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Fuels and lubes column


Finding reason within alternative fuel


I’ve been trying to determine why we’ve taken so many wrong turns incorporating alternate fuels. I looked at Wikipedia the other day, and I think I found the answer. Only 1% of Wikipedia’s content is about logic and mathematics. Another 1% is about thought and philosophy. But fully 30% deals with art and culture, and 12% covers social issues and society. No wonder we’re becoming a second-class nation; we’ve forsaken logic for emotion. It takes forever to develop new energy sources with no scientific background.

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However, the good thing about being a capitalistic society is that things will eventually sort themselves out. Although Big Agriculture and farmers continue to manufacture more corn-based ethanol, demand in the United States is decreasing as end users change to second-generation cellulosic ethanol and natural gas. Rather than slow production and reduce profit, the corn-based cartel is exporting more and more of their production. They may even be giving biodiesel, which is a good alternate fuel, a bad name by association.

Another good example is hybrids. Many fleets have tried both hydraulic and electrical hybrids for P&D service. Although significant fuel economy gains were realized, this market seems to be slowing down.

Either government subsidies aren’t sufficient to offset the up-front capital investment or the applicable markets have become saturated. Although refuse haulers and urban buses are viable candidates for this approach, total market size is relatively small due to the small numbers and the longer trade cycles. Eaton recently announced they won’t produce any more hybrid transmissions.

The much larger light- and medium-duty P&D markets seem to be embracing natural gas, particularly if the fleets are centrally fuelled. Everyone seems to prefer the energy independence and cost of natural gas fuels. We often hear about the lack of government approval for the Keystone XL pipeline, but were you aware that a natural gas pipeline to the Northeast was recently approved by the Executive branch?


The EPA also recently approved dimethyl ether (DME) as an alternate fuel. DME has been Volvo’s preferred alternate fuel for years. Good move.

Things are beginning to make sense after years of wrong directions. One of this nation’s more forward-thinking utilities, Florida Power and Light, recently announced that it thinks the appropriate mix of alternative fuel for the fleet is solar and wind during daylight hours and natural gas after dark.

It’s a shame we still haven’t developed an economic, reasonable method to store solar and wind energy. Battery technology, for example, needs a major technological breakthrough in order to cost effectively contribute to our energy picture.

Oh yes, another crotchety reminder: Power generation and transportation both contribute equally to airborne emissions, and so the idea that electric vehicles are “zero emissions” is ludicrous.

As for illogical things, I’ve recently learned that our auto manufacturers are considering capturing and storing CO2 to help meet our government’s next set of CO2 regulations. The volume of CO2 produced by burning one gallon of gasoline is enormous. Where on the vehicle do they plan to store this stuff? I will admit that if we could somehow spray the captured CO2 on farmer’s fields, yields would be increased significantly.


I also heard that the EPA wants wood stove manufacturers to use catalytic converters and/or particulate traps. When the EPA figures out that every living being emits C02, will we be required to wear face masks?

If we would just replenish the forests we once had covering most of the United States, we would eliminate our CO2 problems. Plants love CO2. Let’s all plant a few shrubs and trees to protect our environment.



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