:41 PM

  162. #158 RichardC: Matt, you’re assuming that feebates don’t triple the price. Triple MPG and one must triple end-use cost per gallon.

    You wrongly assume we can achieve similar efficiencies in all other areas that use oil. We cannot. Do you think engineers have been doing nothing on the ICE in the last hundred years? If an ICE engine is optimistically at 40% today, what do you think it can be at in 10 years? Hybrid can help a lot, but as we know, nowhere near the 3X improvement you are hoping.

    A 3000 pound car at 60 MPH with a 2m2 cross section, 0.5 Cd, 0.03 Cr, etc, etc, needs 33.5 HP. A 1000 pound car, everything else the same, is 23.2 HP. So you won’t get there from weight reduction. A 1000 pound car with a max speed of 45 MPH is getting close. But that’s in the realm of a fast golf cart. So, if you think fast golf carts are the answer, then say that. But quit pretending an ICE or Hybrid can be built to solve this. It can’t. The physics aren’t there. Electrics can, but you have the battery problem.

    [edit - no more OT]

    Comment by matt — 28 Sep 2008 @ 1:05 AM

  163. #157 Ray: Rod B., Most of your “alternative fuel” subsidies are for ethanol–and that does not really count as an energy program. It is more like welfare for corn farmers. The expenditures by the US government on alternative energy sources that actually contribute positively to our energy banlance is woeful. And you have to ask yourself, what purpose would a fleet in the Persian Gulf serve if we weren’t trying to keep the sea lanes open for tankers.

    Do you ever wonder why fire trucks are so clean? It’s because firemen have a lot of free time on their hands. That doesn’t mean you get rid of the firemen, though, right?

    You build a military so that you can handle and win several conflicts around the world at the same time. If there’s not a conflict, then you wash the fire trucks. Or in this case, flex your muscle for no other reason than you can. Its all sunk cost.

    Comment by matt — 28 Sep 2008 @ 1:13 AM

  164. 160 Larry, the only rational CO2 policy is per capita. China has more folks, they get more CO2 emissions. Period. Either one believes that “all humans are created equal” or one doesn’t. They won’t agree that we are somehow more human and so deserve to spew more than them. Heck, they’ll say we already spewed far more than they ever will, so we should spew less in the future. There is absolutely no ethical argument for the West to spew more per capita than the third world without paying the third world direct compensation. I’m astounded at the apologists who say with a straight face that the third world refused to play fair with Koyoto. Heck, the 3rd world would agree to a fair solution – one adult, x grams of CO2. The Western powers are the ones who refused a fair treaty. That the third world didn’t agree to codifying bigotry, well, that’s shame on us. Seems you are on the right page, thinking of them as equal humans too. I disagree with your conclusion, though. I think we’ve already done ourselves in. We’re arguing about who gets the best stall, when the horses have left and the barn is burning.

    Comment by RichardC — 28 Sep 2008 @ 1:18 AM

  165. matt writes:

    We cannot take a brand new technology and ramp it up to 20% over 20 years. It just doesn’t happen, no matter how badly you want it.

    Liberty Ships? Transister radios? Desktop computers?

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 28 Sep 2008 @ 5:05 AM

  166. Richard, corporations put all their profits in places where profit is not taxed (Ireland doesn’t tax patent profits, so the money goes there) and put all the losses in places where they can so as to negate any profits there too.

    Then they take the tax breaks and government handouts and spend it where they want.

    $300Bn of it.

    Your position doesn’t change the post you denied to begin with.

    Comment by Mark — 28 Sep 2008 @ 5:22 AM

  167. ps the self-contained electric powered locomotive thing is deja vu…. Has this been discussed before in RC??

    Comment by Rod B — 28 Sep 2008 @ 6:17 AM

  168. I was aware of the electric mass transports using connected power like wire and third rail. But I heard (I think) of self-contained electric powered locomotives, I guess using batteries, fuel cells, or something. I was wondering if you or anybody else can validate this.

    They are sometimes used in mines and as service vehicles for subways, but they are generally heavy with low range and performance, though no doubt improved batteries could improve on this. There have been various attempts to make battery-powered trains to enable them to run on non-electrified lines (e.g. here and here) but I don’t know of any that were successful.

    Comment by Richard Simons — 28 Sep 2008 @ 6:52 AM

  169. Ray, still the best reading of DOE has $10B +/- supporting renewals which includes biomass but ethanol is not the biggest recipient. (I think the major ethanol subsidy goes to ethanol manufacturers and is not from DOE. Farmers get virtually no direct ethanol subsidies though benefit (alot) from the ethanol demand and from the Dept of Ag generic supports and subsidies.) It’s true that DOE heavily supports nuclear development and also coal, though the latter is predominately to clean it or the sequester CO2. How much support for renewals (other than biomass) would not be woefully short? Is more money linearly helpful? Do you not subscribe to the funding theory that at some point an increase in funding provides zero increase, and indeed often a decrease, in accomplishments?

    The USN has a carrier group (maybe two??, but not a fleet) in the Persian Gulf predominately to support 130,000 or so ground troops who happen to be fighting a war there. If the Navy’s main role is to protect oil shipping someone ought to tell them that 75% of their fleet is in the wrong place — Hawaii, SanDiego, Norfolk, Washington State, etc. Would they react if someone tried to hijack all oil tanker shipments to the U.S? You bet. Same if someone tried to blow up all of our rigs in the Gulf of Mexico or our Prudhoe Bay facilities. Same, probably, if they hijacked a couple of passenger liners. What’s your beef?

    Comment by Rod B — 28 Sep 2008 @ 8:01 AM

  170. Alerting consumers to the amount of gas they are likely to be spending for a year’s worth of driving (the gal/10,000 miles figure) may be effective at opening their eyes to how much it really costs to own and operate a vehicle, esp. with price of gas so high. In the U.S., we already get similar information when we buy a major appliance, such as a refrigerator, via a large yellow tag in or on the appliance that states both the estimated kilowatt-hour energy consumption and the estimated annual cost of operating the fridge -I paid far more attention to the latter than the former when I bought a new fridge this summer.

    Comment by Chuck Booth — 28 Sep 2008 @ 10:48 AM

  171. Off Topic (What ever happened to the Friday roundup?)

    I’ve been chatting with some folks here and there in various discussion groups, and it’s amazing how well developed some contrarian positions are. I mean, some of you may not have noticed, but they’ve moved beyond “It’s the sun, stupid!”

    And they’ve gotten me to thinking. Is there some headlong rush to “prove” AGW? I’m not necessarily referring to a gravy train, more to the point that there are people we respect who are very far out there in terms of “knowing what’s coming.” Dr. Hansen comes to mind.

    It makes it almost sacreligous to ask certain questions. One question which comes to mind is: how hard are we working to break AGW theory? I mean, within NASA and NOAA and Hadley. How hard are we working to disprove climate sensitivity? To discover negative feedbacks? Look at it this way: if the estimates are off by 20 years, we’re saved. We’ll certainly have all sorts of alternatives to fossil fuels in 20 years. How much of a change in sensitivity would be required? How much negative feedback? Perhaps some new technology comes along in that time, and none of this solutions business, the politicization of AGW, would even be necessary.

    I’d become too insulated, hanging around warmist sites exclusively. It is certainly true that most skeptics are very poorly informed and of suspect intelligence, but now and then, as I said, somebody gets me to thinking. You know, we could be mostly right about this, and it’s the part we’re wrong about that will change everything.

    And so the question: How hard are we looking?

    Comment by Walt Bennett — 28 Sep 2008 @ 10:49 AM

  172. 165 BPL: Liberty Ships? Transister radios? Desktop computers?

    We’re talking about energy generation, transmission and distribution with 4 9′s reliability (one hour of down time per year). Outside of this extremely difficult realm, yes, you can get massive update rates. Just look at the cellphone, and yes, the PC.

    But currently, even the penetration rate of wind power it at risk for shrinking because demand is rising faster than wind can be installed.

    Comment by matt — 28 Sep 2008 @ 11:05 AM

  173. 164 RichardC
    I agree with everything you say, even the pessimistic last note…except that it is not inevitable that we all go down the tube. It is possible to do better and to avoid the worst but that will require that the US take a lead role and it seems that we have given up being a world leader…and we never face looming crises more than one election cycle off. In this case one cycle will be too late. So, while not disagreeing with your conclusion, I hold out a small hope, becoming smaller with time.

    Comment by Larry Coleman — 28 Sep 2008 @ 11:13 AM

  174. Walt, #171.

    Well, if someone is standing in the middle of the road and a bus is heading toward them at speed, I either stand there and wait until it’s PROVEN that it is going to hit (say 1 ft from them and still going 30mph) or I say “look out behind you!” BEFORE I get the proof.

    Comment by Mark — 28 Sep 2008 @ 12:36 PM

  175. Walt, there’s no one single “AGW Theory” to prove or fail to prove. But you know that.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 28 Sep 2008 @ 12:36 PM

  176. Matt, #172

    Your point was we CANNOT ramp up in 20 years.

    Those examples show you are not right in several cases.

    So do you have any proof that we cannot ramp up in 20 years to ameliorate AGW? Or are you just hoping we can’t so you can ignore it and let someone else’s kid (foreign ones at that) pay for it?

    Comment by Mark — 28 Sep 2008 @ 12:39 PM

  177. Why then would we go to war to preserve our oil supplies again??

    Yes… very good question, the one I would have brought up too, had anyone bothered to ask at the time ;-)

    Afterwards the good questions are obvious, right?

    Comment by Martin Vermeer — 28 Sep 2008 @ 1:14 PM

  178. Re: 174

    Hank,

    I gave you two: climate sensitivity and negative feedbacks.

    I think it is a fair question: how hard are we working to break the underpinnings of the theory on which we are being asked to radically alter life as we know it, and to do so as soon as possible?

    I know that dedicated warmists consider such silly questions long since settled; the only problem with that view is that all of AGW theory is based on things that are being observed in nature for the first time.

    Remember the Eocene? Co2 levels from 3500 to 660 ppm? Remember what brought the CO2 down? A naturally occurring event: the Azolla event.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Azolla_event

    Are we ready to say that nature doesn’t have some potential feedback mechanism to draw down excess CO2? Perhaps the very presence of the excess CO2 can help instigate such an event. Do we know?

    It would impress me greatly if one or two dedicated warmists showed that they aren’t afraid to at least ask some tough questions.

    Comment by Walt Bennett — 28 Sep 2008 @ 2:24 PM

  179. Walt,

    What are you doing about the underpinnings of “It’s going to be OK”? Are you ready to say that nature has feedbacks that increase the effects of CO2 or will produce more CO2 or equivalent (Methan Hydrates)? Do you know?

    It would impress me greatly if one or two dedicated skeptics were skeptical about the anti-AGW debate. If one or two denialists were to investigate tough questions they are afraid to answer.

    Will you do that for me?

    Comment by Mark — 28 Sep 2008 @ 3:38 PM

  180. Martin, #177.

    Why don’t we cut down all our trees? Fish all our fish? Worse, with these, they renew themselves if you leave them alone.

    Oil won’t.

    Comment by Mark — 28 Sep 2008 @ 3:40 PM

  181. #176 Mark: So do you have any proof that we cannot ramp up in 20 years to ameliorate AGW? Or are you just hoping we can’t so you can ignore it and let someone else’s kid (foreign ones at that) pay for it?

    Depends on what you are hoping to ramp up. Alt energy at 100% of our supply in 20 years? No way, and there’s not a government agency in the world that believes that. Most believe alt energy can get to 40% in 20 years, and that’s fairly optimistic. Yet that doesn’t solve our problem. Not even close.

    Now, what about the other 60%?

    The problem is that AGW has been fly paper for all these goofballs that just hate oil and nuclear. These goofballs believe there is fairy dust of some kind (such as tripling MPG of a car) that we’re just not doing because of an unseen and sinister force. You need some sort of existence proof that gets close to your claim and where the first and second derivatives of the uptake are showing promise. Without that, you are simply praying it will work.

    Our difference in opinion comes down to these four questions:

    1) What % of alt energy (marginal CO2 emissions) is possible in 2030
    2) What % of savings can we achieve through conservation
    3) What % do you believe we need to cut our CO2 to avert AGW assuming RoW comes on line and wants to produce at our current rates
    4) What do you propose to generate the remainder of the needed energy you noted in 1)

    My answers:

    1) 35%. If you disagree, find a government that backs your thinking on a large scale (serving 50M or more people).
    2) 10%-20. If you disagree, show a period in time where any large group have reduced their consumption substantially and sustained it over a decade or more.
    3) 95% for US, 92% for EU. Kyoto wasn’t even close to being this harsh. This is draconian, no question. But if CO2 is really a problem, then we must get back to 1970 levels and we must all get to emit equally.
    4) Nuclear.

    Ray, although we disagree on many things, your a pretty sound person when it comes to numbers. I’d love it you’d chime in too.

    Comment by matt — 28 Sep 2008 @ 3:41 PM

  182. Matt, it’s going to be done whether we do it or just suffer it.
    Look at ocean pH, primary productivity, and the scenarios.
    There are no good futures out there with increasing CO2. None.
    Oh, except the fairy dust.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 28 Sep 2008 @ 4:16 PM

  183. One might also ask;
    Which reduces CO2 emissions more :

    Erecting 300 3.5 megawatt wind turbines , or switching the fuel contract for a single 1 gigawatt thermal power station to a higher hydrogen to carbon ratio mine ?

    in the mileage semiotics debate , the same iceberg of innumeracy that Gavin deplores conceals the tendency of 8.3 mpg SUV’s to do even worse if run on EtOH diluted hydrocarbon fuel. Gallons per mile would be good, but full transparency in fuel composition and elemental combustion ratios would be better .

    Comment by Russell Seitz — 28 Sep 2008 @ 4:32 PM

  184. “Alternative energy in 20 years no way”

    How do you make that?

    In six years production solar panes have gone down tenfold in dollars-per-watt. In ten years, power efficiency has gone up 30% for cars, 500% for lighting, 50% for air transport and about that for shipping.

    Renewables have gone in ten years from prototype to dozens of variable methods of energy sequestration.

    In the 60 years since WW2, america has gone from 1calorie of oil energy to 3600 calories of food produced to 1:1. If we reverse the trend, we will be 1:600 in 20 years.

    Impossible?

    You say it but have nothing to back that up.

    Comment by Mark — 28 Sep 2008 @ 4:34 PM

  185. Re: #179

    Mark,

    You don’t know me. I hopped on board as a warmist after seeing AIT. I was a dedicated member of this discussion group for many months afterward. I have spent time at Rabbett Run and Tamino and other highly technical sites. I have not the slightest doubt that AGW theory is basically correct.

    I dismiss most skeptical arguments as either re-hashing old issues which have been resolved, or promoting a threadbare concept as some sort of “proof” or “refutation”. I am in no way a sympathizer with anybody who calls AGW a hoax or a conspiracy.

    Where I am is here: the science has become completely politicized. It is no longer possible to do science for its own sake within the realm of climate science. All science now is viewed through the prism of whether or not it supports AGW. Typically, when some observation does not conform to a highly positive correlation with AGW theory, we are presented with plausible explanations for why that is so.

    Meanwhile, all of our heroes are behaving as though there is nothing to look for. It’s all settled. We know exactly what is coming, and we keep coming up with better models to “prove” it.

    All this effort spent on proving something; you know, you hit what you aim for most of the time.

    If there is too much inbreeding in AGW-related climate science, as is absolutely the case today, where does the observation, hypothesis or experiment come from which punches a hole in the theory by introducing something that was not considered before?

    Once again: we are the lab. This has never happened before in the history of the planet. To say we know what the feedbacks and timelines will be is clearly foolish. And yet, who today within the family of AGW-related climate science, is looking under those rocks?

    Perhaps there are positive answers to my question. I did not ask it with any sort of bias toward the answer being: “We ain’t looking.” I asked with an open mind. Members of several prestigious science organizations are present at all times in these discussions.

    Are you looking for ways to break the theory?

    Have we examined climatically stable places, such as the Azores, for a signal? I mean, what would interfere with an AGW signal in the Azores? Have we gone looking for the signal where it should be most evident, and have we at any point failed to find the signal?

    I have no doubt the planet will warm under rising CO2. What I lack confidence in is the precision of the predictions. From what I have learned in the last two years and change, most of the predictions are based on models, and the models contain in part, parameter driven data that in some cases may even have the wrong sign. We are intent, it seems, on basing radical social policy on these answers.

    So then, would it not be prudent of us to be making as sure as possible that there are no holes in the theory? You know, my programming manager is fond of reminding me: in order to find mistakes, you have to be looking for them.

    Mark, I once said exactly the things you are saying now. My thought today is, we have all the time we need to not do the wrong thing.

    All of this “think time is over! We must act now!” only makes me more determined to say “wait a minute. If you want my vote, we ain’t done talkin’ yet.”

    That is where I’m at today.

    Comment by Walt Bennett — 28 Sep 2008 @ 4:43 PM

  186. Walt Bennett (178) — Thank for the information and link regarding the Azolla event.

    While something similar is most unlikely to ‘just happen’, we could make it happen in the Black Sea. I have no idea whether as much as 10–12 GtC per year could be sequestered that way, but some of what is necessary could.

    Call it a mild (and I think harmless) form of geo-engineering.

    Comment by David B. Benson — 28 Sep 2008 @ 5:05 PM

  187. 161 Matt, [edit - please rein in OT stuff]
    About ten years of using the excess over strongest in world military budget would result in a completely paid-for renewable electrical power grid. Talk about a bargain! As for vehicles with on-board electrical storage for more than acceleration or short range, it is foolish. Third rails or overhead wires work. Batteries are too inefficient and heavy to compete.

    162Matt, we’re not talking hypothetical, nor any increase from today’s tech. The 2010 Prius gets 94 MPG. I’m guessing 94 mpg is in imperial, so deduct 20%. 78MPG for a big car (it’s lots bigger and faster than the current version). The current fleet is 25MPG or so. Thus, a mere tripling is a yawner. And about China and India, well, they exist in either case! Whether cars get 25mpg or 78 mpg, ya gotta add in China. Thus, triple the time until global meltdown for triple the mpg @ triple the fuel cost still holds. Look at RMI and Amory Lovins’ work if you want to see what other areas can do. Heating and cooling can certainly be tripled in efficiency at little cost. A 66% reduction in CO2 emissions is laughably easy with no increase in lifecycle cost. Koyoto was too timid. We should have gone for 66% reduction over 15 years.

    163 Matt, no, you build a military so you can defend against invasion. Any other use can be built when it becomes necessary, especially since all of the biggest and most competent militaries are free. (Anyone who thinks Russia or China is competent militarily needs to do some research into Mideast wars.) Having a military stand around sucking up hundreds of billions is awfully wasteful. Why not have a multi-hundred billion dollar peace corps instead?

    181 Matt, over 22 years? About 90% reduction is tame via renewables, nuclear pre-heaters, and conservation, and probably not nearly enough to avert catastrophic methane release. With serious commitment, we could do 110% or so. Stuff above 90% gets tough. Log houses are a good idea.

    Comment by RichardC — 28 Sep 2008 @ 5:50 PM

  188. More on Azolla:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Azolla

    “Azolla cannot survive winters with prolonged freezing, so is often grown as an ornamental plant at high latitudes where it cannot establish itself firmly enough to become a weed. It is not tolerant to salinity; normal plants can’t survive in greater than 1-1.6‰, and even conditioned organisms die in over 5.5‰ salinity.”

    So using the Black Sea would take barges to grow the stuff in. Growing in dedicated freshwater ponds would require harvesting, pyrolysizing to biochar and serquestration deep underground. Still, this looks considerably less expensive than doing the same with terrestrial biomass; smaller land use change, lower growing and harvesting costs.

    Comment by David B. Benson — 28 Sep 2008 @ 6:32 PM

  189. Walt, how could you have understood the science without understanding that citing your sources is how science is discussed?

    Please, give evidence you have sources for your statements. Else it sounds like you got enthusiastic then disenchanted without an intervening period of actually reading and discussing the research.

    Please point to specifics from your own reading rather than from the chorus amen section of the blogosphere, for example for:

    > Typically, when some observation does not conform to a highly
    > positive correlation with AGW theory, we are presented with
    > plausible explanations for why that is so.

    Typically would mean say, nine out of ten? Show us ten examples?

    > all of our heroes are behaving as though there is nothing
    > to look for.

    That would be someone who has a research record and quit publishing.
    Who, please?

    Remember, one of the classic ploys in debating is “I used to believe, but now I know better.” Don’t do that.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 28 Sep 2008 @ 7:16 PM

  190. RE # 185 Walt Bennett
    “It is no longer possible to do science for its own sake within the realm of climate science. All science now is viewed through the prism of whether or not it supports AGW.”

    Walt, How on earth did you come up with that conclusion? If you believe that, you clearly don’t understand science or scientists.

    Comment by Chuck Booth — 28 Sep 2008 @ 10:44 PM

  191. #187 Richard…Your avoidance of the addressing the numbers in #181 is telling…and expected. Part of a plan involves setting budgets and devising ways to reach those budgets. Your “plan” is nothing more than “my way or the highway” and minus a complete ban on oil, you’ll never be satisfied. You and others like you are part of the problem. You refuse to work on anything realistic, and instead do your best to sabotage anything else.

    Today’s Prius EPA is 45 MPG HWY. The 2010 Prius will do about 10% better when you don’t count plug in charging. If you count plug in charging, yes you can do 100 MPG. But then it’s getting most of its energy from wall electricity. That’s not a real MPG improvement. If you want to count that, then of course, a zillion miles per gallon is possible is you have a thimble sized fuel tank augmented with 1000 pounds of LiIon batteries. But surely you recognize that’s not a real MPG measurement. Don’t you?

    Please take a stab at the #’s I requested in #181. If you’ve thought about this for even 10 minutes over the last year, then those numbers will take 30 seconds to type. And it will demonstrate to everyone here that you really have a master plan after all.

    Comment by matt — 28 Sep 2008 @ 11:01 PM

  192. #184 Mark: Impossible? You say it but have nothing to back that up.

    Of course I do–what I’m asking you for is an existence proof that bolsters your case. For example, a proper reply to my query, rather than your arm flapping, might have been, “But Matt, today we see Germany is leading the world. Since 1990, they have gone from 3.4% renewable, to 14.4% renewable today. That is 0.64% growth per year is possible when a nation is committed. If really motivated, a more emboldened nation should be able to go even faster and hit 0.8% annual renewable growth. That means in 20 years, that’d be another 16%, which means Germany would be at 32%”

    That’s what I would have expected you to say. See? It shows what is possible today from someone who cares the most, and it shows that with 25% more effort that the world leader could be at 32%.

    That is called an existence proof. I take it your job doesn’t involve a lot of forward-looking analysis. That’s OK. Mine does. We all have different skills.

    Now that you know what I’m talking about, why don’t you again try to walk me through how we take a large nation that is at 5% renewable today, to 40% renewable in 20 years. That’s about 1.75% growth per year. Hint: I can be convinced the super motivated can achieve it, especially as the newer technology comes on line. But once we get settled on this, the question comes up…what about the other 60%? See post #181.

    Comment by matt — 28 Sep 2008 @ 11:21 PM

  193. #185 – AFAIK, pretty much the only linked “evidence” that the blogsphere is excited about is that global temperatures this year won’t hit an all-time record, that (accordingly) ice-loss in the arctic hasn’t either and that no individual year is warmer than 1998. (are there others I missed?) Surely you’re not suggesting that these entirely predictable and modelled natural weather variations are actually evidence that all that peer-reviewed stuff is wrong? It’s ok to always want more science, but I’ve seen nothing peer-reviewed to cast any doubt on the basics – and therefore I have no reason to pay the slightest attention to the blogsphere beyond a general depression at humanity. (incidentally, the UK’s Met Office last week called such talk of global warming stopping, based on their own figures, as “delusional” – see here – http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/research/hadleycentre/news/warming_goes_on.pdf and here – http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2008/sep/23/climatechange.scienceofclimatechange )

    My thought today is, we have all the time we need to not do the wrong thing.

    I can’t follow this logic. It appears to suppose that if we take forever to avoid making a certain decision, that everything will be just peachy. Unless I’ve misunderstood, that is pure head-in-the-sand. Even if you are unsure about AGW, there remains the distinct possibility that business as usual will screw everything up in a matter of years (or even that it is already too late). And – as countless people have pointed out – even in the very unlikely scenario of AGW being completely wrong, a wholesale transition to sustainable energy will have only positive long term consequences anyway.

    I think you need to be a bit more specific about your concerns…

    Comment by Guy — 29 Sep 2008 @ 2:33 AM

  194. Matt, you elicit skepticim over “the truth of AGW” without a returned idea. You are therefore sceptical. But you aren’t sceptical of ideas that deny AGW.

    If skeptic doesn’t mean sceptical, what does it mean? And if you’re not sceptical of all data that comes your way, what makes it not denial of just one position?

    True I don’t know you. But I do know what you’ve written here. If that isn’t you, then learn to write.

    Comment by Mark — 29 Sep 2008 @ 3:11 AM

  195. Matt #191, why? Will you believe the numbers or, if they don’t prove you right, will you demand more proof?

    I posit it will be “demand more”.

    Therefore what’s the point of arguing with someone who doesn’t change their mind?

    Comment by Mark — 29 Sep 2008 @ 3:13 AM

  196. We think the Prius III will reach an official NEFZ rating of 3.6 l/100km which translates to 65 mpg US. Not bad at all but not really a record either. A Smart diesel does 3.3 l/100km. A VW Lupo3L 3.0 l/100km (78 mpg). In comparison to that, a Smart-EL (purely electrically powered vehicle) uses around 15 kW/h per 100km, which means, according to our current energy mix, 88 g CO2/100km while the diesel version produces the same 88 g CO2/100km. But thats just oil and it’ll all be burned anyway sooner or later. The real problems are coal, coal and coal and we can deal with that using nuclear (which we have) and/or renewables (which we dream of and play with but which aren’t about to make a significant difference on a global level for at least another 50 years – if ever).

    Comment by dagobert — 29 Sep 2008 @ 3:23 AM

  197. matt writes:

    We’re talking about energy generation, transmission and distribution with 4 9’s reliability (one hour of down time per year).

    Nuclear reactors and coal-fired power plants do not achieve 0.9999 reliability.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 29 Sep 2008 @ 4:14 AM

  198. walt bennett writes:

    Are we ready to say that nature doesn’t have some potential feedback mechanism to draw down excess CO2?

    It does — the carbonate-silicate cycle. But that takes millions of years to operate.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 29 Sep 2008 @ 4:17 AM

  199. walt bennett writes:

    most of the predictions are based on models, and the models contain in part, parameter driven data that in some cases may even have the wrong sign.

    And if the models are wrong, what makes you think they are wrong in the direction you want? What if they’re predicting milder effects from AGW than will actually happen?

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 29 Sep 2008 @ 4:21 AM

  200. The Azolla event info was quite interesting. However, there is a little problem with the timescales–just to point out the obvious. The citation gave 2 million years as the event duration, whereas the whole problem with AGW is that it is occurring over decadal timescales. We need something at least a couple of orders of magnitude faster, it would seem, if we are interested in practical amelioration strategies.

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 29 Sep 2008 @ 7:24 AM

  201. Walt Bennett, While I sympathize with your disgust at the political, ideological (and consequently nasty) debate we see raging, I think that your perspective is somewhat clouded by the fact that you are observing it from the outside. The thing you have to remember is that there is a concerted effort by powerful interests to hoodwink the public. As with all such anti-science efforts, scientists respond with outrage and with practical efforts (like RC) to educate the public. Yes, these efforts are politicized. Politics is how things get done among people, as evidencedby the word’s very derivation. The contributors to this board do not benefit from their efforts other than by correcting the flood of disinformation being heaped on the public. The mistake you are making is that you are equating the battle between disinformation and education with the science. They are different. If you go to a conference, the scientists are still motivated by trying to understand the mysteries of climate. They are still motivated by curiosity, frustrated by difficulties in undersanding and dedicated to overcoming those difficulties. The debate over the role of CO2 does not rage there because among scientists, that’s known science. The denialists don’t publish. They don’t do science. So, on the one hand we have the sideshow of the debate, which is over the most settled science. In the main ring, though, climate scientists are still doing their jobs as they always have. Some few of those are motivated counter disinformation and engage the forces of anti-science. The majority, however, are no more politicized by this debate than are paleontologists by the storms surrounding the blathering of creationists. Pay more attention to the main event, and you will be better equipped to hold your own in the side show.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 29 Sep 2008 @ 7:31 AM

  202. #192 Matt
    40% in 30 years is, IMHO, impossible or at least wouldn’t be effective. True, we do have 14% here in Germany but even the most optimistic forecasts which are halfway realistic don’t see more than 20% by 2015 and that will require significant alterations to our current grid topology and tripling of our current backup capacity from 2.000MW to almost 7.000MW. The problem with renewables other than biomass is that, unlike conventional power plants, they can’t be run according to requirements and consumption but scale output depending on external factors entirely unrelated to consumption. So unless somebody comes up with a clever new idea to store electricity effectively, renewables need a considerable share of their full capacity as backup and their net contribution will always be compromised by the losses from running conventinal plants far from their sweet spots or by switching to fast reacting backups like gas turbines (and all the problems associated with that). So while renewables are a good idea and should be exploited wherever it makes sense, they won’t save the world unless energy storage is revolutionized real soon. Personally I don’t see how anybody can call for immediate action because of AGW and dismiss nuclear in hope of the electric car and a wind-powered world.

    Comment by dagobert — 29 Sep 2008 @ 7:32 AM

  203. Re: #189

    Hank,

    I used to believe we should have confidence in detailed projections. I now know better.

    Please do not mistake me for a convert to denialism. I asked a straightforward question: what science is being undertaken in an effort to break AGW theory? Are we looking for data which does not conform to theory? Are we following up on odd observations? Is anybody even trying to put together a project to confirm/deny the potential for negative feedbacks to draw down CO2 or lengthen the time before such a drawdown would be necessary?

    I have said all I intend to say on this OT topic, unless and until a member of s science organization takes the time to understand my question and respond. Either such work is being done or it is not. My intent is to glean an answer from somebody who is in a position to know. From the outside looking in, what seems to have happened is that AGW science is now in the process of being used to bolster a political point of view.

    I don’t know how in the world we could see what Dr. Hansen has been doing for the last several years, and not at least ask that question.

    Re: #190

    Chuck,

    It works like this: all of the AGW-related climate science projects seek to find evidence of AGW where they expect to find it. Melting ice, for example. If the ice is melting: AGW! If the ice is not melting: we have an explanation: oscillations or unusual events or actually warming causing cooling, and so forth.

    I believe there is good climate science going on, so let me say that “all” is too strong a word. What I really mean is: all climate science is viewed through the AGW prism anymore. The science becomes politicized as soon as it is published. How this affects what projects are chosen and funded, how they are carried out, and how their conclusions are framed, are all legitimate questions in such an atmosphere.

    More to the point: my outside-in observation is that we are now in a headlong rush to “prove” the case. My concern is that this is not “what science is all about.” In fact, it’s the opposite of what science is all about.

    Just look at how many posts here in RC deal with the ongoing effort to “prove” that data falls into one of two categories: (1) it supports AGW theory; (2) it does not (yet) reveal how it supports AGW theory, and here’s why.

    This has got to be the most perfect theory ever, to be treated with such certainty. I remind you that I do not challenge basic AGW theory. I am merely asking a question: have we attached hypotheses and suppositions to the theory when the evidence for them is not strong enough to rise to that level?

    Re: #193
    My concerns are simple: if we are in a headlong rush to prove a scientific scenario in order to justify broadly disruptive political acts, we are increasing the likelihood that we will miss something that will change everything.

    I was specific: nailing down sensitivity and searching for potential negative feedbacks. If we are wrong by even a little on either of those, if could make all the difference. Did you see me say “stop planning! Stop projecting!” No. We must always plan and project. But answer me this: what purpose do we serve if we do not at the same time constantly challenge those projections? It sure would suck if we spent all that time and money planning for an outcome that was never actually going to happen. We may even miss a chance to plan for another outcome that may be of more potential harm. Point being: we don’t know what we don’t know. We have to remain vigilant and open minded. We don’t know this planet near as well as many, many, many people seem to think we do.

    Re: #194
    If that was meant for me: I raise my hand as being a skeptic, as you point out, of all information. I accept nothing, certainly not anymore, until I’ve studied it. I’ve learned the hard way that a lot of things get said with nothing much to back them up. That happens, if you will allow the term, on both sides.

    You evidently have not read much of what I’ve written in the past. That was my point. You don’t seem to have the understanding that Hank, for example, has, that I have been a warmist all along and I am still a warmist. I’m the annoying warmist who asks the questions that piss off everybody else.

    Re: #198
    Bart,

    Thanks for making my point that we have a tendency to think we are done asking questions.

    Re: #199
    Bart,

    The way you phrased that question indicates that you missed my point entirely. Perhaps you could read my posts again and gain a better understanding.

    Comment by Walt Bennett — 29 Sep 2008 @ 7:33 AM

  204. Guy (193) et al, it will likely prove insignificant (I guess) but the fact that 1998 was the warmest in 10 years deserves more than the equivalent of brushing off a gnat. Doing things like that (including actually denying it) has raised reasonable criticism before. Just an observation.

    Comment by Rod B — 29 Sep 2008 @ 8:57 AM

  205. Rod B, #204, have you ever heard of the difference between weather and climate? 1998 was an El Nino year and 2007 was a La Nina year – that’s weather, not climate.

    Also have no never heard of linear regression and trend analysis? One does not ever measure any trend in any field of study by drawing a straight line between two points in a graph containing many peaks and troughs; that measures noise, not trends. One has to use trend analysis to measure trends, and if one does so, one finds that the trend is still warming.

    Finally, some measurements show 2005 to have been hotter than 1998 in any case.

    I’m not sure whether you’re uninformed or just disingenious?

    Dave

    Comment by Dave Rado — 29 Sep 2008 @ 10:51 AM

  206. Re: #@01

    Ray,

    Please do not misunderstand. I am not, as you characterize me, “disgust(ed) at the political, ideological (and consequently nasty) debate we see raging”. Not at all. As I said, I can and do easily dismiss most denialist rebuttals to AGW. I have gotten pretty good at spotting junk, and when I’m not sure, I have reliable sources to help me sort it out.

    You say there is good science going on behind the scenes. By definition, that would be skeptical science. I am asking the question: examples, please? What have we encountered recently which might cause us to adjust climate sensitivity; to challenge the veracity of models versus observation; to explore potential negative feedbacks?

    Just some examples of robust science which is not agenda driven to “prove” AGW.

    Just a couple, is all. I’m really looking for evidence of a certain point of view.

    The discourse to this point serves to prove my original point: it’s increasingly difficult to even ask these questions.

    Dr. Hansen, perhaps the country’s if not the world’s pre-eminent climate scientist, has spent the last two years pushing an agenda. Specifically: no more dirty coal plants. He must know the social impact of such an idea. He must realize what he is saying.

    Who wouldn’t be tempted to draw the conclusion that we know all we need to know about the dire consequences which will ensue if we do not follow Dr. Hansen’s advice?

    How can such a situation not influence those who practice the science, who respect and admire Dr. Hansen? Who wouldn’t want to be the one to conduct the experiment or record the observation that helps him make his case?

    All I see around me lately are exactly such efforts. Consciously or not, climate science seems to be moving in lock step to “prove” AGW. My very legitimate question remains: how hard are we trying to break it?

    It’s not the politicizing of the debate that concerns me. What debate isn’t political in some way? Rather, it’s the perception I am developing, that the science itself has become politicized, about which I express my curious concern.

    I am still “on the reservation.” I still believe “CO2 = bad” when it comes to destabilizing climate. What I want to know is that this hasn’t been elevated to a legend, where we simply accept it and do not question it. It seems to me that often along the course of human history, we become certain of something we are completely wrong about.

    To me, science and certainty are not supposed to be too closely related. Is that the state of climate science today? My eyes have me wondering.

    So, perhaps counter-intuitively, I’d be more inclined to believe the dire projections if we occasionally announced that we had lowered sensitivity or discovered new negative feedbacks, injected them into the models and come up with a new scenario. When we seem to be on a one way track, the question comes, to my mind at least: have we narrowed our focus? From a science perspective, that would strike me as a very dangerous portent.

    Comment by Walt Bennett — 29 Sep 2008 @ 10:57 AM

  207. #195 Mark Will you believe the numbers or, if they don’t prove you right, will you demand more proof?

    If you are going to cite numbers from a government agency, then of course I cannot demand more proof and I’ll accept them as they are. I think Germany leads here, and they won’t hit 40%. In any case, we will take that number and move to step 2, which is to figure out how much we must reduce consider India and China are coming on line, and what will provide the remainder of the needed energy. As I’ve noted before, you know where I’m going: 90-95%, and nuclear. There’s no trap here. It’s just getting you to ack reality.

    Seriously, you’ve typed an amazing number of words instead of answering the simplest question for a progressive energy thinker. And that is: What credible % of the world’s energy can come from renewables in 20 years????

    If you can’t or won’t answer that, then I’m done.

    Comment by matt — 29 Sep 2008 @ 11:13 AM

  208. #202 dagobert: 40% in 30 years is, IMHO, impossible or at least wouldn’t be effective. True, we do have 14% here in Germany but even the most optimistic forecasts which are halfway realistic don’t see more than 20% by 2015 and that will require significant alterations to our current grid topology and tripling of our current backup capacity from 2.000MW to almost 7.000MW.

    I agree with you. Unfortunate, there is a group that will not support nuclear, and will not tolerate continued CO2 emissions. They think this position will force the world to renewables. As you note, this isn’t realistic. And unfortunately, by adding fuel to the anti-nuclear fire, and by touting and endless array of unproven renewable sources of energy, they give the perception to many other like-minded invidiauls that it’s indeed possible to dramatically reduce CO2 without nuclear.

    The end result is decision making paralysis by our leaders, and once decision stop being made, the status quo (coal + oil) is forced to GROW otherwise we face outages.

    I think the most sound approach right now is to put a plan into place to get to a non-trivial % of renewables in 20-30-40 years, build nuclear like crazy right now, and we we learn more about renewables, target the phase-out of nuclear. Germany is quite sane in that regard.

    On the transportation side, the world consumes 20-30B of oil per year, or 475B gallons of gasoline a year. A $0.01/gallon tax would generate about $5B/year for a world-wide staged XPrize type award for key innovations and breakthroughs. Job #1 should be batteries or other energy storage.

    Comment by matt — 29 Sep 2008 @ 11:28 AM

  209. #197 BPL: Nuclear reactors and coal-fired power plants do not achieve 0.9999 reliability.

    Indiviually of course not. Collectively they do. We had a major wind storm in the PacNW a few years back, and we had no power for 8 days. So, it’ll be a long, long time before we see 4 9′s again.

    My point was this: too often people look at the peak output of a wind turbine and figure it does that 24x7x365. It doesn’t come close. To achieve a useful constant supply, an enormous amount of redundancy is required to get the nameplate rating…40 or 60X in some cases when you look over an entire year.

    Comment by matt — 29 Sep 2008 @ 11:39 AM

  210. #208 matt
    I don’t think “sane” is the right word. They are phasing out nuclear und replace it with coal. After the next elections next year this may change but right now it looks very much like a “no-nuke-no-co2″ catch 22. We are of course closer to Tchernobyl than you are, but that’s true for the UK and France, too. And they keep running nukes.

    Comment by dagobert — 29 Sep 2008 @ 11:42 AM

  211. Walt, First, if you look at any theory, there will be some propositions that are relatively more certain than others. In climate science, one of the least uncertain propositions is the sensitivity of CO2. It pretty much has to lie between 2 and 4.5 degrees per doubling of CO2. That’s something we really can’t break without breaking all of climate science–and since climate science has proven pretty reliable, what purpose would that serve? Climate science is a pretty mature science, and in mature sciences most progress takes place gradually rather than by “breaking” the models that work.

    The antrhopogenic causation of current warming follows pretty much directly from that–unless, there is some magical effect that limits the effect of CO2 above 280 ppmv. If you buy that more CO2 means more warming, then you have to start asking what sorts of effects that could have. Now here things are more uncertain–even the question of how to proceed is uncertain. Do we require demonstration of great risk or do we proceed cautiosly and try to limit risk while we try to better understand it.

    You seem to be arguing that there is a confirmation bias in climate science. I think you are wrong. Overturning the current theory would be the key to fame and glory for any scientist who managed to do it. What you are responding to is the fact that the current threat is predicated on very well established science.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 29 Sep 2008 @ 12:13 PM

  212. You have said that the changes can’t be done.

    How about you put those figures of yours in there first and how you came about them?

    PS you’ve never accepted figures in the past (except by saying “those aren’t the figures I’m interested” which is kind of accepting them but immediately dismissing them).

    Comment by Mark — 29 Sep 2008 @ 12:19 PM

  213. 191 – Matt, I summed 181′s numbers. You’re looking for a breakdown? Sure.
    1) What % of alt energy (marginal CO2 emissions) is possible in 2030

    By using the military budget to build wind power and a backbone to deliver it, about 90%. Wind is $3 a watt at current production levels (assuming 30% capacity factor – wind doesn’t always blow) . 20 years would be plenty to replace our electric grid and most other power needs with wind.

    2) What % of savings can we achieve through conservation

    Amory Lovins says getting rid of most energy use at a negative cost is easy. He’s the best environmental economist around. I’ll conservatively say we can save 66%. Combine the two factors – 90% of supply with wind and 33% new need, and it’s patently obvious that using any fossil fuel is stupid at best, suicidal at worst.

    3) What % do you believe we need to cut our CO2 to avert AGW assuming RoW comes on line and wants to produce at our current rates

    120% or so. We have to get back to 300 ppm pronto. Thanks for letting me assume the rest of the world will also reduce CO2 emissions by 120%. Again, that’s doable. The USA is the only country that can initiate the military –> energy conversion.

    4) What do you propose to generate the remainder of the needed energy you noted in 1)

    Uh, we have plenty of excess power, given Amory’s stuff and wind. There is no more needed so this question is baseless. We just need the willpower to realize that marching tin soldiers isn’t as important as saving the planet. Remember “One Tin Soldier?”

    Your bit about the Prius is off. Toyota’s reported target with the third-generation Prius is 94 mpg with the Japanese cycle without plug-in. Yep, if one tunes the car differently, one gets different results. Since it is doable and a current technology, I’d say it is a valid measure. Comparing the Smart “car” to the Prius is almost as bad as comparing a motorcyle to a full-size car.

    192 – Matt, there is no country on the planet that is dedicated to renewables. $1 a watt for wind is a simple fact ($3 given 1/3 capacity factor), and the available funds can replace the USA’s electrical grid with wind in 20 years. Your argument seems to boil down to, “Since nobody has gotten serious about reducing CO2 emissions, it’s impossible to reduce CO2 emissions.”

    193 Guy, not true on sea ice. The Arctic ice has hit a new record low in volume. Extent is only two of three dimensions. As I posted before, the volume is far lower in 2008 than 2007. Here’s the link again: http://nsidc.org/images/arcticseaicenews/20080924_Figure3.jpg

    209 Matt, that’s the beauty of wind. Reliability of essentially 100% is guaranteed because each generator is stand-alone. The backbone needed to deliver it across different wind-belts is all that lacks.

    Comment by RichardC — 29 Sep 2008 @ 12:39 PM

  214. A few calculations show that increasing our fuel economy standards will pay big dividends in reducing foreign oil imports.

    If the average mileage of cars and SUVs in the US is about 22 miles/gallon and the average car travels 12,000 miles/year, then
    the average vehicle uses 12,000/22~ 545 gallons/year. If the US fleet consists of about 180 million cars and SUVs,
    then, 180 million x545=~98,180 million gallons per year or (dividing by 365 and 42gals/barrel) gives us 6.4 million
    barrels per day/(mbd) used by cars and SUVs.

    .If we were to double our mileage to 44 mpg then, 12000/(44)x180/(365×42)=3.2 million barrels/day consumed. The savings on imports amounts to 3.2 mbd. If we’re currently importing about 12 million barrels per day, then the percentage is
    3.2/12 ~ 27 %. Well worth achieving.

    If we go further and raise our average to 50 mpg then the average use per vehicle would be 12,000/50~ 240 gallons/year.
    Then following the same procedure we’d consume 240x 180 million /(365×42)=~2.8 million barrels per day.

    The difference of how much lesss oil we’d have to import is 3.6 millions barrels per day. In this case we’d cut our imports by 3.6/12 =.3 or 30 percent! This would make us a lot less dependent
    on the Persian Gulf Emirates.

    Comment by Lawrence Brown — 29 Sep 2008 @ 1:28 PM

  215. #213 RichardC
    “Comparing the Smart “car” to the Prius is almost as bad as comparing a motorcyle to a full-size car.”
    Yes, that’s true. I only braught it up to set the Prius claim into perspective. 94 mpg is 2.5 l/100km and the Prius will not come even close to that with any cycle but the Japanese one. We can bet if you like, but I think my 3.6 l/100km will be very close even with EPA rating. I don’t really know what to say about the rest of your post. If you really suggest the US should convert most of their defense budget to an environmental marshall plan, I’m all for it. If you suggest this is realistic, I’d ask you to get real.
    As far as wind power is concerned, you may want to take a look at this:
    http://www.dena.de/fileadmin/user_upload/Download/Dokumente/Projekte/kraftwerke_netze/netzstudie1/dena-grid_study_summary.pdf
    It must be said that this is a very optimistic study that did lead to a lot of criticism because of that and I’m afraid the English version is just a summary – but you may get an idea about how difficult it is to create a grid powered by renewables even to just a fifth of its capacity – let alone 100%. It may be possible some time far in the future but I thought we need CO2 reduction now and not when dreams come true.

    Comment by dagobert — 29 Sep 2008 @ 1:49 PM

  216. > I’d be more inclined to believe

    Walt, you really went from disbelief to belief, and you should have stopped with the science instead.

    Why come here wishing aloud as though there weren’t good science being done, when you can look it up for yourself and find out you’re wrong?

    You’d be a lot happier if you used the search tools, read some journal articles, and checked footnotes and references. Instead you seem to have fallen for the bogus claims from the PR sites and been fooled.

    Here, take the words directly from your long posting above.
    Put them into Google Scholar.

    Mind you this is not the only information, it’s just an example to encourage you to look for yourself, instead of declaiming you need help to “believe” something that you can find out for yourself:

    http://scholar.google.com/scholar?q=%2Bclimate+%2B%22new+negative+feedback%22

    Example — just one example — the first hit from the search:

    … Greenland and Labrador seas during 1901–1984 and their relation to an interdecadal Arctic climate …
    LA Mysak, DK Manak, RF Marsden – Climate Dynamics, 1990 – Springer
    … occurred in the 1960s are described in relation to the GSA, and a new negative feedback loop that could sustain interdecadal Arctic climate oscillations …
    Cited by 127

    Read the citing papers:
    http://scholar.google.com/scholar?num=50&hl=en&lr=&newwindow=1&safe=off&cites=6268946343494449570

    There’s plenty more there. When you come here parroting stuff from the PR sites claiming there’s no scientific work going on yaddayadda, — when it’s so easy to falsify that claim — you’re acting like you forgot to learn how science is done. Don’t “believe” — look.

    Try it. It’s enlightening. Look stuff up. Ask good questions. Search.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 29 Sep 2008 @ 2:47 PM

  217. Kevin McKinney (200) — We need to sequester 10–12 GtC per year until the CO2 concentration is sufficiently small. The carbon could come from tresstrial biomass or from Azolla; perhaps sequestering CO2 via some form of CCS will prove economic.

    The main point, however, is that we need to start now. This is a large scale project!

    Comment by David B. Benson — 29 Sep 2008 @ 2:54 PM

  218. At the rate we are slowing down, the United States could be in compliance with Kyoto by Christmas.

    The Republican shepherds of the economy have just had their way with the sheep.

    Comment by JCH — 29 Sep 2008 @ 3:03 PM

  219. If you have 6 people going to the same place, do they take a compact and a prius (4+2.2 = 6.2 gal/100) or one hybrid SUV (5.6 gal/100)

    Comment by Will — 29 Sep 2008 @ 4:17 PM

  220. #209 (Matt) Back up capacity of wind turbines

    There are always fluctuations in electricity consumption in the grid, even if there are no wind turbines at all. So you need back up capacity in any case.

    Roughly speaking 20% wind power can be added to a grid without additional back up (example: Denmark). For higher wind penetration there is a cost in extra back up, estimated to be USD 0.02 per kWh. This number is small because output of wind turbines is not perfectly correlated i.e. the probability that ALL wind turbines produce nothing simultaneously is low. In extreme cases you can also solve the problem by being clever, say by combining with hydro power.

    Note by the way that even if you needed 100% backup, you would still save tonnes of fuel (and CO2) whenever you used wind power.

    Comment by Dick Veldkamp — 29 Sep 2008 @ 4:51 PM

  221. #206 – Walt, I have no problems with awkward questions. I’m just not sure I find your questions awkward! Take “looking for negative feedbacks”. Someone correct me if I am wrong, please, but I’d be staggered if climate scientists are scouring the earth “looking” for positive feedbacks, and not bothering to consider negative ones. That doesn’t sound much like science to me. How I kind of assume it works is that they are looking at everything that might affect climate one way or the other – clouds, methane releases, solar oscillations… everything. Some of these processes are positve, some negative. Why do you have the view that scientists are only “looking” for positive ones?

    I’m similarly baffled by your assumptions re James Hansen. It seems (unless I misunderstand) that you think he is on a political crusade to be political. You don’t seem to entertain the notion of the basic, logical scientific case he makes, which necessetates a political response – the basic numbers say that coal must be phased out in order to get emissions down. Period. Is there a serious scientific challenge to his science… the numbers? No. I see a lot of reticence to follow in his political footsteps by other scientists, but I’ve not read any real attempt to question the actual science.

    Otherwise, what Ray said in #201!

    Comment by Guy — 29 Sep 2008 @ 5:03 PM

  222. Re. Will, #219, that logic might work for a hire car (although even then you could hire a far more fuel efficient 6-seater than an SUV), but it doesn’t work when making purchasing decisions, unless the vast majority of the trips you make are carrying 6 passengers.

    Dave

    Comment by Dave Rado — 29 Sep 2008 @ 5:10 PM

  223. Ray (210), your characterization and description of climate scientists at work hardly presented a rebuttal to Walt’s accusation. That they are excitedly scurrying around trying to hone the details and fill in some blanks is a non sequitur to Walt’s charge.

    Comment by Rod B — 29 Sep 2008 @ 5:32 PM

  224. Dave (205) says, “…1998 was an El Nino year and 2007 was a La Nina year – that’s weather, not climate.” Good gnat swat.

    Dave also says, “…have [you] never heard of linear regression and trend analysis?” Yes, ad nauseam in “Once More Into The Bray” of July in RC. It was much more than a gnat swat and thrown under the bus for the period being discussed as being downright embarrassing. But I offer this as a gentle observation only. NO BODY wants to resurrect that tar baby.

    Comment by Rod B — 29 Sep 2008 @ 5:52 PM

  225. I don’t get it. I’ve read these postings, in some cases reread them, and have concluded that those who claim that this reduction in CO2 or that reduction cannot be accomplished within 20 years or 50 years, or whatever…those people are unaware of some reasonable ideas out there that directly refute their claims. Or at least bring their claims into question.

    For example, here is a link to a 4-year-old article on “stabilization wedges” by Socolow and Pacala. They describe a wide variety of strategies for keeping our CO2 emissions at the current level, or lowering them, using current technologies. If people are going to say it can’t be done, they tell us why S and P’s approach is not possible. We might not have the will, very possibly don’t, but that is a different claim than saying that it cannot be done.

    A second example is strategies found in the second highest-rate site on GW (after this one) found at http://www.climateprogress.com by Joe Romm. Joe thinks we can do it without nuclear and certainly nuclear is an expensive option, probably an unacceptable one to utilities without federal guarantees.

    Anyone who wants to discuss future energy options should know what these guys are proposing. Many of the claims in this thread are belied by what Socolow, Pacala and Romm have shown it feasible. Again, we might not have the will, but we certainly won’t if we don’t even know the possibilities…and we certainly won’t if we maintain it cannot be done when it can. There seems to be a lot of reinventing the wheel going on here.

    Comment by Larry Coleman — 29 Sep 2008 @ 10:23 PM

  226. #213 RichardC: ..various comments…

    Alas, you’ve tried with some numbers, so let’s see where we go.

    Current installation costs on wind is about $1500/KW of NAMEPLATE rating. The 1/3 factor you cite drives that cost up by 3X. But that 1/3 factor is even further derated when you consider reliability (see Archer and Jacobson, “Supplying baseload power…”, Nov 2007)

    The demand in the US will be around 4.5T KWH in 2020. Using your 1/3 figure, you will typically see 50% of the time the generator is generating more than 1/3 the nameplate, and the other 50% of the time, it’s generating less. To get wind power with 92% reliability, about that of a coal plant, you are typically at 1/12 of nameplate rating if you can interconnect a large number of sites together. The cited article looked at 19. The chart is Figure 3. So, sharpening the numbers a bit more, 1TW of nameplate * 0.12 * 0.92 * 24 * 365 / 1000 = 967B KWH. For the 4.5T KWH, we’d need 4.7TW of nameplate. At $1500/KW, that’s $7T. Not including thousands of miles of copper and easement rights to wire it all together.

    Quick check: The US military budget is $500B for 2009. Assuming we could spend ½ that instead of that on wind, it’d take 28 years of military budget to pay for wind. You are close on that.

    Next is the logistics. I won’t go into detail there. Read “High Wind Penetration Impact on US Wind Manufacturing Capacity and Critical Resources” by Laxson et all at NREL. They outline a plan, based on increases in manufacturing and raw material production, to get our wind generation to 20% by 2030. Surprise, but fiberglass, copper and rare earth magnets are a challenge. Not insurmountable at a 20% target. But potentially marketing upsetting (meaning none of the above economics hold) if the US + EU is aiming for 100% in 20 years. We’ve seen cost of wind go up since 2005 based on copper prices alone.

    Summary: you are alone in thinking we’ll have appreciable (>50%) wind power in 20 years. We could have a lot. But there are limits to what can practically be achieved. Taking a chunk of the military budget and assuming we’ll use it to pay for wind installation is arbitrary. Why not take welfare or medicare or education? Sure, the cost of a military is wasted if you don’t use it, but if you need it and don’t have it…

    You and Amory believe we can reduce our consumption by 66%. Wonderful. Do you have anything else? I’ll take this to mean you don’t have a proof point here. Historically humans have done a % or two per year, for a few years, and then they’ve crept back up into positive territory.

    Given the materials challenges on 100% wind, and the sheer logistics challenge of building 600,000 200 ton windmills….and combine that with the unprecendented conservation effort that requires substantial pains over 20 years to achieve…this just isn’t going to happen. You absolutely see no value in nuclear?

    PS. Is your assertion that the 2010 Prius will get 100/45 = 2.2 times better than the 2009 Prius, which gets EPA 45 MPG HWY? Won’t happen. Things don’t improve that fast.

    Comment by matt — 29 Sep 2008 @ 11:42 PM

  227. matt #226, I see you’re doing the “these aren’t the figures I wanted” speil.

    Where are your figures to prove your assertion (remember that 30 years ago 6 computers were considered the total world market for computers. How many we got?)

    Comment by Mark — 30 Sep 2008 @ 2:48 AM

  228. Will #219

    And do you take your wife and kids (and do you HAVE four kids?) to work each day? Or are you driving to work in a six seater on your tod?

    Comment by Mark — 30 Sep 2008 @ 2:52 AM

  229. dagobert writes:

    renewables (which we dream of and play with but which aren’t about to make a significant difference on a global level for at least another 50 years – if ever).

    Sez you. They’re already making a dramatic difference in some countries, like Denmark and Germany. And the “if ever” comment is especially dumb. You think a hundred years from now nobody will know how to make cheap photovoltaic cells? I think that will only be true if civilization collapses.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 30 Sep 2008 @ 3:40 AM

  230. dagobert writes:

    renewables need a considerable share of their full capacity as backup and their net contribution will always be compromised by the losses from running conventinal plants far from their sweet spots or by switching to fast reacting backups like gas turbines (and all the problems associated with that).

    Always???

    If we build energy storage systems in large quantities that will bring down the price through economies of scale. Some government has to step in and subsidize building such facilities. There are a thousand ways to store energy, and any one of them will become practical when we start mass-producing them — flywheels, compressed air, pumping water uphill, storage batteries, etc. Some solar thermal plants achieve nearly 24/7 operation because they store excess heat in molten salts and use it to power the turbines at night and in bad weather. And of course, when the sun isn’t shining, you’re likely to have more wind, and vice versa.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 30 Sep 2008 @ 3:45 AM

  231. walt bennett #203

    Look, I hate to tell you this, but there’s little research going on to disprove AGW for the same reason that there’s little research going on to disprove relativity or evolution. Once something is that well established, people don’t usually waste time reinventing the wheel. The fact that you don’t understand this says more about you than about the allegedly politicized science.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 30 Sep 2008 @ 3:47 AM

  232. matt writes:

    Using your 1/3 figure, you will typically see 50% of the time the generator is generating more than 1/3 the nameplate, and the other 50% of the time, it’s generating less.

    You’re assuming the median is the same as the mean. Note that wind power production is proportionate to the cube of velocity, not velocity:

    http://www.awea.org/faq/windpower.html

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 30 Sep 2008 @ 4:01 AM

  233. #229, Barton Paul Levenson
    “They’re already making a dramatic difference in some countries, like Denmark and Germany. And the “if ever” comment is especially dumb. You think a hundred years from now nobody will know how to make cheap photovoltaic cells? I think that will only be true if civilization collapses.”
    Depends on what you call ‘dramatic’. Our (German) carbon footprint per person far outweighs that of our French neighbors. True, we do have a lot more industry but at the end of the day it comes down to France using much more nuclear than we do. Our 14% renewables with an optimistic outlook at 20% don’t help when you introduce new gas and coal plants to back it all up.
    I agree that in 100 years, we will probably have really cheap and highly effective solar cells. But in 100 years we’ll also have energy consumption during the night, we’ll have the need to distribute energy and we would have the need to store it. I also agree that my ‘if ever’ statement was dumb. I take it back. However my main point remains: if we need to act now, nuclear is the way. And in the future (when all these cheap solar cells are on the market and we found a revolutionary way to store energy effectively), all these wonderful achievements will have to compete with fusion und new types of reactors. CO2 neutral energy will be possible either way in the future but the fastest way to significant reduction will be something already proven, something that doesn’t require new grid-topologies and something that doesn’t require storing energy.

    Comment by dagobert — 30 Sep 2008 @ 7:01 AM

  234. It occurs to me that a principle stated by a Guy Gavriel Kay character is has become relevant to the debate on how we cope with our energy dilemma today. The principle is that when there are limited possibilities for paths to survival, it is adaptive to presume that those pathways are possible.

    Specifically:

    –It is possible to materially improve our outcomes vis a vis climate by:
    *increased deployment of renewables
    *judicious use of nuclear power (which, IMO, would require more attention to the long-term storage issue)
    *conservation (which would require commitment and education, as well as better incentive structures)

    Vigorous pursuit of all of the above is essential, and the “counsels of despair” don’t help this.

    Realistically, the question of *which* mix of these and other tactics is best is of course important, but this is most likely to be emergent, not predicatable a priori. (Just as the Manhatten project pursued multiple technologies for concentration of U235–it was essential to succeed, and unknowable a priori which method would work.)

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 30 Sep 2008 @ 7:51 AM

  235. Barton Paul Levenson #230:

    There are a thousand ways to store energy

    And then there’s number 1001: transport energy over large distances using high voltage direct current. 3% loss over 1000 km — which happens to be the synoptic scale of weather systems, and a few times that is what separates the population concentrations in Europe and North America from their future desert areas. And you can bury the cables or put them underseas. And if the copper runs out, use alumin(i)um…

    Comment by Martin Vermeer — 30 Sep 2008 @ 8:14 AM

  236. Re: #211
    Ray,

    You write “climate science is a pretty mature science”. I would grant you that proposition if you would grant me the proposition that AGW science is in its relative infancy, especially in consideration of the fact that we haven’t seen this before.

    You write “unless, there is some magical effect that limits the effect of CO2 above 280 ppmv”. Why does it have to be magical? It could simply be “unknown at this time.”

    You write: “Do we require demonstration of great risk or do we proceed cautiosly and try to limit risk while we try to better understand it.” I am all for proceeding cautiously.

    You write “You seem to be arguing that there is a confirmation bias in climate science.” No, I am beginning to sense a confirmation bias in AGW science. It’s a natural enough reaction to, for example, the complete disgust with which most of the skeptic community greets another Mann study. Who wouldn’t get defensive?

    You write: “What you are responding to is the fact that the current threat is predicated on very well established science.” Please define “current threat”, and then please describe how the science underpinning that threat is “well established.” In what year did it become well established? When did it cross that threshold?

    Re: #216
    Hank,

    You write: “Walt, you really went from disbelief to belief, and you should have stopped with the science instead” and then go on to imply repeatedly that my position is “belief-based”, akin to “faith-based”. and so I must retract the comment that I made, that you remember me from before.

    My initial position was belief-based. I liked Al Gore! He seemed quite earnest and well informed. I came to really like Dr. Hansen. He’s been at this most of his life! It’s his dedicated passion! I was all about belief when I started. I have evolved. I thought you knew that about me.

    I do in fact read and study and compare conclusions. That’s why I have this current view that there is in fact, to borrow Ray’s term, a confirmation bias in AGW today. How about this unscientific observation: not a single one of you has even accepted my premise long enough to discuss. You dismiss, out of hand, that AGW science could have a confirmation bias. Well, what makes you so sure? You cited a study and a list of search returns. I would ask you: what recent study are you aware of which has affected IPCC projections (or NASA, Hadley or NOAA projections) regarding time lines? Is the policy locked in while the science is not? What’s your impression?

    Re: #221
    Guy,

    I agree with you in general. There is no bias within science projects themselves. My concern is more that a bias exists within science organizations, which is then passed on to policy makers and the public. AGW Science is trying very hard these days to “get in the game” with regard to social policy.

    As you may or may not know, I consider Dr. Hansen to be a modern day hero. I almost always trust what he says. But the simple fact that he carries such stature, creates a ripple effect. When he talks, the climate science community perks its ears. To whatever extent there is a tendency, today, to look for confirmation, it can only be made stronger in the wake of Dr. Hansen’s agendized public stance. In other words, now more than ever it seems that AGW science is attempting to directly infulence public policy. How can that not lead to questions regarding bias?

    Re: #231
    Bart,

    You write: “Look, I hate to tell you this, but there’s little research going on to disprove AGW for the same reason that there’s little research going on to disprove relativity or evolution. Once something is that well established, people don’t usually waste time reinventing the wheel. The fact that you don’t understand this says more about you than about the allegedly politicized science.”

    You simultaneously missed and made my point. Thanks again.

    Comment by Walt Bennett — 30 Sep 2008 @ 9:06 AM

  237. Just as an aside, it is continually frustrating to attempt to do actual research and keep running into subscription walls. I do not understand how the results of publicly funded research can be withheld unless I pony up some cash.

    I was researching Walker, Hays, Kastings (1981) A NEGATIVE FEEDBACK MECHANISM FOR THE LONG-TERM STABILIZATION OF EARTH’S SURFACE TEMPERATURE, to see who has cited it and in what context, and I simply cannot get at most of those cites.

    By the way, Dr. Hansen seems to never have cited this paper.

    Comment by Walt Bennett — 30 Sep 2008 @ 9:42 AM

  238. What you didn’t mention is the cost to the family who is going to get a horrible trade in value on their SUV, which then raises the cost of to the family…while they take out extra to cover that Prius, thus costing the difference or more in what they WOULD have paid for in gas.

    While I’d love to trade my SUV in for a more fuel efficient vehicle, I can’t afford this extra expense. I’ll just pay that $10 more at the pump, and try to drive less.

    Comment by Deb — 30 Sep 2008 @ 10:07 AM

  239. Mark (227), you have to go back at least 60 years to find the 6 computer forecast.

    Comment by Rod B — 30 Sep 2008 @ 10:12 AM

  240. #227 Mark: I see you’re doing the “these aren’t the figures I wanted” speil.

    Where are your figures to prove your assertion (remember that 30 years ago 6 computers were considered the total world market for computers. How many we got?)

    No, I’m asking you to provide a reliable agency with some level of responsibility that agrees with you. No more, no less.

    And great read (cited above) about the challenges of broadly deploying wind: http://www.nrel.gov/docs/fy07osti/40482.pdf

    That paper, combined with the Archer paper I cited, and the widely available cost data (pick your source), allows you to recreate my numbers if you wish.
    Read it, and afterwards if you really believe 100% in 20 years is possible, then there’s no more to discuss I guess. But if you come to the conclusion that less than 50% is probable in 20 years, then what do you want to backfill that with? Business-as-usual (coal, etc) or nuclear?

    Side note: A commercial that has been running on US TV is “We Demand 100% Renewable Energy In 10 Years.” This is from an Al Gore group. I can’t begin to stress how counterproductive these types of ads are, because they give everyone the impression it’s indeed possible but that an evil force is preventing it. Shame.

    Comment by matt — 30 Sep 2008 @ 11:33 AM

  241. #233 dagobert: However my main point remains: if we need to act now, nuclear is the way. And in the future (when all these cheap solar cells are on the market and we found a revolutionary way to store energy effectively), all these wonderful achievements will have to compete with fusion und new types of reactors. CO2 neutral energy will be possible either way in the future but the fastest way to significant reduction will be something already proven, something that doesn’t require new grid-topologies and something that doesn’t require storing energy.

    100% agree and well put. If you care about CO2 reduction TODAY, nuclear is surest and quickest path out.

    Comment by matt — 30 Sep 2008 @ 11:37 AM

  242. re: 241

    ‘cept it takes 10 years to make one.

    Hardly “today” is it.

    Comment by Mark — 30 Sep 2008 @ 12:26 PM

  243. Rod, 239. Maybe. Thought it was about the time of the start of the Apple Mac.

    What power of computer did we have on the desktop 20 years ago? IBM/AT? 30kflops? 200kflops?

    What we got on our desk today?

    2Gflops? 3Gflops?

    10,000 fold increase in 20 years.

    Comment by Mark — 30 Sep 2008 @ 12:28 PM

  244. 215 dagobert – I agree that there is little chance for the new Prius to be tuned as it is in Japan, nor much hope that the US military budget will be used to fight the real enemy – climate change. But back to fantasy… (I’ll use Matt’s excellent post as a sounding board)

    226 Matt, I get $1 a watt, a bit lower than your figure, and assuming large-scale construction, it should drop to $0.80 or so. Just a guess, and you’re right, costs can go up instead due to supply constraints and profiteering too.

    Your US military budget is way off. It doesn’t include the DOE military spending nor the three wars going on. Wiki says $900 billion, not counting depreciation of equipment nor future costs of keeping all those brain-damaged limbless kids fed and housed and prostheticized (Prosthetics are getting wicked cool and $expensive$) for sixty years each. As to half the military budget, no way, I’m assuming 90%. That’s $810 billion a year. Keep all the personnel, just change the mission to fighting climate change and dependence on foreign fuel. So kids still get the military experience and all the good things about the military stick around. Can’t Patriotism be used for building stuff?

    No, I used wind as an example (sorry for not making that clear). I’d say Solar thermal, Solar PV, wind, etc etc. As Barton said, Wind and Solar make a grand Tag-team.

    The power plant of the future has a nuclear front end. A HUGE box with TREMENDOUS thermal mass that has a safe multi-stage meltdown process – Seeds melt, reducing power drastically with no damage (just re-seed), main body partially melts with no damage, reducing power (again, reseed) – depleted uranium liner partially melts, killing process with minimal damage – Steel and concrete outer box remains intact. (Normally, just reseed; could have piping damage or whatnot, so box could need rebuilding) No controls are needed because it uses decline in temperature with increased load instead of control rods to reduce power at decreased load. The thermal mass keeps the temps from dropping (or rising) too rapidly. Totally opposite of the way it’s done now. The reason it works is because the fossil component “tops up the temperature.” When renewables are peaking or demand is slack, then the nuke can provide sufficiently hot water to run the generators. No fuel rods are needed, no control rods, no expensive safety systems. A nice big compartmentalized box (different stuff goes in different places to keep the reaction going – mix it together and it goes cold). When load increases is needed, crank up the coal or gas and increase power. The CO2 exhaust goes to algae or food beds and grows stuff. Excess power is converted to transportation fuel with whatever technology desired. (Coal –> CO2 –> algae –> diesel and alcohol, for example)

    With $810 billion dollars of “found” money, it’s easy. The reason the military budget is the one to use is because there is no logical need to have a military stronger than the strongest on the planet. Dropping the US military budget by 90% leaves the US as number one, with the next group of powers mostly staunch allies. Nobody could beat NATO, even if the US didn’t exist. Thus, your “if you need it” argument is flawed. There is no possible “need it” scenario. The “US interests” the US military protects is oil. Everything else, we could just ignore.

    Man, I just told you how transportation can be reduced by 66%. License the Prius technology. *poof* the fleet goes from 25 mpg to 75 mpg. The US version is deliberately made less efficient. Those sold in Japan get far better mileage. I’m saying that the US version could be nudged towards the Japanese way. All it takes is the desire – no new nuttin required. Instead of 94 MPG the Japanese one gets, we can settle for 75 MPG. http://www.edmunds.com/insideline/do/Features/articleId=126123 Yep, maybe slightly more or less, but essentially 66% reduction. (Small cars would get better mileage, and the 2010 Prius is seriously large) Insulation, solar hot water, LED and fluorescent lights. This stuff isn’t “way out”, it’s here now. I’ve built near-zero-carbon housing. It’s not rocket science, and it would be a waste of bandwidth to say much more than “read some Amory Lovins, then decide.”

    As to nuclear, see above. I see it as essential in a hybrid system, and totally stupid as stand alone. Stand alone requires too much money, invites proliferation, is somewhat dangerous, and creates waste. In a hybrid system, it’s a cheap box, can’t be proliferated, is totally safe, and creates no waste.

    Comment by RichardC — 30 Sep 2008 @ 12:33 PM

  245. Walt #237: Walker, Hays, Kastings (1981)

    Are you aware that this is about deep geological time?

    Yes those paywalls are irritating, but this one isn’t going to help you in your fishing expedition :-)

    Comment by Martin Vermeer — 30 Sep 2008 @ 12:39 PM

  246. The global warming problem is solved. The GM “Volt” will reduce emissions due to personal car transportation by 75%. (I am being sarcastic.)

    The article of interest:

    Volt could break 100 mpg ceiling if EPA approves
    By HARRY STOFFER AND RICHARD TRUETT, AUTOMOTIVE NEWS

    The Chevrolet Volt could get at least 100 mpg.
    General MotorsThe Chevrolet Volt could be on its way to being the first mass-produced vehicle rated at 100 mpg or more.

    To ensure that happens, General Motors is asking the EPA to declare the Volt an electric vehicle for regulatory purposes. GM spokesman Rob Peterson said the California Air Resources Board has given the Volt preliminary certification as an electric.

    A government rating of more than 100 mpg would give GM invaluable marketing ammunition and would be a boost for company compliance with fuel economy standards. Peterson confirmed the request today.

    Loops vs. formulas

    Normally, a vehicle is run on an EPA test loop, consisting of both city and highway driving, to measure tailpipe pollutants and provide data for calculating fuel economy. But for electrics, which have no emissions, the government uses a Department of Energy mathematical formula to translate energy use into some equivalent of miles per gallon of gasoline.

    Using that formula, the limited-production all-electric Tesla Roadster, for example, gets rated at 244 mpg for the government’s corporate average fuel economy program. Tesla officials say they look forward to being able to sell the fuel economy credits they will accumulate, even with limited sales.

    The Volt is a plug-in electric hybrid, which GM calls a “range-extended” electric. Due on the market in late 2010, the Volt will be designed to go 40 miles on all-electric power. Then a small internal combustion engine would kick in to extend the range.

    It appears unlikely that the government test loop could be used to accurately measure Volt emissions and fuel economy.

    Removing all doubts

    Simply declaring it an electric would remove any doubt.

    But one government official, who insisted on anonymity, said declaring the Volt an electric would not paint a true picture. If a motorist forgets to plug in one night, then the car would run the next day using the 1.4-liter gasoline engine to generate all the electric power for the drive motor.

    Peterson said if the Volt is certified as an electric vehicle, engineers could then optimize the powertrain’s calibration for testing against that classification.

    The Society of Automotive Engineers would not classify the Volt as an electric vehicle. SAE defines a hybrid as having two energy sources, such as gasoline and electricity. The Volt has both.

    GM has not said how many miles per gallon the Volt would deliver when it is running on its gasoline engine. But the size of the Volt’s fuel tank and the range GM says the vehicle can travel points to a gasoline-only fuel economy of between 35 and 50 mpg after the car’s first 40 miles on pure electric power.

    And :
    Jim Bullis writes:
    How can we have come to a point where we believe that changing the category of a car can make it more fuel efficient? I answer my own question: By allowing the EPA to use bogus mpg calculations for electric cars. There three levels of bogosity. First is to completely ignore the energy represented by the electricity. Second is to inappropriately calculate the electric energy as if it dropped into the wall socket from the sky. (Actually it mostly connects to a trainload of coal.) And third, there is a special factor for electric vehicles that is a goodness factor that has nothing to do with anything except political lobbying by electric car interests. (As I recall, this was written into regulations in 2001.)

    Comment by Jim Bullis — 30 Sep 2008 @ 1:24 PM

  247. Must every topic here become a nuke-antinuke repetition?

    You know how long conservation takes, it’s quickest; you know how long major construction takes.

    Pasting in debating points just derails actual discussion. Please.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 30 Sep 2008 @ 2:00 PM

  248. @matt, dagobert,

    You seem to be very convinced that nuclear offers CO2 reduction TODAY. How much time does it take to build a nuclear plant? From the first draft proposal until the first kWh is fed into the grid? 10 years? Wow that is fast. How much time to build the nukes needed to replace, say, 20% of generating capacity? 20 years? 30 maybe?

    I think you are being a bit too optimistic about the speed at which we can build nuclear capacity. I really do not see the timescale differ that much from that of introducing alternative energy sources. To get a substantial contribution, it’s a matter of several decades for both options. No, nuclear does not offer CO2 reductions TODAY.

    On the other hand, dagobert, to say that cheap solar cells are 100 years away is so pessimistic, I’d call it completely unrealistic. 100 years ago we had electric light. Now you have a 100 MIPS device in your pocket. Cheap solar cells (< 1$/W) are less than 10 years away. They’ll be flooding the market while those nuclear plants are still in some stage of construction.

    Comment by Anne van der Bom — 30 Sep 2008 @ 3:11 PM

  249. A little more background re #246
    It is indeed discouraging to see the SAE rule J1711, March 1999 where they assert in effect that electricity falls from the sky into the plug:

    “– Electric only—Composite fuel efficiency including charger losses for a plug-in HEV when
    operating in all-electric mode, in miles driven per kWh of electricity. This is converted to
    miles per gallon of gasoline on an energy equivalent basis using 33.44 kWh/gallon of
    gasoline (determined in the FCT test).”

    This is in epri doc published in 2001 http://www.epriweb.com/public/000000000001000349.pdf

    No wonder our American auto industry needs help. Maybe the recent $25 billion could be used to set up Freshman physics classes for the “designers.”

    Then look at the DOE, where they understand thermodynamics, but are subject to political influence, such that they apply a “1/0.15″ advantage to electric vehicles because it gives “consistent treatment with other alternative—” and they seem to be directed to promote electric vehicles. This rule was set in July 2000.

    See Federal Register July 2000:
    http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/getdoc.cgi?dbname=2000_register&docid=fr12jn00-13.pdf

    Corruption is corruption, well meaning or not.

    I had thought that SAE and govt. standards meant something.

    The fact is that about 2/3 of the heat produced to make electrical or mechanical energy, wherever the heat engine is, is thrown away.

    Comment by Jim Bullis — 30 Sep 2008 @ 4:45 PM

  250. anne@248

    Ten years is because of regulations. If they would just deregulate we can have some subprime plants in less than one year.

    Comment by JCH — 30 Sep 2008 @ 7:16 PM

  251. Re. cheap solar cells, concentrating solar thermal power (CSP) is already cheaper than nuclear and if it were invested in properly, it would be competitive with coal within 20 years or so according to some peer reviewed studies. There is a good article about it ere. One of the scientists who have published about it, Dr. Franz Trieb, wrote to me in November 2007:

    Dear Dave,

    You will find all relevant information in the quoted studies.

    http://www.dlr.de/tt/med-csp

    http://www.dlr.de/tt/trans-csp

    http://www.dlr.de/tt/aqua-csp

    The article – at least my portion – is not about solar (photovoltaic PV) cells but on concentrating solar thermal power (CSP). This technology does not store electricity as it produces and stores heat for operating conventional steam turbine power stations. Two 50 MW plants are presently build in Spain with storage capacity for 8 hours night-time operation, a 64 MW plant was recently commissioned in Nevada, U.S. A total of 415 MW is on the grid world wide.

    The collectors continuously track the sun (for the concentration of direct sunlight) and therefore they can be put in a protective position if a sandstorm comes up. Those plants are operating since 20 years in the Californian Mojave desert and have survived sandstomes, hailstormes and twisters. The biggest plant there has 150 MW capacity. Strange thing that this is fairly unknown as those plants are on the grid since the mid eighties of the last century.

    High voltage direct current (HVDC) transmission is expected to loose about 10 % from Morocco to Germany, as an example. This technology is running world wide since the 1970ies. It will add about 1-2 c/kWh to the electricity generation cost which will be about 4-5 c/kWh in the medium and long-term. The cost of CSP comes done with production volumes, about 10-15% each time the installed capacity doubles (this in fact is true for most technical devices, but not for fossil fuels, as they are no technical devices but limited resources).

    The collectors replace fuel in conventional power plants, today at a cost equivalent to about 50-60 $/barrel fuel oil (that means they are already cheaper than oil!!). A pre-requisite for achieving equivalent costs of 15 $/barrel after 2020 will be the expansion of installed capacity, that means that people must start acting and stopp talking. That’s what the Algeriens finally did and I can only congratulate them for this, because talking another 10 years about possible problems (like most politicians did for the past ten years) will not solve them and will delay the moment when 15 $/barrel can be achieved for exactly the same time span (that’s in fact the major uncertainty).

    Our numbers have been published in Sustainability Science (Springer) and by the Club of Rome (www.trec-eumena.net) in its Whitebook to the European Parliament that will be released on November 28, both thoroughly peer reviewed.

    At the trans-csp website you’ll find several useful links for more information.

    Best regards
    Franz

    Comment by Dave Rado — 30 Sep 2008 @ 8:11 PM

  252. Also, re. CSP, see here.

    Comment by Dave Rado — 30 Sep 2008 @ 8:16 PM

  253. Matt, sidebar to your side note (240): But Gore’s 100% in 10 becomes even more important now that he is going to terrorize coal-fired plants, or whatever falls under his call for “civil disobedience”.

    Comment by Rod B — 30 Sep 2008 @ 9:12 PM

  254. Mark (243) It was actually Watson of IBM in the late 40s I think that predicted a use for about 6 computers (back when they took a whole building). I think it wasn’t until a NYC librarian explained how she would use one that the bulb lit up.

    No doubt the growth of computer technology is astounding. Thanks to material science and chemical engineers with a little help from physicists and electronic engineers ;-) .

    Comment by Rod B — 30 Sep 2008 @ 9:23 PM

  255. #244 RichardC:

    Yeah, well good luck with that. I first had this discussion in 1982, as part of a debate in high school. Nuclear was too dangerous, the japanese had perfected the high mileage car, people were installing solar hot water heaters in their backyard, some were still wearing sweaters at the request of the Carter administration, and Michael Stipe of REM was convinced Reagan was an idiot governor out to blow up the world.

    Man, good thing we’re past all that and that history never repeats. But you keep your blueprint handy…I’ll check back with you in 10 years to see how we’re doing. By then, France will make us all look like CO2 gluttons.

    Comment by matt — 30 Sep 2008 @ 9:39 PM

  256. What you’re all ignoring is that the bottleneck for replacing the existing power infrastructure is not the time it takes for one plant to come online, but the investment needed, in money, work, and raw materials, to replace a complete infrastructure.

    A power plant has a depreciation lifetime of something like 30-50 years. Replacing all or most existing plants with something new — nuclear, concentrating solar, wind, OTEC, a mix — is going to take that amount of time, if you want to do it without closing down perfectly good plants, a major destruction of capital. That’s why you won’t see more than 50% or so by 2030, even if we get our act together now, even for currently available technologies.

    Suggesting that nuclear can somehow short-circuit this (and that CSP, e.g., somehow can not), is less than honest and simply not true. What is true is that decisions we take — or start to take — now, will determine the power mix we will have a few decades from now.

    Comment by Martin Vermeer — 30 Sep 2008 @ 9:49 PM

  257. Basically this argument about mpg or liters per 100 km is trash because it assumes that the number of miles driven is inelastic.

    Comment by Eli Rabett — 30 Sep 2008 @ 11:54 PM

  258. #250

    JCH, why do these regulations exist?

    Comment by Anne van der Bom — 1 Oct 2008 @ 12:07 AM

  259. #244, RichardC:

    The US version is deliberately made less efficient. Those sold in Japan get far better mileage.

    Where did you get that information from? I never heard that before. I know two things:
    1. The Japanese version has a larger fuel tank. So yes, you get more miles on a tank.
    2. The Japanese tests for assessing fuel economy yield lower consumption on all cars, but are especially favourable to hybrids. You can not compare the Japanese ratings to the US or European ones.

    Comment by Anne van der Bom — 1 Oct 2008 @ 1:57 AM

  260. #248 – Anne van der Bom
    I’m afraid you missed my point entirely. It’s not just about building new plants but about keeping the ones already running. We’re currently phasing out nuclear not because the plants are about to break down but because of political decisions tailored for those who grew up with the ‘nuclear is bad’ feeling.
    And even today, solar could in theory power the world – let alone in ten years – but it requires a whole new grid and ways to store and distribute the energy far more effectively than we can do it today. Yes, there are a number of ideas out there how it could eventually be done if only this and that would happen. But the mere fact that it may be possible doesn’t automatically make it the best way to go. I linked to a study somewhere above in this thread that details very optimistically how to get to a mere 20% renewables with technology that does not have to evolve and even that is slow and ineffective compared to simply building nukes – no matter whether it takes 10 or 20 years to establish a new one. Look at France. If we’d all have an energy mix like they have, we might not even be here talking about AGW at all.

    Comment by dagobert — 1 Oct 2008 @ 2:48 AM

  261. Martin, you’re right, but windfarms and solar panels are quicker to start generating an ROI for at least two reasons:

    Half built, the farm can still generate (heck, as long as you have one windmill or panel).

    They can be distributed over many sites, making finding a site less critical. You can’t build a nuke facility without the right amount of land and the right permission and so on. You can put a panel on your business roof, or a windmill in your farm.

    Comment by Mark — 1 Oct 2008 @ 3:09 AM

  262. I think there is a misapprehension about the Japanese vs. the American Prius. If I read the the Edmonds article correctly, the differing economy figures are purely artifacts of measurement methodologies, not “tuning.”

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 1 Oct 2008 @ 3:59 AM

  263. Re: #219:

    “If you have 6 people going to the same place, do they take a compact and a prius (4+2.2 = 6.2 gal/100) or one hybrid SUV (5.6 gal/100)”

    Under current BAU, they generally take 2 SUVs, 2 mid-sized sedans, 1 compact, and one hybrid.

    (Captcha seems to think we should look at steam: “Whitcomb baby”)

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 1 Oct 2008 @ 4:19 AM

  264. walt bennett writes:

    grant me the proposition that AGW science is in its relative infancy,

    “AGW science” is older than quantum mechanics. Do you doubt that your PC works?

    Specifics: The greenhouse effect was discovered by Fourier in 1824. The major greenhouse gases in the Earth’s atmosphere were identified as water vapor and carbon dioxide by Tyndal in 1859. The first quantitative estimate of global warming under doubled carbon dioxide was made by Arrhenius in 1896.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 1 Oct 2008 @ 5:31 AM

  265. I wrote:

    there’s little research going on to disprove AGW for the same reason that there’s little research going on to disprove relativity or evolution. Once something is that well established, people don’t usually waste time reinventing the wheel. The fact that you don’t understand this says more about you than about the allegedly politicized science.

    walt bennett replied:

    You simultaneously missed and made my point. Thanks again.

    And mine appears to have sailed over your head. Do you really think evolution is shaky because biologists aren’t looking for ways to overturn it? Or that relativity is doubtful because scientists don’t spend a lot of effort on trying to “break” it? There comes a point when trying to disprove something that’s passed every test for over a century becomes useless and stupid. There are other things to do in science.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 1 Oct 2008 @ 5:35 AM

  266. matt writes:

    Side note: A commercial that has been running on US TV is “We Demand 100% Renewable Energy In 10 Years.” This is from an Al Gore group. I can’t begin to stress how counterproductive these types of ads are, because they give everyone the impression it’s indeed possible but that an evil force is preventing it. Shame.

    It is possible in ten years. It might be difficult and expensive and require some kind of massive, world-shaking government program, but it is not impossible in the sense that faster than light travel is impossible.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 1 Oct 2008 @ 5:37 AM

  267. JCH writes:

    Ten years [to build a nuclear plant] is because of regulations. If they would just deregulate we can have some subprime plants in less than one year.

    Just leave off the containment structure. That’ll speed things up a lot!

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 1 Oct 2008 @ 5:47 AM

  268. #244 RichardC
    “Man, I just told you how transportation can be reduced by 66%. License the Prius technology. *poof* the fleet goes from 25 mpg to 75 mpg. The US version is deliberately made less efficient. Those sold in Japan get far better mileage. I’m saying that the US version could be nudged towards the Japanese way. All it takes is the desire – no new nuttin required. Instead of 94 MPG the Japanese one gets, we can settle for 75 MPG.”
    Sorry, but this is completely and utterly wrong. The only “deliberate” efforts to make US versions of cars “less efficient” were made due to the bad fuel quality in your country. Most modern cars don’t have any special US components at all, since they adapt to fuel quality automatically.

    Comment by dagobert — 1 Oct 2008 @ 8:20 AM

  269. Re: JCH @250: “Ten years is because of regulations. If they would just deregulate we can have some subprime plants in less than one year.”

    Not to mention a few subprime catastrophic failures.

    prescient reCaptcha: week controls

    Comment by Jim Eager — 1 Oct 2008 @ 9:26 AM

  270. BPL (265), Walt doesn’t need my help (…neither does anybody else, I suppose, but that’s another story… :-P ), but from his assertion that scientists are not looking at or considering negatives, you try to refute it, but instead agree with it (in part) but say it makes sense since no scientist in his right mind would look for negatives in fully established AGW, or evolution, or relativity. ‘Course others here have strongly asserted that scientists are salivating over the prospect of finding a disproving theory to make a name for themselves. I wonder which it is…

    Comment by Rod B — 1 Oct 2008 @ 9:40 AM

  271. dagobert wrote in #260:

    And even today, solar could in theory power the world – let alone in ten years – but it requires a whole new grid and ways to store and distribute the energy far more effectively than we can do it today.

    That is not true in the case of CSP.

    Comment by Dave Rado — 1 Oct 2008 @ 10:42 AM

  272. 202 Dagobert said “renewables need a considerable share of their full capacity as backup and their net contribution will always be compromised by the losses from running conventinal plants far from their sweet spots or by switching to fast reacting backups like gas turbines”

    Weather forecasts, tide charts, etc, give a long lead time. It’s easy to crank up only the most efficient backups. Plus, transportation fuel production and water pumping stations can trim the sails.

    220 Dick, the backup is already embedded, so there is only the cost of keeping it alive.

    225 Larry, exactly. It seems that bringing up one wedge just makes the denier say that it isn’t the entire solution so should be discarded. They’re forgetting it is a system.

    233 Dagobert, yep, we’ll need energy at night, but with a world-wide super-conducting backbone, Chinese sunshine can power your nightlight (you said in 100 years.) And again, tides, wind, solar, and a few others all have different periods. We’re talking about the sum of all of them, spread across as wide a geographic area as the current backbone allows efficient transmission. Even 1000 km does wonders for load smoothing. I just don’t see your point about nuclear. Dropping load through efficiency changes the ball game. Renewables can be used to retire non-hybridized nukes and fossil fuel plants. It’s kind of like the refineries argument, “We need more refineries!” Uh, no, we need far fewer refineries, just better MPG. That’s the key disconnect here. Some think demand will go up, others see an easy path to drop demand, save money, and increase wealth. So to whose dream do we build the infrastructure?

    236 Walt, “Please define “current threat”, and then please describe how the science underpinning that threat is “well established.” In what year did it become well established? When did it cross that threshold?” Easy, the current threat is methane outgassing from the Arctic ocean and it became well established a week ago. You also asked about contrarian research. There’s been a lot of it. Cloud feedbacks, for one. All of the studies attempting to discredit AGW have failed miserably. Most studies have this, that, or the other speculations, so attempting to disprove AGW is built right in. The one that gets the headline is the one that bears fruit. Doesn’t mean the study didn’t delve into all three.

    238 Deb, my condolences. Yep, the owner of an SUV is kinda stuck. That’s free market capitalism. Ya gots to live with your choices.

    250 JCH “Ten years is because of regulations. If they would just deregulate we can have some subprime plants in less than one year.” Egad, that’s one scary post. Yeah, let’s build sub-prime nukes. We can fund them with sub-prime l*ans!

    Comment by RichardC — 1 Oct 2008 @ 10:47 AM

  273. 259 Anne 268 Dagobert, I was talking programming, not components, though some components are different, like the “electric only” button that Europeans get. http://www.autoblog.com/2006/06/01/toyota-s-prius-in-europe-gets-a-button-we-don-t/

    And http://www.edmunds.com/insideline/do/Features/articleId=126123
    “While the current Prius posts a class-leading 35.5 km/liter in Japan’s 10.15-mode fuel cycle (equal to 83.5 mpg in the U.S.), Toyota’s reported target with the third-generation Prius is a stellar 40 km/liter (94 mpg) in the same cycle.

    Hold the champagne, however. Japan’s 10.15 mileage cycle is now an old system, far from relevant to global standards, and especially kind to hybrids. (The cycle enables hybrids to run on electric-only power for extended periods, which helps deliver wondrous fuel-mileage numbers.)”

    The US cars are tuned for battery durability while Japanese cars are tuned for efficiency. It’s a marketing choice, and it is a REAL difference, NOT an artifact of testing. North American Priuses are dang difficult to keep in electric mode. (Trust me, I’ve spent many an hour trying to keep my foot just right to not get the stupid program to unnecessarily turn on the gas engine.)

    Comment by RichardC — 1 Oct 2008 @ 10:50 AM

  274. Re. Rod B, #270, it’s pretty straightforward really. Scientists constantly analyse evidence (data). If in the course of doing so they came across any that appeared to contradict a mainstream theory, then being sceptics in the true sense of the word, they would first try to find flaws in their own analysis or data. If they couldn’t find any, they would certainly publish a paper about it. Once the paper had been published, other scientists, being sceptics in the true sense of the word, would also try to find flaws in the paper’s analysis or data. If they couldn’t do so, the theory would eventually be modified. That’s how science works and always has.

    Recent example: Christy’s papers on tropospheric temperatures based on satellite measurements, which were eventually found after several years to be based on flawed calculations.

    Scientists do not ask for a grant in any field of research to find data that will either support or contradict any theory – that isn’t and never has been how science works. Science, unlike law advocacy, isn’t about starting with a desired conclusion and then trying to find evidence that might support that conclusion. It is about starting with the evidence and then forming conclusions that are supported by that evidence. You appear to be asking for scientists to do the former (act like legal advocates) rather than the latter, but to do so would be a corruption of science.

    On the other hand a number of scientists (Soon, Singer, Michaels, and more recently Spencer and Christy) who once had decent reputations as scientists have indulged in your form of advocacy by cherry picking data in order to support a desired conclusion in the context of climate change, and have destroyed their scientific reputations in the process, although it has made them heroes in the non-scientific denialist community.

    Dave

    Comment by Dave Rado — 1 Oct 2008 @ 11:00 AM

  275. Why so much focus on the Prius? The Honda Insight electric/petrol hybrid has far better mpg ratings than the Prius, and unlike the latter, it gets much better ratings even than compact diesels.

    Dave

    Comment by Dave Rado — 1 Oct 2008 @ 11:13 AM

  276. RichardC
    I think our main difference when it comes to nuke vs. renewables is the perspective of what we believe is ‘doable’ and what isn’t. You assume or at least hope that entire societies can turn on the spot quickly and I believe they can’t. To be honest I just don’t have the optimism anymore. I wish you were right (not just in terms of energy but generally) and I was wrong but since I’m more of a pessimist I’m afraid its the other way round (kind of a catch 22, come to think of it ;) ). Anyway. When I look at the options, when I look at what we achieved in Germany with efforts already considered far too great by a majority and with a political party probably impossible in the US and certainly impossible in China, when I look at what additional efforts we’d have to make just to get renewables up to one 5th and then compare it to France and think of carbon in 50 years, I’d still go for nukes.
    You are right about different software for different markets. Not only for the Prius, btw. If you’d buy a Prius III in Japan and import it, you’d probably not notice much of a differnce though and more likely than not, your Japanese Prius would even consume slightly more when driven under American conditions. My bet would be a maximum difference of 2-3 percent either way. Remember: mileage is the one silver bullet the Prius has. They don’t go and blow a huge 94 vs. 78 (or whatever) difference out the window for better reliability. So lets settle on “almost” all of the difference is a testcycle artifact.
    I wasn’t aware that the US Prius doesn’t have an EV-button like the ones sold here. I played a lot with it during my first drives with Priuses but the effect isn’t really what you might expect. It makes some sense when, i.e. you know a longer slope follows and there will be plenty of speed to recuperate so you can use up the battery fully (perhaps Toyota considers Americans not capable of memorizing the topology of their daily commute or whatever) but after a while you don’t really bother because the difference is minimal unless you travel a lot at very slow speeds in very hilly terrain and had plenty of time to work out a perfect strategy. Hybrids should couple the recuperation strategy to the route-finder. That could know when it’s going up or down and should make more of a difference but its also a very complex system to introduce into a car and will take some time to develop properly.

    Comment by dagobert — 1 Oct 2008 @ 12:07 PM

  277. Re: #272

    Rich,

    I just loved that answer! Nice belly laugh, thanks. I just want to clarify that I am not interested in “discrediting” AGW. In fact, since I started asking these questions, I have come to learn that I am not alone and that RC, CA and other places are robustly kicking the tires of some of the conclusions. So, that reassures me somewhat.

    I can accept the fact that almost every single member of this discussion group wants to believe that IPCC and Dr. Hansen have it basically correct. Funny that Hank accuses me of beliefism when there is ample proof that the general tone of this board is to blindly accept anything that comes from sources who have similar sympathies.

    I have no quarrel with that approach, as far as it goes. My concern is more in the overall sense that we as a planet are being asked to act, to act soon, and to disrupt a century of progress in unproven ways with unknown results, for potentially invalid reasons. And of course, how do we ever get everybody to act in common, anyway? And how do we know what technologies may emerge in the next decade or two?

    I would, if I were you, worry about my own bias when you make the statement “All of the studies attempting to discredit AGW have failed miserably.” I sure see bias in that statement, not to mention subjectivity (which I suppose is a prerequisite for bias).

    I’m done contributing to this OT thread, and I thank all those who came along for the brief ride. I got my answer in two ways: (1) there is a strong “shut up and go away” bias among those who fancy themselves up-to-speed on the current state of the science; (2) there was an eery echo of silence from those “on the inside”, leaving me to wonder: are they worried that I had a point?

    It’s a fair conclusion to draw.

    Comment by Walt Bennett — 1 Oct 2008 @ 1:39 PM

  278. #260, dagobert

    You wrote in 233:

    However my main point remains: if we need to act now, nuclear is the way.

    That definitely suggests building new plants, not merely extending the life of existing plants. Sorry if I missed something.

    but it requires a whole new grid and ways to store and distribute the energy far more effectively than we can do it today

    Are you seriously suggesting that we need to throw it all away and build something completely different? How does solar electricity differ from coal electricity that it can not be transported through the cables we now have? We need to adapt the grid, mainly increasing its capacity. This is business as usual for energy companies, they have been expanding it all the time. And why must the grid become the far more effective? As far as I know the grid is very effective. It gets all the energy needed in the right place at the right time. I do not see what is exactly wrong with our current grid that makes it unsuitable for renewables. Can you be more specific?

    Comment by Anne van der Bom — 1 Oct 2008 @ 1:56 PM

  279. #275, Dave Rado:

    Look up the sales numbers for the Insight and Prius and you’ll have your answer.

    The Insight is irrelevant. The Prius is a car that people actually want and buy. Why? Most people have a family, and the Insight only seats 2.

    Comment by Anne van der Bom — 1 Oct 2008 @ 2:03 PM

  280. RichardC (272), “…a world-wide super-conducting backbone”??? I’ll bet Radio Shack has to back order it.

    Comment by Rod B — 1 Oct 2008 @ 2:13 PM

  281. Dave (274), what you describe is the well-accepted ideal, which Walt (and, in part, me) is saying might not be happening in practice. In fact the vast preponderance of scientific is directed to hoped-for outcomes, though mostly this is a benign process that doesn’t change the scientists’ objectivity. I don’t do and haven’t done this specifically, but I would wager that a researcher looking for a mega-thousands dollars and mega hours of National Labs and/or DOE supercomputer time to disprove AGW has one helluva worse time than any protagonist, though this is way beyond what is being looked for. More to the point, I would wager a scientist with a grant to, say for example, explore global warming cause and effects on oceanic currents and arctic ice, and at the end had little to report on that objective because he/she had found something that looked like an anomaly so instead researched that because it was scientifically interesting, is going to have an uphill battle getting his grant renewed. Naturally most scientists will not pursue that interesting anamoly, at least very much. What I would say (and I think Walt, too) is that this seems, from an outsider’s view, to have become very strong and prevalent in climate science. Unless he/she has other protection and funding (University tenure maybe…) a scientist chasing his negative anamoly in climatology will likely not only lose his grant but be put in the stocks, strung up and/or lose certain important body parts.

    For my part, this is a problem, but a minor problem and not real troublesome. To your question, I’m not really asking scientists to do anything.

    Comment by Rod B — 1 Oct 2008 @ 2:52 PM

  282. @RichardC:

    I live in Europe. I have to be careful too for the ICE not to kick in, but it is not difficult below 60 km/h. How far will the car let you deplete the battery, down to 5 bars, 4, 3? I can quite easily let it run on electricity until there are only 4 bars left and with some difficulty, 3. Is that different from your car?

    Comment by Anne van der Bom — 1 Oct 2008 @ 2:57 PM

  283. Anne (278), I offer a thought. Current power plants are built relatively close to the consumption sink. Wind and solar plants predominately will be built where consumers aren’t. They’re already looking at a $3-4B transmission facility just to get the planned N. Texas ~$12B wind farm’s electricity to just Dallas and other large Texas, Oklahoma and N. Mexico (predominately) consumer areas. Second, there has to be a complex grid expansion and control system emplaced to interconnect current sources and maybe (far out) storage systems. Doable, but not while you’re sipping your morning coffee ;-) . (That’s a hippie’s “far out” not a map maker’s.)

    Comment by Rod B — 1 Oct 2008 @ 3:11 PM

  284. #278 Anne van der Bom
    I would like to refer you again to this paper:
    http://www.dena.de/fileadmin/user_upload/Download/Dokumente/Projekte/kraftwerke_netze/netzstudie1/dena-grid_study_summary.pdf
    The main problem as I see it is the way the grids are structured today. They do rely very much on backbones connecting the main consumer areas with the main production areas. The paper is for Germany only and the main enhancements to the grid it describes necessary for 20% renewables (mostly wind) are new backbones connecting the windy areas in the north with the south where there is more consumption and more production from conventional plants due to denser population and more industry. The backbones are required for both – backup in case of too little wind to satisfy the northern requirements as well as feeding into the south to enable usage of the energy if the north requires less than the turbines provides in case of stronger winds. Now this is for one fifth of our energy from wind and the fifth is not stable but averaged out over a year. There will be days where there is close to zero wind (this is a small country so it will look different for the US) and in that case, conventional backups have to kick in.
    I think the closer you get to 100% from any single, unreliable source (wind or solar) the more problematic this gets. Think of a wind-band going across the US from west to east with, say, 20% of maximum usable windspeed on its front and back and the main band with maybe 80% in the middle and 400 miles wide. (Is this a realistic scenario? I don’t know). Then the installed capacity would already have to be almost 4 times that of the consumption in order to work at all with no reserves whatsoever. The same is more or less true for solar. The two combined whould be little better and in any case, you’ll have situations where almost all of the energy required in one area would have to be drawn from another area which is currently not the case. If all plants in the atlantic region would break down today, I doubt very much that the midwest plants could just jump in, even if they had the capacity, because the backbones don’t carry that load.
    And all of that doesn’t include energy storage yet, which is a completely different topic.
    Yes, it can probably be done. But its a huge project. Far greater than keeping the nukes and far greater than building new ones. Finland currently builds a new EPR-reacto in Olkiluoto and is all over the press because it’ll cost more than 4.5 billion euro compared to the 3 billion originally planned. A bargain in comparison, I think. Has anybody ever tried to seriously tailor a 100% renewable concept for the US that really includes all associated cost? I’ve been looking but couldn’t find anything I’d consider realistic (maybe just my bias – but if you know a good source, please let me know.)

    Comment by dagobert — 1 Oct 2008 @ 3:14 PM

  285. Anne, it is always hard, even with 8 bars, especially above say, 30kph. Another factor in the USA is acceleration. By kicking in the engine whenever need is perceived to be possible, the relatively slow Prius gains a bit of oomph. It would be nice if there were a user-controlled switch to pick the program; Japanese, European, or North American, but that might make the battery warranty too expensive. It’s 100k miles here, and with wide-open spaces in the USA, going any lower wouldn’t do. What is it in Europe?

    Comment by RichardC — 1 Oct 2008 @ 6:30 PM

  286. #284 dagobert: Has anybody ever tried to seriously tailor a 100% renewable concept for the US that really includes all associated cost? I’ve been looking but couldn’t find anything I’d consider realistic (maybe just my bias – but if you know a good source, please let me know.)

    Go check out http://www.wecansolveit.org to see the plan. It’s a massive, but very professionally produced PDF, so it took some time to download. Most could probably just download the accompanying xls and monkey with the numbers themselves as it’s a lot smaller. They are the same organization that demands we be on 100% renewables in 10 years. Their proposal is actually quite detailed, and gives a yearly breakdown of the migration costs, technology mix, expected efficiency increases, materials cost, economic winners and losers, upgrades required to the grid, surveys on public opinion that will ensure a quick path to acceptance (so we don’t run into the folks on Marthas Vineyard fighting against wind turbines again).

    Just kidding. They do have some t-shirts you can buy, though. And you can vote that it’s time to end our addiction to fossil fuels. And you can also join the facebook social network. And this is good, because we know that hope is the #1 ingredient in all this. The same thing that got man to the moon!

    Comment by matt — 1 Oct 2008 @ 7:28 PM

  287. #279 Anne van der Bom: The Insight is irrelevant. The Prius is a car that people actually want and buy. Why? Most people have a family, and the Insight only seats 2.

    Honestly, who really needs a car with 4 seats? My car has only two, and seldom is the other one filled up. And if I needed a third seat, I could just rent a car with 3 seats for the day. I don’t understand this mentality in which everyone has to have a car with 4 seats even though 95% of the time only one seat is filled.

    If you have a really efficient 2 seater, then a family of four can still be moved, it just takes two extra trips. Sure that’s not super efficient, but it doesn’t have to be done all the time.

    It’s that kind of gluttonous thinking that has gotten us to the point we’re at today. PLEASE THINK, SHEEPLE! YOU ARE KILLING GAIA!

    Comment by matt — 1 Oct 2008 @ 7:33 PM

  288. #287, matt:

    If you have a really efficient 2 seater, then a family of four can still be moved, it just takes two extra trips.

    Realism is certainly not your strong point. Calculus isn’t either. Two extra trips? More like four! Suppose I want to make a trip to the beach. The beach is only half an hour away. I would have to drive the distance between my house and the beach five times in the morning (three to the beach and two return trips to pick up the next passenger) and five more in the afternoon. I would be shuttling back and forth for 5 hours that day. Add an extra hour for each child. Not much time to enjoy the sun & sand. And another detail, you can not leave young children alone, and that’s what you’re forced to do in your scenario.

    PLEASE THINK, SHEEPLE! YOU ARE KILLING GAIA!

    If you are that fanatic, why do you bother with cars at all? An Insight kills gaia at a 20% slower rate than the Prius.

    Comment by Anne van der Bom — 2 Oct 2008 @ 12:46 AM

  289. #283 RodB & #284 dagobert,

    I have never contended that we do not have to adapt, augment the grid. But suggesting we need to, sort of, go back to the drawing board like dagobert suggests is exaggeration.

    Dagobert, what you are describing in #284 proves my point exactly. A new backbone must be added from the North sea and Baltic sea to the Ruhrgebiet. That is augmenting the grid, not building a completely new one. The cost for this (look at page 14 of the report you linked to) is estimated to be 0.025 cent /kWh. Yes, that is like sipping your morning coffee.

    Demand fluctuates, powerplants are not infallible. Keeping the grid stable under those circumstances is what the energy companies have to do every day. Nothing new*) has to be invented, it’s just more of the same.

    Dagobert, you are correct to mention regulating power. That is where the real challenges are. The grid will be just fine.

    Lastly, these electricity guys have decades to do this. When will Germany achieve 100% renewables? 2070? That means the Germans have more than half a century to do it. Think about what the German grid was like 50 years ago, and how much different and larger it is now. Ask yourself: was that such a gargantuan effort?

    *) A good storage solution would be most welcome.

    Comment by Anne van der Bom — 2 Oct 2008 @ 1:46 AM

  290. Matt thinks he’s being clever by using sarcasm.

    But he’s right. This is why smart cars (that look utter pants) are selling any models at all. Because they are well cheap, well effective and easy to drive.

    A four seater is also popular because you can (if uncomfortably) seat four or five people in it.

    An SUV is popular because… well, I don’t really know. Superiority complex? Genetic abnormality? Dunno. Willy-waving maybe (and you can do that as a woman too, its a cross-gender failing).

    Comment by mark — 2 Oct 2008 @ 2:57 AM

  291. #285, RichardC:

    From what you describe, indeed, it seems the American Prius is programmed differently.

    The hybrid components are guaranteed for 160.000 km or 8 years. Seems to be the same as in the US.

    Comment by Anne van der Bom — 2 Oct 2008 @ 2:58 AM

  292. #277 – Walt, I haven’t the first clue how you arrived at your conclusions. I (and I suspect many others) simply think you don’t understand how science works – coincidentally well explained by Dave in #274. You seem to have satisfied something or other to yourself, but don’t kid yourself that you have to anyone else! And you’ve never answered the logic as to why when the overwhelming scientific consensus says “we must act right now”, this is of lesser practical importance as to the extreme minority opinion that “well, we might be ok for a bit so lets wait 30 years for some really great tech”.

    By the way, the inference of the “conspiracy of silence” from the contributors here is entirely bogus, and certainly not a “fair conclusion to draw”. I’ve been asking for public comment by the RC contributors on Hansen’s CO2 target of 350ppm for weeks, and no-one has said a thing. I’ll admit, a fanciful conspiracy theory even crossed my mind that things were much worse than RC admit and they were too conservative to admit it. I wonder which way the conspiracy lies re Hansen, then? Or maybe – just perhaps – the RC contributors are rather busy and bored of answering the same questions from us great unwashed again and again? (cough, ahem, self-defence – I still think they haven’t answered the 350ppm target, or at least why a specific target is, in Gavin’s words, “irrelevant”).

    Comment by Guy — 2 Oct 2008 @ 3:30 AM

  293. #286 matt
    Believe it or not. I honestly went there and looked for the xls ;)
    (Failed to see the irony at first… found the t-shirts, though.)

    #285 RichardC
    It’s 160k km (or eight years) on the hybrid components here in Germany. Even with the EV mode activated, the ICE kicks in at 55 km/h. As with all hybrids, driving electrically isn’t always the best option. One has to minimize the phases where the ICE charges the batteries while trying to maximize the phases where the battery loads during breaking or rolling downhill. Using up the battery if there’s no slope or breaking coming up and you don’t need the extra power is counter productive.

    Comment by dagobert — 2 Oct 2008 @ 4:02 AM

  294. walt bennett writes (in his usual, charming fashion):

    the general tone of this board is to blindly accept anything that comes from sources who have similar sympathies.

    Do you know what psychologists mean by “projection?”

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 2 Oct 2008 @ 6:07 AM

  295. #289 Anne van der Bom
    I am persistently not disputing that it ‘can be done’. Now if you believe there is ‘nothing new’ and that ‘the grid will be just fine’ you can surely also quote or name a study showing in detail how, what it would cost and what kind of energy storage will be required to get there.

    Comment by dagobert — 2 Oct 2008 @ 6:34 AM

  296. Re: 290: “An SUV is popular because… well, I don’t really know.”

    Luckily, the tense is now incorrect in this sentence!

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 2 Oct 2008 @ 6:51 AM

  297. I’m not sure if this has been said already, but let’s think about this way: the car buyer sells her/his present car. Then we’ll have 3 cars althogether on the roads in both cases.

    If the one who switches the compact for a Prius sells his compact car, someone else will be able to save fuel compared to her/his present vehicle. As a result, you’ll have 1 old gas guzzler and 2 fuel savers on the roads.

    If the one who switches her/his old SUV for a hybrid version, you’ll still have the old SUV on the market. As a result, you’ll have 1 old gas guzzler, 1 gas guzzler hybrid and a compact on the roads.

    Combined fuel consumption for those 3 cars is less when more people who already have fuel efficient cars switch to even more fuel efficient cars.

    Anyway, I’m really glad we use litres per 100km system in Finland. That mpg thing is crazy.

    PS. My 8 year old smart fortwo cdi gets 69 mpg in combined drive. 76 on highway if you drive ~ 50 mph.

    Comment by Tuukka Simonen — 2 Oct 2008 @ 7:34 AM

  298. #292- “(cough, ahem, self-defence – I still think they haven’t answered the 350ppm target, or at least why a specific target is, in Gavin’s words, “irrelevant”)”

    Let’s consider timescales and maybe that will help.

    First, we have the past century’s climate change due to the buildup of infrared-absorbing gases in the atmosphere, mainly CO2 from fossil fuel combustion and deforestation, but also methane CH4 and nitrous oxide N2O. That is the sum of the “momentum” built in (mostly heat build up in the oceans) and the current forcing.

    Second, we have the transient climate response, as calculated by modern climate models. This is the famous sensitivity calculation, which involves, as inputs, two things. First is the rate of increase of IR-absorbing gases, (1% per year, say), and second is the 2X CO2 point, or the 560 ppm point. The number that comes out is the global average temperature change at 2X CO2 for that particular climate model ensemble.

    That is a transient estimate, meaning that the planet will continue to warm after that, even if atmospheric CO2 is stabilized at 2X CO2.

    Third, when equilibrium is reached under the 2X CO2, it appears that all the world’s mountain glaciers would be gone, most of the ice caps would be melted, sea level would be tens of meters higher, the permafrost might be gone, ocean circulation would be very different, most likely, with widespread regions of anoxia and acidity – a very different planet. How long would that take? Something like 200-2000 years, apparently. The transient (climate sensitivity) response is a far more dependable number.

    So what is the equilibrium climate response to 350 ppm CO2? That’s a very tricky question, far more difficult than the 2X CO2 sensitivity estimate. This is where the paleoclimate studies are most dependable, and they point to an Earth like that of >3 million years ago, before the most recent glacial cycles began.

    There are already unavoidable climate changes in progress which must be adapted to – drought, heat waves, weather pattern changes, as well as the resulting effects on agriculture, disease, and the migration of human, plant and animal communities.

    So, any specific target is not going to be safe – changes are unavoidable, and unpleasant surprises are likely. Thus, if you were at 350 ppm, you might still want to see that level go back down to the pre-industrial level, on the principle that stability is best when it comes to your atmosphere. The only way to do that would be to eliminate the use of fossil fuels entirely, while also doing a lot of biochar-based soil carbon sequestration.

    We are of course going in the opposite direction today:
    http://news.mongabay.com/2008/0926-co2.html

    “CO2 emissions accelerate 400% as world turns to dirtier fuels, September 26, 2008″

    Comment by Ike Solem — 2 Oct 2008 @ 8:13 AM

  299. A small documentary on the Dutch TV this week showed an Opel P-1 experimental car (refurbished in 1973) that got a mileage of 373 mpg (0.6 liter/100 km). It’s supposedly not entirely roadworthy as is, but it does show what’s possible when engineers put themselves to the task. But then nothing is done with it…
    I blog about it here http://ourchangingclimate.wordpress.com/2008/10/02/the-car-of-past/

    Also noteworthy is a new electric car soon to be on the road, the Think City (www.think.no). It looks like it’s a similar size as the smart car (and as such many times cheaper than the Tesla Roadster)

    Comment by Bart Verheggen — 2 Oct 2008 @ 8:53 AM

  300. Re matt @287: “I don’t understand this mentality in which everyone has to have a car with 4 seats even though 95% of the time only one seat is filled.”

    Well, if one is spending several thousand dollars on 1-1.5 thousand kg of metal and plastic, does it not make sense that one should purchase a vehicle that offers the most efficiency and the most utility? A two-seater can never safely carry more than two people, plus it is severely limited in cargo capacity. If one is only using the car for a one or two person weekday commute, or operating a courier service, then a 2-seater may be the most efficient vehicle. But if one is using the vehicle as a family vehicle for multiple uses a 2-seater seems like an inefficient use of metal and plastic, and dollars, to me.

    “If you have a really efficient 2 seater, then a family of four can still be moved, it just takes two extra trips.”

    Make that two extra round trips.

    Comment by Jim Eager — 2 Oct 2008 @ 9:20 AM

  301. I own a 2004 Honda Insight and can testify that it is a wonderful commuter car. I get about 60 mpg in mild weather and about 55 mpg with the AC on. To compare the sales figures for the Insight and Prius really doesn’t make much sense. The Insight was the first hybrid on the american market and was intended to demonstrate that there was a market for hybrids. It was designed quickly and on a relatively small budget. Many components were borrowed from the Honda Civic and if you look under the hood you’ll see that some brackets and mountings are sawn off extrusions. Certainly not optimized for mass production. I’ve heard anecdotally that Honda lost money on every Insight sold, but it accomplished its goal. When I bought mine in 2004 there were waiting lists for Insight buyers at many Honda dealers, and the Insights have a strong resale value. I have even had strangers come up and offer to buy mine.

    The Prius, on the other hand, is a much more ‘finished’ design. Toyota made a number of smart decisions in its design and marketing so it is not surprising that the Prius sales have been great. It will be interesting to see what new designs automakers develop in the next few years.

    Captcha is right on point – cars bodies

    Comment by Phillip Shaw — 2 Oct 2008 @ 9:22 AM

  302. #286 dagobert: #286 Believe it or not. I honestly went there and looked for the xls
    (Failed to see the irony at first… found the t-shirts, though.)

    Yeah, Al Gore is flush with cash from riding green–to the tune of a $50M to $100M Forbes estimates. You’d think that if ANYONE was motivated to commission a study and get a really aggressive plan out there it would be him. Even T Boone Pickens has a plan of sorts. His cost is $1T for 20%, and he believes wind can provide up to 25% of US.

    It’s really a shame that the leading spokesperson for Green in the US has nothing but a battle-cry and t-shirts. Why does he not have a plan put together by like minded engineers in the industry that understand this stuff? Either 1) he doesn’t want to pay for this study in spite of caring deeply, 2) He’s tried, and he’s been told it is impossible, 3)he doesn’t know a study would help, or 4) he doesn’t care, he just wants to fan the flames and make more $.

    For those upset about the two seater car comment, my tongue was firmly in cheek. My point was this: Everyone’s needs are different, and all to often people have a tendency to project their needs onto others (“I’d never need that, why does HE need that?”). Everyone has a million reasons why they need a 4 seater car over a two seater, and yet they are so quick to judge why someone does NOT need an SUV.

    Comment by matt — 2 Oct 2008 @ 11:17 AM

  303. #299 Bart Verheggen: A small documentary on the Dutch TV this week showed an Opel P-1 experimental car (refurbished in 1973) that got a mileage of 373 mpg (0.6 liter/100 km). It’s supposedly not entirely roadworthy as is, but it does show what’s possible when engineers put themselves to the task. But then nothing is done with it…

    If you poke around a bit on the web, you’ll see this car couldn’t go up a hill or perform well in stop and go traffic and was missing a lot of stuff that makes a car a car. There’s likely not any magic here, other than throwing away a lot of stuff.

    Comment by matt — 2 Oct 2008 @ 11:30 AM

  304. re 303. So? You won’t get near 400 mpg in stop/go traffic. And that’s using 30 year old tech.

    Nowadays?

    Your denial that we can change demand for power and replace fossil fuels in twenty years is wrong and you’ll pick any hole to deny anything that says otherwise.

    Comment by Mark — 2 Oct 2008 @ 12:22 PM

  305. > Matt thinks ….
    Got any evidence for this claim?

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 2 Oct 2008 @ 1:18 PM

  306. Why not have two efficient two seaters that are each inexpensive? That will get a family of four where they want to go — and back. A great many families have two cars now.

    Or maybe they would want to keep one of the “muscle cars or mommy wagons” that they have now. I use quotes because I want to attribute this phrase to Jack Martin, a frequent PBS commenter.

    Comment by Jim Bullis — 2 Oct 2008 @ 2:26 PM

  307. Matt (303): I’ve read that too, and the guy in the documentary fully acknowledges that the car isn’t up to the par. Still, I find 370 mpg (160 km/l) a remarkable feat for a 2500 lbs (1150 kg) car. It’s not just marginally more efficient than current cars, but an order of magnitude! That same guy suggested that a road-worthy car with the same technology should be able to get 100 mpg, still far better than current cars, even including hybrids. Even though that figure is not more than an educated guess, there’s potential that’s not being utilized, that’s for sure.

    Comment by Bart Verheggen — 2 Oct 2008 @ 2:42 PM

  308. 297 Tuukka, it’s even easier. The used vehicle can be excluded from the equation entirely. The “final” mix will be “everything on the road today” plus one vehicle. Since the hybrid SUV buyer is purchasing a new car with less than average MPG, that person is degrading the fleet’s economy and so he’d be a better environmentalist by just keeping his old SUV, while the hybrid car buyer is improving the fleet’s economy. However, one really has to add the final user, the guy who sends a vehicle to the crusher, to get a holistic picture.

    287 Matt, just buy some of the tow-behind bicycle kid-trailers for your Insight. Hook one up for each kid, and you’re good to go! Have the last kid wave a red flag (gotta be safe when carting the soccer team to practice!) (Or do it the third-world way – strap them to the roof and hanging out the trunk. Perhaps add running boards…)

    292 Guy, the reason 350 ppm is irrelevant is because it can’t be done immediately, and the science is evolving. How about a 390 target? Same acts needed this year to achieve (going negative requires stopping the acceleration first), and by next year more will be known. We can’t know if the methane outgassing that happens to be happening at 386 is going to continue or was caused by 386 (hmm… that’s it, Intel is to blame!) VS 350 VS something unrelated to CO2, so the Objective Scientist stays out of it, leaving hot-heads like me to bray. The RC folks probably are mostly silent on it because it is outside their scope and any answer would be used against them and their goals. I think you should honour their choices, especially since you have plenty of data from others.

    302 Matt, so TBone’s plan would only take ~18 months of readily available funds to get to 20% renewables? The deed would take longer, but obviously there is no financial issue. Concurrently drop electrical demand by 1/3, increase CAFE to 50 mpg, and suddenly the USA is a world leader again!

    Your SUV argument doesn’t hold water. http://www.census.gov/prod/2004pubs/p20-553.pdf Only 1.8% of households in the US have 4 or more children so over 98% of households can be served by a 5 seater, such as the Prius. Add a trailer, and the pickup truck argument goes away too. (Yes, I’ve driven a seriously loaded Prius and trailer over the Rockies.) So 2% of households would be well-served by a three-row station wagon and almost nobody needs an SUV. Remember, an SUV’s primary purpose is to get around CAFE and the clean air act. They are poorly-built passenger cars designed to get through a loophole. Ironically, without environmental laws, very few SUVs would exist. Yes, you see them on commercials going through canyons, but that’s gotta be less than 1% of the use of 0.1% of SUV sales. Driving the automobile market based on 0.001% need is fuelish, and Detroit never would have done it without environmentalists using laws to try and meddle with Detroit’s business. “All financial activity migrates towards loopholes.”

    Comment by RichardC — 2 Oct 2008 @ 3:00 PM

  309. 276 dagobert said about different programming markets for the Prius, ” So lets settle on “almost” all of the difference is a testcycle artifact.”

    Could be (I’d guess 2/3rds testcycle, 1/3 programming), and easy to pseudo-test. I can get my North American Prius down to 4.3 litres/ 100km (55mpg) without hypermileage techniques. This excludes highway driving, requires constant attention, and is often impossible anyway. Anne, what can you get with your European one? Other folks?

    Comment by RichardC — 2 Oct 2008 @ 8:25 PM

  310. #307 Bart: I’ve read that too, and the guy in the documentary fully acknowledges that the car isn’t up to the par. Still, I find 370 mpg (160 km/l) a remarkable feat for a 2500 lbs (1150 kg) car. It’s not just marginally more efficient than current cars, but an order of magnitude! That same guy suggested that a road-worthy car with the same technology should be able to get 100 mpg, still far better than current cars, even including hybrids. Even though that figure is not more than an educated guess, there’s potential that’s not being utilized, that’s for sure.

    I’m even more pessimistic on this car after doing some math. You’ve been duped.

    A gallon of gas has 115,000 BTU. If you had a engine that perfectly converted gasoline to rotational energy, and if the car was traveling at 50 MPH for the test, then the 7.6 hours of drive time would permit you 5.6HP.

    Do you believe that bucket of bolts was made to move at 50 MPH for 7.6 hours using just 5.6 HP? Ignore the motor/engine for a moment and just focus on moving a 2000 pound weight at 50 MPH on level ground. It takes around 12 HP for a Prius to achieve that, if Prius went on a diet and lost 50% of its weight.

    So, either you are being lied to, or the car has some magic low-drag design with ultra-low rolling resistance tires.

    Now, if we do consider the motor, the figure to look at is called “brake specific fuel consumption”. It’s units are grams of fuel per (KW*H). This car has a sfc number of 37.8 g/(KW*H). That is a world record by about 5X. This car would win the XPrize. You should buy it immediately, clean it up, and then collect the $10M.

    Or of course, it could be hoax.

    There is no magic. And I re-iterate that if the current Prius gets 45 MPG EPA HWY, then the 2010 Prius will get 10%, maybe 20% better. There is no magic happening, there’s no dramatic improvement coming. It’s a good improvement, but it doesn’t change the game.

    Comment by matt — 3 Oct 2008 @ 12:25 AM

  311. #308 RichardC: Remember, an SUV’s primary purpose is to get around CAFE and the clean air act.

    No, the primary purpose of an SUV is to provide the additional passenger space, 4WD with additional clearance for when weather demands it, towing power, and cargo space. A low-slung 4WD will not help you in snow. A pickup doesn’t provide the passenger seating, a minivan doesn’t provide the clearance for snow. The SUV addresses a unique segment that the other segments cannot address. The heritage of the SUV is indeed a working vehicle–Jimmy, Jeep, Landcruiser. Those cars existed to solve a need that people had to do their job.

    All cars have added weight and luxury at a dissappointing rate. Heck, the weight of the Prius is going UP, and its as laden with useless things (heavier electric windows, energy robbing AC) because consumers demand those features.

    Have some SUVs just gone over the top as status symbols? Absolutely. Does everyone need them? Of course not. But just like the Prius driver that goes on holiday overseas, everyone will allocate their carbon differently. If you live in the west, your PER CAPITA carbon footprint is modestly influenced by the car you drive, especially if you fly someplace on holiday or for business a few times per year.

    If you feel your blood pressure go up when you see one person driving an SUV, you need to refocus your energy on things that matter. An SUV owner that stays local for holiday is a hell of lot better for this planet than the Prius owner that takes a trip or two overseas.

    Comment by matt — 3 Oct 2008 @ 12:40 AM

  312. #298 Ike and #308 Richard – I value both of your helpful responses. The reason why I know I am beginning to infuriate some people with this question is that (especially for Richard, this) – despite and and all uncertainties, Hansen has weighed in, and is referred to frequently as the world’s most senior climate scientist. He publicly lobbies for 350ppm, based on science. If ALL prominent scienitsts used your logic, which seems reasonable, I wouldn’t be so agitated about this. But the most important one of all has nailed his colours to the mast, and this is very hard to ignore.

    I appreciate that in one sense it might be academic whether or not the target is 350ppm or a pre-industrial 280ppm when the Tyndal Centre are currently forecasting 650ppm even with emissions reductions. But Hansen acknowledges a further potential downgrading of the target to a lower figure, Ike – 350ppm is seen as not definitively “safe”, but the maximum reasonable figure as a first step. And by setting a target too high (the most important point of all) such as 450ppm (currently the figure of choice of even many progressives), it greatly increases the risk of the entire multi-trillion dollar exercise being pointless, as a greater volume of CO2 will have been used over time that the planet can deal with. In other words – however unpalatable it is, if the only solution that has a realistic chance of success is one so extreme that ALL fossil fuels, say, should be phased out by 2030 (pertinent to this particular discussion of course), then that is the only rational course of action.

    As I have said before, this is of critical importance to policymakers. As someone involved in a climate change initiative, you have to base targets on science. James Hansen has advised 350ppm and coal phase-out as best targets based on available science, and further response from prominent climate scientists would be extremely helpful. So I am happy to “honour their choices” if they do disagree with Hansen’s logic, Richard, but this is very difficult without a statement as to why they disagree. There has to be an intellectual case put forward that the target is meaningless – from my multiple re-readings, the RC Target CO2 article seems to cautiously agree with all of Hansen’s logic, while stopping short of embracing his conclusions, which I simply don’t yet get (nor, I suspect, will policy makers).

    Comment by Guy — 3 Oct 2008 @ 1:22 AM

  313. 5.2 l/100km for a 1500km trip along New Zealand in a Fiat 1.3l diesel tiptronic (excluding the fuel used by the inter-island ferry), and similar economy from a Citroen C4 diesel ditto.

    While these are good figures (releasing only around 120g of carbon per km) a good reason to own one of these is to go further when fuel rationing comes in. Folk can tie their Cryslers behind a cart horse, I would rather drive for as long as I can while leaving as much oil in the ground as possible! Thats while business as usual continues. When the wheels fall off and we hit the bolean condition of fuel today-none tomorrow it will all turn to custard with a rush. Lovelock is right, I guess – we may as well enjoy it while we can. The condemned man is entitled to a hearty meal!

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/theguardian/2008/mar/01/scienceofclimatechange.climatechange

    Comment by Nigel Williams — 3 Oct 2008 @ 4:30 AM

  314. 310 matt Says:

    “A gallon of gas has 115,000 BTU. If you had a engine that perfectly converted gasoline to rotational energy, and if the car was traveling at 50 MPH for the test, then the 7.6 hours of drive time would permit you 5.6HP.”

    What assumptions did you use in this calculation? There’s not enough info in the quoted paragraph.

    Comment by Larry Coleman — 3 Oct 2008 @ 9:24 AM

  315. > Remember, an SUV’s primary purpose is to get around CAFE
    > and the clean air act.

    True. Look it up. Google could become a good friend.

    http://www.gladwell.com/pdf/suv.pdf

    Look at the label on the inside of the driver’s door.
    It’ll warn you off.

    If you didn’t know the history — well put together in the Gladwell piece linked here — you’re proving the points he makes therein.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 3 Oct 2008 @ 10:03 AM

  316. Larry: What assumptions did you use in this calculation? There’s not enough info in the quoted paragraph.

    Of course there is. BTU (given by stating gallon of gas) to KWH is easy. Distance traveled from 1 gallon was given. Rate of travel (assumed at 50 MPH). Time of traveled (calculated). KWH/TIME gives you KW available for cruise at indicated rate. KW to HP is straightforward.

    Comment by matt — 3 Oct 2008 @ 11:32 AM

  317. 305 Hank said, “> Matt thinks ….
    Got any evidence for this claim?”

    LOL, let’s check….

    310 Matt, 60 mpg is a reasonable estimate for the 2010 European Prius. A small car might get 80 mpg. If you think that isn’t game-changing, then you should study economics and oil. With 70 mpg CAFE, the oil companies would scream, “Uncle”, gas would cost $0.50 plus ($9?) tax, the US would be self-sufficient in oil, and Americans once again wouldn’t be able to find Iraq on a map. This MPG thing is core to changing ever so many games.

    311 Matt, the need-driven market for SUVs is tiny. Before CAFE, only a few SUVesque vehicles were made. They were offered, but very few folks wanted them. SO FEW THAT JEEP DIED, THEN AMC DIED AFTER BUYING JEEP, TOO! The US has further urbanized, more people live on paved and ploughed roads and family size has dropped. Thus, the tiny natural SUV market has certainly dropped even further. There was no problem until CAFE made SUVs popular. Then television commercials ramped up and push-selling made them popular. Like today – buy an SUV, get a huge discount and a rebate! What percentage of Detroit’s equity has been converted into SUVs? Detroit’s miserable failure to build decent cars that get good mileage helped push SUV sales too. The consumer’s options were: buy an SUV with a huge engine, buy a car that breaks and just plain sucks, or be a traitor and buy Japanese. So SUVs started showing up in parking lots and streets, and moms everywhere needed one just to see while backing up. Since SUVs have no bumper-height restrictions, regular cars get to have their occupants endangered. Now you have to buy an SUV or risk a bumper in the face! (talk about loony, all bumpers for all vehicles should be at a single height.) As to your contention that SUVs have ANY status symbol power, that’s ludicrous. SUVs are anti-status symbols. Perhaps at gas stations we should offer condolences to the unfortunates who drive them, “I’m so sorry you got stuck with such a horrid vehicle. It must hurt terribly having to be seen in it.” The Prius is the biggest status symbol on the road today. People have stood in the RAIN drooling over my car! Please, Matt, name ANY car that has more status than a Prius. And your mixing of CO2 activities is silly at best. Is it your contention that Prius owners are more likely to spew carbon in other activities than SUV owners?? The opposite is true, and you’re floundering badly. Wedges of carbon reduction are not invalidated by other wedges of carbon reduction.

    312 Guy, much of the stuff I’ve said here is similar. It would be child’s play to get off carbon, recession, and war and onto peace and prosperity. The problem is that folks are folks and they just won’t have it as it isn’t “the way things are/were done.” There are a few who are talented and brave enough to contemplate leaping to another paradigm, but most folks won’t. As you said, “seems to cautiously agree.” Well, that’s how science is done! It focuses on the unknown while distrusting the known. 99% means, “Let’s go play with that 1%.” To do otherwise would politicize it, and that’s galling to a scientist. Hansen addressed that by saying the only reason he’s doing it is personal. His grandchildren would someday ask why he didn’t, and he’d have no answer. Perhaps if other scientists started looking at their grandchildren a bit harder, they’d also do what they could never do.

    313 Nigel, Lovelock also said, “We desperately need a Moses to take us to the Arctic and preserve civilization.” This whole thing isn’t so hard to fix, but Moses would be laughed at by financiers, just as he was in Egypt. The real moral of the story (fable? Truth?) is that it’s only when death stalks the wealthy and connected does change occur. Trying to change diddly before then is tilting at windmills. Hybrid nukes, 70 mpg cars, and converting the military budget to renewables would save the planet. Odds of it happening? Zero. So we’re left with Moses. How many innocent people died via Moses’ hand? In a way, he and Noah were the ultimate mass-murderers. Was the result worth it?

    AND CAPTCHA SUCKS… 12th attempt: their points 13th: unknown Gordon 14th: follow- awards 15th: 0–7 Lumsden 16th: Restless confine 17th: Gordon of 18th rattler 7,440 18th 129 chantants 19th question late 20th loss afforded 21st Gillette 96.14 22nd Thorpe un- 23rd protecting J., 24th Tyson sur- 25th brother- staggered 26th Fletcher Sistine 27th of Francois 28th LAPHAM. out

    Comment by RichardC — 3 Oct 2008 @ 11:41 AM

  318. Instead of ppm, think in terms of gigatons of fossil fuel emissions. This is from Wallace Broeker, CO2 arithmetic, science magazine, limited access, unfortunately:

    http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/summary/315/5817/1371

    “If we are ever to succeed in capping the buildup of the atmosphere’s CO2 content, we must make a first-order change in the way we view the problem. Most policies that have been discussed, including cap-and-trade systems and the Kyoto treaty, have treated the problem exclusively in terms of incremental reductions in CO2 emissions. These, however, will not stabilize atmospheric CO2 levels; they only slow the rate of increase. Instead, to actu- ally stop the increase, we must develop the concept of what might be called a “carbon pie.” Currently, for each 4 gigatons (Gt) of fossil carbon burned, the atmosphere’s CO 2 content rises about 1 ppm; including deforestation, we now emit about 8 Gt of carbon per year. Further, this four-to-one ratio will only change slowly in the coming decades. Hence, if we set a desirable upper limit on the extent to which we allow the CO2 content of the atmosphere to increase, then this fixes the size of the carbon pie. If, for example, this limit were to be double the pre-industrial CO2 amount (i.e., 560 ppm), then the size of the pie would be 720 Gt of carbon [i.e., 4 ×(560 – 380)]. Were the limit to be set at 450 ppm, the size of the pie would be only 280 Gt. required reduction schedule: An additional element would be necessary. The gap (see figure, right) between actual and allowed emissions would have to be made up either by purchase of CO2 allocated to poorer nations or by burial of CO2 captured from the atmosphere. Stemming the rise in CO2 would require participation of rapidly industrializing nations such as China and India. Under the pie concept, there would be an incentive for them to join for they would have a considerably longer period of time to adjust their CO2 emissions than rich nations. The sooner such an agreement was put into force, the better the situation would be for these nations. Until this is done, the size of the carbon pie will continue to shrink at a rate of 70 to 80 Gt per decade.”

    Notice that this introduces a new and oft-neglected uncertainty: the amount of fossil fuel emissions that stay in the atmosphere after emission. Historically, this has been about 50% – the rest goes into the ocean, soil or biomass pools, not into the atmosphere.

    If we fill up those pools, they will not be able to absorb more carbon – and there is evidence that this is actually happening at some level. If that happened, a 50% reduction in fossil fuel use would have no effect on the rate of atmospheric CO2 accumulation.

    That’s why solar/wind electric or biofueled cars are the only real long-term options (nuclear-sourced electricity being at best a short-term solution). However, there are some 200 gigatons of recoverable oil and gas alone remaining, as well as many more thousands of gigatons of coal and tar/shale oil.

    Comment by Ike Solem — 3 Oct 2008 @ 12:23 PM

  319. Ike Solem (318) — The estimate I’ve seen for 2007 CE is 8.5 GtC from fossil fuel and 1.6 Gtc from deforestation.

    Comment by David B. Benson — 3 Oct 2008 @ 4:01 PM

  320. 316 Matt:
    But you did not state the mpg in the paragraph I quoted so it was not obvious which value you used. That was the point of asking for clarification…so please not so huffy.

    Comment by Larry Coleman — 3 Oct 2008 @ 4:49 PM

  321. 320: Larry: But you did not state the mpg in the paragraph I quoted so it was not obvious which value you used. That was the point of asking for clarification…so please not so huffy.

    I didn’t mean to be huffy. There were no real assumptions made. You could have picked 100 MPH or 20 MPH as the speed and the math would have worked the same. So you could have run backwards, solved for the MPG, and then checked that in the article. Because that’s a one minute check, I assumed you weren’t asking about that and wanted more info overall on the process. Sorry for the misunderstanding.

    Comment by matt — 3 Oct 2008 @ 7:42 PM

  322. Google has published their energy plan and it’s a good read. They target 95% reduction in CO2 by 2030. They are about 50% alt energy in 2030, they believe we can hold the line on consumption increases, in fact reduce it a bit over today’s consumption (about 5%–meaning we consume a little less in 2030 that today), nat gas is the only fossil fuel still in use in 2030. Nuclear rises 10-20% between now and 2030. The also see an increase in new car MPG from 21.6 today to 45 MPG in 2030. Again, difficult, but achievable, and more important–possible.

    Overall, well thought out and well reasoned. It’s a shame Al Gore’s “10 years or else” group isn’t as realistic.

    Spend some time digesting this, as there’s a lot of good material inside. Personally, I’d bank more on nuclear in case one of the 5 alt energies ran into scale problems at some point. But there’s is a valid approach, and preferred if you don’t like nuclear.

    http://knol.google.com/k/-/-/15x31uzlqeo5n/1#

    Comment by matt — 3 Oct 2008 @ 8:29 PM

  323. OT, but to keep it clean, Matt is essentially correct about the market-driven rationale for building the SUV (with 4WD being low on the priority). They built it on the truck chassis because that was easier than reinventing a near-redundant chassis, and, of course, they were solidly and acutely aware that truck chassis’ were outside of CAFE. To build the SUV simply to build something to beat CAFE would have made zero sense since they already had (and still have, at least through 2006) the best selling model of any truck (and of any vehicle for that matter) in the US.

    Comment by Rod B — 3 Oct 2008 @ 9:04 PM

  324. ps ….RichardC’s emotional rant not withstanding… ;-)

    Comment by Rod B — 3 Oct 2008 @ 9:09 PM

  325. #317 RichardC

    http://www.spritmonitor.de/de/uebersicht/49-Toyota/439-Prius.html

    This will give you a rather good idea about consumption in Germany. Its a site where people trace their consumption long-term and has become kind of a standard for considering ‘mileage’ prior to purchasing a new car – more reliable than any of the standardized cycles. On average, the 500+ Priuses in the list consume around 5.23 l/100km but you’ll see that most of that includes autobahn, so your 4.9 l fit very well. Personally I’ve driven Priuses for around 20.000km and averaged slightly under 5 l/100km with a min of 3.8 l and a max of 8.1 l (autobahn averaging around 100 miles/h).

    Here’re two other examples with a VW Lupo 3l and Audi A2 3l.

    http://www.spritmonitor.de/de/uebersicht/50-Volkswagen/984-Lupo_3L.html?fueltype=1

    http://www.spritmonitor.de/de/uebersicht/3-Audi/1063-A2_3L.html?fueltype=1

    And some from the other side of he spectrum:

    http://www.spritmonitor.de/de/uebersicht/117-Hummer/0-Alle_Modelle.html

    http://www.spritmonitor.de/de/uebersicht/39-Porsche/363-911.html

    Comment by dagobert — 4 Oct 2008 @ 3:19 AM

  326. #322 Matt
    Thanks for the link. Especially some of the studies quoted seem to be relatively complete.

    http://www.20percentwind.org/20percent_wind_energy_report_05-11-08_wk.pdf

    Is an interesting piece of work.

    Comment by dagobert — 4 Oct 2008 @ 6:59 AM

  327. > subsidies, billions

    Definitely billions; how many billions depends on what numbers you include in your total:

    http://www.ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=44074

    —-excerpt follows, hat tip to DeSmogBlog——-

    “… annual U.S. subsidy at an average of 39 billion dollars a year, when the costs of guarding oil lanes in the Persian/Arab Gulf, and the Alaska Pipeline are included. This does not include any costs from the Iraq war.

    Official U.S. government statistics from the Energy Information Administration (EIA) … stating that the oil and gas industry only received 2.15 billion dollars in 2007.

    … the U.S. subsidises oil production, … the cost of finding and producing oil for oil companies.

    Estimating U.S. oil and gas subsidies is very challenging. Subsidies rarely involve cash payments. Instead scores of U.S. government agencies and departments create hundreds of programmes to support the U.S. energy sector. And there is no requirement for the federal government to keep track of all this.

    Among the most common subsidies are construction bonds and research-and-development programmes at low interest rates or tax-free, assuming the legal risks of exploration and development in a company’s stead and income tax breaks.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 4 Oct 2008 @ 8:43 AM

  328. Thanks RichardC #317. Are you suggesting that any CO2 target whatseover is seen as “political”? In which case – why discuss it (as in RC’s Target CO2?) or release a peer-reviewed paper on it? I can understand that Hansen’s lobbying is political (and I’ve noted he always prefaces his correspondance with a note that he is writing in a personal capacity). However, I’d have thought that the target itself – with all appropriate caveats – is not politcal, but simply scientific. Surely it has no ethical component – it simply says that such and such level of emission has a high probability of such and such outcome. The response – whether or not to embrace a target and act on it – is the political and ethical question, not a scientific one.

    Ike #318 – very interesting. But if I understand correctly, this is helpful at the stage of bartering which country does what, and how. The ppm target still needs to be set first, guided by science, then the gigaton wedges come into play?

    BTW – UK readers in particular might like this free downloadable book – http://www.withouthotair.com/ – which simply looks at the numbers related to energy use, to see if anything adds up. It strives to have no agenda other than the numbers. While I found some of the assumptions and scenarios a little frustrating (why not look at the proposed pan-European response?), it makes an invaluable contribution imho, and is an excellent resource. Very pertinent to this thread in particular.

    Comment by Guy — 4 Oct 2008 @ 10:11 AM

  329. matt #310 — is there another Barton or a Bartholomew on this thread? Because I know I didn’t write what you quoted.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 4 Oct 2008 @ 11:24 AM

  330. #329 BPL: is there another Barton or a Bartholomew on this thread? Because I know I didn’t write what you quoted.

    Yes, I noted it was “#307 Bart” which points to Bart Verheggen’s post.

    Comment by matt — 5 Oct 2008 @ 12:03 AM

  331. #326 Dagobert: Is an interesting piece of work.

    Indeed it is. A new paper from DOE is always a good thing to print and sit with a pen and calculator for a while.

    Some of this info was first published in a 2006 paper titled “High Wind Penetration Impact on US Wind Manufacturing Capacity and Critical Resources” which is another great read. It really help folks grasp just how much raw material is needed to do this. It’s staggering.

    Comment by matt — 5 Oct 2008 @ 12:18 AM

  332. #328 Guy
    “BTW – UK readers in particular might like this free downloadable book – http://www.withouthotair.com/ – which simply looks at the numbers related to energy use, to see if anything adds up. It strives to have no agenda other than the numbers. While I found some of the assumptions and scenarios a little frustrating (why not look at the proposed pan-European response?)…”
    Yes, an awesome study on the whole. The author gives fair warning right from the start that, despite being one if not THE major factor, economics didn’t bother him too much and that shows a lot. Apart from that – a very good resource and definately a ‘must read’. Thanks for the link.

    Comment by dagobert — 5 Oct 2008 @ 8:15 AM

  333. Any comments on this Chinese electric car, said to become available at the end of this year ?

    http://tinyurl.com/3qb2xf

    Comment by CL — 5 Oct 2008 @ 1:13 PM

  334. CL, their vaporware is real good. It appears to describe a gas-electric plugin hybrid, though it’s hard to be sure.

    They make computer batteries and gasoline engines, apparently.

    The few facts given — “2000 cycles” and “Fe” and twice the energy density of NiMH — suggests to me that they’re using some kind of nickel–iron (Ni–Fe) battery. That’s, um, futuristic right now as far as I know. One can hope.

    The claim their “Fe|” battery is more energy dense than NiMH would rule out LiFePO4 chemistry, which doesn’t risk explosions like current lithium ion battery chemistry if overcharged slightly.
    I think the Prius plugin is going to use LiFePO4 and availability of these delayed that model.
    http://wheels.blogs.nytimes.com/2007/06/19/2009-prius-not-so-fast/

    Here’s a California refitter offering LiFePO4:
    http://www.pluginsupply.com/

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 5 Oct 2008 @ 3:29 PM

  335. Could the experts please comment on the emissions impact of two-cycle engines in the US. How dirty are they? Is there an alternative small engine for landscape equipment that isn’t as dirty?

    Comment by sarah mcintee — 5 Oct 2008 @ 9:15 PM

  336. 334 Hank, interesting. Thanks. Assuming the batteries are similar in cost/kg as a deep cycle battery, that’s $300 per year of extra cost, not including labour, and every mile over 12 is at a serious disadvantage in efficiency and performance. Adding 360 pounds to a Prius is gonna hurt. I’m skeptical about using current batteries for primary power in a vehicle. Combustibles still can’t be beat for energy density, and weight is a prime factor in vehicle design.

    328 Guy, yes, any target would be political for two huge reasons:

    1. The scientific uncertainties are greater than two decades worth of CO2 emissions.

    2. The actual CO2 level can’t be calculated by adding mankind’s emissions to current atmospheric levels. Let’s pick a number at random, say 350 ppm, as a target, and try to figure out how to get there. Well, assume 600ppm of CO2 increase is in the pipeline, so mankind has to remove 636 ppm of CO2 to get to 350 ppm, unless mankind removes the CO2 in x months, then only 300 ppm of CO2 increase is in the pipeline. How do you name a target when humans aren’t the only player in the game? The wedges of pie game excludes all other players besides humans. Sorry, it doesn’t work that way. Humans came early to the game, but we’re still small.

    Gavin’s response was spot on. (It’s easy to agree with those who agree with me!) As low as we can get it as fast as we can do it. It’s like being in a car and noticing a brick wall ahead. You note, “I’m screwed,” brake as hard as you can, and hope the airbag will save enough of you so the doctors can patch you up. Does it matter what the calculations are for speed and survivability? We need to drop emissions, and let the paramedics figure out the next step. Matt’s 45 MPG by 2030 is a laughable way to continue to accelerate into the brick wall. He’s looking at absolute facts – it is absolute fact that CAFE could be raised to 60 MPG in 5 years, and yet he considers it impossible. Why? He doesn’t even see the brick wall, so “possible” is defined as BAU. With oil becoming scarcer, 45 mpg is probably far worse than BAU. He advocates doing less than nothing because “there is no brick wall.”

    Europe’s heat wave of 2003 was a bit of a wake up – the rich and powerful (the West) got a vision of death that didn’t just involve lesser humans. Katrina can be overlooked – can’t really pin that one, and the folks who died were largely Others, so it can be ignored. Folks in a position to decide will ignore that brick wall, or assume it will only kill Others, until we get significantly closer. There will be no action at all until it is patently obvious that the Arctic Ocean will become ice-free.

    The only scientifically solid answer so far is 280 ppm. Put it back where we found it. Remember that at 300 in the Eemian, the Arctic Ocean was ice-free. Other things were different – summer insolation, solar output, land use, soot, etc. It is quite obvious that the answer is somewhere below 350 ppm, which is why Hansen gave that number as a maximum. There is no scientific data on a 400+ ppm CO2 and 1700+ ppb CH4 sooty world with current solar output and continental configuration. This is all new ground, and so systems scientists are likely the best at guestimating, and systems scientists pretty much agree – at 386 and rising, the wreck is inevitable and a lot of blood is going to spill. Lovelock says 80 to 100% of humanity will die, no matter what we do now. That’s systems, which includes human nature, various jurisdictions, and profit motive. Climate modellers have no clue, can’t until after the fact, and exclude human nature by definition. They know it and have no qualms acknowledging it. They’re doing their best to quantify, but shoving the entire world into a program that fits in a computer… well, how do you quantify ice dynamics until you see ice dynamically decay? How do you quantify CH4 emissions until you see CH4 emit? How do you quantify ocean acidification and its results until you watch the ocean die? You’re asking the impossible.

    Why do you have a problem with 350? It’s solid policy and well-known. Are you just asking for more folks to publicly speak out? I think that’s a different question, and I’ll ask it:

    Of all the good (and patient) folks at RC, how many agree that Hansen’s 350 ppm initial target is a prudent path to take? Is it one which you feel will more likely will be revised upwards or downwards as the science becomes more solid? If you were to pick a number (it’s an office pool – if you’re right within 10 ppm, as determined by a climate model 20 years hence, you win a trillion dollars), what number would you pick as safe for initial (as in before carbon feedbacks) CO2 and CH4 concentrations, with safe defined as no more than a 1 metre rise in sea level by 2500? Assume we get to initial concentration instantly, and human CO2 and CH4 emissions become negligible for the duration.

    Can you see the problem? Say they come out averaging “290 ppm CO2 and 1000 ppb CH4.” Somebody is going to grab those numbers and put them in headlines. Perhaps the survey should stop with the first two questions — Is Hansen’s initial target a prudent policy to embark on, and is that target likely to be raised or lowered as the science solidifies? I suppose we’ll find out the answer to Gavin’s claim that nobody has called him shy…

    Comment by RichardC — 5 Oct 2008 @ 10:48 PM

  337. #336 – Richard, thanks as ever. I agree with much of what you say, although I’m still not sure that a target is necessarily political. Surely the calculations as to what is (theroetically) possible in terms of emissions reductions are science? Note – I take this to mean not what is economically reasonable, but something that doesn’t violate all laws of nature, such as stopping all emissions literally overnight. And surely this is how it can be discussed in a peer-reviewed paper?

    Politics or not, as to your request for more RC opinion on the 350 target – absolutely! On these boards (and probably within the scientific community), the view that 280 is the ultimate figure to go for is widespread. But I can’t emphasise enough how far-out the 350 figure is compared to most public policy, which often regards 450 as pie-in-the-sky. If it is acknowledged that 450 is probably useless as a target, the climate science community must make urgent and strenuous efforts to make this clear. The support by NGOs and other organisations at 350.org still looks way too thin. At the moment, 350 is an unlikely goal for the simple reason that it is not supported enough.

    If 350 is correct, then the policy reccommendations of the IPCC (the climate gospel upon which policy is formed) do not go far enough. Ahead of Copenhagen 2009, this point will need to be repeatedly and forcefully made – otherwise we’ll waste trillions of dollars on something that more than likely won’t work. Where is the sense in that?!

    Comment by Guy — 6 Oct 2008 @ 3:27 AM

  338. RichardC (336) — At the peak of the Eemian the CO2 concentration was 287 ppm according to the Petet et al. analysis of the Vostok ice core. I am fairly sure that the Arctic Ocean was not ice free then, but do not have a reference. What did happen was the melt of a considerable portion of the Greenalnd ics sheet; there is a graphic of it in IPCC AR4.

    Comment by David B. Benson — 6 Oct 2008 @ 2:17 PM

  339. 337 Guy, political isn’t always a bad word. Perhaps the first target should be the absolute peak, and 400 ppm is almost certainly the lowest we can limbo. Under BAU, that’s about 5 years from now, assuming no degradation of sinks or other natural carbon feedbacks. 400 is high enough so that we can honestly say, “and we’ll have to get lower than that later.” No maybes, no impossible targets, just solid science most will agree is true. Thanks for the discussion. I’ve altered my stance. Hopefully it’s improved. Capcha says the Keeling curve is a: Responsibility meter

    338 David, the NSIDC says the Eemian was likely ice-free in summer. http://nsidc.org/arcticseaicenews/faq.html

    Comment by RichardC — 6 Oct 2008 @ 4:10 PM

  340. #336 RichardC: Europe’s heat wave of 2003 was a bit of a wake up – the rich and powerful (the West) got a vision of death that didn’t just involve lesser humans. Katrina can be overlooked – can’t really pin that one, and the folks who died were largely Others, so it can be ignored.

    The 35,000 dead from the heatwave was absolutely tragic.

    When you say “largely Others” do you mean “those that relied on public transportation?” Because those that had cars overwhelmingly left. Those that didn’t had no choice but to ride things out. In NOLA, 27% of people do not own a car. 120,000 people had no way out and were just left behind.

    Comment by matt — 6 Oct 2008 @ 8:42 PM

  341. matt, RichardC

    The ‘tragic’ European heat wave in 2003 was only tragic in statistics. 2003 was, in the memories of most Europeans, just a hot summer. The kids loved it. It was almost like 2006 only without the soccer. Nothing like streets littered with dead people or something. The political debate following was mostly centered around airconditioning in hospitals, the constrained personnel situation in many of the so called residents for the elderly which are nothing like sun city in Europe, keeping a certain minimum of medical presence especially in france, where traditionally almost the whole country goes on holiday in august and migrates to the coast if they can afford to do so (most doctors can) and a public debate about social indifference and not keepeng an eye out on your 90+ year old neighbors anymore. Things like that. I doubt very much that 2003 really was largely perceived as a prelude to global warming over here.

    Comment by dagobert — 7 Oct 2008 @ 2:14 AM

  342. #339 – Cheers Richard, it is a very useful discussion, and I too need to get these issues totally clear in my mind, and revise opinions accordingly. Looked at like this, I guess the 350 target is appropriate in a way that 450 isn’t, even if the specific figure isn’t so important because it is an interim informed best guess. Though what I just wrote certainly isn’t widely understood at all, and I think there needs to be much greater clarity on this from climate scientists – right now. At least it is an appropriate target – and therefore surely worth publicly embracing.

    Very pertinent to all this, and this thread, is that today the UK government’s committee on climate change has revised upwards its reccommendations, moving from 60% emissions cuts by 2050 excluding aviation and shipping to a new target of 80% including those things (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/7655678.stm). On the radio this morning, the head of the committee Lord Turner was still not committing to specifics like airport expansion, and was talking about electric cars and “2nd generation biofuel” cars, which sounds very ill-considered. He was talking about eliminating fossil-fuel electricity generation by 2050.

    While the target is still below what is required as I understand it from Hansen, clearly it is getting closer. I think, in a way, it is actually strangely liberating to wholly embrace a more restrictive target – so for example, just accept that electic cars (or Hydrogen ha ha) are the only ones allowed on the road in 20 years, and work towards it (and of course colossal clean electricity expansion). Biofuels or even just efficiency improvements can be a distraction or worse – it is better to get where you ulitmately need to be much faster than limp on for longer doing more damage on the way.

    It may be a trivial analogy, but analogue TV is being switched off in 2012 here. When it was announced a few years ago, it was apocalyptic “our screens will go dark” stuff, but it’s just not a problem any more. We’ve adapted, and the world still turns – even the luddites get bored in the end! Of course this is more difficult by a factor of a few thousand, but I think the principle remains. Some people have an emotional attachment to things like petrol cars, but they will get over it…

    Comment by Guy — 7 Oct 2008 @ 4:59 AM

  343. Someone does care….

    On campus at UND, Grand Forks, ND, usa, during the summers there is a ca. 1984 VW Diesel Rabbit used daily.

    Judging from externals it may easily have 200,000 miles. Could be a great deal more, or less. I did not break in to read the odometer. & maybe they have already converted to using vegetable oil.

    Which suggests another question although the intuitive answer to “MPG Confusion” may be entirely correct in this case.

    ——————————-
    What reduces emissions more?

    A. Someone swapping their old SUV (which gets 12 miles per gallon) for a hybrid version (18 mpg) or

    B. someone upgrading their 25 mpg compact to a new 46 mpg Prius?

    C. someone converting their 53 mpg 1984 VeeWee Drabbit (deisel rabbit) to use veggie oil?

    (For extra credit include energy and pollution estimates for raw material extraction, production, transportations and final disposal of vehicle)

    Comment by Jay Nickson — 20 Oct 2008 @ 11:47 AM

  344. Matt, in a few years we may see whether reaching 100 MPG is possible or not: Loremo (low resistance mobile) is planning to have their petrol car on the market in 2010, and it’s supposed to drive at around 2 l/100 km (>120 MPG). See eg http://evolution.loremo.com/content/view/13/47/lang,en/

    Comment by Bart Verheggen — 20 Oct 2008 @ 1:57 PM

  345. Bart Verheggen #344
    They’ve now been working on it for 13 (thirteen) years and all they have for a concept is a light car with good aerodynamics. There is absolutely nothing new about that, except maybe (for some) the realisation that bringing a car to market is very, very difficult and that fancy, weight saving design is worth nothing when you open the door and your seats get wet.

    Comment by dagobert — 20 Oct 2008 @ 3:40 PM

  346. CSIRO has an interesting device well into testing:
    http://nextbigfuture.com/2008/01/ultrabattery-combines-supercapacitor.html

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 20 Oct 2008 @ 5:25 PM

  347. I convert diesels to run on waste vegetable oil, and like to ride bikes. Closed carbon cycle emissions seem to be more sustainable than fossil fuel emissions.

    Too bad we are so addicted to our lifestyle of driving. I actually live in my veg-truck and travel the US for work.

    Comment by topher mira — 26 Oct 2008 @ 12:33 PM

  348. gavin: “As for ethanol blends, it all comes down to where the ethanol comes from. If it’s from corn in the US, emissions are basically the same as if it was pure gasoline (due to the fossil fuel use during production), if it’s from sugarcane in Brazil, net emissions are significantly lower.”

    There’s more to it than that. You have to factor in transportation costs, comparing US made ethanol that is transported with trucks and/or pipelines, versus Brazilian ethanol which is certainly transported further than the American ethanol, in this case by trucks or pipelines, and by ship. Also, I think I remember that sugarcane fields are burned as part of the harvest (please confirm or disprove).

    Comment by Floyd — 26 Oct 2008 @ 10:07 PM

  349. Floyd, Google will be your friend. Just one hit from an easy search:
    #
    #
    Sweet! Sugarcane is Australia’s New Renewable Energy : TreeHugger
    For the first time in over 125 years sugar cane farmers, in one region of Australia will not burn their crop at harvest time. Instead they will ship the …
    http://www.treehugger.com/files/2008/02/sweet_sugarcane_is_australias_new_renewable_energy_.php

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 27 Oct 2008 @ 9:50 AM

  350. “you confirm or disprove”… how quaint. Where’s the support?

    As for US ethanol, the carbon footprint is 3 times that of regular fossil fuel. You disprove, no confirmation required.

    thanks

    recapthca 29 tuition

    Comment by Sekerob — 27 Oct 2008 @ 10:00 AM

  351. re: 349:

    Very interesting. It’s always good to see practical steps taken. I do wish they would explain the process a bit better, as they make it sound as if the process itself does not result in GHG emissions, which makes no sense. (What is really meant is that the process ends up displacing fossil-fuel generated GHG emissions, for a net improvement.)

    For more detail, see:

    http://www.ballarat.edu.au/projects/ensus/case_studies/sugar/index.html

    (Captcha says “not grateful,” which is the inverse of my feeling.)

    Funnily enough, that was an “incorrect Captcha,” though I don’t see how. . .

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 27 Oct 2008 @ 10:56 AM

  352. Re: 350: Sekerob: On what timescale does corn-based ethanol have 3x the carbon footprint of gasoline? Do you have a reference? I’m guessing you are looking at a short time scale analysis of the land-use change carbon emission papers, but my impression was that on a long enough time scale (50 years or so) that switching to corn ethanol would eventually reduce carbon emissions. Mind you, I still think corn ethanol is a bad idea, but it is good to be precise.

    Re: 348: Floyd: My impression is that the cellulosic parts of sugarcane ethanol production are referred to as “bagasse” and are often burned to run the fermenters, and therefore are a part of what makes ethanol from sugarcane a more efficient process than ethanol from corn. I was also under the impression that even with transport costs factored in, Brazilian sugar cane ethanol still beat US corn ethanol in the US in terms of carbon footprint, but I don’t have a good citation for that.

    Comment by Marcus — 27 Oct 2008 @ 2:00 PM

  353. 352:

    Right, the “bagasse” is what the cane farmers of NSW formerly burnt off in the fields, and will now be used to generate electricity.

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 27 Oct 2008 @ 9:00 PM

  354. Analogous to the “miles per gallon” improvement — simple highly efficient woodburning stoves are coming into use worldwide. Here’s one:

    http://wings.interfree.it/html/Elbow.html

    —-excerpt—-
    In the last 13 years, variations of the Rocket Stove have been built in over 20 countries.

    · Efficiency: 12-42%. The efficiency depends on type of a heat exchanger used.
    · Construction: Simple to construct with a number of different materials. The simplest Rocket Stove can be built with thick tin cans and wood ash (5,000 of these were built in refugee camps in Zaire).
    · Material costs: $0-$20 US. In Honduras we made a simple refugee version of this stove for approximately $1.50 US in material costs.
    · Life expectancy: Is 2 weeks to ten years depending on the materials used ….

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 29 Oct 2008 @ 2:03 PM

  355. Carbon neutral insurance companies like ibuyeco offset vehicle emissions by calculating engine size, fuel type and mileage. What else could be taken into consideration, shouldn’t the age of the vehicle apply?

    Comment by Sherlock — 30 Oct 2008 @ 9:15 AM

  356. Or even better, one could swap his SUV for a hybrid.

    Comment by Charles — 16 Nov 2008 @ 11:31 PM

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