Environment


Biomass Fuel, Energy, Power Counterpoint

Biomass is a term being more frequently used for renewable fuel, energy and power made from any organic material from plants or animals. Sources are organic crops, plants, and trees, agricultural food and feed crops, and residues from plants, crops, wood, and animals-in other words what is left over or scraps. The usable by-products are gas additives (ethanol and biodiesel), methane gas (burned as fuel), and organic fibers and wood (for heat and generating electricity).

I became more interested in biomass after previously covering the following topics:

Solar Power/ Energy

Wind Turbine Power

Natural Gas Car Fuel

U.S. Oil Reserves

Price of Oil

Corn Food Fuel

Car Fuel Efficiency

Global Warming and Energy Reserves

Electrical Utilities are facing new rules requiring them to generate 20% of their power from renewable resources by 2020. Solar and wind power has been considered by most utilities and many don’t have the resources, or have run into legislative roadblocks. With all Utilities being required to meet quotas, they are now considering, and building, “Biomass” Power Plants, since they can get significant federal tax credits.

Most studies are based on data such as that from “The Engineering Toolbox”.  The data shows that the biomass energy is free, since the process is considered nearly carbon neutral, because the plants only emit the carbon they absorbed while they were growing. The time and volume of usage is neglected-it is not explained that more is used than grown, and in between there are fewer trees to absorb the carbon dioxide. The real world is more like Fig. 3 Plot “Pounds of CO2 per KWH” of the article “How to measure fuel efficiency, energy costs, and carbon emissions for home heating”.  Both coal and wood have the same high-level carbon footprint.

An interesting article, “Biomass Energy Facts”, is a good comprehensive worthwhile list. It is not mentioned that renewable energy in 2007 was 7% of the US energy supply, and of this 3% is biomass. In 2020 20% of US energy is to be by renewable, with a good part of the increase by biomass, meaning a much-increased usage of wood from trees that takes time to replace and is now a big source of CO2 absorption.

Of major concern is that states (Wisconsin, Massachusetts, Missouri, etc.) are now proceeding with biomass energy projects based on the process being considered nearly carbon neutral because the plants only emit the carbon they absorbed while they were growing. Is this a fact-based conclusion? And will the increased biomass usage have any effect on the natural cycling of CO2 because it takes time for volume replacement?

Other biomass information of interest:

Biomass Emissions-Air Emissions from Modern Wood Energy Systems

Massachusetts Forest and Environment Threatened

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Hybrid Cars Counterpoint

 

If you have read my other Counterpoint articles, you might be wondering about Hybrid cars for better fuel efficiency and environmental concerns. I also considered the Toyota and Honda models when I bought my last car. Unless you are willing to pay more for a hi-tech car, with little improvement over conventional car choices, then read on for some fact investigation.

 

It’s not that we don’t want to do our part to help protect the environment. We’re all for burning less fossil fuel. I found out the same as this article referenced that a Honda or Toyota Hybrid estimated 36-45mpg and cost approximately $22,000. I settled on a Pontiac Vibe (Toyota Matrix) that gets 29mpg and cost $16,000. At 15000 miles/year of driving and $3.80/gal of gas that gives a savings of $382-698/yr. To make up for the increased cost of $6000 would take 8-15 years. The Vibe had considerably more carrying space (people and luggage) and was also roomier and simpler construction. It is expected that it should still be around after 8-15 years.

 

A good article to explain the Toyota Prius (now the largest selling hybrid car) is “An introduction by the U.S. Department of Energy to commercially available advanced vehicle technologies TECHNICAL SNAPSHOT featuring the Toyota Prius.” It explains how a hybrid car (Toyota Prius) works, the innovative features, and the performance. Another article is “How Hybrid Cars work.”

 

This article explains some “Hybrid Cars-Pros and Cons.”

 

This article gives “Hybrid Cars-Feedback” from owners of hybrid cars. Most are happy with their car and would buy another. Another article gives “Toyota Prius Hybrid testimonials and reviews.” It should be pointed out that this is only about 1% of the car market.

 

Some owners are disappointed in their gas mileage from the article “Hybrid Mileage Comes Up Short.” Their were several owners and articles that fell in this category.

 

This article gives reasons why the “Toyota Prius Falls Short.”

 

Look at this article on “Are Hybrid Cars Worth It?”

 

Consider the article “Hybrid Cars vs Gas Cars –Pros and Cons.”

 

This article covers “Prius Misconceptions.”

 

This article covers “Hybrid Industrial Market Trends” and why the cost to produce a hybrid may result in a future low hybrid market.

 

Other interesting articles:

 

  1. All about hybrid cars.
  2. Hybrid Car Review.
  3. Hybrid Cars Loosing Fuel Efficiency.

 

There was not much mentioned about the hybrid batteries and their cost. Most are made in Japan (little US technology) and manufacturers have 8 yr or 100000 mi warranties. Since hybrids have been sold, there have been few battery problems or failures.

 

The bottom line on hybrid cars is now your own personal priorities. Do you want a hi-tech car? Do you want a higher mpg car? Do you want an environmental friendly car? Do you mind paying higher car prices, or depend on the government for incentives? You can do almost the same with a smaller efficient gas car (not SUV). But will there be an expanding market for the Hybrid Car (not so far)?

Of interest are the candidate’s views on technological issues: Energy, Climate change, Space program, skilled worker shortage, and technology.

Car Fuel Efficiency Counterpoint

I’ve always appreciated a zippy, spacious, and fuel-efficient car. In fact that is my criteria when I goout looking for the next car. I attend the annual car shows and soon determine what is available fornew or future used car purchase. Dealers soon figure that out, and don’t waste their time on the standard promotions with me.

My first car was a 1964 white with red leather interior impala, bucket seats, and stick shift that got 13-17 mpg; now referred to as a boat. My second was a smaller zippy station wagon with bucket seats, and stick shift that got 30-35 mpg.

Over the years the car cost has gone up as safety improvements and fuel efficiency increases were declared by manufacturers. But the facts showed that the gas efficiency went from 30-35 mpg to 28-32 mpg-in the same ballpark. The increased car price was tied to the requirements of getting increased efficiency-but where was the increased efficiency that was professed over four decades.

For a brief history of the car fuel economy refer to this brief report and graph. My second car purchased had met the fuel economy, and this was the reason (along with the oil shortage-crisis) that forced congress to enact the nations first fuel economy standards.

For how we regulate and determine car fuel economy refer to this article. It depends on social issues and government regulation.

From the Green Car Congress-refer to the reported sales of hybrids. Yet the fuel efficiency is not increasing compared to the higher cost, and the disposal of battery materials.

Business Week reported on “The Road to a new CAFÉ Standard” that forces automakers to more fuel efficiency. Will automakers achieve a 35 mpg fuel economy standard by 2020-approximately the same as my second car?

The EPA is responsible for providing fuel economy (gas mileage) data that is posted on the window stickers of new vehicles. Will the government agencies (EPA, DOE, DOT IRS) be able to control the fuel efficiency or will the public dictate by what it buys?

National security and environmental quality concerns were important forces affecting the U.S. petroleum industry during the past 30 years. Much of the Federal legislation on petroleum was directly or indirectly associated with limiting petroleum imports or reducing petroleum-related pollution. Several political and economic events that occurred between 1970 and 2000 were critical because of the Nation’s dependence on petroleum imports.

The cost of a barrel of oil has been held below $35 in the past years. Now due to regulations, environmental concerns, and the world situation it is now above $100 per barrel. Is fuel efficiency and environmental factors our main concerns, or has our requirement and dependency on government regulation gotten out of hand? Is there a free market, or just a desire to force their ill begotten will on us?

Of interest are the candidate’s views on technological issues: Energy, Climate change, Space program, skilled worker shortage, and technology.

My second car was able to meet 30-35 mpg. My present car meets 28-32 mpg. Have all the years really brought about an improvement in fuel efficiency and environmental concerns? I know a car does cost considerably more, it is also easier to maintain, but fuel efficiency?