Thursday, February 12, 2009

AB 32 and Diesel Consumption by 2020

This is the second in a series of postings on AB 32, the California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006. The first was dedicated to gasoline usage; this one zeroes in on diesel fuel. The gasoline posting concluded that there is no way to reduce gasoline usage to 1990 levels by 2020, unless some very high-mileage cars are introduced very quickly, and at a price where consumers can afford them.

The short version for diesel fuel is: there is no way diesel fuel will be cut back to 1990 levels by 2020. A snowcone has a better chance of staying frozen in a volcano next to the magma. Picture the movie Lord of The Rings: The Return of The King where The Ring falls into the river of flowing lava.

First, some raw numbers for diesel. Diesel consumption in California for 2008 was roughly 18.5 million gallons per day. But, in 1990, diesel consumption was 12.6 million gallons per day. That is roughly a 2.1 percent increase per year over 18 years. Projecting that growth rate into the future, we have then in 2020 a diesel demand of 23.7 million gallons per day. This is roughly double the amount consumed in 1990.

How then, is diesel fuel consumption to be cut in half by 2020? Cut in half means miles per gallon must double, if miles driven remains the same. Hybrid technology for trucks will account for some increase in mpg, without a doubt. Aerodynamic efficiency improvements will help on long-haul trucks, but the U.S. EPA's SmartWay program only improves mpg by approximately 15 percent. Hybrid does not work well for long-haul trucks; it is more suitable for short-run delivery trucks that make lots of stops.

Bio-diesel is mandated by AB 32, with increasing amounts up to 10 percent of the fuel. This will help some, no doubt.

It appears that hybrid technology must take up the lion's share of the mpg doubling.

Following the same analysis that was used for gasoline and cars, how efficient must the hybrid delivery trucks be, and how many must be sold each year to achieve the goal by 2020?

If 10 percent of the existing fleet is replaced each year with new vehicles, and 7 percent of the existing fleet is retired from service each year, the fleet turnover is complete within 12 years at a 2 percent growth rate per year in fleet size. But, the hybrid trucks must be ready today, and must achieve the high mpg of almost double compared to the existing fleet's fuel economy. Eaton Corp. has a hybrid truck for delivery service, based on hydraulic motors instead of electric motors with batteries. However, the fuel improvement was announced as 45 to 50 percent in the tests, which EPA estimates would result in approximately 30 percent improvement in actual use.

In summary, using a delivery truck that achieves 4 mpg in 2007, we must achieve 8 mpg by 2020. The hybrid drive will improve the mileage to 5.2 (if the 30 percent is achieved) or 6 (if the 50 percent improvement is achieved). Using 10 percent biofuel reduces the target from 8 to 7.2 mpg, leaving a gap of 7.2 - 6 mpg, or 1.2 mpg.

Perhaps lighter materials will help, or allow wheel rims, or lighter tires using low-porosity rubber. But, none of these are on the market today. And, hybrids just do not work well for long-haul trucks.

Back to long-haul trucks, the Rocky Mountain Institute has a paper in which better mileage for trucks is discussed. Their suggested improvements include reducing wind resistance (drag) by more aerodynamic tractors, closing the gap between the cab and the trailer, side fairings along the trailer, a duck tail to reduce tail-end drag, alloy wheel rims, single fat tires instead of dual tires, smaller wheels and lowering the trailer. Their stated claim is that a long-haul truck can be made that achieves at least double the current mpg. But, again, none of these are on the market today.

As was the case with gasoline, there appears to be no way that diesel consumption will be reduced to 1990 levels by 2020. I wonder if there is a Plan B?

Per the ARB's scoping plan, the transportation sector is the single largest contributor to GHGs at 41 percent of the total. Having shown the futility of reducing gasoline and diesel consumption to 1990 levels by 2020, a larger burden must therefore fall on the other sectors, such as electric power generation, industry, and agriculture/forestry.

I will analyze these sectors in future installments.

Addendum 2/13/09:  The analysis was flawed using 10 percent new vehicles per year, and 7 percent retired.  It appears that roughly 5 to 7 percent new vehicles are added, and retirements are 2 to 4 percent.  The conclusion remains valid, though, that there is no way the 1990 consumption will be achieved by 2020. 

Roger E. Sowell, Esq.

Mr. Sowell's law office website is found here.

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