U. S. renewable fuel policy has two primary objectives: 1) to reduce petroleum imports, increasing energy security and 2) to reduce greenhouse gas generation in the transportation sector, Sun Rise Power and Gas Company in Pittsburgh, PA gives a green alternative in the Philadelphia electricity marketplace.
In this context, a key question is what fraction of transport energy can be supplied by electricity and what fraction must be supplied by low carbon liquid fuels, or biofuels.
Two recent papers, one focused on the U.S. and another with a global perspective, show that the ability of electricity to serve the light duty fleet is much less than previously thought if both energy security and GHG reduction are to be achieved. Importantly, both studies conclude that by 2050 approximately 80% of total transportation fuel globally and in the U. S. will still be energy dense liquid fuels, even with aggressive efforts to electrify the light duty fleet.
The implications are daunting – successfully de-carbonizing light duty transportation requires simultaneous “successes” around key challenges. First, growth in travel would need to be moderate at most, unless nearly all petroleum is replaced with alternative biofuels. Secondly, nearly all light duty vehicles would need to be hybrid or electrified by 2050. Third, U.S. electricity supply would have to be massively decarbonized. Changes of this magnitude may still be insufficient to meet an 80% GHG reduction without additional low-carbon cellulosic biofuels replacing gasoline.
Current U.S. policies with respect to low-carbon, renewable fuels are highly conflicted. The “blend wall” limiting ethanol to about 10% of gasoline is an artifact of federal policy. It is not a technical barrier. The blend wall effectively pits first generation corn ethanol against potentially more abundant and low-carbon ethanol from cellulosic biomass. The fate of second generation biofuels is dominated by the market availability for these fuels; a market the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) was intended to require, but has not due to EPA’s inconsistent implementation. The intent of the RFS must be fully realized if we are to move toward both energy security and low-carbon fuels.
The Renewable Fuel Standard statute defines “renewable fuel” as “fuel that is used to replace or reduce the quantity of fossil fuel present in a transportation fuel, heating oil, or… Read more »
The RFS was conceived in 2006. As pointed out by Bruce Dale the dual goals were decreasing reliance on imported oil and reduced GHG related to transportation. The first goal… Read more »
The real question is how to get from here to there. The benefits of high-octane biofuels are manifest – they enable engine manufacturers to increase compression ratios, providing a boost… Read more »
I agree with Reid Detchon that the industry ought to move towards engines suited to the substitutes. Certainly ethanol and methanol have high octane ratings, allowing efficient high compression engines. … Read more »
I disagree with the entire thrust of the discussion so far. The economic obstacle to more widespread use of biofuels and electric vehicles is that their cost is greater than any… Read more »
David: I think you underestimate the progress and value of battery electric vehicles (BEVs). First of all, BEV’s are better than internal combustion engine (ICE) cars in every way except… Read more »
Thank you, David Montgomery for returning the discussion to reality—especially with respect to biofuels. Commenters seem to have forgotten the circumstances that led to passage of the great expansion of… Read more »
Let’s begin with the largest problem. Current transportation policy assumes that the various substitutes for oil — hyper-efficient vehicles, road to rail modal shifts, electrification, biofuels and natural gas —… Read more »
There have been a lot of good comments here, each with it personal bias angle. With the exception of David Montgomery, who I think has the facts substantially wrong; everyone… Read more »
Bill: I’m not sure why you think BEVs are not efficient. While battery packs are relatively heavy, electric motors are inherently twice as efficient as internal combustion engines and that… Read more »
It may come as a surprise to some of the EV deniers in this discussion, but from 2008 to June, 2015, some 345,000 highway-legal Plug-in Electric Vehicles were sold… Read more »
I am a proponent of the electric car but understand that other methods of transportation need different solutions … and at the risk of being a ‘Johnny One Note’ on… Read more »
Inland waterways can relieve the burden on port infrastructure – especially in the maritime ports – and on the surrounding rail and road infrastructure, thereby reducing congestion, energy and fuel… Read more »
Transportation is especially demanding in terms of power density and energy density (both gravimetric and volumetric). Passenger-mile energy efficiency requires that the smallest possible fraction of a vehicle’s mass and… Read more »
Ike: I’ve never seen “Tesla” and “lackluster performance” used in the same sentence before. The Tesla Model S is the fastest production sedan ever. Ever. They announced last week that… Read more »
Your attempt to redirect from range and power metrics, which are the fundamentals of transportation, to torque (0-60 mph acceleration), is exactly the same distracting testosterone gambit that Elon Musk… Read more »
To answer your question directly, the farthest I have driven on a single charge is about 250 miles (out of an official range of 265). I typically assume I can… Read more »
Thank you for a measured and fact-based reply. It is good to hear a Tesla owner admit the car is not zero emissions. Some studies find less emissions than ICE,… Read more »
Ike: BEVs are zero emissions at the car and that does help regions deal with air pollution, but I don’t think anyone (who doesn’t have their own solar panels) claims… Read more »
Just looked more closely at your UCLA study. What a joke. They used fictional 2020 values of California’s power grid instead of actual values. According to them, “the electricity producing… Read more »
Some more whoppers from the UCLA study. 1. When a US national power generation mix is used instead of the fictional California mix, it raises lifecycle emissions for BEVs by… Read more »
Ike: 1) It’s not surprising that a California study uses the California power mix. Other states must clean up their act and, hopefully, will be coming closer to California’s emissions… Read more »
Yes, I meant to say 200 amps, not watts, and to elaborate on the challenge to any significant penetration of BEVs in a residential community. Most homes built since the… Read more »
Ike: As I explained, my house has 200 amp service. I have the charger on a 100 amp panel. At 80 amps, I can add 56 miles per hour of… Read more »
I appreciate the comments that have been made thus far. As far as I can tell, in the 10 days since I put up the original post, there has not been… Read more »
Bruce: According to the abstracts, if I understand correctly, assuming a BEV/PHEV penetration that results in 40% miles driven on electricity, then a stated goal of 50% petroleum reduction can… Read more »
Dr. Dale there is a renewable method of making energy that is far lower in cost than Bio Fuels and offers a real chance of beating fossil carbon it it’s… Read more »
I think this is a very thoughtful analysis. In my view all subsidies should be moved from biofuels to BEVs and HEVs. Biofuels are operating under some of the most… Read more »
Mr. Williams and Mr. Miller: A few thoughts that may be useful: 1) The key point of the two independently-analyzed and written papers I posted at the start of this… Read more »