The Quest for Low Carbon Automobile Fuels
Don't look for retired University of Colorado professor, Dr. Jan Kreider to run for office in Iowa; not given his stance on corn-based ethanol. As far as he's concerned, based on the scientific literature he's reviewed, making ethanol from corn consumes as much petroleum as you get from using it. It is true that there's the petroleum burned to plant corn, harvest it, transport it to the distillation plant, and then distribute it by rail car and finally by truck transport to your local filling station as a blend of gasoline from E5 to E85.
So, if you're criteria for solving climate change is turning to ethanol as a low carbon fuel, you're barking up the wrong tree, so to speak.
What fuels can be considered as being low-carbon? In this 20-minute talk at the 2010 Toyota Sustainable Mobility Seminar, Dr. Kreider examines a wide range of petroleum substitutes, including coal-to-liquid -- probably the worse of the lot -- biofuels from both food and non-food sources, natural gas, tar sands and oil shales, the latter having less energy in BTU's per ton than common breakfast cereal.
Between the water that all fuels consume to varying amounts, to the energy it takes to process them, Kreider arrives at an interesting conclusion as to which fuel and automotive power plant combination produces the lowest CO2 emissions.
Curiously, he doesn't examine either hydrogen or electricity to run battery-powered vehicles, probably because both aren't "fuels" in the true sense of the word; instead they are considered "energy carriers" that are produced mainly by the burning of a primary fossil fuel: typically coal and natural gas.
You can follow along Dr. Krieder's presentation using the following link to his presentation slides. This is a two-part video, so be sure to watch the second half, which should appear in sequence.
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