President Obama Pushes Fuel Efficiency For Big Trucks

by Christopher DeMorro.

Originally published on Gas2.

America's Supertruck project aims to improve big rig fuel economy by 50% no later than 2016.
America’s Supertruck project aims to improve big rig fuel economy by 50% no later than 2016.

Medium and heavy-duty trucks account for 25% of all fuel use in America, and President Obama wants to improve their efficiency by an “ambitious” amount. But can Obama get it done before his presidency comes to a close?

In his most recent State of the Union address, Obama’s energy goals were fixated on natural gas and semi-truck fuel economy. This isn’t exactly new territory for the Obama administration, which has helped fund the Supertruck project that aims to improve big rig fuel economy by 50% by 2016.

So far the Supertruck has delivered some promising results, achieving an average fuel economy of nearly 10 MPG without any fancy drivetrains or alternative fuels.

Not that Obama isn’t pushing for those advances either. Testing on hybrid and CNG-powered semis is already under way on several different fronts, and natural gas maven T. Boone Pickens isn’t sitting quietly on the sidelines either.

Obama has delivered on the details though in a recent speech at a Safeway distribution center in Maryland, where he outlined several aspects of the proposed plan that gets trucks on clean street as early as 2016. The efficiency-improvement plan takes place in steps, and begins with the setting of new medium and heavy-duty fuel economy and emissions standards by March of 2016.

The administration is also going to push for more powertrain diversity among big rigs, from hybrids to CNG to more aerodynamic solutions. The goal is to cut fuel consumption, one of the single biggest expenditures owner-operators suffer on the open road. But don’t expect these standards to go into effect without a fight, as Obama also wants to end some $4 billion in oil and gas subsidies to major corporations, putting that money towards cellulosic ethanol and other biofuel research.

It’s a step in the right direction for Obama, but it could come a little too late in his presidency. By March of 2016, Obama will have less than a year left in office. While the trucking industry seems receptive to these ideas and ambitions, how will buyers react to the higher prices this new technology adds to their bottom line?

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This article, Obama Encourages Fuel Efficiency Improvement For Trucks, is syndicated from Clean Technica and is posted here with permission.

About the Author

Energy Policy. Chris DeMorroChristopher DeMorro is a writer and gearhead who loves all things automotive, from hybrids to HEMI’s. When he isn’t wrenching or writing, he’s running, because he’s one of those crazy people who gets enjoyment from running insane distances.

Obama Pushes the big Green Button

by Guest Contributor Ari Phillips.

Green Button
President Barack Obama pushes the big Green Button.

Originally published on Climate Progress.

As part of President Obama’s executive order last week, which included directing the federal government to triple its use of renewable energy by 2020, Obama instructed agencies to incorporate “Green Button” data further into their energy management practices.

First unveiled in 2012, the Green Button Initiative is literally a green button on a utility’s website that allows consumers to download their energy consumption data in a format that’s easy to understand.

According to the Department of Energy, 48 utilities and electricity suppliers serving more than 59 million homes and businesses have committed to giving customers Green Button access, and over 100 millions Americans already have access to their Green Button energy data.

The Green Button website says that the data provided to customers can be used to save energy in a number of different ways. These include customizing heating and cooling settings, helping facilitate energy-efficiency retrofitting, verifying energy-efficiency investments, and optimizing cost-effectiveness of solar panels, to name a few.

This kind of information can be especially useful in managing large campuses or apartment complexes where energy demands differ across different spaces.

In 2011, for the fifth consecutive year, American households paid more for electricity than they did the year before, reaching $1,419 that year. If having more access to data can help reduce energy use and energy costs, it’s a win-win for everyone.

Next year a similar Blue Button will be offered to provide data for healthcare records, which will allow clients to easily compile medical history and information.

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This article, Obama Pushes “Green Button”, is syndicated from Clean Technica and is posted here with permission.

Obama Names Sweden A Model For Energy Policy and Here’s Why

by Important Media Cross-Post

US President Barack Obama and Sweden’s Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt hold a press conference at Rosenbad, the seat of the Swedish government in Stockholm, Sweden, Sept. 4, 2013. CREDIT: (Credit: AP/Frank Augstein)

Originally published on Think Progress.
By Ryan Koronowski.

During a press conference with Sweden’s Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt on Wednesday afternoon Stockholm time, President Obama was asked what the United States could learn from Sweden. His first thought was sustainable energy development:

What I know about Sweden, I think, offers us some good lessons. Number one, the work you have done on energy I think is something the United States can and will learn from. Because every country in the world right now has to recognize if we are going to continue to grow and improve our standard of living while maintaining a sustainable planet, we are going to have to change our patterns of energy use. And Sweden I think is far ahead of many other countries.

So what can the U.S. learn from Sweden?

Sweden gets most of its electricity from hydroelectric and nuclear power, dating from investments in the 50s and 60s. Renewable energy — mainly wind — has also been on the rise, such that right now, over 47 percent of all energy consumed in Sweden comes from renewable sources. The vast majority of the electricity mix comes from renewables and nuclear.

But this hasn’t happened on its own. The switch is the result of a concerted effort to reduce dependence on fossil fuels, which in the mid-70s had constituted around three-quarters of total energy supply.

swedenenergy
Source: Swedish Energy Agency

The main driver has been a long-standing and uncontroversial carbon tax. Sweden began taxing carbon emissions back in 1991, at around $133 per ton. The system has changed a bit over the years, with industry paying less of the tax and consumers paying more, and the tax up to around $150 per ton.

Daniel Engström, the director of climate at the Forum for Reforms, Entrepreneurship and Sustainability in Sweden, said that Sweden does not have as many people who deny that climate change is a problem as the U.S. does (most Swedish energy critics are critical of onshore wind farms).

There have been some concerns about higher fuel prices, but because oil is so expensive to import, and the carbon tax went into effect so long ago, and because biofuels are an increasingly feasible option, many people do not notice the carbon tax. Revenues have been high, the tax is efficient, and emissions have dropped more than expected.

According to the IEA, “Sweden has the lowest share of fossil fuels in the energy supply mix among IEA member countries.” Oil accounts for 27 percent of the total energy supply, and has been steadily losing ground to biofuels.

The country imports all of its oil — and more than half of those imports come from Russia. Total domestic demand has actually dropped since 1985.

Other fossil fuels are a similarly small share of the electricity mix. Only 3 percent of the country’s total energy production comes from gas. Most of the coal used in Sweden is used for industrial purposes — it barely registers as an electricity generator.

Even so, Sweden is committed to reducing carbon emissions by 40 percent by 2020. The country also invests in renewable energy through a market-based certificate system.

After the press conference with the Prime Minister, President Obama visited an energy expo at Stockholm’s Royal Institute of Technology. He spoke with people at Volvo who are aiming to have fully electric public transit buses up and running by 2015, which would pay for themselves within 10 years. Obama also looked at some fuel cell and electric personal vehicles, and posed the challenges of scaling up such a system as a ‘chicken and egg’ question: “In the United States, one of the challenges has to do with distribution… if I was going shopping, where am I gonna refuel, right?”

Sweden’s longstanding carbon tax and emissions and renewable targets have been in operation while the nation thrived economically as much of the rest of Europe fell to pieces.

C. Fred Bergsten, director emeritus at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, said that “Sweden has one of the lowest inflation rates in Europe; it runs a budget surplus every year; its corporate tax rates are considerably lower than U.S. rates; and it spends more on research and development, as a share of its economy, than we do.”

So it seems that the main thing the U.S. can learn from Sweden on energy policy is that carbon pollution is not essential to economic success.

This article, Obama Names Sweden A Model For Energy Policy — Here’s Why, is syndicated from Clean Technica and is posted here with permission.

About the Author

CleanTechnica is one of 18 blogs in the Important Media blog network. With a bit of overlap in coverage, we sometimes repost some of the great content published by our sister sites.

Less than 1% of tar-sands environmental infractions are penalized

 By Kevin Grandia – Special to JBS News

By Jungbim (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or FAL], via Wikimedia Commons
Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. Photo: Jungbim

A new report out today finds that enforcement of environmental infractions by companies in the Alberta oil sands are 17 times lower than similar infractions reported to the United State’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The report [PDF], authoured by the environmental non-profit Global Forest Watch, looked at more than 15 years of data on recorded environmental mishaps by oil sand companies, tracking the follow-up actions taken and the final verdict on fines.

The findings are shocking and come at a very inconvenient time for government and industry supporters of the Keystone XL pipeline project that would greatly increase tar sands processing and shipments to the United States.

Of the more than 4,000 infractions reported, less than 1 percent (.09 to be exact) received an enforcement action (that would be less than 40 of 4,000). Compare this to the EPA, which has an enforcement rate of 16 percent for similar infractions by companies under the Clean Water Act.

Global Forest Watch also found that the median fine for environmental infractions in the oil sands over the past 16 years was $4,500. If you were an oil-sands player like ExxonMobil, who reported a profit last year of $44.9 billion, would you change your ways over a $4,500 fine?

Royal Dutch Shell Oil’s CEO, another big player in the oil sands, probably spent $4,500 on golf and dinner yesterday.

TransCanada, the company trying to convince President Obama to approve the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, was out last week touting Canada as a world leader in environmental protection.

TransCanada wrote in the Globe and Mail

The only relevant question is whether the U.S. wants to source its heavy oil from Canada, a friendly and stable ally with strict environmental standards, or from other suppliers whose interests are not aligned with those of the United States and have limited or no environmental standards.

Relevant question indeed, and here’s the answer: Canada does not have “strict environmental standards” at all and this report puts even more pressure on President Obama to not approve the Keystone XL pipeline.

Kevin Grandia is a researcher and writer on environment and human rights issues. He is the president of Spake Media House Inc., a consulting firm that brings online power to non-profits, campaigners, and advocacy groups. His article appears in JBS News with the kind permission of the authour.

America’s Updated Energy Strategy

by John Brian Shannon

President Obama visited the Argonne National Laboratory today in Argonne, Illinois, to give a major speech on the future of American energy. A new, USD $2 billion dollar program called the energy security trust was announced which gives focus to the administration’s plans for more renewable energy and proposes lower subsidies for fossil fuels.

Much of the resulting policy statement is based upon information supplied to the administration by the nonpartisan, Securing America’s Future Energy (SAFE) which represents senior business and former military leaders on both ends of the American political spectrum.

Here are the main points of the energy security trust – more detailed information is available by clicking here and here. And you can read the transcript of the President’s speech today in Argonne, Illinois, as compiled by the Chicago Sun-Times here.

By 2020, the President and Energy Secretary Steven Chu want the US;

  • To double the present level of U.S. renewable electricity generation
  • To double American energy productivity (by 2030)
  • To cut energy waste in the U.S. by half over the next twenty years
  • To invest in technology promoting energy efficiency & reduced waste
  • To cut net oil imports in half by the end of the decade
  • To enable safer production & cleaner electricity from natural gas
  • To promote safe & responsible oil and natural gas development
  • To assist the Nation’s truck fleets to adopt natural gas & alternative fuels
  • To improve energy efficiency through the Better Buildings Challenge program
  • To help U.S. states cut energy waste, improve efficiency & modernize grids
  • To streamline Interior Department regulations for faster project permitting
  • To work with the G20 & other fora to phase-out fossil fuel subsidies worldwide
  • To work with the IEA & others to strengthen energy security
  • To promote energy efficiency & development & deployment of clean energy via Clean Energy Ministerial & other international fora
  • To promote safe & secure nuclear power in nations pursuing nuclear energy
  • To design a responsible nuclear waste strategy for the U.S.

As the President continues to pursue his ‘all-of-the-above’ energy strategy, it should be noted that significant progress has been made. As President Obama stated in his speech today,

“We produce more oil than we have in 15 years. We import less oil than we have in 20 years. We’ve doubled the amount of renewable energy that we generate from sources like wind and solar. We have tens of thousands of good jobs to show for it.

We’re producing more natural gas than we ever have before with hundreds of thousands of good jobs to show for it. We supported the first new nuclear power plant in America since the 1970’s. And we’re sending less carbon pollution into the environment than we have in nearly 20 years. So we’re making real progress across the board.” – President Barack Obama

All of this is adding up to huge changes in the American energy sector and for the producers, consumers and investors of energy, the energy map in 2020 will bear scant resemblance to our present-day energy model. And that means that seven years from now, the air in and around large U.S. cities will be the cleaner for it.

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