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Widening scandal over vehicle emissions threatens climate accord

Governments are counting on regulatory action and voluntary pledges by companies to meet climate targets. The scandals and shortcomings involving carmakers show the pitfalls of the strategy.

Goals set by governments that signed the Paris climate change agreement last month were based on figures determined to be attainable. A widening scandal involving carmakers that cheated on testing to make their vehicles appear more environmentally friendly than they actually were could weaken the accord or even make it meaningless.

About one-fifth of greenhouse gases causing global temperatures to rise come from emissions related to the transport sector. Confidence and trust have been shaken, which is reason for increased oversight and research into better mobility solutions.

Millions of cars, most of them diesel, are likely to be recalled for buybacks or repairs.

Volkswagen in the US and Mitsubishi in Japan have so far been the biggest casualties, but investigations are now also under way in Europe into diesel vehicles manufactured by Daimler, GM and PSA Peugeot Citroen. About 630,000 cars made by Audi, Mercedes-Benz, Opel, Porsche and VW are voluntarily being recalled to tweak software involved in emissions of nitrogen oxide. There is good reason to suspect that petroldriven vehicles that produce carbon dioxide gases, the main cause of global warming, will be next.

VW has been the face of the scandal, its admission last September after US investigations that it had installed software in 11 million diesel cars worldwide to deceive environmental regulators causing outrage. It has set aside US$18.2 billion to deal with the fallout and its share price has plummeted. Mitsubishi Motors’ stock value has also plunged, hit by last month’s revelation that the firm falsified test results to overstate the fuel efficiency of 625,000 vehicles produced for the Japanese market by between five and 10 per cent. What that means for emissions in Japan is unclear, but the US Environmental Protection Agency is more certain about the impact of VW’s cheating; it contends the firm’s diesel cars were emitting up to 40 times more nitrogen oxide than they were supposed to. In Europe, carmakers deny wrongdoing, although a British study has found 37 models, while meeting legal limits in the laboratory, exceed levels by up to 12 times when on the road.

Governments are counting on regulatory action and voluntary pledges by companies to meet climate targets. The scandals and shortcomings involving carmakers show the pitfalls of the strategy. Watchdogs have a crucial role in keeping authorities and firms on track. Encouraging the development of better technologies and more sustainable transport systems is as important.

Source URL: http://www.scmp.com/comment/insightopinion/article/1942170/widening-scandal-over-vehicle-emissions-threatens-climate

Report: Coal, biomass mix may be in military jet fuel future

http://biomassmagazine.com/articles/12710/report-coal-biomass-mix-may-be-in-military-jet-fuel-future

The U.S. Defense Logistics Agency and the Connecticut Center for Advanced Technology recently released results of a research project that investigated the technical feasibility, commercial viability and environmental compliance of the use of liquefied coal and biomass mixtures as a military jet fuel replacement.

Overall, the research “showed potentially highly effective alternative fuel resources that can end the current debate,” according to the project report. Objectives of the study included the investigation, through analyses and testing of the use of domestic coal and biomass mixtures to make liquid fuel (CBTL), with a focus on gasification.

The project team executed gasification testing and analyses of 150 coal-biomass feedstock tests, performing them at five different partner and facility locations—the Energy and Environmental Research Center in Grand Forks. N.D., the U.S. DOE National Carbon Capture Center in Wilsonville, Alabama, Westinghouse Plasma Corporation at Madison, Pennslyvania, ThermoChem Recovery International, Inc. in Durham, North Carolina, and Emery Energy Company in Laramie, Wyoming.

All CO2 footprint projections of alternative jet fuel made from solid feedstocks tested were below the petroleum baseline for blended jet fuel (50 percent alternative fuel plus 50 percent petroleum-based fuel), thereby satisfying Section 526, according to the report.

Other major findings included:
– When coal was the sole feedstock, the CO2 footprint was the largest and required the most capture.
– Increasing percentages of biomass in the solid feed generally resulted in lower CO2 footprints and smaller amounts of required capture.
– Torrefied wood offers advantages in blending with coal and lowering the CO2 footprint for the CBTL plant.
– Municipal solid waste and biomass (considered to be “nuisance plants” in areas where they are abundant) may be economically feasible for use as feedstocks.
– Feedstock preparation and feed system design are critical to the successful development of a large-scale CBTL project.
– Electricity generation and CO2 displacement credits from CBTL are significant contributors to lower GHG emissions. At a ratio of 30 percent biomass, emissions were 38 to 62 percent below the baseline; with 10 percent biomass, 13 to 33 percent below the baseline; and with no biomass, 2 to 18 percent below the baseline.

On economic findings, the study found that on the rough order of magnitude, cost estimates using the techno-economic model for a 50,000 barrel-per-day CBTL plant with an entrained flow gasifier or transport gasifier showed average required selling price (RSP) of jet fuel ranged from approximately $134 to $170 per barrel, on a crude oil equivalent basis. Instances where coal was the sole feedstock resulted in the lowest RSP; increasing the percentages of raw biomass in the solid feed generally resulted in a higher RSP. Using torrefied rather than raw biomass resulted in a lower RSP, according to the report.

The project team concluded that blending various grades of coal with biomass presents a credible approach for reducing carbon dioxide emissions and producing alternative jet fuel.

The report also includes several factors that can improve commercial viability of CBTL technology, as well as recommendations for future study.

SCMP: CNOOC backs planned trial of LNG vehicles in Hong Kong; HK Gov: LNG ‘not the best transport fuel choice for Hong Kong’

from Cheung Chi-fai of the SCMP:

CNOOC backs planned trial of LNG vehicles in Hong Kong

The mainland’s biggest LNG supplier is backing a move to introduce the fuel into Hong Kong’s transport market as an affordable solution to the city’s notorious roadside pollution problems.

China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) is working with a local company on plans to introduce liquefied natural gas as vehicle fuel, with a vision of building a network of LNG refuelling stations similar to those found in mainland cities.

The partnership between CNOOC and the Hong Kong LNG Company will see the companies work with a cross-border coach operator to trial an LNG bus. But no refuelling facilities will be built yet because LNG is not covered by local laws. The bus will be refuelled in Shenzhen, which has at least 13 LNG refuelling stations to support hundreds of vehicles.

Zhu Jianwen, president of CNOOC Gas and Power Trading & Marketing, said Hong Kong was surrounded by a massive, robust LNG supply network and could take advantage of this.

The world’s third-largest LNG buyer, CNOOC imported almost 22 million tonnes last year. The Dapeng LNG terminal in eastern Shenzhen also supplies Hongkong Electric and Towngas via an underwater pipe.

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SCMP Letters: HK biofuels company makes case for biofuels advantage

Anthony Dixon, CEO of ASB Biodiesel, writes in to SCMP to counter the lack of consideration given to biodiesel by Hong Kong official officials:

There are some encouraging signs that the government is beginning to recognise our local waste-to-biodiesel industry as an excellent already-working model of what it hopes to achieve more broadly for recycling and food waste in Hong Kong.

But I must disagree with the Environmental Protection Department’s ongoing assertion that the introduction of biodiesel will have little impact on roadside emissions (“Biodiesel maker pushes product use in market”, October 28). Surely, given the World Health Organisation’s recent pronouncement that air pollution is a leading cause of cancer, no government can afford to ignore any positive incremental impact.

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BMW passes gas

http://www.youtube.com/watch?list=PLBE4A860090717EB3&v=mOZKVPtuXWU&feature=player_embedded

Prototype Solar Power-Assist for Buses

solar powered busFirst published: March 10, 2010

Source: Alternative Energy News

Sunpods Inc. is California-based manufacturing company. They produce modular, fully integrated and tested solar power generation systems. Recently they have come out with an idea of the first solar power-assist system for buses. They should be applauded for developing it in a mere six weeks. Their partner is Bauer Intelligent Transportation. The system developed by Sunpods will help Bauer to meet strict anti-pollution standards laid down by the State of California. California state law since 2008 has disallowed diesel vehicles to remain idle for more than five minutes. Now more than 25 states across the United States have anti-idling laws.

Gary Bauer, founder and owner of Bauer’s Intelligent Transportation says, “We support the state’s strong commitment to reducing pollution. At the same time, as a transportation provider, we wanted to meet our customers’ requirements for comfort and connectivity. SunPods was able to make our vision a reality in less than 6 weeks. We’ve been testing the bus for the past 4 weeks and we’re impressed with the reliable performance.”
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Electric dream set to make us a motor city

Electric Vehicles

First published: March 3, 2010

Source: The Standard

Hong Kong will soon boast an automobile industry – but unlike most motor cities, this one will be green.

In a joint venture with Taiwan and the mainland, Halo Motor plans to set up a small production line in the next two to three years and aims eventually to churn out 10,000 electric vehicles a year.

A research and development center is also to open in the Science Park by the end of this month.
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Greener fuel standards proposed for vehicles

SCMP Martin Wong
Nov 18, 2009

The government has proposed making vehicles more environmentally friendly by requiring fuel supplied in the city to meet greener standards.

Government proposals in a Legislative Council paper that lawmakers will discuss on Monday include a move to the Euro V emission standard, introduced in the European Union for heavy diesel-powered vehicles last year, and Euro 5, which will apply in the EU for cars, vans and light trucks from next year.

Currently, Hong Kong’s highest requirement for vehicles is Euro IV/4, though the paper said that diesel supplied in fuel stations in the city already met Euro V.

“If existing petrol vehicles use Euro 5 petrol, their emissions of carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides and hydrocarbons will be reduced by about 10 per cent,” the paper said.

Oil companies said it was difficult to predict the price of Euro 5 petrol. Some estimated it would sell at less than 20 HK cents per litre more than Euro 4, which now cost about HK$12-13 a litre, according to the paper.

The government stated in the paper that it was still reviewing whether it would adopt the higher standard for vehicles. “As the Japanese vehicle manufacturers require more time to produce Euro [V/5] compliant vehicles for the Hong Kong market, we are not yet ready to implement the Euro [V/5] vehicle emission standard,” the paper stated. Most heavy duty commercial vehicles in Hong Kong were imported from Japan, it stated.

Democratic Party lawmaker Andrew Cheng Kar-foo, deputy chairman of the Legco transport panel, welcomed the proposal.

“We lawmakers welcome all suggestions to make our city greener,” he said. “As for the petrol price, it is only a little more than the current price.”

Transport firms seek funding to upgrade bus fleets, switch to cleaner fuel in ferries

Cheung Chi-fai, SCMP

Franchised bus and ferry operators have publicly sought government financial assistance to help them upgrade their fleets and switch to cleaner fuels if they are required to do so. The operators say they are seeking the unspecified help on the assumption that they will not be able to pass on the cost of improvements to the public through higher fares.

New World First Ferry – now testing ultra-low-sulphur diesel on three boats – said it could not keep using the fuel because it was too expensive.

“We will be unable to carry on after the end of the trial unless the government helps,” assistant general manger David Wong Yui-cheong told the Legislative Council’s environmental affairs panel yesterday.

The ferry operator’s sister company, New World First Bus, also said a subsidy would be needed if it was told to upgrade its diesel bus fleet ahead of schedule.

“The assumption is that we would not pass on the additional cost to the passengers by raising fares, and therefore a financial subsidy is necessary,” deputy head of corporate communications Elaine Chan Yin-ling said. It would be wasteful to phase out older buses before the end of their supposed life cycle, usually up to 18 years, she said.

In its recent air-quality review, the Environment Bureau estimated a 15 per cent fare rise would be needed to replace by 2014 about 4,500 franchised buses that went into service before Euro II emission standards were introduced in 1996 and 1998.

Fume-belching diesel buses are blamed for much of the roadside air pollution that persists despite efforts to clean up the environment.
Kowloon Motor Bus operations director Tim Ip Chung-tim said the bus-replacement programme was a complicated one that was also governed by manufacturers’ ability to supply vehicles. He also warned of the affect on finances and operations.

Secretary for the Environment Edward Yau Tang-wah said all parties in the community – individuals, government and businesses – would have to pay for better air quality. But he did not say whether the government had any plans to help bus companies upgrade their fleets.
The review proposed 19 measures to meet recommended new air-quality objectives, which have not been updated since 1987.
Representatives of more than 30 organisations attended yesterday’s panel meeting to offer their views on the review.

The prevalent view among non-business delegates was that tighter targets should be adopted and the proposed measures implemented as quickly as possible. A public forum will be held on Saturday to gauge public views on the review.

Meanwhile, WWF Hong Kong published its “Climate Policy Address” for Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen’s reference. It also urged Hong Kong to set a carbon emissions target of 25 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020.

Ferry operators get assurance on the cost of cleaner diesel

Cheung Chi-fai and Anita Lam – SCMP

The extra cost of using cleaner diesel in Hong Kong’s ferries is likely to be much less than ferry operators have claimed, the environment watchdog says.

Ultra-low-sulphur marine diesel, which went on trial in five ferries yesterday, would cost about 60 HK cents a litre more than conventional diesel, not up to HK$3 as the companies had estimated, the Environmental Protection Department said.

But one of the operators said the cleaner fuel would still push up its operating costs by 10 per cent, increasing pressure for a fare rise.

A department spokesman said clean diesel now cost HK$4.50 a litre, compared with HK$3.90 for conventional marine diesel, subject to oil-price fluctuations.

Hong Kong & Kowloon Ferry said that price difference would lead to a 10 per cent rise in operating costs if all its vessels used the fuel.

“The additional cost would erode our meagre profit and increase pressure for a fare rise,” general manager Nelson Ng Siu-yuen said.

Launching the nine-month trial of the cleaner fuel yesterday, the Environmental Protection Department said it would pay up to HK$10 million in incentives for ferry operators to take part. The money was for fuel subsidies and technical monitoring. The trial would provide data on operating costs, and the impact on maintenance and technical performance to help officials decide whether all ferries should use cleaner fuel.

The fuel, 100 times lower in sulphur, will be supplied to five selected ferries by an oil barge operated by Sinopec (SEHK: 0386) in Cheung Sha Wan.

These are New World First Ferry’s Xin Hui III and VIII between Central and Cheung Chau and Xin Ying running from Central to Mui Wo; Hong Kong & Kowloon Ferry’s Hoi Ming connecting Central and Peng Chau; and a Hong Kong and Yaumati Ferry car-carrier between Kwun Tong and North Point.

The Star Ferry did not join the trial, saying its own trial of cleaner diesel in 2006 resulted in loss of power, higher fuel consumption, and engine corrosion. “We will still keep track of the trial results of other ferry operators,” general manager Johnny Leung Tak-hing said.

The department spokesman said there had been no mechanical problems for government vessels since they started using the cleaner fuel in 2000. He said there were other solutions to resolve the operators’ worries about the lubricating effect of sulphur in the engines.

The spokesman said that if all local passenger ferries switched to the cleaner fuel, the total sulphur emissions from the marine sector could be cut by about 12.5 per cent. Other sulphur emissions come from domestic vessels such as barges and fishing boats, as well as ocean-going vessels and cross-border ferries.

The Marine Department said four local vessel operators were convicted for black-smoke emissions last year, compared with none in 2007