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July 16, 2006


Rod Adams

When someone talks about improving average fuel economy to 40 MPG in 10 years, does that mean the average fuel economy of new vehicles or the average fuel economy of the installed fleet of automobiles?

If, as I suspect, that the answer is the former, how much real effect would that effort have on the fuel consumption for the country?

In other words, is improving automobile fuel economy really a near term way to reduce oil use?


"When someone talks about improving average fuel economy to 40 MPG in 10 years [...]"

Worse, they could talk about moving the legal requirements for cars in 10 years. Leaving the next 10 years of sales on the path of today: 10 mpg SUVs fueled by an E85 promise.


This is interesting - I'll be sure to check out the "The Union of Concerned Scientists" website.

I agree its paradoxical that technology having improved so greatly that average fuel economy has been bypassed for horsepower?

Engineering wants to MAXIMISE HORSEPOWER AND FUEL ECONOMY in parallel.

i.e. TOTAL Energy efficiency / utilization.

Higher oil prices (currently $75 a barrel in the UK) are going to force manufacturers into this since consumers are going to be unwilling/unable to keep pace with OIL PRICE HIKES as they currently stand.

(Doubling in two years...).

This is something I have faith in ... let alone scientific confidence. Looking at human nature for one thing.



Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (US)
Sustainability Science



Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA, 10.1073/pnas.0604600103

"Environmental, economic, and energetic costs and benefits of biodiesel and ethanol biofuels"
Jason Hill *, Erik Nelson , David Tilman *, Stephen Polasky *, and Douglas Tiffany

(KEYWORDS: corn | soybean | life-cycle accounting | agriculture | fossil fuel )

Departments of *Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior and Applied Economics, University of Minnesota, St. Paul, MN 55108; and Department of Biology, St. Olaf College, Northfield, MN 55057

Contributed by David Tilman, June 2, 2006

Published online before print July 12, 2006

Negative environmental consequences of fossil fuels and concerns about petroleum supplies have spurred the search for renewable transportation biofuels. To be a viable alternative, a biofuel should provide a net energy gain, have environmental benefits, be economically competitive, and be producible in large quantities without reducing food supplies. We use these criteria to evaluate, through life-cycle accounting, ethanol from corn grain and biodiesel from soybeans. Ethanol yields 25% more energy than the energy invested in its production, whereas biodiesel yields 93% more. Compared with ethanol, biodiesel releases just 1.0%, 8.3%, and 13% of the agricultural nitrogen, phosphorus, and pesticide pollutants, respectively, per net energy gain. Relative to the fossil fuels they displace, greenhouse gas emissions are reduced 12% by the production and combustion of ethanol and 41% by biodiesel. Biodiesel also releases less air pollutants per net energy gain than ethanol. These advantages of biodiesel over ethanol come from lower agricultural inputs and more efficient conversion of feedstocks to fuel. Neither biofuel can replace much petroleum without impacting food supplies. Even dedicating all U.S. corn and soybean production to biofuels would meet only 12% of gasoline demand and 6% of diesel demand. Until recent increases in petroleum prices, high production costs made biofuels unprofitable without subsidies. Biodiesel provides sufficient environmental advantages to merit subsidy. Transportation biofuels such as synfuel hydrocarbons or cellulosic ethanol, if produced from low-input biomass grown on agriculturally marginal land or from waste biomass, could provide much greater supplies and environmental benefits than food-based biofuels.


Also neglects Algae & Fermentation techologies...

I do think both "Agriculture" and these "Fermentation" technologies will have significant contributions however.

HAND IN HAND - Why does one have to dominate?

Synergistic / Symbiotic relationships need to be adopted - NOT CONFRONTATIONAL ONES.


Also check out the following webpages:


One of the UK's innovation centres for green chemical technology.



Jim from The Energy Blog

I am afraid that most of you did not take to hart a statement in a recent (July 11) post:

"A recent report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and DOE finds potential to sustainably harvest more than 1.3 billion metric tons of biomass from U.S. forest and agricultural lands by mid-21st Century.

The report found that only 6% of the 1.36 billion metric tons would come from grain, and since only about a billion tons are required (to replace 30% of our liquid fuels), none of the feedstock need come at the expense of food producing acreage."

So it is possible to produce all of the biofuels, either with biorefineries or gasification-FT plants, required in the UCS study by biomass grown on non-food producing land.

The points about biodiesel are well taken, but in the U.S. there is a limited market, which hopefully will increase. Biodiesel cannot supply all of the U. S. needs if diesels were widely adopted, due to land usage requirement and gasification-FT process would be required.



The there is the inpact of the Dupont/BP Biobutanol announcement...


Diesel has a huge (and I mean huge!) market share in Europe and particularly Asia.

Might help cut the US trade deficit somewhat?

(That was a joke - I know how touchy you Americans are over that trade deficit at the moment)...


Why does the average person think it is necessary to have more than 100 horsepower in a family sedan? Going to haul a rick of wood or something? The highway is not a racetrack, you can get to work in time if you get it together and manage your time better instead of driving like a maniac or like its the Indy 500. The new Hybrid Camry is a step in the right direction, but Toyota needs to scale horsepower back to 100 hp for the gas engine, then maybe it will get even better MPG. But then again, that makes too much sense.

charles lacuna

i don't think that biofuel is the answer to our liquid fuel crisis. it is just a buffer to supplement the fossil fuel shortage which would eventually be totally depleted in the near future. well biofuels has benifits to the environment too.

but there should be more attention in research and development of other alternative fuels most specially fuel cells.

Alternative Fuels


I don't care one minute about Americans whining about oil and fuel consumption or mandatory increased fuel efficiency. Why? Because we're pampered. It's very easy to get decent fuel economy gains by changing our own driving habits ... but we don't want to do that, we want our vehicle to get more fuel efficiency WITH our bad habits. You always hear those "rules of thumb" on better driving, but they have a much bigger impact on fuel economy than most people think. How about almost an extra 100 miles on a Jeep's fuel tank? The graphs in Improve MPG: The Factors Affecting Fuel Efficiency speak for themselves in showing fuel savings. Until people are responsible enough to manage themselves, I could care less about their whinings for an external solution.

Kit P

Matthew, thanks for the great link. Not much is new for economical driving habits from back when we replaced plugs and points every 15K but it was nice to hear about the new tools to evaluate millage real time.

Mark Barton

I recommend people go to the following website. This may change the way we view our fuel economy for our vehicles.

Garko Novis

buying gas has become a major investment decision, as in "do i invest in some food so i can get thru the day or some gas so i can get where i have to go?" It should never be this way but it is. But that doesn't mean we have to just suffer. There is a real solution in Water4Gas and you owe it to yourself to check it out! http://water4gasstreetdemo.usafastway.com

Garko Novis

buying gas has become a major investment decision, as in "do i invest in some food so i can get thru the day or some gas so i can get where i have to go?" It should never be this way but it is. But that doesn't mean we have to just suffer. There is a real solution in Water4Gas and you owe it to yourself to check it out! http://water4gasstreetdemo.usafastway.com


I followed the advice of this Article: 12 Steps to better fuel economy, and I now get almost 40 MPG. Check it out, this is a great article!


In the past, when drivers traded up for better fuel economy they offset the fuel savings with more driving...and bigger cars.

What we really need is for people to face the fact that they should drive a lot less.



An algae photobioreactor is a tool that can contain & grow algae. This self contained technique is a controllable surroundings in which to grow algae, & where the supply of light, nutrients, carbon dioxide, air, & temperature can be regulated

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