End of car pollution?

Very clean cars! How much energy does it take to produce the hydrogen? Will more CO2 be emitted by the new hydrogen industry using ... what? More coal? Other renewable energy?

Please send us your views, reactions and opinions.

The 100-year reign of the polluting internal combustion engine is coming to an end, according to Bill Ford, chairman of the Ford Motor Company. It will soon be replaced in motor vehicles by the hydrogen fuel cell, which emits no pollution whatsoever and so can reduce the build-up of greenhouse gases causing climate change, the great-grandson of the company's founder, Henry Ford, told the Greenpeace Business Conference in London. In a remarkable speech from a motor manufacturer, in which he proclaimed his own environmental credentials, Mr Ford accepted that the automobile had had a serious negative impact on the environment, and that his industry had wrongly played down the threat from global warming.

He proclaimed that climate change was the most challenging issue facing the world and that anyone who disagreed was "in denial". Ford itself had moved on from that position, he said. But he felt the Kyoto protocol would not provide deep enough cuts to halt global warming. Only the marketplace, making new technology widely available, could tackle the problem.

A fuel cell creates energy by an electrochemical process similar to that in a battery: it lets hydrogen and oxygen react together to produce electricity and water vapour. It does not run down or need recharging, working as long as the hydrogen fuel is available, but, most important, it does not produce any CO2, the basic by-product of any carbon-based fuel such as oil, gas or coal.

Every major car company in the world is throwing huge sums into developing the technology: Ford is spending US$1 billion between now and 2004, while Daimler-Chrysler, regarded as the leader in the field, has spent US$700 million. All the main manufacturers have prototype fuel-cell cars running and there is a race to bring them to market. Honda and Toyota expect to do so in 2003, while Ford and Daimler-Chrysler are aiming at 2004.

"I believe fuel cells will finally end the 100-year reign of the internal combustion engine," Mr Ford said, adding that the technology was "the Holy Grail" of the motor industry. Prophesying the demise of car ownership, he said: "The day will come when the whole notion of car ownership is antiquated." Mr Ford was reflecting advanced motor industry thinking, which suggests many people might not want to pay for a car of their own if they could be guaranteed mobility on demand from a local hire network. (Source: The Independent, 6 October 2000; www.independent.co.uk/news/UK/Environment/2000-10/ford061000.shtml)

Más energía en Internet? Un estudio de KPMG Consulting

Cuál es el rol de Internet en el mercado y el comercio de los combustibles derivados de la madera (dendrocombustibles) y de los biocombustibles? Qué piensan nuestros lectores de esta propuesta?

Según un estudio de KPMG Consulting, los ejecutivos del sector energético de América latina son conscientes del impacto que va a tener Internet en sus organizaciones y de cómo el comercio a través de la red electrónica (e-business) puede ayudarlos a alcanzar márgenes de beneficio significativamente mayores. El 82 por ciento de ellos:

· cree que el e-business tendrá un fuerte impacto en sus actividades comerciales;
· confía en la capacidad de la red para crear relaciones entre empresas y compradores.

La encuesta -realizada entre los empresarios que asistieron a la Conferencia sobre e-business para el sector energético de América Latina, celebrada en Venezuela a principios del año 2000-, muestra que actualmente Internet es percibida como un valioso recurso para los negocios entre los ejecutivos del sector energético de la región. «Internet está teniendo un fuerte impacto en la forma en que las compañías se relacionan entre ellas y existe un consenso general en el sector energético sobre los grandes beneficios que la tecnología basada en Internet puede aportar a la industria», expresó P. Grootens, vicepresidente del Área de Consumo y Mercados Industriales de KPMG Consulting en América Latina.

Del total de ejecutivos, un 93 por ciento cree que la mayoría de los cambios que se están produciendo en sus organizaciones están ligados al papel de Internet en transacciones del tipo «business to business» (B2B). Los empresarios afirmaron que Internet ayudará a crear una red de relaciones entre negocios, compradores, minoristas y canales externos a la organización.

Un 31 por ciento de los ejecutivos dijo que ahora sus organizaciones se encuentran comprometidas en serias actividades de e-business, un 18 por ciento espera llevar a cabo importantes esfuerzos durante los próximos seis meses, un 28 por ciento lo hará durante el año en curso, y el 21 por ciento restante considera que su organización adoptará la estrategia del e-business durante los próximos dos años.

Los ejecutivos encuestados creen que, al término del año 2000, el 21 por ciento de todas las transacciones comerciales en el sector energético latinoamericano se hará a través de Internet. Una cuarta parte de las operaciones se centrará en América latina y el 75 por ciento restante en mercados externos.

Sin embargo, la migración hacia el e-business no será fácil, ya que hay varios factores que conspiran contra de la adopción de las nuevas tecnologías. El mayor obstáculo es la resistencia general al cambio cultural dentro de cada organización (67 por ciento). Además, la falta de suficiente experiencia en la organización acerca de la tecnología de la red o del e-business pueden en muchos casos llevar al fracaso (48 por ciento), mientras que el panorama legislativo de cada mercado o la ausencia del mismo pueden incluso impedir la adopción del e-business en la industria energética (46 por ciento).
(Fuente: www.lanacion.com.ar/00/10/15/e21.htm )


With the rising cost of oil and natural gas, using the available biomass for fuel is becoming a priority for a lot of people, all around the world. I am concentrating a lot of my efforts towards areas where sawdust, palm oil husks, charcoal dust, and other biomass piles are in abundance.

In Canada, many of the beehive burners are being shut down as a result of Government regulations concerned with the amount of particulate emissions. This becomes an ideal customer to compress the sawdust biomass into small fuel logs for use by the Aboriginals of Canada, a people dear to my heart (I am a Treaty Indian).

I have prepared a PowerPoint presentation on the HEATLOG and would be pleased to forward it to anyone via e-mail. (John Olsen, President, Cree Industries, 200-100 Park Royal South, West Vancouver, British Columbia, V7T 1A2 Canada; tel./fax: +1 604 533 4950; e-mail: cree@dowco.com; http://sites.netscape.net/creecree/creeindustries)

The following personal point of view is hot off the press.

Sins of emission

Sam drives a huge S.U.V., Pierre drives a tiny Citroën. Both agree that for the sake of the environment they must reduce their combined fuel consumption. But who should bear the burden?

You might expect Pierre to demand that Sam do most of the adjusting. All that Sam has to do is switch to a smaller but still comfortable car; Pierre's car can't get much smaller. You certainly wouldn't expect to find Sam trying to wriggle out of the bargain, insisting that he be allowed to adopt a tree instead.

But that, more or less, is why efforts to curb global warming collapsed last week. There's plenty of blame to go around, but the essential problem was that Europeans got fed up with the United States' unwillingness to reduce its emission of greenhouse gases, even though it is the world's prime source of such gases.

Why is the United States such a big emitter? Energy use tends to be more or less proportional to gross domestic product, and we have the biggest economy. But that's not the whole story: We release about twice as much carbon dioxide per caput as other advanced countries, even though we don't have anywhere near twice their per caput G.D.P. The main reason for that disparity is that we have much lower taxes on fuel, especially gasoline. The image of the American filling up his living room on wheels with dollar-a-gallon gasoline while his European counterpart carefully spoons precious petrol into his mini is a caricature, but gets at an essential truth.

This comparison suggests that it should actually be much easier for the United States to reduce its energy consumption and carbon dioxide emissions than it is for Europe. High taxes on fuel have already induced Europeans to do the easy conservation steps; in the United States, where gasoline is literally cheaper than (bottled) water, we haven't even tried.

Now it turns out that there are some complicating factors. Some estimates suggest that the cost of meeting international targets for emission reduction would actually be larger for the United States than for Europe, mainly because our economy grows faster, and faster growth increases the demand for energy. Still, one can easily understand European fury at the United States' refusal to make any serious effort to reduce the amount of carbon it burns.

But don't blame our negotiators, or for that matter the administration they work for. They had to respect domestic political realities. And what could the United States actually do to reduce its emission of greenhouse gases?

Any Econ 101 textbook can tell you the answer. If carbon dioxide is deemed to inflict damage on the environment, then the efficient way to resolve the problem is to provide market incentives to burn less carbon. The most straightforward policy would be an across-the-board carbon tax that . . .

I can't see any point in finishing that sentence. Never mind that even free-market economists favour "effluent taxes"; never mind that we're not talking about an overall tax increase, that any new tax on carbon could and should be offset by tax cuts elsewhere. In the United States' current political universe there are too many people who believe that the only good tax is a dead tax for any such proposal to be accepted. Such people aren't a majority, but they do control at least one house of Congress, and it just isn't going to happen.

In other words, the ultimate reason that the climate talks failed, that global warming will go unchecked, is the power of the United States' vitriolic anti-tax right.

Is there any way out of this trap? A decisive political defeat for the rabid right might open a path; but that didn't happen in this election.

The only alternative would be a Nixon-goes-to-China scenario. It's nice to fantasize that if George W. Bush ends up in the White House he might try to heal the wounds of his dubious triumph by, among other things, taking on his own party over environmental issues. But, quite aside from his oil-industry connections and his dismal environmental record in Texas, Mr Bush has said he is not convinced that the scientific evidence for global warming warrants policy action. And somehow I don't expect further evidence to change his mind.

Maybe future retirees won't have to move to Florida to find warm weather. It's looking like a long, hot century. (Paul Krugman in Reckonings, 29 November 2000)


The question is not what you look at, but what you see.
Henry David Thoreau

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