Based on the description of the US effort to win the Second World War and other experiences of large-scale change, a framework for change, which could form the backbone of a strategy to transform the current energy-consuming systems of the global economy, is presented below. The task in itself is a truly massive undertaking, and leadership will be needed at different levels of the program and in all sectors of the economy and in society as a whole.
The overall plan, and the lower-level plans that need to follow from it, will be key to the transformation effort that is to come, and all of them will be crucial to the success of the endeavor. One aspect that planners, at an early stage, will have to take into consideration is what degree of planning will be relied upon during the change, and which financial mechanisms will be used by the government to support the development toward sustainability. Later development could increase the degree of planning and put new mechanisms to work, which can increase the precision or the speed of the process.
Some degree of planning of the process will become necessary. This could mean that a central authority or nongovernmental organization takes on the responsibility of building knowledge and competence related to change management issues in the process. This would be a low degree of government intervention, or planning. A higher degree of government intervention, or planning, could involve price controls for renewable fuels, or the promise by the government to order certain numbers of products that contain a new technology, or the direct investment in development efforts or other measures to rapidly increase supply of renewable fuels or sustainable engine technologies. Based on the urgency of the situation it is reasonable to believe that a high degree of planning will ultimately be needed. One problem in achieving this will be in gathering the political will to change as well as the courage to finance such a change. It is unlikely that all this will be achieved in one political step. Rather, it is more than likely that a stepwise approach will be necessary.
This means that we not only need to build competence in technical issues, as has largely been the case so far. We now have experts who understand many of the issues related to ethanol production and the production of other renewable fuels. What we lack is an idea of what the future mix of alternative fuels will look like and how we are going to make sure that the supply of each of these fuels will match future demand. In addition to this, we need an understanding of which engine technologies will be necessary, and how many vehicles we need in order to use the renewable fuels that we will be able to produce. We also need a rough idea (if we decide for a high degree of planning we need a more detailed idea) of which steps are needed in the development and which companies are going to take different steps and at which stage in time we could expect a certain step to be taken.
We could use the debate around ethanol as an example. At one stage ethanol was described as a very promising alternative to gasoline. In the short run, however, ethanol is produced from grain and sugarcane, and grain-based ethanol requires that much oil be spent in agriculture, producing the grain. Therefore, grain-based ethanol is not a very energy-efficient alternative in the long run. A better alternative would be cellulose-based ethanol, but we lack an economically viable process for this production. There are small-scale plants, which however have a relatively high production cost. In the future, though, we will have to produce biofuels of some kind from cellulose, since we will not be able to use enough of our arable land to produce energy crops. There are, however, a number of different cellulose-based fuels available, which we need to analyze in order to select the best alternatives. Methanol is one of them, and dimethyl ether (DME) can also be produced from this raw material, but we lack large-scale production facilities for both of these and for DME we lack a fleet of vehicles with engines that can use this fuel. Methanol could be used in a mixture with gasoline, with up to 30 percent methanol, without modifications of the engines. These alternatives will be discussed in more detail later. At this point, we only need to recognize that a plan will be necessary in order for people and companies to be able to make decisions about investments and choices.
In order to achieve this, we need to build demand. This is at present done by producing and selling ethanol-fueled cars, trucks and other vehicles. We need to run those vehicles on the ethanol that we have for the moment in order to build demand for other sources of ethanol and other renewable fuels. At the same time, we need to develop an idea of how much ethanol, methanol or other fuels we can expect to produce from cellulose in the future. We can do this by analyzing the amount of forest that we have and the growth rate of this forest, and when large-scale production facilities for cellulose-based fuels can come online. Furthermore, we need to determine how much we can use for fuel and which countries will demand this fuel in the future. There are still large forests in the Northern Hemisphere, in Canada, Scandinavia and Siberia, and substantial amounts of fuel could be produced both from wood and from residues of forestry. If a large part of all cars are going to be run on cellulose-based fuels in the future, how far will this supply last and how much of the forest are we willing to use for transportation? Estimates indicate that substantial volumes of cellulose-based fuels can be produced in the future, but that the production will require hundreds of large-scale plants, which will have to be scattered across each continent for this scenario to materialize. Each of these plants will have to be supplied by some 450 truckloads of wood every day, which will have to be transported from the wooded areas to production facilities close to the markets.1 Alternatively, the plants need to be located close to the sources of raw materials and fuels need to be transported to the markets.
One other issue is regarding how the ethanol is going to be distributed. In some countries, such as the United States and Sweden, gasoline is already mixed with a certain amount of ethanol. This amount could be increased to the level of some 30% without changes to the engines. Mixing biofuels with petroleum represents a simple and inexpensive way of distributing ethanol and this increases the environmental friendliness of transportation without creating a separate and new distribution system for ethanol, requiring separate pumps at gas stations, separate deliveries of ethanol and gasoline and other sources of increased cost.
The downside of the mixing solution is that no real competition is created in the fuel market. The ethanol producers simply become suppliers to petroleum companies and in case we would like to create a future fuel market where two, three, four or more alternative biofuels compete with gasoline, we should go for a solution in which each fuel is sold separately. This would, however, be achieved at a higher cost, and, depending on the financing of the project, possibly a tremendous risk for the companies that will develop the fuels and invest in the distribution systems for them. Once more, the analysis and strategy development will need to determine how much time we have at our disposal and which alternatives will it be possible for us to choose from. A certain share based on blending solutions will be a relatively quick fix and separate distribution systems for each fuel represents the more ambitious and capital-intensive alternative.
In order to decide on the choice of solution, which in each country to a large extent could be made into a regulatory issue and a planning issue, we need to have a vision of the role the different alternative fuels will play in the future fuel market and which alternatives we foresee to be present in 10, 20, 30 and 50 years. After all, the most viable and economic future solution for automotive fuels may, for all we know, be electricity, and recharging may to some extent be done through photovoltaic cells. The fuel of the future may also, as some experts argue, be hydrogen (which will be used in fuel cells), which is produced from water through electrolysis, a process which in itself requires large amounts of electricity. Some advocates of electric vehicles argue that it will be much more energy-efficient to run vehicles on electricity directly by charging an electric battery on the vehicle, since three times the amount of electricity has to be used for electrolysis, compared to direct use of electricity for propulsion. However, at the moment, without a sound overall analysis, we can only guess at the outcome of this development. Most probably we will have to use a number of different solutions, but the possible future volumes and the time frame for the development and implementation of each of these still remain to be determined.
We already waste valuable time and money by debating different alternatives, without the ambition of developing and refining a plan. First, we need to agree upon the criteria that we need to use in the evaluation of alternatives. Secondly, we need to assemble the facts that we already have access to, but which are scattered around society. The next logical step will be to complement the data with data that we lack in order to finish the analysis. After this, we can finish the plan and get to work. In fact, as in the Apollo program and other large projects, we can get to work on the early steps even before the entire plan is finished. In Part III, I have started work on the plan, using data that are available. With more resources, I would have been able to gather more data, and provide a more complete analysis. The shortcomings of the attempt in this book are only indicative of the need for more work.
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What you need to know about… Project Management Made Easy! Project management consists of more than just a large building project and can encompass small projects as well. No matter what the size of your project, you need to have some sort of project management. How you manage your project has everything to do with its outcome.