Not all the alternative generation of energy is really taken into account because numerous small-scale projects are inevitably overlooked. The Energy Information Administration (EIA) does make available figures on the economy, crude oil prices, and alternative resources to the best of their data collecting ability. This information is almost constantly revised as more data is available but the changes and revisions are not especially dramatic. The change in energy consumption and sources of energy is an evolutionary process and not a revolutionary process.

How Much Alternative Fuel do we Really Want or Use?

Anna W. Crull | STIX, Inc.


World crude oil prices will trend both up and trend down over the near to medium-term horizon.   That change in pricing of crude oil is one economics driver for alternative fuels that almost equals the economic and legislative drivers to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. There seems to be little that can be done to control the largest greenhouse gas emission of all, water vapor. Domestic natural gas resources allows for expansion in the production of natural gas. The following figure is information from EIA.
 
ENERGY CONSUMPTION AND PROJECTIONS
 
Fig
 
 
Electricity producers including electrical utilities, independent power producers and combined heat and power plants, consumed 51% of total U.S. renewable energy in 2007 for producing electricity. Most of the remaining 49% of renewable energy was biomass consumed for industrial applications (principally paper-making) by plants producing only heat and steam. Biomass is also used for transportation fuels (ethanol) and to provide residential and commercial space heating. The largest share of the renewable-generated electricity comes from hydroelectric energy (71%), followed by biomass (16%), wind (9%), geothermal (4%), and solar (0.2%). Wind-generated electricity increased by almost 21% in 2007 over 2006, more than any other energy source. Its growth rate was followed closely by solar, which increased by over 19% in 2007 over 2006. The following table is from EIA sources and is the most recent data available.
 
U.S. RENEWABLES CONSUMPTION
2007
 
 
Fig
 
The data of consumption indicates that non-fossil energy use in the U.S grows rapidly, but fossil fuel will still be providing 79% of the U.S. total energy in 2030. From now through 2030 nuclear power holds more or less steady. The same can be said for coal and natural gas. Making the largest new entry into the data are the liquid biofuels and the renewables (excluding liquid biofuels). Energy use per dollar of U.S. GDP continues to decline from now through 2030. The per capita energy use in the U.S. also declines. The net dependence of the U.S. on imported fossil fuel liquids declines over the next 20 years. Consumption of fossil fuel liquids falls slightly and domestic supply increases.
 
Instigation for changes include structural change in the economy, higher prices in general and improved efficiency of use.   The fuels to generate electricity are gradually shifting to lower carbon options. Natural gas, nuclear and renewable energy are viewed as having a larger share of the billion kilowatt hours of the U.S. electrical generation pie.   Non-hydro power in the renewable power meets 33% of total generation between 2008 and 2030. Biomass and wind make the largest contributions but waste, geothermal and solar all are viewed as growing markets.   Renewable are projected as adding 57 gigawatts of generating capacity between 2008 and 2030.    Electricity generation is still viewed as the dominant source of carbon dioxide emission growth by the EIA.
 
In 2009, the U.S. auto industry is in a sub-standard condition. Bail-outs and cash for clunkers have done something to spur sales and industry marginal improvements. True hybrid vehicles such as the Toyota Prius continue to be a good buy and are essentially very low in emissions. The darling appears to be some version of the plug-in hybrid. Seldom mentioned is that energy/electricity/electrons flowing from a wall socket is not free. No matter where or how one gets power for a vehicle it costs. 
 
The various fuel cell and/or hydrogen type vehicles are also alternatives still in the future. It has become common to refer to the fuel cell powered vehicle as a hybrid. A fuel cell vehicle does not operate without a large battery pack to sustain it through at least the start-up cycle. Electric cars, hybrids plug-ins and hydrogen-fed proton exchange membrane fuel (PEM) cell vehicles or their use in small machines such as forklifts all use similar technology. Eventually it may be possible to talk about a technology convergence of battery technologies and powertrains.
 
There are a lot of options even for the production and use of ethanol, even though in many vehicles (such as a Prius) the use of ethanol in the gasoline cuts down on the MPG. To meet a U.S.   Government stated goal of replacing one-third of U.S. petroleum consumption with biofuels by 2030, the biomass R&D technical advisory committee of the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture (USDS; www.usda.gov) and Dept. of Energy (DOE; www.doe.gov) estimates it will require annually growing 1 billion dry tons of collectable biomass and converting it to biofuels. Critical barriers exist to producing biomass efficiently and cost effectively. One roadblock is transportation. Getting tons of biomass to the nearest storage and ethanol production facilities can be a problem.
 
Some common urban waste may become gasoline, thanks to research at the Texas Engineering Experiment Station (TEES; tees.tamu.edu) and Byogy Renewables (www.byogy.com). The researchers claim that their process may be the only integrated system that converts biomass directly to gasoline. Most other processes convert the biomass into alcohol and then blend the ethanol with gasoline. The new system is relatively inexpensive and uses biomass waste streams and non-food energy crops rather than food products such as corn. The cost making gasoline using the process would be US$1.70-2.00 per gallon excluding all government subsidies and tax credits. This cost range is dependent on the type and cost of feedstock as well as the size of the biorefinery.
 
There are still other options for alternative fuels including a biogas created from chicken manure that is generating power and heat at a large chicken farm north of Beijing, China. The Beijing Deqingyuan Chicken Farm waste utilization plant is the first of its type in China and could pave the way for similar applications in the future. Providing 14,600 megawatt hours of electricity per year, the project is designed to help reduce sub-urban electricity shortages. By using the biogas for power generation in place of previously used coal-fired power, the new project is expected to reduce the equivalent of about 95,000 tons of carbon dioxide per year, qualifying the project for the United Nations clean development mechanism program.
 
The Beijing Deqingyuan project is reducing the farm’s dust levels, further enhancing the area’s air and water quality by controlling odors and improving the work environment for the farm's employees. The farm owns three million chickens, producing 220 tons of manure and 170 tons of wastewater each day. The farm’s cogeneration system features an anaerobic digester system to treat the waste material, producing enough biogas to fuel two GE (www.ge.com) Jenbacher JMS 320 GS-B.L gas engines. The plant has an installed electric capacity of about 2 megawatts, and the facility’s thermal output is used to support the chicken waste fermentation process and heat the chicken farm in the winter. “This biogas project will quickly pay for itself by meeting the demand for electricity and heat,” says Jack Wen, president and CEO of GE Energy China.
 
The Republic of Korea’s Ministry of Environment (eng.me.go.kr) continues to subsidize the conversion of small- and medium-size diesel vehicles to LPG (liquefied petroleum gas, a mixture of propane and butane), or autogas. This is sort of cash for clunkers program that pays cash for fuel conversions. The program was started in 2003 in an effort to reduce emissions. The entire cost of conversion is funded by the government, and converted vehicles are also eligible for a package of incentives, including exemptions from regular inspections for 3 years as well as the surcharge for environment improvement.
 
The pilot project was implemented in Seoul from October 2003 to April 2004. It converted 135 vehicles, including garbage trucks ranging from 1 ton to 2.5 tons, and 25-person vans to LPG. In 2004, some 1,233 garbage trucks were converted throughout the metropolitan area. From 2005 on, the main target of conversion has been and will continue to be 5-8 year old diesel cars owned by transportation companies operating more than 30 vehicles.
 
Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) (www.csiro.au) identified a range of plausible options on how Australia can best respond to the environmental and economic challenges arising from its dependence on fossil fuels for transport. The CSIRO report, Fuel for Thought, addresses two problems – the need to dramatically reduce the transport sector’s greenhouse gas emissions and how to deal with the economic risks associated with increasingly costly and scarce oil supplies – that must be addressed if Australia is to establish a secure and sustainable transport fuel mix by 2050.
 
CSIRO’s John Wright says, “Australia’s fuel mix will shift in the near term to include the expanded use of diesel, gaseous fuels such as liquid petroleum gas (LPG) and hybrid electric vehicles, with even greater diversity beyond 2020 that might include hydrogen, synthetic fuels from coal or gas, and advanced biofuels that will not impact food production.” Scenarios developed by CSIRO have been subjected to economic modeling and assessment, which has produced significant insights into the potential impacts of climbing oil prices and the inclusion of fuel in the government’s emissions trading scheme. “The future price of oil is uncertain,” says Wright. “Modeling shows that if oil production peaks, prices could climb as high as Australian$8 per liter by 2018 in the most extreme case.”
 
These are options in alternative fuels. The remaining question is who pays for what and why. 

For more informaion contact www.stix.market-research.com
 


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