discusses the opportunities that may exist to use fuels other than the
conventional, carbon intensive ones. High levels of uncertainty and
risk in the international oil market have caused a tremendous amount of
volatility in domestic oil prices over the past few decades. To hedge
their bets against high energy prices, many cities have begun to
diversify their fuel sources. Making such a switch has advantages to
communities beyond reducing carbon. Most towns now spend approximately
20% of their gross income purchasing energy from outside the community.
Approximately 80% of these dollars leave the community.
In 2004, the United States consumed about 140 billion gallons of
gasoline, or about 380 million gallons of gasoline per day in 2004, by
far the highest
consumption rate of any country in the world. Consumption reached 400
million gallons per day in 2006. The 2005 Energy Policy Act
introduced the Renewable Fuel Standard, which will nearly double the use
of ethanol and biodiesel in the U.S. by 2012.
such as the Post Carbon Institute work with communities to help them lay
out a strategy for meeting their energy needs without reliance on
describes some of the strategies that communities can use to do this and
lower transportation costs to consumers, achieve independence from
imported oil and promote the development of a domestic fuel source
Biofuels are forms
of energy derived from recently living substances such as plants and
animal by-products. They can include waste to energy, ethanol,
bio-diesel and others. There is a potential to replace a significant
amount of our current fuel use with biofuels. For example, the U.S.
Department of Energy (DOE) hopes to displace 30% of the country’s 2004
levels of gasoline demand with biofuels, mostly ethanol, by the year
2030. Other analysts believe that even more petroleum use can be
displaced. If combined with much more efficient vehicles, this begins
to be a strategy for helping communities escape from dependence on
expensive, polluting and insecure oil supplies.
The U.S. produced
3.4 billion gallons of ethanol in 2004 and around 75 million gallons of
biodiesel in 2005, representing about 2% of total domestic gasoline
Through federal tax incentive programs and market development
initiatives, the U.S. government hopes to stimulate the growth of the
alternative fuels market share. Part of this strategy includes mandates
that federal vehicle fleets transition from conventional fuel vehicles
to any number of alternative fuel vehicles (AFVs). Although not yet
required by law, many local governments have
also begun to purchase AFVs for the same reasons.
switching their vehicle fleets—maintenance trucks, shuttle buses,
delivery vans, and other light-duty vehicles—from conventional internal
combustion engine vehicles that consume only gasoline to AFVs that
consume ethanol, biodiesel, electricity, gasoline or any combination
therein. Since the fuels for AFV fleets can be produced domestically,
there is much less volatility in price. Also, as the technology for
producing alternative fuels improves, the prices should continue to go
CASE STUDY: Washington,
D.C. metropolitan area has been classified by the U.S. EPA as an
ozone non-attainment area. The primary cause of this air
pollution is motor vehicle emissions. To reduce vehicle
emissions, the City Administrator’s Office began in 2004
requiring 90% of the city government’s light-duty vehicle
acquisitions to be AFVs.
Of the city’s fleet of 5,500 vehicles, 329 are AFVs.
Two-thirds of the light-duty AFVs are CNG vehicles, and one
third are flex-fuel vehicles capable of fueling with gasoline or
any mixture of gasoline and ethanol up to E85. One of the
city’s largest users of AFVs is the parking
enforcement division, which has a fleet of light-duty vehicles,
of which 90% are AFVs. The AFV fleet refuels at two Department
of Public Works fueling stations. A key card system encourages
drivers toonly refuel with alternative fuels at the designated
stations. The city AFV fleet uses an estimated equivalent of
350,000 gasoline gallons of alternative fuels every year.
The Metropolitan Council of Governments Alternative Fuels
Committee has developed a “green policy” to serve as a template
to assist members in implementing policies supporting alternative
fuels and other environmental initiatives. The committee offers
workshops on alternative fuel technology, availability of AFVs
and alternative fuel legislation. The city has been successful
at emphasizing the benefits of AFVs and creating positive
exposure by having the AFVs be a visible part of the community.
They have also aggressively pursued grants and other sources of
funding to offset the costs of the AFV program. Washington
obtained grants from the National Ethanol Vehicle Coalition, the
U.S. Department of Energy and the Washington Energy Office to
install E85 tanks and equipment, a CNG fuel dispenser, and
Washington is currently seeking ways to expand its AFV use in heavy-duty
vehicles like garbage trucks, dump trucks and street sweepers. It
is also working to expand the public availability of alternative
fuels by contracting with privately owned fueling stations.
Increasing the use of AFVs throughout the community will
decrease vehicle emissions and improve air
quality in the Washington, D.C. area.
The transition of
local government vehicle fleets to AFVs facilitates the expansion of AFV
demand throughout the community.
People see the vehicles and gain familiarity with them, and there will
be increased accessibility to the vehicles in the local market and
increased accessibility to publicly available, commercial refueling
Although there are
several different varieties of AFVs, the most common types are flex-fuel
vehicles that run on a mixture of gasoline and ethanol, biodiesel
vehicles, compressed natural gas vehicles and electric/hybrid vehicles.
Each of these is discussed below.
Ethanol, or “ethyl
alcohol,” is 200-proof grain alcohol that can be used as an alternative
to gasoline. The majority of ethanol in the U.S. is made from corn, but
it can also be made from other crops including wheat, barley, sorghum,
potatoes or sugarcane. New
technology allows ethanol to be produced from cellulosic feedstocks,
including corn stalks, oat husks, paper pulp, municipal solid waste,
switchgrass and other sources.
Most of the 4 billion gallons of ethanol produced in 2005 came from 13%
of the U.S. corn crop, an increase in production of 17% from 2004.
Ethanol that is
blended with unleaded gasoline at a ratio of 10% ethanol and 90%
gasoline (E10) can be used in almost all vehicles without any special
modifications. E85 (85% ethanol and 15% gasoline blend) is available
mainly in corn-producing states and can be used as a substitute for
gasoline in vehicles that are designated flex-fuel vehicles (FFVs).
Because of the corrosive properties of this fuel mixture, the engine and
fuel system in a flex-fuel vehicle must be specially adapted for alcohol
fuels. Flex-fuel vehicles must also have a special sensor in the fuel
line that analyzes the fuel mixture and controls the fuel injection and
timing. Flex-fuel vehicles can use any mixture of ethanol-blended fuels
up to E85 as well as
conventional unleaded gasoline.
gasoline-ethanol blends cannot be transported by pipelines like
conventional gasoline, but must be transported by train, barge or
truck. Water in the pipelines can cause ethanol-gasoline blends to
separate into two phases, making it difficult and expensive to remix the
blend at the pumping station.
According to the
Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory, ethanol-blended
fuels reduced CO2
equivalent greenhouse gas emissions by 7.8 million tons in 2005.
The study also cited the following benefits from ethanol use:
Use of E10 achieves:
6% reduction in
1% reduction in
greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and
3% reduction in
fossil energy use.
Use of E85 achieves:
in petroleum use,
in GHG emissions, and
in fossil energy use.
There is debate
about the net energy balance of ethanol, given current production
techniques. This is a comparison of the energy derived from a gallon of
ethanol with the total amount of energy needed to produce it. Critics
assert that it takes up to 70% more energy to
fertilize, plant and harvest corn and to convert and transport the
ethanol than the output energy derived from the ethanol. Supporters
of ethanol disagree with these claims, pointing out that Exxon funded
the proponents. They present data that suggests a positive net energy
balance—with only 1.3 British thermal unit (BTU) of petroleum used to produce 1
BTU of ethanol. All such debates depend on the assumptions used about the
crop that supplies the feedstock, the fermentation techniques used and
the overall efficiency of the process.
substitute for diesel fuel, is created by chemically reacting vegetable
oils or animal fats with alcohol in a process known as
transesterification. The majority of biodiesel in the U.S. comes from
soybean oil or restaurant greases. The big advantage of biodiesel is
that can be used in existing diesel engines with little or no
modification, and can be blended at any ratio with petroleum diesel. In
2005, U.S. production of biodiesel was nearly 75 million gallons, an increase of
300% from 2004.
was expected to reach 200 to 250 million gallons in 2006.
CASE STUDY: Seattle and King County, WA
More than half of King County Metro Transit’s public buses
use a B20 biodiesel blend as a part of a Seattle City Light
greenhouse gas mitigation program.
These 640 buses have been added to the fleet of hybrid buses,
electric trolleys and clean-burning diesel vehicles. At
existing diesel prices as of August 2006, King County pays an
average of 34 cents a gallon less for biodiesel as compared to
regular diesel fuel, which equates to about $12,000 less a
Although price fluctuations will not guarantee this differential
indefinitely, the expanded use of biodiesel provides a hedge
against high fuel costs.
As part of its goal to becoming “greenhouse gas neutral,”
the city of Seattle
has made a commitment to expanding the use of AFVs in its
fleet. In addition to the Metro buses, King County's solid
waste fleet and its wastewater biosolids trucks also use biodiesel. They are currently working to develop a
network of refueling stations across the county to facilitate
the transition to a biodiesel fleet. Metro was recently honored
as one of the country's top clean bus leaders by the
Environmental and Energy Study Institute.
In addition to cleaner air and reductions in GHGs,
King County and
the Seattle City Light program hope their partnership will
increase demand for biodiesel
throughout the local community. The industry has grown rapidly
and may reach a point where commercial-scale production is an
economically viable option in the State of Washington. King County hopes
its increased consumption of biodiesel will help stimulate
the production of farm commodities that are used to manufacture
biodiesel, creating benefits for local farmers and the local
Department of Transportation
The use of B20 (20%
biodiesel mixed with 80% diesel) in a conventional diesel engine results
in substantial reductions of unburned hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide,
sulfur oxides and sulfates, and particulate matter compared to emissions
from diesel fuel.
Emissions of nitrogen oxides are slightly increased. B20 reduces carbon
dioxide emissions by 15%. Neat biodiesel (100% biodiesel) reduces
carbon dioxide emissions by more than 75% over petroleum diesel.
dependency on fossil fuel imports
Reduction of carbon monoxide emissions of 10% (B20) and 50% (B100).
decreases net greenhouse gas inputs, because the crops soak up carbon
dioxide from the atmosphere as they grow. The resulting biodiesel
releases some CO2,
but some of the carbon is sequestered in the soil, especially if the
feedstock is grown using poly-cultures of perennials.
fuel that requires little or
no modification to
the engine or fuel system
Biodiesel tends to gel at lower temperatures. Biodiesel vehicles can therefore have
cold start problems relative to petrodiesel, but this is more of an
issue for B100 than B20. B20 freezes at 3 to 5 degrees Fahrenheit,
while B100 can freeze at 25 degrees Fahrenheit.
will soften and degrade certain types of elastomers and natural rubber
compounds over time.
CASE STUDY: Channel
Island National Park
implementing various renewable technologies at Channel
Island National Park
throughout the year (CNG vehicles, wind, solar) Kent Bullard
was faced with the reality that although the National Park
was quite sustainable the coast guard and the diesel ships
used to transport fuel were using almost 16,000 lbs of
diesel each year. At first, Ken’s solution was to bring 300
gallon fuel tanks of B20 onto the island each year to supply the
various vehicles and generators. After realizing there was
a greater need for biodiesel, Ken worked out a deal with a
fuel dock at Ventura Harbor
to carry B100. Because Channel Island did not have enough
land to establish their own facility, they had to work with
a public facility. Once the fuel dock was up and running,
Channel Island initially provided 98% of the dock’s
business. Once biodiesel was available, other businesses
and ships began to come to Ventura Harbor just to access the
B100 dock. Earth Race stopped by Ventura Harbor on
September 5th, 2006
on its world tour to promote renewable energy.
In town, a
gas station also adopted B100 fuel. This station was
recently shut down, but not for lack of customers. In fact,
without the gas station present, vehicles can now be seen
to the fuel dock to fill up with B100.
has the local community picked up on the new renewable
technology, Kent Bullard has worked to extend his enthusiasm
for biodiesel to other communities in California.
In January 2006, Kent help start a LA Biodiesel Coop.
Originally starting with 30 members, the group provided B99
and B100 biodiesel made from California
walnut oil to members through a mobile trailer. The goal of
the coop was to:
others about the benefits of biodiesel
market demand existed for biodiesel
themselves out of business when a stationary fueling station
decided to distribute biodiesel
months, the group had established a stationary supplier in
Calvert City and within the first month the station pumped
4600 lbs of B100.
Channel Island National Park
A bi-fuel vehicle has two separate fuel
systems, one for gasoline or diesel and another for either liquefied
propane gas (LPG) or compressed natural gas (CNG). CNG and LPG are
stored in pressurized tanks and therefore require special systems that
increase the cost of bi-fuel vehicles and reduce overall cargo space.
CNG is one of the
cleanest alternative fuels. Compared to conventional gasoline, CNG
produces 90% less carbon monoxide and 60% less nitrogen oxides. It also
produces 30-40% less CO2.
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the
advantages to CNG vehicles are:
Natural gas vehicle can be less expensive to
operate than a comparable conventionally fueled vehicle depending on
natural gas prices. Natural gas can cost less than gasoline and diesel
(per energy equivalent gallon); however, local utility rates can vary.
Purchase prices for
natural gas vehicles are somewhat higher than for similar conventional
vehicles. The auto
manufacturers' typical price premium for a light-duty CNG vehicle can be
$1,500 to $6,000, and for heavy-duty trucks and buses it is in the range
of $30,000 to $50,000. Federal and other incentives can help defray
some of the increase in vehicle acquisition costs. In addition, fleets
may need to purchase service and diagnostic equipment if access to
commercial CNG/LNG vehicle maintenance facilities is not available.
a conventional vehicle so it can run on CNG may cost $2,000 to $4,000
per vehicle. Learn more about NGV tax incentives.
Hybrid vehicles use
both internal combustion engines and electricity from batteries for
propulsion. A new variety of hybrid vehicle, the
plug-in hybrid or PHEV, uses the battery primarily and the Internal
Combustion Engine (ICE) as a supplement only when needed. The first
prototypes of the PHEV were released in November 2005. There is
considerable promise for the growth of the domestic market. The city of
Austin, Texas and the state of California are just two of the
governments promoting the use of PHEV.
CASE STUDY: Austin,
The city of
Austin has begun to promote the widespread use of PHEVs as part
of its commitment to reducing vehicle emissions. Initiatives
currently being undertaken by the city include:
Creating an incentive program to encourage residents to
Developing and supporting policies that promote PHEVs
Requesting the help of community organizations to advocate
Initiating Plug-In Partners, a nationwide effort to
establish similar incentive programs in the 50 largest cities in
the United States
The city of
Austin’s municipal-owned electric utility, Austin Energy, stands
to benefit from the widespread use of PHEVs. Since plug-in hybrids would
mainly be plugged in during the night, Austin energy
could utilize its off-peak nighttime load to supply the new PHEV
market without having to increase its capacity at all.
Providing the electricity to the transportation market could
provide substantial revenue to Austin Energy.
Replacing conventional vehicles with PHEVs would increase
the urban air quality throughout the city. Idling engines
produce high levels of CO2 and other pollutants, while PHEVs running on battery power do not idle
at all in the city. The overall benefit of PHEVs could be
increased by coupling the use of wind power, which is most
prevalent at night, to recharge PHEVs.
Mayor Will Wynn
of Austin has begun a nationwide program called Plug-In Partners, in which he hopes to create
similar programs in the 50 biggest cities in the country. The
idea of the program is to create a groundswell of demand for
PHEVs on a magnitude sufficient enough to entice the automotive
industry to begin mass production of PHEVs. As part of the
Plug-In Partners campaign, potential consumers can sign a
petition pledging to buy a PHEV once they are available in order
to demonstrate widespread demand for the new technology.
Slusher/ Lisa Braithwaite
721 Barton Springs Rd.,
or (512) 322-6511
PHEVs are most
likely to be introduced as fleet vehicles. They can be vehicles of any
size, including delivery vans, shuttle buses and maintenance vehicles,
among others. With daily routes typically less than 20 miles, most PHEV
fleet vehicles used by a local government may almost never need to visit
a gas station. If the vehicle exceeds the limits of the battery power,
the PHEV will automatically switch to its internal combustion
engine/battery combination and operate as a typical hybrid.
A typical PHEV sedan
can be charged through a 120-V outlet in 3-4 hours, while larger
vehicles can be charged in the same amount of time on a 240-V
Assuming a PHEV drives 20 miles a day for five days a week solely on its
batteries, it will use around 2000-2500 kWh of electricity to cover
5000 miles. At
current prices, total electricity costs amount to about $170-$215
annually, compared to annual fuel costs for the same amount of driving
of $750-$825 (at 18 miles a gallon).
Assuming national average cost of electricity at 8.5cents per kilowatt
hour, a PHEV runs on an equivalent of 75 cents per gallon.
Widespread use of
PHEVs could significantly reduce urban emissions. Idling in urban
driving situations accounts for about 10-15% of total vehicle carbon
and PHEVs under normal conditions (short trips at moderate speeds) do
not use their ICE.
PHEVs can be
recharged at night when the electricity from utilities is
underutilized. This could create a significant new market for off-peak
electricity. Roger Duncan, deputy general manager of Austin Energy,
asserts that the national power system could charge tens of millions of
PHEVs without requiring any new production capacity due to the idle
electricity load at night.
Also, wind energy that is generated mostly during the night could be
coupled to PHEV charging to provide a zero-emissions source of
electricity. According to the California Air Resources Board, a vehicle
that runs exclusively on battery power generates only a third of the
GHGs produced by an equivalent gasoline vehicle.
to Federal Biofuels Incentives
Volumetric Ethanol Exise Tax Credit
$0.51 per galon
Blenders of ethanol with gasoline
* Expires 2010
Small Ethanol Producer Credit
$0.10 per galon of ethanol produce of first 15 million gallons of
ethanol made by a small producer
Any producer with production capacity below 60 million gallons
* Expires end of 2007
Biodiesel Exise Tax Credit
$1.00 per galon
$0.50 per gallon (recycled grease)
Biodiesel producers and blenders
* Expires 2010
Small Producer Biodiesel Credit
$0.10 per gallon of ethanol produced of first 15 million gallons of
ethanol made by a small producer
Any producer with production capacity below 60 million gallons
* Expires end of 2007
Credit for Installation of Alternative Fueling Stations
Credit for 30% of the cost to install alternative refueling stations;
E85 and B20 fueling stations would apply.
Taxpayer who places the refueling property in service
* Effective: 31 Dec 2005
* Expires 31 Dec 2009
Figure: Biofuel Tax Incentives
is the first community in the country to join the National
Renewable Energy Laboratory’s “Renewable Community” program.
This demonstration project integrates the use of rooftop
photovoltaic (PV) systems on super high-efficiency homes with
plug-in hybrid vehicles. Zero-Energy Homes (ZEHs) must be
efficient enough to consume no more power annually than a small
photovoltaic system can supply. Energy from the PV system is
also used to charge the batteries of plug-in hybrid vehicles.
of the Renewable Community program is to showcase the
potential integration of efficient buildings, renewable energy
and the latest technology in clean vehicles.
and federal financial incentives have contributed to the
implementation of this program.
This type of
integration on a community level could significantly reduce our
dependence on imported oil and reduce the country’s overall
contribution of GHGs.
The Florida Energy Act provides rebates to consumers for solar installations.
The Florida legislature appropriated $2.5 million in funding for both commercial
and consumer solar incentives for 2006-2007.
Energy Bill offers a 30% tax credit to individuals for the
purchase of residential solar energy systems and a $2000 tax
credit to homebuilders of houses that are 50% more efficient
than the national code.