NewEnergyNews: VOLT GEARED UP?

NewEnergyNews

Gleanings from the web and the world, condensed for convenience, illustrated for enlightenment, arranged for impact...

The challenge: To make every day Earth Day.

YESTERDAY

  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-CLIMATE CHANGE – IT GETS WORSE
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-WHERE AND HOW WIND IS GROWING IN THE WORLD
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-CHINA TO LEAD SOLAR MARKET GROWTH DESPITE OBSTACLES
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-THE ENORMOUS POTENTIAL OF WORLD GEOTHERMAL
  • THE DAY BEFORE

    THINGS-TO-THINK-ABOUT THURSDAY, August 28:

  • TTTA Thursday-PRESIDENT TO TAKE ACTION ON CLIMATE
  • TTTA Thursday-BIRDS AND ENERGY, THE BIGGER STORY
  • TTTA Thursday-NEW CA LAW STREAMLINES SOLAR PERMITTING
  • TTTA Thursday-DATA CENTER EFFICIENCIES CAN SAVE U.S. $3.8BIL/YR
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    THE DAY BEFORE THE DAY BEFORE

  • THE STUDY: THE RISKIEST ENERGY IN THE WORLD
  • QUICK NEWS, August 27: VERIZON’S $40MIL SOLAR BUY; WIND PRICES HIT RECORD LOWS; NUKE INSPECTOR SAYS DIABLO CYN IS UNSAFE
  • THE DAY BEFORE THAT

  • THE STUDY: U.S. WIND RIGHT NOW
  • QUICK NEWS, August 26: CLIMATE MODELS PROVE RIGHT AGAIN; ABOUT INVESTING IN SOLAR; GM VS TESLA IN THE 200 MILE RACE

    AND THE DAY BEFORE THAT

  • THE STUDY: NEW CALMER WINDS AHEAD FOR EUROPE
  • QUICK NEWS, August 25: JULY’S U.S. ENERGY BUILD WAS ALL NEW ENERGY; CLIMATE CHANGE FOR ENERGY INVESTORS; WIND CAN GROW FASTER THAN NUCLEAR
  • THE LAST DAY UP HERE

  • Weekend Video: New Thoughts About New Energy For A New Climate
  • Weekend Video: Carbon
  • Weekend Video: Why Utilities Struggle With New Energy
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    Anne B. Butterfield of Daily Camera and Huffington Post, is a biweekly contributor to NewEnergyNews

  • Another Tipping Point: US Coal Supply Decline So Real Even West Virginia Concurs (REPORT)

    November 26, 2013 (Huffington Post via NewEnergyNews)

    Everywhere we turn, environmental news is filled with horrid developments and glimpses of irreversible tipping points.

    Just a handful of examples are breathtaking: Scientists have dared to pinpoint the years at which locations around the world may reach runaway heat, and in the northern hemisphere it's well in sight for our children: 2047. Survivors of Superstorm Sandy are packing up as costs of repair and insurance go out of reach, one threat that climate science has long predicted. Or we could simply talk about the plight of bees and the potential impact on food supplies. Surprising no one who explores the Pacific Ocean, sailor Ivan MacFadyen described long a journey dubbed The Ocean is Broken, in which he saw vast expanses of trash and almost no wildlife save for a whale struggling a with giant tumor on its head, evoking the tons of radioactive water coming daily from Fukushima's lamed nuclear power center. Rampaging fishing methods and ocean acidification are now reported as causing the overpopulation of jellyfish that have jammed the intakes of nuclear plants around the world. Yet the shutting down of nuclear plants is a trifling setback compared with the doom that can result in coming days at Fukushima in the delicate job to extract bent and spent fuel rods from a ruined storage tank, a project dubbed "radioactive pick up sticks."

    With all these horrors to ponder you wouldn't expect to hear that you should also worry about the United States running out of coal. But you would be wrong, says Leslie Glustrom, founder and research director for Clean Energy Action. Her contention is that we've passed the peak in our nation's legendary supply of coal that powers over one-third of our grid capacity. This grim news is faithfully spelled out in three reports, with the complete story told in Warning: Faulty Reporting of US Coal Reserves (pdf). (Disclosure: I serve on CEA's board and have known the author for years.)

    Glustrom's research presents a sea change in how we should understand our energy challenges, or experience grim consequences. It's not only about toxic and heat-trapping emissions anymore; it's also about having enough energy generation to run big cities and regions that now rely on coal. Glustrom worries openly about how commerce will go on in many regions in 2025 if they don't plan their energy futures right.

    2013-11-05-FigureES4_FULL.jpgclick to enlarge

    Scrutinizing data for prices on delivered coal nationwide, Glustrom's new report establishes that coal's price has risen nearly 8 percent annually for eight years, roughly doubling, due mostly to thinner, deeper coal seams plus costlier diesel transport expenses. Higher coal prices in a time of "cheap" natural gas and affordable renewables means coal companies are lamed by low or no profits, as they hold debt levels that dwarf their market value and carry very high interest rates.

    2013-11-05-Table_ES2_FULL.jpgclick to enlarge

    2013-11-05-Figure_ES2_FULL.jpg

    One leading coal company, Patriot, filed for bankruptcy last year; many others are also struggling under bankruptcy watch and not eager to upgrade equipment for the tougher mining ahead. Add to this the bizarre event this fall of a coal lease failing to sell in Wyoming's Powder River Basin, the "Fort Knox" of the nation's coal supply, with some pundits agreeing this portends a tightening of the nation's coal supply, not to mention the array of researchers cited in the report. Indeed, at the mid point of 2013, only 488 millions tons of coal were produced in the U.S.; unless a major catch up happens by year-end, 2013 may be as low in production as 1993.

    Coal may exist in large quantities geologically, but economically, it's getting out of reach, as confirmed by US Geological Survey in studies indicating that less than 20 percent of US coal formations are economically recoverable, as explored in the CEA report. To Glustrom, that number plus others translate to 10 to 20 years more of burning coal in the US. It takes capital, accessible coal with good heat content and favorable market conditions to assure that mining companies will stay in business. She has observed a classic disconnect between camps of professionals in which geologists tend to assume money is "infinite" and financial analysts tend to assume that available coal is "infinite." Both biases are faulty and together they court disaster, and "it is only by combining thoughtful estimates of available coal and available money that our country can come to a realistic estimate of the amount of US coal that can be mined at a profit." This brings us back to her main and rather simple point: "If the companies cannot make a profit by mining coal they won't be mining for long."

    No one is more emphatic than Glustrom herself that she cannot predict the future, but she presents trend lines that are robust and confirmed assertively by the editorial board at West Virginia Gazette:

    Although Clean Energy Action is a "green" nonprofit opposed to fossil fuels, this study contains many hard economic facts. As we've said before, West Virginia's leaders should lower their protests about pollution controls, and instead launch intelligent planning for the profound shift that is occurring in the Mountain State's economy.

    The report "Warning, Faulty Reporting of US Coal Reserves" and its companion reports belong in the hands of energy and climate policy makers, investors, bankers, and rate payer watchdog groups, so that states can plan for, rather than react to, a future with sea change risk factors.

    [Clean Energy Action is fundraising to support the dissemination of this report through December 11. Contribute here.]

    It bears mentioning that even China is enacting a "peak coal" mentality, with Shanghai declaring that it will completely ban coal burning in 2017 with intent to close down hundreds of coal burning boilers and industrial furnaces, or shifting them to clean energy by 2015. And Citi Research, in "The Unimaginable: Peak Coal in China," took a look at all forms of energy production in China and figured that demand for coal will flatten or peak by 2020 and those "coal exporting countries that have been counting on strong future coal demand could be most at risk." Include US coal producers in that group of exporters.

    Our world is undergoing many sorts of change and upheaval. We in the industrialized world have spent about a century dismissing ocean trash, overfishing, pesticides, nuclear hazard, and oil and coal burning with a shrug of, "Hey it's fine, nature can manage it." Now we're surrounded by impacts of industrial-grade consumption, including depletion of critical resources and tipping points of many kinds. It is not enough to think of only ourselves and plan for strictly our own survival or convenience. The threat to animals everywhere, indeed to whole systems of the living, is the grief-filled backdrop of our times. It's "all hands on deck" at this point of human voyaging, and in our nation's capital, we certainly don't have that. Towns, states and regions need to plan fiercely and follow through. And a fine example is Boulder Colorado's recent victory to keep on track for clean energy by separating from its electric utility that makes 59 percent of its power from coal.

    Clean Energy Action is disseminating "Warning: Faulty Reporting of US Coal Reserves" for free to all manner of relevant professionals who should be concerned about long range trends which now include the supply risks of coal, and is supporting that outreach through a fundraising campaign.

    [Clean Energy Action is fundraising to support the dissemination of this report through December 11. Contribute here.]

    Author's note: Want to support my work? Please "fan" me at Huffpost Denver, here (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/anne-butterfield). Thanks.

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    Anne's previous NewEnergyNews columns:

  • Another Tipping Point: US Coal Supply Decline So Real Even West Virginia Concurs (REPORT), November 26, 2013
  • SOLAR FOR ME BUT NOT FOR THEE ~ Xcel's Push to Undermine Rooftop Solar, September 20, 2013
  • NEW BILLS AND NEW BIRDS in Colorado's recent session, May 20, 2013
  • Lies, damned lies and politicians (October 8, 2012)
  • Colorado's Elegant Solution to Fracking (April 23, 2012)
  • Shale Gas: From Geologic Bubble to Economic Bubble (March 15, 2012)
  • Taken for granted no more (February 5, 2012)
  • The Republican clown car circus (January 6, 2012)
  • Twenty-Somethings of Colorado With Skin in the Game (November 22, 2011)
  • Occupy, Xcel, and the Mother of All Cliffs (October 31, 2011)
  • Boulder Can Own Its Power With Distributed Generation (June 7, 2011)
  • The Plunging Cost of Renewables and Boulder's Energy Future (April 19, 2011)
  • Paddling Down the River Denial (January 12, 2011)
  • The Fox (News) That Jumped the Shark (December 16, 2010)
  • Click here for an archive of Butterfield columns

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    Some details about NewEnergyNews and the man behind the curtain: Herman K. Trabish, Agua Dulce, CA., Doctor with my hands, Writer with my head, Student of New Energy and Human Experience with my heart

    email: herman@NewEnergyNews.net

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    Your intrepid reporter

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  • Thursday, April 30, 2009

    VOLT GEARED UP?

    The Volt: Not Ready to Roll
    Charles Lane, April 29, 2009 (Washington Post)

    SUMMARY
    Part of General Motors (GM) financial struggle can be attributed to a billion dollar investment in developing the Chevrolet Volt, a precedent-setting plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV). The investment cannot pay off until the vehicle comes to market next year.

    Because GM is receiving federal funds to keep it in business, the Volt project is getting careful evaluation by the Obama administration's auto industry task force and many industry watchers.

    Charles Lane of the Washington Post believes the Volt is a “not-very-realistic” business choice because the $30,000+ price (after a federal tax rebate) will make the 4-passenger compact car unappealing to car buyers. He interprets recent task force statements to mean the Volt is not viable while gas pump prices are low.

    The PHEV Volt will be like the popular Toyota Prius in that it will have an electric motor and a gasoline engine (internal combustion engine, ICE). Unlike the Prius, which can only operate on electric power when the car is motionless or at very low speeds, the Volt will be able to drive on battery power at freeway speeds for 40 miles. When its stored battery power is used up, the Volt's ICE will seamlessly take over, runnng on gasoline (or any other liquid fuel) to charge the battery for another 250-to-300 miles of normal driving.

    Lane notes the financial decision by Silicon Valley venture capitalists to postpone bringing Norway’s Th!nk to U.S. and world markets and takes it as an indication the entire BEV concept lacks practical viability. He suggests the Obama administration should likewise pull its funding of the Volt. In fact, Th!nk is moving forward at a pace appropriate to the economy.

    Lane references The Comeback of the Electric Car?, a study by Boston Consulting Group, as well as a GSW Strategy Group study. Both found it would take significantly higher fuel prices to make the BEV an economical buyer choice. He points out that BEVs are inevitably victims to oil price cycles. In an apparent attempt to add fear to half-truths, Lane implies the Obama administration might resort to the dreaded “gas tax” to make the Volt viable.

    click to enlarge

    Apparently ignorant of studies proving otherwise, Lane suggests BEVs using power from a coal-fueled grid might create as much a greenhouse gas emissions (GhGs) problem as petroleum fueled ICE vehicles.

    Apparently ignorant of plans to recycle used BEV lithium-ion batteries as low-cost New Energy storage systems, Mr. Lane suggests that used batteries could cause an environmental problem. (Instead, recycled BEV batteries may become a New Energy storage breakthrough and an environmental redemption.)

    click to enlarge

    COMMENTARY
    Lane is right that the price of the Volt will make it an undesirable choice for some consumers. He is utterly foolish to compare a Volt purchase to the purchase of the $100,000+ all-electric Tesla.

    Comparing the Tesla design with the Volt design shows how bombastic Lane’s suggestion is. There is no doubt the Tesla is a toy for the affluent. The Volt will be, like the very successful Toyota Prius, a choice that many sensible, responsible citizens will want to make. Like the Prius, the Volt will require a slightly higher purchase price but is likely to make that up in fuel costs in the long run as gas pump prices inevitably rise.

    Another pompously inaccurate comparison Lane makers is that subsidies to PHEVs are as big a waste as subsidies to first generation (crop-based) ethanol. First-gen ethanol cannot be a good investment because it requires more energy to make than it produces and it causes more greenhouse gas emissions than it saves. PHEVs – maybe the Volt or maybe a better vehicle with better funding – will sooner or later change U.S. and world driving habits and begin an inevitable migration to battery electric vehicles (BEVs).

    click to enlarge

    When Mr. Lane points out that BEVs are impractical because they will always be subject to oil price cycles, he reveals himself to be one of those who President Obama describes as lurching “from shock to trance” under bullying from Old Energy. Lacking information and vision, Lane's is not a voice the administration needs to listen to in deciding the fate of GM and its Volt.

    Lane’s suggestions to drive less, use smaller cars and improve existing technologies are perfectly sensible, the kinds of ideas that always come from conservatives.

    Even a great and important concept like the PHEV can be bungled by poor management so abandoning the Volt might be the best decision for the administration to make on behalf of GM. Abandoning the electric car for some future solution, however, is the strategy that inspired GM’s decision to abandon its 1990s BEV project, a strategy that inspired the movie Who Killed The Electric Car? and put GM on the road to its current situation.

    click to enlarge

    QUOTES
    - Obama task force report on the Volt: "While the Volt holds promise, it is currently projected to be much more expensive than its gasoline-fueled peers and will likely need substantial reductions in manufacturing cost in order to become commercially viable"

    GM showed the 2011 Volt at the recent Shanghai Auto Show. (click to enlarge)

    - Lane: “For some people -- environmentally friendly Hollywood stars and other wealthy dabblers -- cost is not the top concern in deciding what car to buy. For them, a Volt or even a $101,500 all-electric Tesla Roadster might be of interest.”
    - Lane: “To be sure, the green-leaning Obama administration has not ruled out allowing a restructured GM to continue pouring (federal) money into the Volt. But I hope it won't. The Volt and other electric vehicles could gobble up more subsidies than ethanol.”

    1 Comments:

    At 11:15 PM, Blogger biggreenmarble said...

    What is the cost of ownership of the Volt over its useful lifetime? It ought to compare favorably to an ICE based auto. There must be a way to amortize this cost over a long enough period to recoup the up front capital cost, while getting the consumer to acclimate to a lower cost of driving. Ten year loan anybody? The national security and environmental concerns alone should count for something. In California, there are companies that will lease solar arrays to users and allow them to use the electricity while paying less on their electric bills. The PHEV and BEV revolution has sparked incredible hope in anyone with a hint of fondness for old Terra Firma. Getting us into these cars should dovetail nicely with Obama's stated policies on Energy and National Security. We need to push for this kind of audacious change. The folks in Big Energy are pushing. The President can pull us so far, but we are responsible for making our voices heard and backing him up on this.

     

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