For the US: how best to reduce fossil fuel use?

Steve Levin

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Since we're FG, I was going to keep this primarily focused on cars, but I think any good ideas would be interesting to talk about.

For cars, I have two thoughts on ways to change things. I believe that CAFE is the "bass-ackwards" way of influencing things because it fundamentally tries to make manufacturers build cars people don't actually want. And while "people" might want much more fuel efficient vehicles, most individuals end up not caring as much when it's simply a cost being passed on a few hundred dollars of purchase price that typically gets financed into the purchase of the car and means just 4 or 5 dollars a month in higher payments. You go in an say "hey, for five bucks a month, I'd rather have the bigger engine!"

In my opinion, effective change will come when the costs are continuous, and will have implications at the time of resale. In other words, how do we make that bigger engine that you pay more for potentially worth LESS when it's time to sell the car? (and maybe not at the first sale, but the second or third, to help get older, less efficient cars off the road as well).

The simplest way, I think, would be to pass a 10 cent/gallon gas tax that increases another 10 cents every year. So in 5 years it would be 50 cents and in ten years $1/gallon. The biggest issue I see with this is that it's going to be hard to pick a number that is enough to start moving the needle to change buying patterns without having a real impact on those folks that can only afford to buy older cars.

So my second thought was a bit more complicated (in some ways). It would be a car registration fee, based on the fuel economy of the car. Cars that reach the given "mark" would have no fee. And the amount of the fee, once assigned to a car when new, would not change for the life of that car.

So to start, let's say the "mark" was put at 40mpg, and the fee was set to $10/mpg you miss the target by. So a car that get 30mpg would pay $100/year for the rest of its "life."

Then the "mark" could be raised, say 1mpg each year, and the fee raised $2/mpg each year. So in year 5, new cars would be faced with a mark of 45mpg, and an annual fee of $20/mpg they miss the target by. In year 10 the mark would be 50mpg and the annual fee $30/mpg.

Or perhaps we raise target mark slower, but raise the fees faster, if we think it'll be tough to hit the higher marks, but want to get more of the near-mark cars sold.

Regardless, I think such a scheme impacts the buyers of older cars much less, and makes the buyers of newer cars really think about that bigger engine choice, since they know that when they go to sell the car, that next buyer is going to be saying "how much will it cost me every year to register this thing?"

The bottom line is that I do think we need to push more on burning less fuel, and for every enthusiast that buys a car with the sportier engine, there are 20 people that don't know a tire from a wheel that ended up buying it because it came with the car and the manufacturers haven't had much pressure to build nicer trim levels with the smaller engines.

Steve
 

phuckingduck

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Gas tax with a specific protection to insure that its earnings are directed entirely towards infrastructure (not just roadways) enhancements. Keep your grubby hands off our infrastructure money legislatures.

Invest more in developing our train infrastructure (sorry truckers). Senor Buffet I'm looking at you!

Get rid of red lights. Seriously. How inefficient is it to always come to a stop rather than occasionally come to a stop at round a bouts? I'd really like to know. It seems so frustrating and inefficient to rely on red lights for traffic management at so many intersections when a round about (whats the proper spelling on that?) would work better.

Kill off dam-busters. It's a local thing.

Mandate better home insulation in construction reducing fossil fuel use for homes.

Try to help a cultural change that focuses more on locally grown or produced goods. I'm not a big isolationist or anything, but relying on local farmers and producers can help reduce shipping needs.

Or were we supposed to stay on cars?
 

nomix

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Better fuel efficiency standards will jump start it. I know not everybody likes it, but if you go from ie. 0.9 litres per 10km to for instance 0.7 litres per 10km, that's 30 % saving. Don't know the average milage in the US, but I don't think 0.9 would be very far off. And with long, straight roads, 0.7 litres per 10km isn't far off. When I can drive a car with comfortable power resources on a very bad road where you accelerate and brake every 100 meters, and get 0.5 liters per 10km.. it's possible and you better believe it. And I wasn't driving slow either.
 

Cobol74

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~~~~~~~~ R I G H T N O W ~~~~~~~~~

Current cars could be made with better drag co-efficients to reduce petrol consumption, lighter materials and engine optimisation for mpg could be the order of the day. Put some real money in the lean burn technology too to get more energy out of the fuel.

~~~~~~~~ L O N G E R T E R M ~~~~~~~~~

We need to tackle the issue of replacing carbon based fuels - what is compact and cheap enough that holds equivalent amounts of energy. Well it is possible to run Diesel engines on organic derived oils, now in the past Palm oil has been tried (As well as the famous used chip pan fat based oils) but this is not a good substitute as Palm oil is grown in hot countries usually on ex rain forrest.

We must search for a plant (GM may be useful here as no one is going to eat the stuff) that can produce large amounts of organic oil that has energy content but that can grow in the more temperate climate of the Northern countries and States of the US. I believe lubricants can be made from the stuff too - now I do not like electric because of a) the damage making the batteries causes to the environment and b) re-charging involves electricity which is itself expensive and not particularly green. The performance of present electric cars is compromised and not up to requirements, hybrids suffer from lugging around heavy batteries when under internal combustion power and the batteries are lugging an internal combustion engine and petrol when under electric power - inherently inefficient.

~~~~~~~~ E V E N L O N G E R T E R M ~~~~~~~~

So we could use methane too from organic waste digesters but the organisation needed for that would be huge I think.

Need to think some more about it.
 
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LP

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Hydrogen-powered fuel cell cars?
 

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The problem with Hydrogen cars is getting the hydrogen in a usable form. Takes a lot of energy. So all we're doing is moving the carbon emissions from the cars back on to the grid. Net change will be minimal compared to the promises of the idea.
 

LP

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But aren't the carbon emissions from producing hydrogen just from trying to decompose fossil fuels? I know that requires less energy than electrolysis of water, but what if we did do the latter, and used environmentally-friendly energy in order to perform said electrolysis?

Then in the very least carbon emissions would go down but I predict this would increase the cost of hydrogen at the pumps as a result of the elaborate and possibly expensive process.
 

Mitlov

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For cars: government subsidies for biodiesel and EVs. EVs are good for major metro areas, biodiesel for everywhere else.

For the rest of our power needs: nuclear power. Don't tell me it can't be done. France gets 3/4s of its electricity from nuclear. There's never been a single death related to it, and the environmental impact pales in comparison to, say, coal mines and offshore oil rigs.
 

thevictor390

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Getting old cars off the road in favor of new cars is counter-productive, I believe I have read (anyone can confirm?)

Something like the cost to manufacture a car is worse than the cost of continuing to run a less efficient car.

Anyway, all attempts to make gas-powered cars more efficient, while helpful, is a stop-gap. We need another energy source altogether. As far as taxes go, I hate the idea of it. People will switch when there is reason to. Limited or not, gas is cheap. Eventually, gas will get expensive, and people will start looking elsewhere. Until that happens, taxes will just artificially raise the cost of living for everyone. But that's just my American point of view...
 
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nomix

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Whoah, liters per KM. Calculator here I come!

Couldn't be bothered to convert to MPG, the equation is just too silly for someone who's out of whack sleep-wise. Gotta convert the kms to miles, the litres to gallons, turn it upside down and jump on one foot.

Could have done it with google but I don't know if they use gallon US or gallon UK.

Anyhow:

(9 litres) per (100 km) = 26.1349537 miles per gallon

(7 litres) per (100 km) = 33.6020833 miles per gallon

(5 litres) per (100 km) = 47.0429167 miles per gallon

In Norway, we measure it by litres per 10km driven (10km = 1 mil in Norway, so it's "liter p? mila"/"litre per mil"), but google only recognize litres per 100km.

:)
 

phuckingduck

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EV's are a meh idea. Our grid is not built for that extra load. CA has a hard enough time right now, think of all the hippies coming home to plug their EV's in. Further, just like hydrogen all it does is move the emissions further up the grid. So if we did switch to something like nuclear EV's would be fine, or they could be fine in areas like the PNW that rely mainly on hydroelectric energy. But areas that rely on weak grids or excessive coal power it's just a bad idea.
 

nomix

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Nuclear is clean with regards of CO2. And it's pretty safe. But when something does go wrong, you're not just fucked, you're monumentally fucked. Like, so fucked it'll be very hard to sit down without one of those inflatable ring pillow thingys.
 

laxmax613

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Better Place.


not only would this push the EV tech forward, it would provide the correct infrastructure to cope with the inevitable growth of electricity use. coupled with tax breaks for early adopters, this would work very well, even on a large scale.
 

Mitlov

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Nuclear is clean with regards of CO2. And it's pretty safe. But when something does go wrong, you're not just fucked, you're monumentally fucked. Like, so fucked it'll be very hard to sit down without one of those inflatable ring pillow thingys.

...one could say the same thing about deep-water offshore oil drilling, no?
 

nomix

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I guess you could, but unlike a nuclear accident, it doesn't make the entire place unlivable for the next five hundered years.

In ten years tops, life will start returning to normal. Seen photos from Chernobyl these days? It's just not livable at all.
 

Mitlov

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I guess you could, but unlike a nuclear accident, it doesn't make the entire place unlivable for the next five hundered years.

In ten years tops, life will start returning to normal. Seen photos from Chernobyl these days? It's just not livable at all.

Not livable at all? The current population of Hiroshima is 1.2 million. The current population of Nagasaki is 446,000.

As for Chernobyl, while it's still sealed off by the Ukranian government, it's not nearly as simple as "just not livable at all." It's actually become a thriving wildlife habitat. While barn swallows (very delicate creatures in the grand scheme of things) do have higher mortality rates there than in other areas, even they live in Chernobyl.

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2006/04/0426_060426_chernobyl.html

I wouldn't move my family there tomorrow, but I'd say the same thing about areas of West Virginia with tainted groundwater as a result of coal mining.

Regardless, the Chernobyl reactor lacked certain fail-safe protections that all western reactors have. I don't see that accident happening again in France or in the US if we adopt modern nuclear reactors as a major source of electricity.
 

SirEdward

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I think one of the greatest medium term idea has been implemented by Top Gear on Geoff (sorry, Eagly-eye-Hammerhead... whatever). A diesel generator steadily running at its best range charging up a small pack of batteries fueling an electric motor used to actually move the car.

Low fuel consumption, fairly low environmental costs due to reduced amount of batteries AND reduced fuel consumption, possibly good performance. Only real drawback might come from the extra weight. I heard such a solution is being developed, but I don't know if it could work, it all depends on how slow you have to drive the car to allow a really frugal and not too heavy diesel generator to recharge the batteries faster than the car discharges them.
 
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