Toyota North American President Jim Press urged Congress Wednesday to extend federal tax credits for hybrid vehicles and accelerate its buying of hybrids and alternative fleet vehicles to help address energy concerns. A 2005 federal energy bill provided up to $3,600 in tax credits to U.S. consumers who buy hybrids, but Toyota Motor Corp. this summer hit the legal production limit -- 60,000 vehicles -- that are eligible for the full tax credit. [..]President Bush has called for an extension of the tax credits for the purchase of hybrids and other alternatives, but Congress showed little interest in extending the incentives before this month's elections.
Archive for November, 2006
From GM's announcement:
"GM has begun work on a Saturn Vue plug-in hybrid production vehicle," said Rick Wagoner, GM Chairman and CEO. "The technological hurdles are real, but we believe they are also surmountable. I can't give you a production date for our plug-in hybrid today. But I can tell you that this is a top priority program for GM, given the huge potential it offers for fuel-economy improvement." A plug-in hybrid-electric vehicle differs from non-plug-in hybrid-electric vehicles by offering extended electric-only propulsion, additional battery capacity and the ability to be recharged from an external electrical outlet. The Saturn Vue Green Line plug-in hybrid is expected to offer electric- only propulsion for more than 10 miles. At higher speeds or when conditions demand it, such as brisk acceleration, a combination of engine and electric power or engine power only will propel the vehicle. In addition to plug-in capabilities and the modified 2-mode hybrid system, the Saturn Vue Green Line hybrid SUV's powertrain will feature Lithium Ion battery technology, two interior permanent magnet motors and GM's 3.6L V-6 gasoline engine with direct injection. When ready for production, the Lithium Ion energy storage system will be replenished when the battery charge is depleted to a specified level by utilizing the 2-mode hybrid system's electric motors and regenerative braking systems. When the vehicle is parked, the battery can be recharged using a common household exterior 110-volt plug-in outlet. The 2-mode hybrid system will be altered for use with plug-in technology. It maintains two driving modes -- one for city driving, the other for highway driving -- and four fixed mechanical gears to maximize efficiency while maintaining performance. In addition, special controls will be utilized to enable higher speeds during electric-only propulsion and maintain electric- only propulsion for longer periods of time.Good start. Faster please.
Olivia Albrecht notes that "the United States imports oil at a rate of $400,000 a minute. It is estimated that by 2030, U.S. energy demands will increase by nearly two-thirds, and that by 2050, global energy demand will more than double. Americans must realize the necessity of finding a reliable energy supply in order to sustain economic growth and prosperity in the 21st century and to reduce the security, economic and political risks of U.S. dependence on foreign oil." She rightly points out that "oil contributes only 2 percent of U.S. electricity [...] Yet analysts agree that as the price at the pump continues to grow, more global consumers will turn away from gas-fueled vehicles and toward alternative-power items to avoid the cost of oil." And she raises a concern "Imagine if all car owners in the United State traded in their oil engines for electric cars: The drastic surge in electricity consumption could not be sustained by our current electric-output capability." Not quite. Actually, the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) points out that there is enough reserve electric capacity in our grid, especially at night, that up to 30% of U.S. vehicles could be plug in hybrids before that capacity were exhausted. That doesn't mean we don't need to expand baseload capacity, but it does mean that we won't need to do it in order to accomodate a shift to electricity as a transportation fuel. Since the length of road life of a vehicle in the U.S. is on average 16.8 years (hard to believe but true,) so transitioning 30% of the fleet will take some time.
Electricity is a great transportation fuel from an energy security perspective since unlike in the 1970s, today only 2% of U.S. electricity is generated from oil. It's also a great transportation fuel from a sheer fun to drive perspective:
Electric motors differ from gasoline engines in lots of ways, but the torque curve is the most startling. In a car with a gas engine, you press the accelerator, the engine rotates faster, and its torque output rises to reach a somewhat-flat plateau. At that point, the car accelerates smoothly as the engine spins ever faster. Eventually, the torque starts to fall off, and it's time to drop the engine's speed back below the sweet spot, shift up to the next gear, and start over. Why do sports cars have so many gears? To make sure the engine is revving in its maximum torque zone at just about any speed. Spin it too slow, though, and the engine stalls. The motion in a gas engine comes from repeatedly compressing and exploding a mix of fuel and air in one piston after another. In an electric, by contrast, motion is generated from the constant magnetic force created when electric current runs through wire coils inside the motor. As a result, the torque curve comes on at full strength as soon as an electric motor begins to spinâ€”its maximum torque is at 0 RPMâ€”and fades in a fairly constant curve as it spins faster. You don't need to idle it to keep it running. You can see the difference between electric and gasoline torque curves in this chart. Get in a Prius and press the pedal, and you'll feel itâ€”instantaneous and silent, smooth and steady. What's the upshot of all this? A hotshot driver who masters the skill of coordinating gas pedal, clutch pedal, and shift lever can take a 500 horsepower Corvette from standstill to 60 miles per hour in four seconds. Youâ€”and I do mean youâ€”could do the same thing in a [pure electricity powered] Tesla. Just stomp your foot down.
The New York Times reports on a federal government estimate that groups responsible for many insurgent and terrorist attacks in Iraq get "$25 million to $100 million [a year] comes from oil smuggling and other criminal activity involving the state-owned oil industry, aided by 'corrupt and complicit' Iraqi officials". The article adds "other estimates suggest the sums involved could be far higher. The oil ministry in Baghdad, for example, estimated earlier this year that 10 percent to 30 percent of the $4 billion to $5 billion in fuel imported for public consumption in 2005 was smuggled back out of the country for resale. At that time, the finance minister estimated that close to half of all smuggling profits was going to insurgents. If true, that would be $200 million or more from fuel smuggling alone."
An Arab-American psychologist speaks out on Al Jazeera TV, clip translated by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI).
TheÂ image at right is the radical Islamist version of a job application. Ali Alfoneh writes:
In order to promote suicide bombing and other terrorism, the [Iranian] regime's theoreticians have utilized religion both to recruit suicide bombers and to justify their actions. But as some factions within the Islamic Republic support the development of these so-called martyrdom brigades, their structure and activities suggest their purpose is not only to serve as a strategic asset in either deterring or striking at the West, but also to derail domestic attempts to dilute the Islamic Republic's revolutionary legacy. Such strategy is apparent in the work of the Doctrinal Analysis Center for Security without Borders (Markaz-e barresiha-ye doktrinyal-e amniyat bedun marz), an Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps think tank. Its director, Hassan Abbasi, has embraced the utility of suicide terrorism. On February 19, 2006, he keynoted a Khajeh-Nasir University seminar celebrating the anniversary of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini's fatwa (religious edict) calling for the murder of British author Salman Rushdie. As Khomeini often did, Abbasi began his lecture with literary criticism. He analyzed a U.S. publication from 2004 that, according to Abbasi, "depicts the prophet of Islam as the prophet of blood and violence." Rhetorically, he asked, "Will the Western man be able to understand martyrdom with such prejudice? [Can he] interpret Islam as anything but terrorism?" The West sees suicide bombings as terrorism but, to Abbasi, they are a noble expression of Islam. So what is terrorism if not suicide bombing? To Abbasi, terrorism includes any speech and expression he deems insulting to Islam. According to press coverage of his lecture, Abbasi noted that "[German chancellor] Merkel and [U.S. president] Bush's support of the Danish newspaper, which insults Islam's prophet, has damaged their reputation in the Islamic world and has raised the question of whether Christianity, rather than Islam, is of terrorist nature." From the Iranian leadership's perspective, therefore, Jyllands-Posten's cartoons are evidence of Christian terrorism. By Abbasi's definition, Iran may not sponsor terrorism, but it does not hesitate to promote suicide attacks. He announced that approximately 40,000 Iranian estesh-hadiyun (martyrdom-seekers) were ready to carry out suicide operations against "twenty-nine identified Western targets" should the U.S. military strike Iranian nuclear installations. Such threats are not new. According to an interview with Iran's Fars News Agency released on Abbasi's weblog, he has propagated haras-e moghaddas (sacred terror) at least since 2004. "The front of unbelief," Abbasi wrote, "is the front of the enemies of God and Muslims. Any deed which might instigate terror and horror among them is sacred and honorable."
Some very exciting news that should also serve as a dire warning to US policymakers: China sees the writing on the wall and is rapidly moving to reduce its need for oil in the transportation sector, which accounts for the bulk of the growth in Chinese oil consumption, by diversifying its transportation fuel supply.Â China is not waiting for the US to move on fuel choice, it is taking action to harness its own domestic resources to produce transportation fuel and most assuredly is making a shift toward true flexible fuel vehicles that can use gasoline, ethanol, AND methanol. This is exactly the sort of tranformation that the Fuel Choices for American Security Act based on the Set America Free blueprint would achieve, and Congress had better recognize that fuel choice is China's Sputnik, and if we do not act now, its rumbling engines will leave us in the dust. Here is the latest news:
Beijing has settled on a national standard for methanol as an automotive fuel, a decision which will legitimise and bolster a market that has been growing rapidly without central government approval. The standard, which has yet to be officially announced, was reported in a trade magazine and confirmed yesterday by an official attached to the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), the economic planning body responsible for the standards. Local companies have under construction, or are awaiting approval to build, plants to produce methanol equivalent to about 20 per cent of China's present oil consumption, according to Jim Brock, a Beijing-based energy consultant. By the time the plants, which convert coal to liquids, start producing in 2011 to 2013, China's oil demand will have doubled, allowing methanol to supply about 10 per cent of the market. "It will be a major alternative fuel which does not exist in any other country in the world," said Mr Brock. Methanol, a chemical usually derived from coal, can be added to petrol to create a cleaner-burning fuel. When oil prices are high, it is also cheaper. China has abundant coal but declining reserves of oil and is expected to become ever more reliant on imports. Imports now account for about 40 per cent of Chinese oil consumption. Several of China's coal-rich provinces, impatient with the NDRC's long deliberations over thestandard, have issued interim standards for methanol over the last year. Shaanxi, in north-central China, which produces about 600m tonnes a year of coal - just over a quarter of national production - has issued stickers allowing cars using pure methanol free passage on the province's toll roads. "Shaanxi is doing the best job in China in promoting the use of methanol as fuel," said Peng Zhigui, head of the provincial methanol office, in Taiyuan. "Our aim is to solve the problem of China's oil shortage. We are creating a new kind of energy." Shaanxi officials had complained that the NDRC had been holding back the development of methanol in favour of ethanol, which is mainly made using corn in China. The complaint largely reflects provincial rivalries. Ethanol is produced using corn grown in the country's north-east - China's poor rustbelt - an area that has been given priority by the central government. The two methanol standards issued by Shaanxi use fuel with 15 per cent and 85 per cent of methanol respectively. Mr Peng said the province already had 100 buses using the "M85" fuel and is in discussions with Chery, a local car company, to build a fleet of taxis designed to run on the fuel. Production of ethanol is also soaring in China, partly driven by the high prices available for exporters on the world market. Critics of ethanol say it is inappropriate to use corn to make fuel at a time when China is struggling to keep precious agricultural land in production to ensure "food security" for the country.Methanol and ethanol areÂ different alcohol fuels that can both be used in flexible fuel vehicles, cars that look and perform just like gasoline only cars but can be powered with a variety of fuels and cost less than $150 extra to manufacture.Â Ethanol in the US is primarily made from corn.Â In Brazil it is much more efficiently made from sugarcane, and that are many countries with a suitable climate for growing sugarcane that could also produce ethanol and export to the US should we decide to remove the protectionist 54 cent a gallon tariff on ethanol imports.Â Methanol can be made from biomass, natural gas, and coal. Additional information: The Methanol Economy