Cars & Technology of the Future

To sum up the day-long program and paraphrase the philosopher Heraclitus, the only thing constant about the future will be change. The 100-plus year-old auto industry is heading into uncharted territory as it grapples with change inside and out of the vehicle. Electronic technology promises to radically alter the interaction of the driver and vehicle, even as the propulsion technology and fuel shifts to new ground and, in some cases, necessitating new lifestyles. One thing is clear, “Future Cars, Future Technology” will be an ever-changing topic for years to come.

Company Turns Trees Into Gasoline Replacement

The goal is reducing petroleum use. ZeaChem gets California grant to produce ethanol to blend with gasoline from woody biomass and agricultural residue. They have a demonstration plant in Oregon producing ethanol from locally grown poplar trees.

Cruze Diesel – High MPG Without Battery

What is it about General Motors that their new vehicle introductions seems take two years? GM first announced that it would offer a diesel passenger car in fall of 2010, then tipped that it would show up in the Cruze in February of 2011. Last year GM took top-ranked American automotive journalists to Europe to […]

BP CEO Speech – Renewables to Grow Over 1,000% but Greenhouse Gas Emissions to Rise 28% by 2030

BP’s Energy Outlook 2030 projects that demand for energy will grow by around 40% over the next two decades. That’s like adding one more China and one more US to the world’s energy demand by 2030. Nearly all of that growth – 96% in fact – is expected to come from the emerging economies with more than half coming from China and India alone. By 2030, 30% of cars will be hybrids. Renewable energy will grow over 1,000%.

Do Oil Companies Pay Their Fair Share?

$380 billion of wasteful government spending, subsidies, and loopholes is detailed in the new Green Scissors report. The amount is for 2012 to 2016. I’m not sure which is most surprising, the common sense distilled to 32-pages or the fact that the report is sponsored by both conservative and environmental groups. Green Scissors 2011 is published by four organizations: progressive environmental group Friends of the Earth, deficit hawk Taxpayers for Common Sense, consumer watchdog Public Citizen and free-market think tank The Heartland Institute.

Diesel – Save Gas, Save The Planet Excerpt

Over half of all car sales in Europe use diesel engines not gasoline. Diesel fuel contains more energy per gallon than does gasoline. Diesel engines are far more efficient than gasoline. Should your next car be a hybrid or a diesel? The answer depends on the type of driving you do and if you want a car, truck, SUV, or minivan. Why not have the best of both with a hybrid diesel?

Shell’s new $12 Billion Investment in Sugarcane Ethanol with Cosan

Shell and Cosan, one of the world’s largest sugarcane ethanol companies based in Brazil, signed binding agreements to form a $12 billion joint venture for the production and commercialization of ethanol and power from sugarcane. The JV would be the third largest ethanol producer in the world with 4,500 retail stations and annual production 440 million gallons. Sugarcane is the currently the most efficient feedstock for larger scale ethanol production. While corn ethanol delivers little more energy output than the total energy necessary to grow, process, and transport it; sugarcane ethanol delivers eight times the energy output as lifecycle energy input.

Fuel from Algae – Challenges do not Stop Big Bucks

Yes, biodiesel and other transportation fuels can be made from algae, but after decades of effort the fuel is still expensive and only made in lab-scale quantities. There are many obstacles to replacing petroleum with algal fuel in this decade, yet hundreds of millions are being invested in algal fuel companies such as Sapphire Energy, Aurora BioFuels, BARD, Solix, GreenFuel, and Solazyme. From Boeing to BP, from DARPA to DOE, and from Arch Venture Partners to Bill Gates, serious money is betting that algae will someday be a major fuel source for our trucks, ships, and planes.

Big Oil Fights Big Ag

Americans are spending 20 percent of their income on transportation. Big Oil and Big Ag are fighting for their share of that money by trying to control the EPA and pass new legislation. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has finalized a rule to implement the long-term renewable fuels standard of 36 billion gallons by 2022 established by Congress. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has proposed a rule on the Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP) that would provide financing to increase the conversion of biomass to bioenergy.

Cash is King in Renewable Energy Development

It is a buyer’s market for those developing large wind, solar, bioenergy, biofuel, and other renewable energy projects. In 2009, land is less expensive, equipment cost less, deliveries are faster, and warranties longer. It is a buyer’s market if you have cash, yet it continues to be a difficult time to secure debt financing. Demand for renewable energy is at a record high as U.S. utilities in about 30 states struggle to meet RPS (renewable Portfolio Standards). These utilities want to sign PPA (Power Purchase Agreements) for 5 to 20 years of wind power, solar, and bioenerg.

Biomethane for Energy and Fuel

Across the nation, ranchers, farmers, landfill operators, and all that generate agricultural waste, forest residue, and municipal waste can increasingly become energy independent. Through anaerobic digestion much of their biological waste can be converted into biogas which can run electrical generators, turbines, or fuel cells to generate electricity. Biogas can also be converted to cleaner biomethane for cleaner electricity and renewable fuel. These operations can generate their own electricity and fuel their own vehicles.

Biofuel Industry Hopes to Recover with Next Generation Fuels

Scientists know how to make fuel from prairie grasses growing on marginal land. They know how to make fuel from fast growing trees with root systems that extend 25 feet into the ground, sequestering carbon emissions and enriching the soil. The problem is making cellulosic and algal fuel in large quantities at costs that compete with fuels from petroleum such as gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel.

Biofuel Industry – No Money, No Respect

Companies that were once darlings of Wall Street have gone bankrupt. Dozens of ethanol plants have closed as oil prices dropped. Many promising second generation plants cannot get built due to lack of project financing. People with the money see the risk as too high. There continue to be zero commercial scale (20-million gallon per year and bigger) cellulosic ethanol plants, despite past glowing press releases that declared that they would now be running.

Solar, Wind and Biofuels Grew 53 Percent in 2008

Three major clean-energy sectors — solar photovoltaics (PV), wind power, and biofuels — grew 53 percent from $75.8 billion in 2007 to $115.9 billion in revenues in 2008, according to the Clean Energy Trends 2009 report. By 2018, Clean Edge forecasts that these three sectors will have revenues of $325.1 billion.

Ethanol – the Good, the Bad, the Ugly, the Beautiful

We must move past fuel from food and haste to fuels from wood and waste. Although the economics do not yet favor major production, pilot plants are taking wood and paper waste and converting it to fuel. Other cellulosic material is even more promising. Some grasses, energy crops, and hybrid poplar trees promise zero-emission fuel sources. These plants absorb CO2 and sequester it in the soil with their deep root systems.

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