New cars are more efficient than ever, according to researchers at the University of Michigan’s transportation research institute.
The data on the fuel economy of new cars and trucks showed a strong improvement of 4.7 miles-per-gallon since fall of 2007.
The information collected was for fuel ratings, not actual fuel consumption. In fact, “the government is currently reevaluating its sticker rating system after concerns that automakers overstate fuel economy.”
Even though fuel economy can be imprecise, the energy and environmental performance of vehicles is increasing when looking at actual fuel consumed.
And we’ll continue to see the more improvements, especially when George W. Bush signed a law increasing fuel economy standards in 2007, and the Obama administration recently increased those standars. Look for light vehicles to have at least 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025.
There’s no denying that transportation fuel systems could become more sustainable, but how?
In June 2013, BSR held a four-part series discussion to help companies understanding the greatest sustainability impacts of transportation fuel systems, and what can be done to make them more efficient.
The discussion included 185 representatives from fleet operators, vehicle manufacturers, and energy producers and providers. You can read the full discussion here.
The main points were:
Efficiency should be the first “fuel” of choice as it works as it also conserves physical supplies and avoids environmental impacts.
Significant technological development is needed across all fuel types.
We must set an effective price on carbon and prioritize other policies to encourage more sustainable fuel use.
Increasing collaboration throughout the supply change can help connect the actions and investments of fuel production upstream.
America is on the brink of a long-term economic boom, according to author Charles Morris in his new book, “Comeback: America’s New Economic Boom.”
In the book, Morris argues that the natural gas boom “will encourage investment in America’s infrastructure, increase productivity, and create millions of middle-class jobs.”
During an interview with US News, Morris discusses how the shale oil and gas can help spur manufacturing by reducing energy costs and greenhouse gas emissions by traditional power sources such as coal.
Some challenges that stand in the way of a natural gas boom is not enough infrastructure, a way to transport the gas to areas that need it, and to reduce the amount of methane in the drilling process.
“Without methane, natural gas is the cleanest burning fuel. It releases about half of the CO2 load that conventional oil does.”
Natural gas is one of the developing technologies that have many opportunities. But will those opportunities contribute to a more sustainable world?
GreenerIdeal.com examines several benefits of natural gas. “Natural gas is seen as a provider of a cleaner energy alternative with significantly lower emissions when you compare a natural gas-fired plant with a coal-fired one.”
One of the largest benefits of natural gas is that it provides an effective transportation with limited environmental impact. Natural gas is easy to distribute, and can be safely transported as liquefied natural gas (LNG). It can also be transported across continents through a series of pipelines.
Another benefit of natural gas is to use them to fuel vehicles. Natural gas vehicles (NGV) emit up to 25% less CO2 gases when compared to other forms of fuel, which can help create a more sustainable world especially in highly populated urban areas.
One large hurdle natural gas supporters must overcome is the way natural gas is obtained. Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, involves drilling a deep hole into dense shale rocks, whichdoes come with its own challenges.
If the risks of fracking can be overcome, there’s no doubt natural gas can contribute to a more sustainable world.
In 2016, electrical generation will largely come from renewables, according to the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) Medium-Term Renewable Energy Market Report. Solar and wind will surpass natural gas, doubling nuclear output and coming in second only to coal in power generation.
Global renewable electricity generation is expected to grow from 4,860 terawatt-hours in 2012 to 6,850 terawatt-hours in 2018. In fact, wind generation is expected to double globally, while solar will more than triple from 100 terawatt-hours to 358 terawatt-hours.
“In the U.S., solar capacity is expected to more than quadruple, from 7.7 gigawatts to 31 gigawatts, and wind capacity is expected to nearly double, from 58.8 gigawatts to 93 gigawatts.”
Natural gas-fueled plants across the country are helping drive down electricity prices said PJM Interconnection.
A wholesale power market administrator, PJM found that new natural gas power plants coming on line are reducing capacity prices. This however, does not spell out lower prices for consumers and businesses. But the energy purchased for peak times helps ensure the lights stay on and the air conditioners running at times when everyone is using them.
“One of the biggest impacts on electric generation is the low price of natural gas as a fuel. It makes gas-fired generation more attractive to build because of the cost.”
The total solar energy hitting the Earth each year is equivalent to 12.2 trillion watt-hours, so why isn’t solar energy used more?
Much like natural gas, solar power is getting easier to store, and at a much lower price. The total solar energy hitting Earth each year is equivalent to 12.2 trillion watt-hours, so why isn’t solar energy used more?
Currently, photovoltaic solar panels produce only 0.7 percent of the energy the world uses. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates the average cost per megawatt-hour for solar is $156.90, compared to $99.60 per MW/h in coal, and between $65.50-$132 per MW/h of natural gas.
While the cost may defer some, the financial and technology problems that solar faces is closer to being solved.
“If the trend stays on track for another eight to ten years, solar generated electricity in the U.S. will descend to a level of $120 per MW/h by 2020, or even 2015 for the sunniest parts of America. If prices continue to fall over the next 20 years, solar costs will be half that of coal (and have the added benefits of zero carbon emissions, zero mining costs, and zero scarcity).”
There have also been big advances in thermal storage that continues to be developed by scientists. The combination of lowered costs and better storage capacity would mean plenty of solar energy production and widespread falling energy costs.
According to the Bloomberg Businessweek, there could be 25 million natural gas vehicles on roads worldwide by 2019. The gas shale revolution turned the U.S. into the world’s second-largest natural gas producer, and increased supply enough to meet current U.S. consumption for 100 years.
The U.S. already has 1,000 natural gas fueling stations (half of which are open to the public), and about 120,000 natural gas-powered vehicles. There are more than 15.2 million natural gas vehicles worldwide, according to Natural Gas Vehicles for America.
“Commercial vehicles, which generally rack up two or more times the annual mileage of consumer cars, are going first. In the last year many companies including GE, UPS, etc. have announced plans to begin or expand conversions of their fleets to natural gas.”
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