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Chick-News.com Poultry Industry News, Comments and more by Simon M. Shane

Electric versus Diesel Comparison Relates to the RFS

05/02/2019

An insightful editorial in the April 24th edition of The Wall Street Journal compared carbon emission by an electric-powered Tesla Model 3 vehicle and a Mercedes C220 diesel-powered equivalent.  The Tesla claimed as being “zero emission” actually was responsible for indirect release of between 150 and 180 grams of carbon dioxide per kilometer.  This figure took into account the carbon emission in producing the battery, amortized over ten years at 15,000 km (9,000 miles) per year. The calculation included the carbon emitted by coal-fired electric power stations that produce a high proportion of electricity in Germany.  The diesel Mercedes released 140 grams of carbon dioxide per kilometer including a provision for carbon release associated with drilling, refining and transport of fuel. It is estimated that in Southern Germany, charging a Tesla Model 3 releases 83 grams of carbon on a per kilometer basis.

Irrespective of the specific data comparing the two propulsion systems for the autos compared, it is evident that in calculating environmental impact, it is necessary to establish carbon emissions through the entire production chain.  This approach also applies to ethanol as an additive (diluent?) to gasoline.

 

To quote The Wall Street Journal, “It is better read as a warning that new technologies aren’t a climate-change panacea.”  The casual giveaway line in the editorial is illuminating, “recall the false promises about corn and cellulosic ethanol”. This afterthought has profound significance to the U.S. In 2017 the U.S. Energy Information Administration estimated that 30 percent of electrical power is derived from coal with an almost equal amount from other fossil fuels, predominately-natural gas.  Nuclear provides 20 percent and renewables including hydropower (7 percent), wind (7 percent), and solar (2 percent) contributed to a total U.S. generation of 4.2 billion kWh.  A conservative and business-oriented periodical such as The Wall Street Journal simply acknowledges the myth of ethanol sustainability and alleged contribution to the environment. 

 

The Renewable Fuel Standard overestimated the requirement for gasoline use and concurrently predicted the replacement of corn by cellulose as a source of “renewable” fuel over a decade. Effectively the ethanol industry with the support of the USDA, EPA and the Department of Energy over-produced relative to demand. This is evidenced by the fact that excess ethanol is exported and plants have been mothballed based on a year-round 10 percent dilution rate in gasoline.  It is little wonder that the Renewable Fuels Association is actively pressing the EPA to permit addition of ethanol to gasoline at a level of 15 percent year-round.  This concession if granted would make little difference to ethanol demand since most vehicles on the road cannot operate with more than a 10 percent ethanol blend and there are insufficient blender pumps at gas stations capable of delivering either 10 percent or 15 percent mixtures.

 

The RFS is a gigantic boondoggle introduced without consideration for long-term consequences and incorporating false presumptions that were politically expedient at the time. At present the ethanol industry is unprofitable and consumers are paying an indirect tax that benefits farmers, corn-state legislators, fat-cat lobbyists and the Renewable Fuels Association.

 


 
Copyright 2019 Simon M. Shane