Happy Friday folks! Here’s my weekly take on the five most interesting developments in low carbon fuels and vehicles trends over the last week:
The Guardian reported this week that leading climate scientists have warned the Earth is “perilously close” to breaking through a 1.5°C upper limit for global warming, only eight months after the target was set in the December 2015 Paris Agreement. Complying with the upper limit is an “impossible” or at best a “very, very difficult task.” That’s probably not a surprise to you. But what caught my eye was this statement:
“These alarming figures will form the backdrop to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) talks in Geneva this month, when scientists will start to outline ways to implement the climate goals set in Paris. Dates for abandoning all coal-burning power stations and halting the use of combustion engines across the globe – possibly within 15 years – are likely to be set.” (Emphasis added.)
An expert in the article noted, “That decarbonisation will not guarantee a rise of no more than 1.5C but it will give us a chance. But even that is a tremendous task.” One thing is clear: the Paris Agreement is and will continue to be a major driver of transport policy around the world (even in the U.S.) in the coming years with profound impacts to the refining, biofuels and auto industries.
To meet Paris Agreement goals to which the U.S. is committed, GHG emissions will need to be reduced by 80% by 2050 ― but how to do it in light-duty vehicles (LDVs) especially since transport is now the largest source of GHGs emissions in the U.S.? And given that vehicle miles traveled are projected to increase over this same timeframe?
The National Renewable Energy Laboratory looked at the combination of measures other experts have said are needed to cut these emissions from 1,514 million metric tons (MMTs) to 303 MMTs of CO2 per year. Key findings in the paper include the following:
While some countries are moving forward with electrification and other low carbon transport initiatives and moving away (or wishing to move away from first-generation biofuels), other countries are retrenching or expanding their programs. Case #1 in point: India. This week the Star Online reported that India will invest US$7.5 billion to expand its biofuels blending in the country building plants and putting the necessary blending infrastructure in place.
The country aims to reduce its oil imports by blending E10 and B5. The country imports 80% of its crude oil. Case #2: Latin America. Brazil, Colombia, Chile, Venezuela, Peru, Argentina, Bolivia, Mexico, Cuba, the six Central American countries, Dominican Republic, Jamaica and several other Caribbean nations met to discuss biofuels issues in the region. The Inter-American Development Bank has committed $300 million to finance biofuels projects in the region.
According to a study conducted by the American Thoracic Society (ATS) and the Marron Institute of Urban Management at New York University, reducing ozone to 0.060 ppm (the current standard is 0.070 ppm) and PM2.5 to 11 µg/m3 (the current standard is 12 µg/m3) would each year:
The ATS recommended standards for ozone and PM2.5 are based on scores of national and international epidemiological, animal and human exposure studies, but most have looked at only one air pollutant. By including the two most important air pollutants in the analysis, the new study “gives policy makers and local air quality managers a much better picture of what is going on.”
Overall, the study found that the more protective ozone standard accounted for about 75% of the estimated health benefits due to a greater number of metropolitan areas with ozone concentrations above the ATS recommendations. Metropolitan areas with the large populations and elevated concentrations of one or both air pollutants, they wrote, would realize the biggest improvements in public health by meeting the more protective standards; for example, Los Angeles, New York, Houston and Phoenix.
Since it’s a bit of a slow news week, I wanted to go back and highlight this interview, done in late July, on a recent study OECD and the International Transport Forum (ITF) on shared mobility. The authors took a mid-sized European city with good data on transportation patterns, and tried to imagine a system which could pick up or drop off people within a reasonable time frame, and offered service door to door. They found that, theoretically, you can could replace every car and truck with about 3% of the vehicles as you have now, and offer essentially the same system performance.
One of the study authors noted in the interview that the system combines two levels of service: instantaneous app-based booking of shared “taxis” and a “taxi-bus” service, bookable 30 minutes in advance and servicing non-transfer trips from pop-up stops. Citizens communicate with a centralized dispatch and either get picked up where they are for the shared taxis or are directed to a pop-up station no more than 300 meters away for the “taxi-bus” service. Both services pick up and drop off passengers along the ride but respect the timing of the “original” trips they are replacing.
The author notes that in the modeling, the following benefits were found in such a system:
But there are some challenges and downsides, which include:
Along with electrification mandates, car bans in cities and promoting public transport and cycling, look for cities (especially those with the worse air pollution and those in countries implementing transport-related measures to meet Paris Agreement commitments) to begin setting policies that promote and even mandate car sharing in the near future.