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Plug-in Hybrids Beat Coal-to-Liquids (Duh!)

By Joe Romm

"Plug-in Hybrids Beat Coal-to-Liquids (Duh!)"

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Carnegie Mellon researchers state the obvious in a new report:

A major program to subsidize coal-to-liquids [CTL] makes no sense, since the goals of energy independence and reducing greenhouse gas emissions can be achieved at lower cost through plug-in hybrid vehicles charged with electricity from reduced carbon sources.

The plug-in hybrid vehicle, which Climate Progress has long been a fan of, is a terrific climate solution. CTL is an irredeemably terrible idea masquerading as a redeemably so-so idea.

The report’s main, if obvious, conclusions are:

Generating electricity from coal with carbon capture and sequestration and replacing the fleet with plug-in hybrid vehicles could enhance energy security by reducing 85% of motor vehicle gasoline use and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from vehicle travel by 70%.

Even the most carbon-intensive scenario using plug-in hybrids has substantially less greenhouse gas emissions than the best possible coal-to-liquids case.

Nearly three-fourths of the existing light-duty vehicle fleet could be accommodated as plug-ins without requiring additional power plants through off-peak charging.

For press contacts with the Carnegie Mellon researchers, go here.

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2 Responses to Plug-in Hybrids Beat Coal-to-Liquids (Duh!)

  1. E.M.Smith says:

    This would take at least a decade to do, just like drilling. Folks keep cars in the fleet a long time. It will cost $Trillions to replace the entire vehicle fleet.

    Trains, Planes, Busses, Trucks, Ships – these take even longer to replace and cost even more. We will be using Diesel Oil and Jet-A for a very very long time. It has to come from somewhere. I would rather it be CTL, BioTL, or TrashTL than Opec.

    Any path that leads through fleet replacement is a 10 to 20 year process costing many more $Trillions than we have. We ought to start, but it’s only a start, and we need a bridge fuel to get us through the next decades while the fleet turns over.

    Realize that fleet replacement only begins AFTER the vehicles are designed, Government Tested, manufactured, and distributed. It takes about 1/2 decade to get a new design done and they are not all done at the same time. Similarly, we can not all run out and buy a new car in the same year. There is not enough copper, steel, and car factories to do it.

    I am in favor of the idea, but it needs to be seen as a part of the solution, not as a magic instant bullet.

    Bias Disclaimer: I own stock in CLNE the company run by T. Boon Pickens that is converting large vehicles to natural gas and is building out natural gas and hydrogen fueling stations. My bias is toward his plan to deflect natural gas from electricity to vehicles and replace the electricity with wind. I’m just realistic about how long this is going to take and how many vehicles with us today will still be with us in 10 years and still need Diesel.

    I also own stock in Capstone Turbine (CPST) who have a natural gas engine package for busses that can run on natural gas or gas from fermenting biomass such as from land fills. While I want them to sell a great number of these, it will take decades. Plural. I’d rather cut the rest of the fleet over to non-OPEC Diesel for that duration.

  2. Earl Killian says:

    E.M. Smith, it will take more than a decade change the U.S. vehicle fleet from ICEs to PHEVs; so what? One starts accruing benefits as soon we start. Your trillions and trillions refrain ignore the fact vehicles are replaced anyway as they wear out. One is not talking about throwing out all current vehicles, but retiring them as the naturally would be, and making sure their replacements are PHEVs.