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

Mitlov

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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.

So in other words, you want a Chevy Volt.
 

Jay

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The thing is, it works! Four stroke engines are most efficient when held at a constant RPM. And with diesels, the longer it runs between the time the ignition is turned on and off, the more efficient it becomes.

In the whole spectrum of human advancement, the automobile is just a nanosecond; imagine what cars will be like in 50 years! I for one am pretty excited.
 

narf

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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.

Take your pick of European countries to copy from.

Denmark? When buying a car there is a kilometreage target, something like 16km/l. Per kilometre over the target you get a 4000dkk reduction on your new car price, per kilometre under it you need to pay 1000dkk more.
Germany? Annual registration tax mostly is based on CO2 output of your car, for every g/km over 120 you get to pay 2? a year. Couple of examples, the CO2 component for a Veyron is 880? a year - for me it's 52? a year. As a comparison, the displacement based component would be 160? for the bug, 28? for me.
Everywhere? Hugenormous tax on fuel.
 

Cobol74

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That is the trouble everyone has to travel - so a tax will not work for the purpose stated - it will raise taxes and receipts for the treasury but it will not stop travel. We need an equivalently efficient way of travelling to a petrol/Diesel car that does not cause the use of fossil fuels.

My previous post so far is my only suggestion - God I am thick.
 

nomix

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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.
Yeah. But while you wouldn't move your familiy to chernobyl, you'd probably have few problems moving to the coast in a year. And while wildlife lives fine, they usually don't live until they are 30-40 years anyway, so cancer risks won't show up that well.

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.
Which isn't what I was talking about. I even said in my initial post that I think it's unlikely to happen. I just said that the concequences when it happens are.. big.
 

Cobol74

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Does not everyone get it? The accident/whatever in the Gulf is to do with cost saving in this case it caused terrible devastation to the environment, and a "mere" 11 lives lost! You create the same conditions for the building of an atomic power station within the same capitalist structure that the West has adopted and you will, Guaranteed, sooner or later get the same equivalent accident.

Now it may only kill say, 1500 people but that is too many for someones profit now is it not? Dangerous practices have emerged already in Ohio, except that the accident was smaller. This is not just speculation but a racing certainty.
 

freeferrarisdonotexist

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I would agree the best stopgap measure is the biodiesel (ideally) four-stroke, set to run at a specific rpm, powering a generator that powers the batteries that power the motor(s) on an electric vehicle. It would work in a car, at the expense of storage space for smaller vehicles, but good luck getting a motorcycle with that setup, or a light aircraft.

However, we do need something to go forward on. It seems whenever I ask the greenies what it is, they complain about everything (fuel-cell, nuclear, even electric if they aren't insane) and have no response.

Yes, getting out of ICE vehicles would help, and for example cycling to commute would help, but it doesn't help (for most people at least) stop the use of oil any great deal, and certainly doesn't provide an alternative for the infrastructure our societies are now dependent on. We need a technological breakthrough. Probably to do with electricity, as it has massive potential and electric motors are efficient- it's batteries that are weighing it down currently, and pissing us petrolheads off due to poor power and pathetic range, combined with high weight and terrible charging times. A new, hypothetical battery- which gives a high power output, can sustain it for a long enough time to give the average vehicle at least a 200-mile range at comfortable speeds, recharges quickly and doesn't weigh a ridiculous amount for its output.
 

Mitlov

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Does not everyone get it? The accident/whatever in the Gulf is to do with cost saving in this case it caused terrible devastation to the environment, and a "mere" 11 lives lost! You create the same conditions for the building of an atomic power station within the same capitalist structure that the West has adopted and you will, Guaranteed, sooner or later get the same equivalent accident.

Now it may only kill say, 1500 people but that is too many for someones profit now is it not? Dangerous practices have emerged already in Ohio, except that the accident was smaller. This is not just speculation but a racing certainty.

People tend to exaggerate (not deliberately, I think) the death toll of a potential nuclear disaster. I normally hear people toss around "thousands" or "tens of thousands." The Chernobyl disaster, the worst in history and unlikely to be repeated, killed 56 directly and 4,000 indirectly. source. For comparison, the US coal industry kills about 30 people each year in accidents, and each year, causes about 4,000 new cases of black lung. I don't even want to look up the annual death toll in Chinese coal mines.
 

AiR

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Best answer, that Steve already provided in the first post, is a sliding scale tax increase on fuel each year.
 

argatoga

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I'm not going to restate my view on nuclear power (I've done it about a million times already).

Concerning fuel tax here, put the following together:
Goods are moved vast differences mainly via trucks
Higher gas tax means truckers must pay more
Taxes are passed onto consumers

So if you want more expensive food and goods go ahead and increase the gas tax.

A good deal of US fuel usage could be reduced if we STOPPED BURNING IT FOR ELECTRICITY.
 

thedguy

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For those touting Bio Fuels I would like to interest you guys in an interesting piece from the LATimes (apparently it's Hippie land down here so this is rather funny to me)

A rolling "dead zone" off the Gulf of Mexico is killing sea life and destroying livelihoods. Recent estimates put the blob at nearly the size of New Jersey.

Alas, I'm not talking about the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. As terrible as that catastrophe is, such accidents have occurred in U.S. waters only about once every 40 years (and globally about once every 20 years). I'm talking about the dead zone largely caused by fertilizer runoff from American farms along the Mississippi and Atchafalaya river basins. Such pollutants cause huge algae plumes that result in oxygen starvation in the gulf's richest waters, near the delta.

Because the dead zone is an annual occurrence, there's no media feeding frenzy over it, even though the average annual size of these hypoxic zones has been about 6,600 square miles over the last five years, and they are driven by bipartisan federal agriculture, trade and energy policies.

Indeed, if policymakers continue to pursue biofuels in response to the current anti-fossil-fuel craze, these dead zones will get a lot bigger every year. A 2008 study by the National Academy of Sciences found that adhering to corn-based ethanol targets will increase the size of the dead zone by as much as 34%.

Of course, that's just one of the headaches "independence" from oil and coal would bring. If we stop drilling offshore, we could lose up to $1 trillion in economic benefits, according to economist Peter Passell. And, absent the utopian dream of oil-free living, every barrel we don't produce at home, we buy overseas. That sends dollars to bad regimes (though more to Canada and Mexico). It may also increase the chances of disaster because tanker accidents are more common than rig accidents.

But wait a minute ? isn't that precisely why we're investing in "renewables," to free ourselves from this vicious petro-cycle? Don't the Billy Sundays of the Church of Green promise that they are the path to salvation?

This is infuriating and dangerous nonsense, as Matt Ridley demonstrates in his mesmerizing new book, "The Rational Optimist." Let's start with biofuels. Ethanol production steals precious land to produce inefficient fuel inefficiently (making food more scarce and expensive for the poor). If all of our transport fuel came from biofuel, we would need 30% more land than all of the existing food-growing farmland we have today.

In Brazil and Malaysia, biofuels are more economically viable (thanks in part to really cheap labor), but at the insane price of losing rainforest while failing to reduce the CO2 emissions that justify ethanol in the first place. According to Ridley, the Nature Conservancy's Joseph Fargione estimates rainforest clear-cutting for biofuels releases 17 to 420 times more CO2 than it offsets by displacing petroleum or coal.

As for wind and solar, even if such technologies were wildly more successful than they have been, so what? You could quintuple and then quintuple again the output of wind and solar and it wouldn't reduce our dependence on oil. Why? Because we use oil for transportation, not for electricity. We would offset coal, but again at an enormous price. If we tried to meet the average amount of energy typically used in America, we would need wind farms the size of Kazakhstan or solar panels the size of Spain.

If you remove the argument over climate change from the equation (as even European governments are starting to do), one thing becomes incandescently clear: Fossil fuels have been one of the great boons both to humanity and the environment, allowing forests to regrow (now that we don't use wood for heating fuel) and liberating billions from backbreaking toil. The great and permanent shortage is usable surface land and fresh water. The more land we use to produce energy, the less we have for vulnerable species, watersheds, agriculture, recreation, etc.

"If you like wilderness, as I do," Ridley writes, "the last thing you want is to go back to the medieval habit of using the landscape surrounding us to make power."

The calamity in the gulf is heartrending and tragic. A thorough review of government oversight and industry safety procedures is more than warranted. But as counterintuitive as it may be to say so, oil is a green fuel, while "green" fuels aren't. And this spill doesn't change that fact.

So, nuclear is to risky, bio-fuels just increase agriculture run off, solar and wind aren't up to the job and have their own problems for environmentalists, and we already know oil.

There is no solution! We're F'd in the A! :tease:

OH and believe it or not, environmentalists have actually fought solar and wind farms here in California. Solar farms take up a lot of space and "hurt the habitat of some vague turtle." Yes we actually had a solar farm shot down for basically this reason. Wind turbines tend to kill burns, throw off tornado radars, and when they start to fail can make noises for miles that can drive people insane.

My solution
Increase the tax on gasoline, but not diesel for now... or maybe a bit of road use diesel. Next use some of that tax to help improve our rail road infrastructure. Use rail to ship goods over the vast distances and trucks only for local stuff. The trains are already largely diesel electric hybrids, why not swap them to full electric?

Next, change the laws on recycling spent uranium so we can reduce the half life of the stuff and get more use of out a given fuel amount. Create more nuclear facilities, California specifically could use a couple and perhaps use them to desalinize water so people in Utah can stop complaining about our water consumption. Use the fresh nuclear power to run the cross country trains.

Generating more power from one source if more efficient than generating it at a bunch of small sources (i.e a big ass coal fired plant vs an ICE).

Some of the other bits of that increased fuel tax can go into battery/hydrogen/fuel cell/unicorn horns & pixie dust technologies. Problems I see with batteries is less with their charge times and what not but with the fact that we'd still have to mine the crap out of various natural resources to make them. Doesn't really solve our problems with the coal miners if we still have lithium and various other mines. At least we don't need as much uranium as we would lithium for millions of cars.

Of course we could also rework this retarded idea that we all must have our house in the 'burbs and consider living NEAR the work place. Right now in the La metro area people live 60+miles away from their work. Many jobs don't realistically need on-site personnel, encourage companies to offer telecommuting for their employee's. How did that line go by the greenies on that TG featured "The greenest journey is one not made at all"? Why do paper pushers REALLY need to go to an office every day of the week, and at the same time of the day as every other person on the planet. Just cutting down on traffic by using the road network more efficiently (i.e. not having everyone go to/leave work at 8-6) will do wonders I'm sure.

How about developing engines that run on stupid politicians. I'm sure California could get out of it's financial slump real fast with our large reserves.
 
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AiR

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So if you want more expensive food and goods go ahead and increase the gas tax.
More like slightly lower margins for the producer. Fuel prices rise each year, yet our food and trinkets cost less and less.
There's also nothing that says that the tax on petrol and diesel must be the same, increasing the tax on petrol should be the first priority.
 
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SirEdward

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So in other words, you want a Chevy Volt.

More or less. But on a diesel engine!

phuckingduck said:
So in other words, you want a Diesel train.

Only if I'm allowed to drive it. :p :D

Mitlov said:
People tend to exaggerate (not deliberately, I think) the death toll of a potential nuclear disaster. I normally hear people toss around "thousands" or "tens of thousands." The Chernobyl disaster, the worst in history and unlikely to be repeated, killed 56 directly and 4,000 indirectly. source. For comparison, the US coal industry kills about 30 people each year in accidents, and each year, causes about 4,000 new cases of black lung. I don't even want to look up the annual death toll in Chinese coal mines.

Yes, but the worst of it all is that the Pripyat area is still practically uninhabited. A nuclear disaster has the power to not only kill quite a bunch of people, but also to make everyone else abandon the area for decades, if not centuries. If you consider that in many areas of the city part of the soil has been taken away to reduce pollution and that the core of the reactor has been encapsulated in concrete just to avoid further radiation spread, I think it's clear that the real risk of a nuclear incident is not the death toll itself, but the environmental consequences and the zillions of money needed to keep them confined. It's just like standard radioactive waste from standard nuclear plants: what is important is not the relatively small physical size of the radioactive barrels (plus the always forgotten huge amount of radioactive water), it's the endless years it will take them to neutralize away, together with the fact that they can pollute almost everything and that no one with an inch of brain would want them near home.
 
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SpitfireMK461

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In my opinion we have to focus on the power stations, not on cars. People like their cars and they are hard to change. Few people have any direct connection with a power plant. We need to change our carbon based stations to something else (a MIX of hydro, solar, wind, and nuclear). When that is done, we can tackle the issue of cars. Hydrogen would be a viable fuel source since we then don't need our carbon fuels to create the hydrogen. It isn't perfect, but at the moment is the best future fuel for cars.

Ultimately, we need to focus resources on developing sustainable fusion. The first sustained fusion power plant is scheduled to open in the next decade, but it will not produce power outside of experimental needs. More investments need to be made into creating commercial fusion power.

Really, there is no quick fix, and no single fix. It will take decades and many changes to remove fossil fuels from our power grid, but everything we need is here already. We just need businesses and governments willing to make the investment.
 

narf

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If we tried to meet the average amount of energy typically used in America, we would need wind farms the size of Kazakhstan or solar panels the size of Spain.

Statements like that could have come from my 10yo nephew. Absolutist nonsense, saying solar or wind power is bad because it can't solve the problem on its own. No reason not to use them in a mix of energy with less fossil fuels. For example, solar-powered A/C units would significantly reduce the load on the grid during sunny summer days, not generating as much power during the winter or on cloudy days would not have a huge negative impact. Adding a layer of solar cells on your roof would also decrease the amount of heat absorbed by your roof, essentially reducing the need for cooling.
 

thedguy

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Statements like that could have come from my 10yo nephew. Absolutist nonsense, saying solar or wind power is bad because it can't solve the problem on its own. No reason not to use them in a mix of energy with less fossil fuels. For example, solar-powered A/C units would significantly reduce the load on the grid during sunny summer days, not generating as much power during the winter or on cloudy days would not have a huge negative impact. Adding a layer of solar cells on your roof would also decrease the amount of heat absorbed by your roof, essentially reducing the need for cooling.

Consider I live in Southern California, and other than when the marine layer comes in... solar panels are a great option. I'm a bit surprised they damn near haven't been mandated to be built onto the roofs of new homes.
 

argatoga

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More like slightly lower margins for the producer. Fuel prices rise each year, yet our food and trinkets cost less and less.
There's also nothing that says that the tax on petrol and diesel must be the same, increasing the tax on petrol should be the first priority.

In the U.S. at least businesses pass taxes on to the consumer. Again a large chunk of US fuel is wasted producing electricity [not WA, we use hydro here).

Yes, but the worst of it all is that the Pripyat area is still practically uninhabited. A nuclear disaster has the power to not only kill quite a bunch of people, but also to make everyone else abandon the area for decades, if not centuries. If you consider that in many areas of the city part of the soil has been taken away to reduce pollution and that the core of the reactor has been encapsulated in concrete just to avoid further radiation spread, I think it's clear that the real risk of a nuclear incident is not the death toll itself, but the environmental consequences and the zillions of money needed to keep them confined. It's just like standard radioactive waste from standard nuclear plants: what is important is not the relatively small physical size of the radioactive barrels (plus the always forgotten huge amount of radioactive water), it's the endless years it will take them to neutralize away, together with the fact that they can pollute almost everything and that no one with an inch of brain would want them near home.

Not all nuclear disasters are the same. One of the reactors at Three Mile Island failed in a big way and none of the radioactive material spilled out. Hiroshima is a significant and large city today.
 

ryosuke

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So, no support for my red light idea?

i'm all for it. roundabouts are awesome, especially in winter when covered in snow.
i also love to go round them in the dry with squealing tyres until i get sick, but i'm afraid thats not good for fuel economy.
 
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