Archive for July, 2008

What do we do with that SUV bought without enough forethought?

Friday, July 18th, 2008

Judith Warner has some ideas for the Futility Vehicle:

I haven’t actually made a formal study of the Land Rover’s gas mileage. I’ve simply stopped driving the car to anywhere other than our metro stop (1.5 miles; about a quarter tank of gas) or the supermarket (.88 miles, maybe an eighth of a tank of gas) or the gas station. Last Sunday, needing to transport a camp trunk, we drove it to Virginia, which was costly (96 miles, perhaps 1,800 tanks of gas), but highly worthwhile, because the driveway leading up to the camp’s welcome area was gravelly and steep.

“She loves this terrain,” Max said, patting the dashboard.

But there are so many places where driving an SUV is fuelish, so what do do? Judith has some ideas.

Thanks to Bob Seeley for the recommendation.

What restrictions on our GHG behavior would we accept or reject?

Friday, July 18th, 2008

This is a question I’ve been asking of groups recently. While pretty much everyone is comfortable with mandates on car safety and high efficiency bulbs (though one person felt we should be educated on the issues and then allowed to select), I’m running into fewer who advocate a return to the old 55 mph days (er, they weren’t that long ago) and pretty much no one who likes lifetime limits on flying or a large tax on same. But we have to find ways to restrict driving and flying and such.

OK, which limitations on behavior would you accept? Reject?

Pedestrian malls

Friday, July 18th, 2008

I have been taking Greyhound home from Philadelphia (a great city for walking and public transit, at least from where I slept to where I visited) with stops in Iowa City and Boulder.

I really like pedestrian malls.

Here’s a picture from Boulder, from another time of the year, but also crowded:
Boulder mall

and from Iowa City a portion mostly occupied by younger people
Iowa City kids
Iowa City kids

and others
and others

When I was looking for pictures to link to, none showed how crowded the malls are, lots of people, lots to do.

My town, Berkeley, is pedestrian-friendly, but to get that wonderful mall feeling other cities have, we’d have to what? Divert traffic on Telegraph south of the university? Divert traffic on Shattuck both south and north of University Ave?

Energy Technology Perspectives from IEA–it’s difficult

Friday, July 18th, 2008

The most recent report from Working Group 3 of Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change accepted 177 analyses from economists on mitigating climate change. 6 attempted to keep temperature increase below 2.4°C, none tried to keep temperature increase below 2°C. The goal I’ve heard most often from the climate community is for the latter, with some including James Hansen arguing for even lower increases.

Key Impacts
Key Impacts from IPCC. By the time temperature increase reaches 2°C, hundreds of millions are expected to experience increased water stress, most/all coral will bleach, cereal productivity will increas in high latitude and decrease in low latitude (and decrease everywhere by 3.5°C or higher), millions more could experience coastal flooding each year (if ice sheet melt becomes important at this level, this number will be higher), and health burden will increase.

Burning Embers from Stern Review
Burning Embers from Stern Review Click here to enlarge. Changes at 2°C may include onset of irreversible melting of Greenland ice sheet, large fraction of ecosystems unable to maintain current form, risk of weakening of natural carbon absorption and possible increasing natural methane releases.

A report from International Energy Agency too recent to be included in the IPCC report, Energy Technology Perspectives, 2008, looks at what is needed for the 2.4°C goal.

First, the warning: the best estimate of the carbon dioxide and greenhouse gas levels by 2050 could eventually raise world temperatures by 6°C or more.

From ETP 2008, Executive Summary, bullets added:

A global revolution is needed in ways that energy is supplied and used. Far greater energy efficiency is a core requirement. Renewables, nuclear power, and CO2 capture and storage (CCS) must be deployed on a massive scale, and carbon-free transport developed.
A dramatic shift is needed in government policies, notably creating a higher level of long-term policy certainty over future demand for low carbon technologies, upon which industry’s decision makers can rely.
Unprecedented levels of co-operation among all major economies will also be crucial, bearing in mind that less than one-third of “business-as-usual” global emissions in 2050 are expected to stem from OECD countries.
[T]he global energy economy will need to be transformed over the coming decades.

The IEA report focuses on carbon dioxide from energy, ignoring other greenhouse gases. Currently, the world produce 28 gigatonnes (billion metric tons) of CO2 each year. Since business as usual is expected to get us to 62 GtCO2, cutting by 50% to 14 Gt will require us to cut back 48 Gt.

More details later.

Air Conditioning

Wednesday, July 16th, 2008

“There is absolutely no reason”, one of the Californians at the Johnstown, PA Friends General Conference said, “why a living human body needs to be cooled to below 70° F.” I love Iowa City, having missed the storms twice in the last 4 visits, but for the first time in my visit to air conditioning country, do not regret leaving my winter clothes at home.

Though the buses are a wee bit nippy.

The MPG Illusion

Wednesday, July 9th, 2008

From Science 20 June 2008 (subscription needed)

When asked which improvement in fuel economy will reduce gas usage most, Americans using miles per gallon make more mistakes than those given the same numbers in gallons per hundred miles, GPM. (Europeans already use liters per hundred km.)

In one test, one of two cars, each driven 10,000 miles per year, will be replaced. Does it make sense to replace the 15 mpg car with a 19 mpg model, or upgrade the 34 mpg car to a 44 mpg version? (Yes, it makes most sense to upgrade the 15 mpg model to 44 mpg, or to drive the car with worse fuel economy less.) Three quarters recommended upgrading the 34 mpg car.

When also given the gallons per hundred miles figure (upgrade from 6.67 to 5.26 GPM? or from 2.94 to 2.27 GPM?), 64% chose the first upgrade.

Since that saves more than 140 gallons/year, while the second upgrade saves less than 70 gallons/year, it appears that shifting to GPM terminology helps make the discussion more understandable to Americans.

A more dramatic example: upgrading from 12 mpg (8.33 gpm) to 14 mpg (7.14 gpm) reduces gas consumption more than upgrading from 28 mpg (3.57 gpm) to 40 mpg (2.5 gpm).