Jason Barton

Professional Information and Energy News

Archive for the ‘Transportation’ tag

Cooperation on Biofuels Increasing between Brazil and US

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With the US ending both the tariff on imported ethanol and the tax credit for domestic blenders, cooperation between the US and Brazil on biofuel technology is increasing, as well as efforts to trade renewable fuels on global markets. (See my post at the end of last year)

Yes, we need to be ever vigilant on the possible effects of increased biofuel production on food availability and prices as well as on land use, soil and water quality, and related issues. In my doctoral dissertation, however, I examined these issues in depth and contend that increased production can occur along with protection of ecological health.

The cooperation discussed in the article below can lead to greater efficiency of renewable fuel production, using less land and less water to produce more fuel.

Energy is fundamental to economic growth, and as countries in Latin America and Africa increase their ability to produce renewable energy domestically, they create more jobs and better the lives of their people in ways that will improve economic as well as environmental conditions for generations. These are undoubtedly positive.

It is a fascinating time to be alive.

Insight: U.S. and Brazil – At last, friends on ethanol

A gas station worker fills a car's tank with ethanol in Rio de Janeiro April 30, 2008. Brazil is the world's largest producer and exporter of ethanol. REUTERS/Sergio Moraes

By Brian Winter

BRASILIA | Fri Sep 14, 2012 11:21pm IST

(Reuters) – After years at each other’s throats, Brazil and the United States are working together to promote the use of ethanol in a collaboration that could revolutionize global markets and the makeup of the biofuel itself.

The breakthrough came in January when Washington allowed a three-decade-old subsidy for U.S. ethanol producers to expire and ended a steep tariff on foreign biofuels. The tariff, in particular, had poisoned diplomatic relations between the world’s top two ethanol-producing countries for years.

Continue reading this article here.

US Ends Tariff on Imported Ethanol

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With surprisingly little fanfare, the US has ended the $0.54 per gallon tariff on imported ethanol. This comes at the same time that Congress also allowed the $0.45 per gallon of ethanol tax credit for blenders to expire, potentially opening the door to much more US importation of Brazilian ethanol, as well as cooperation between the two countries on more advanced biofuels. Brazil was the leading producer of renewable fuel until 2005 when US production of ethanol from corn surpassed production of Brazil’s sugarcane ethanol.

The article below is clearly biased, quoting two top officials from UNICA, Brazil’s powerful sugarcane industry association, without presenting views from American officials who have been opposing these measures as they work to protect domestic energy production and agricultural markets.

That said, decreasing government intervention has always been favored by this humble author, and the elimination of these barriers to trade should make for the more efficient functioning of energy and agricultural markets.

Cooperation between the two largest producers of renewable fuels could also lead to faster development of fuels from non-food crop residues such as corn stover, sugarcane bagasse, and other cellulosic feedstocks.

Congressional Recess Means the End of Three Decades of US Tariffs on Imported Ethanol

Time for the world’s top two ethanol producers, the United States and Brazil, to lead a global effort for increased production and free, unobstructed trade for biofuels, says Brazilian Sugarcane Industry Association.

SAO PAULO, Dec. 23, 2011 /PRNewswire/ — For the first time in more than three decades of generous US government subsidies for the domestic ethanol industry, coupled with a steep tariff on imports, the United States market will be open to imported ethanol as of January 1st, 2012, without protectionist measures. The adjournment of the 112th Congress means both the US$0,54 per gallon tax on imported ethanol and a corresponding tax credit of US$0,45 per gallon for blenders, the VEETC (Volumetric Ethanol Excise Tax Credit), will expire as expected on December 31st.

Continue reading this story here.

Trains Across America?

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This is interesting to me. As is the case with much of what I write on this site, I know very little about trains, but like very much to travel on them, and have often thought the U.S. would be better off with more of them. Excellent memories of traveling on trains within the cities of Washington, New York, and Chicago, as well as longer trips around Europe, have only been augmented by articles from the perspectives of enviros and others in favor of more rails connecting American cities.

So it’s interesting to read an article, insightful and objective, that discusses some of the drawbacks and difficulties of long-distance passenger trains here at home. Even in my desire for more of this potentially efficient means of transport, I’m not advocating anything silly or polemic like the elimination of air planes. But for trips from Minneapolis to Chicago, San Francisco to L.A. (though I’m not sure why anyone would want to leave the one for the other), or from Missoula to Seattle, trains could provide convenient travel between urban centers, and with much less energy use per person per mile than planes or even one or two people driving by car.

Still, this article from The Economist illustrates how difficult it might be to make this move, and the importance of letting the free market work in order to ensure an efficient and effective system.

American railways

High-speed railroading

America’s system of rail freight is the world’s best. High-speed passenger trains could ruin it

Jul 22nd 2010

UNION STATION in Los Angeles has been restored as a fine example of the Art Deco architecture that typified California in the 1930s. It has served as a backdrop for many Hollywood films, from “Union Station” (naturally) to “Blade Runner” and “Star Trek: First Contact”. It was the last grand station to be built before America’s passenger railways went into what you might call terminal decline.

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Staggering progress

Amtrak’s passenger services are sparse compared with Europe’s. But America’s freight railways are one of the unsung transport successes of the past 30 years. They are universally recognised in the industry as the best in the world.

Their good run started with deregulation at the end of Jimmy Carter’s administration. Two years after the liberalisation of aviation gave rise to budget carriers and cheap fares, the freeing of rail freight, under the Staggers Rail Act of 1980, started a wave of consolidation and improvement. Staggers gave railways freedom to charge market rates, enter confidential contracts with shippers and run trains as they liked. They could close passenger and branch lines, as long as they preserved access for Amtrak services. They were allowed to sell lossmaking lines to new short-haul railroads. Regulation of freight rates by the Interstate Commerce Commission was removed for most cargoes, provided they could go by road.

The paragraph above reminds me of Ayn Rand. I dig Atlas Shrugged.

The $34 billion purchase last year by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway of Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF), one of the seven main freight railways (see chart 2), opened many Americans’ eyes to the industry’s significance. That America’s shrewdest investor should place his biggest bet on BNSF focused attention on how the country’s railways have been quietly boosting the economy by sucking costs out of many supply chains.

Coal is the biggest single cargo, accounting for 45% by volume and 23% by value. More than 70% of coal transport is by rail. As demand grows for the lower-sulphur coal from the Powder River Basin in Wyoming, it has to travel farther. In response railroads have invested in more powerful locomotives to haul longer coal trains: since 1990 the average horsepower of their fleet has risen by 72%. Yet energy efficiency has also improved.

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The corridor, one of the biggest infrastructure projects in modern America, was completed on time and on budget for $2.4 billion by a public-private partnership considered by many to be a model for other rail schemes, such as California’s proposed high-speed passenger line.

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The trouble for the freight railways is that almost all the planned new fast intercity services will run on their tracks. Combining slow freight and fast passenger trains is complicated. With some exceptions on Amtrak’s Acela and North East corridor tracks, level crossings are attuned to limits of 50mph for freight and 80mph for passenger trains. But Mr Obama’s plan boils down to running intercity passenger trains at 110mph on freight tracks. Add the fact that freight trains do not stick to a regular timetable, but run variable services at short notice to meet demand, and the scope for congestion grows.

Read the entire article here.

Written by Jason

July 22nd, 2010 at 10:50 pm

World,China Oil Demand To Slow;Plenty Of Capacity-IEA

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This is great news, unless it drives shortsightedness in investors and researchers who would otherwise drive innovation.

  • JULY 13, 2010, 4:54 A.M. ET

UPDATE:2011 World,China Oil Demand To Slow;Plenty Of Capacity-IEA

 
   By Spencer Swartz 
   Of DOW JONES NEWSWIRES

LONDON–The International Energy Agency said Tuesday it expects oil demand to slow next year in China and most other parts of the world, indicating that crude prices are likely to trade at subdued levels well into next year.

In its first assessment of 2011 global oil trends, the Paris-based agency forecast world oil demand to grow by 1.3 million barrels a day, or 1.6%. That increase rate is below the 2.1% rise in global crude consumption expected this year, although it is in line with 1.7% growth seen on average annually from 2000 to 2007.

Despite a higher rate of global economic growth projected next year, the IEA said the dual impact of improving energy efficiency in industrialized nations and a gradual phasing out of economic stimulus in emerging markets like China–the fastest-growing oil consumer globally–would slow the pace of oil consumption.

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“Whisper it quietly, but we might, just might, be in for some market stability for a while longer,” the IEA said.

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Consumers are still bent on maximizing energy efficiency in places like the U.S. and oil traders have lingering doubts about the health of Europe’s and America’s economic recovery and the knock-on effect in emerging markets.

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There are some potential problems ahead. Non-OPEC oil supply is forecast to grow by just 400,000 barrels a day in 2011, half the growth rate expected this year and far below recent historical averages, due to aging oil fields.

Read the entire article here.

Why Ford Wants Microsoft to Manage the Electric Vehicle Influx

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If there is a significant move to electric vehicles, and most of us come home from work and plug in our vehicles at the same time, there’s going to be an even bigger glut that we already have, and we already have a big glut. To those who deny the possibility, I’ll point to a recent conversation with a VP of BP (formerly British Petroleum) who said that in 50 years, the only use for oil will be for aviation. (Well, first he said that “we will never run out of oil.” When pressed about the meaning of “never,” he said not in his lifetime, and probably not in his kids’ lifetime. He was about 60, maybe 55. Clearly he’s not a geologist.)

The point is not to argue timescales or the finite nature of petroleum, but to point out that even the higher ups in the petroleum industry are thinking that plug-in vehicles are the wave of the future.

If these people within the petroleum industry and the folks discussed in the article below are correct, then the technology discussed in this article will be of the utmost importance to ensure a smooth transition to the infrastructure required for such a system.

Earth2Tech

Apr. 1, 2010, 12:00am PDT

Ford and Microsoft’s announcement on Wednesday that they’ll use Microsoft’s Hohm tool to minimize energy costs for drivers of Ford’s electric vehicles — and help limit strain on the power grid for utilities — represents a big step in the development of a “smart charging” ecosystem. But Microsoft and Ford both say Hohm, and other tools like it, need to — and will eventually — offer much more than this initial step.

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Thousands of companies — many of them startups — are working on hardware and software for charging plug-in vehicles, Gioia said at the time, adding “We have not come even close to a funnel.” With an open architecture, the idea with Hohm is to keep the doors open for awhile longer.

Read the entire article here.

Fast cars will go even faster with electric power

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Good news. I’m more than happy to make many sacrifices to reduce energy consumption, and very much enjoy walking, riding my bike, and even taking the bus. But I really like my car, and like it to be able to haul my gear, my buddies, and me up through the mountains. Bring on the electrics.

Electric supercars

Highly charged motoring

Mar 18th 2010 | From The Economist print edition

SOME people think sports cars are threatened with extinction by tightening restrictions on carbon-dioxide emissions and unacceptable fuel-guzzling. They fear the roar of the V8 will be replaced by the whirr of the electric armature—and that motoring will never be the same again. Well, it ought to be quieter, that is true. But the Jeremy Clarksons and J. Bonington Jagworths of this world need not fear that it will be slower.

The secret (whisper it, lest puritanical greens find out) is that electric motors are better than combustion engines. They have more oomph, and no need of a gearbox to deliver it. No self-respecting supercar should be without them. And, at this month’s Geneva motor show, at least three supercar-makers showed that they had got the message. Lotus, Porsche and Ferrari each unveiled vehicles driven partly by electric motors. These cars have petrol engines, too, to back the electric ones up; technically, therefore, they are hybrids. But that should change in the future as batteries’ storage capacity goes up, and charging time comes down. Most importantly they show that, sometimes, doing the right thing can be fun.

Read the entire article here.

Written by Jason

March 20th, 2010 at 6:12 pm

T. Boone Pickens Tweaks His Energy Plan

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January 20, 2010, 2:02 pm

By JIM MOTAVALLI

Pickens
Matt Nager for The New York Times
“We have to target heavy-duty vehicles,” Mr. Pickens said during a meeting at The New York Times.

From our friends at the Wheels blog:

T. Boone Pickens, the Texas billionaire, got his first car, a 1942 Ford, in 1946. But in an interview today at The New York Times, he made it plain that the national romance with the automobile was beyond his reckoning. “America is nuts about cars,” he said. “I don’t quite understand this thing about horsepower. Cars are not a big deal to me, but they are a big deal to a lot of people.”

Nevertheless, the Pickens plan he began in 2008 seeks to transform the way Americans drive by powering vehicles with what he calls our “abundance of clean, cheap, domestic natural gas.” But, in New York, Mr. Pickens said he was refocusing the plan, not only de-emphasizing wind energy, but also turning his natural gas focus from cars and pickup trucks to big commercial vehicles, including buses and the 18-wheelers that move American freight.

Read the entire article here.

Secretary Chu Announces $187 Million to Improve Vehicle Efficiency for Heavy-Duty Trucks and Passenger Vehicles

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January 11, 2010

At an event today in Columbus, Indiana, Secretary Chu announced the selection of nine projects totaling more than $187 million to improve fuel efficiency for heavy-duty trucks and passenger vehicles. The funding includes more than $100 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, and with a private cost share of 50%, will support nearly $375 million in total research, development, and demonstration projects across the country. The nine winners have stated their projects will create over 500 jobs, primarily researchers, engineers, and managers who will develop these new technologies. By 2015, the projects expect to create over 6,000 jobs—many in manufacturing and assembly.

Read the entire article here.

Written by Jason

January 11th, 2010 at 11:05 pm

U.S. CAR FLEET SHRINKS BY FOUR MILLION IN 2009

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After a Century of Growth, U.S. Fleet Entering Era of Decline

Lester R. Brown

America’s century-old love affair with the automobile may be coming to an end. The U.S. fleet has apparently peaked and started to decline. In 2009, the 14 million cars scrapped exceeded the 10 million new cars sold, shrinking the U.S. fleet by 4 million, or nearly 2 percent in one year. While this is widely associated with the recession, it is in fact caused by several converging forces.

Future U.S. fleet size will be determined by the relationship between two trends: new car sales and cars scrapped. Cars scrapped exceeded new car sales in 2009 for the first time since World War II, shrinking the U.S. vehicle fleet from the all-time high of 250 million to 246 million. It now appears that this new trend of scrappage exceeding sales could continue through at least 2020. (See data.)

Read the entire article here.

Written by Jason

January 7th, 2010 at 8:02 am