Alternative Fuels Past Present and Future

Petroleum's dominance has hooked motorists on gasoline and diesel fuel. Conventional petroleum will undoubtedly reign supreme for some time to come. But there are many transportation energy contenders. Methanol has come and gone; natural gas surged and faded and is currently enjoying another surge. The most promising fuels, those that will remain standing when all criteria are considered, are likely to be grid-supplied electricity, hydrogen, and biomass—plus, if carbon capture and storage proves effective and acceptable, coal-derived fuels. All have their limitations (see table 4.1). Some alternative fuels—ethanol and biodiesel—can be used in cars as they currently exist; others like electricity and hydrogen await reconfigured vehicle technology. But all hold the potential to replace large amounts of oil and to reduce or even eliminate greenhouse gas emissions.

Before we examine the status, advantages, and drawbacks of today's most viable contenders in the search for low-carbon fuels, it helps to place alternative fuels in the context of history and the role they've played in a vehicle monoculture dominated by petroleum. The theme of unexpected consequences and indirect innovation emerges again and again with alternative fuels. The lesson is that innovation and change can be swift and unintended consequences can be minimized—if goals are clear, leaders step forward, problems are vetted, and the circumstances are right.

TABLE 4.1 Comparison of changes required by the most promising alternative fuels

Fuel infrastructure

Vehicle technology

Production

Distribution

Dispensing

Powertrain

Onboard fuel

Biofuels

3

o

o

o

o

Plug-in hybrid

O

o

o

o

3

Hydrogen fuel cell

3

o

3

Q Easy or no change Q Modest/evolutionary change 0 Significant/revolutionary change

Q Easy or no change Q Modest/evolutionary change 0 Significant/revolutionary change

Source: Authors' estimates.

Was this article helpful?

0 0
Hybrid Cars The Whole Truth Revealed

Hybrid Cars The Whole Truth Revealed

Hybrid Cars! Man! Is that a HOT topic right now! There are some good reasons why hybrids are so hot. If you’ve pulled your present car or SUV or truck up next to a gas pumpand inserted the nozzle, you know exactly what I mean! I written this book to give you some basic information on some things<br />you may have been wondering about.

Get My Free Ebook


Post a comment