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It is hard to imagine a Houston freeway without Escalades, Explorers, and super sized Dodge trucks, but SUVs and duel-axle pickup trucks could become things of the past if the trend toward hybrid and electrically powered cars picks up.
|The REVAi, manufactured by the REVA Electric Car Co. of India, runs on batteries and has an onboard charger that can be plugged into a 15-Amp socket.|
In a recently released White Paper titled “Climate Changes Everything: The Dawn of the Green Economy,” global energy expert Dr. Joe Stanislaw predicts that electric cars and plug-in hybrids are likely to transform the car industry.
At first blush, this might not look like a feasible plan, but the fact of the matter is that alternative sources of fuel are going to play a more significant role in the coming years and that cars, in fact, are a likely place to achieve fuel economies.
If the analysts are to be believed, electric cars will not be the only things we will be seeing more of because the need for energy is growing, and the hydrocarbon supply is limited.
Though analysts’ predictions vary in terms of when the fuel shortage will reach a critical level, the fact is that demand will eventually outpace supply. The Energy Information Administration (EIA) predicts the demand for oil will reach 118 million bbl/d by 2030, up from a little more than 80 million bbl/d today. In fact, the EIA says there could be a serious energy crunch in the next four years.
Though statistics show that consumption in the developed world dipped somewhat in 2006, overall demand continues to grow as a result of emerging economies. In the course of the next 20 years, alternative fuel sources need to be evaluated. They will be imperative in the not-so-distant future.
A growing awareness around the world regarding increasing energy demand, availability and affordability of oil, energy security, and environmental concerns led Hart Energy Publishing to create an energy forum in 2005 for industry and government stakeholders to showcase best practices and explore energy solutions. The International Sustainable Energy Exchange (ISEE) is a membership-based initiative designed to respond to global energy and environmental pressures and facilitate dialogue and information exchange between the energy industry and government.
The ISEE was formed with the goal of providing a forum through which energy, environmental, and climate change issues can be addressed. Representatives from industry and government are working through the ISEE to address the global challenges of population growth, energy supply, environmental protection, and climate change. More information about the ISEE is available at www.hart-isee.org.
Individual companies are working toward similar goals through the development of alternative fuels. Most of the major oil companies are investigating alternative energy sources. Petrobras led the way, launching the “Proálcool” program in the 1970s. The company, in fact, developed two biodiesel production routes: one based on vegetable oil and animal fat and the other directly from oleaginous plant grains. Petrobras is moving forward in its development of alternative fuels, pursuing a goal of developing technologies that further its global leadership position in biofuel production.
While Petrobras invests in biofuels, Chevron is investing in geothermal energy. The company claims to be the largest private producer of geothermal energy in the world, accounting for more than half of all privately developed geothermal power. Geothermal operations started at Chevron more than 30 years ago with the discovery of the Darajat field in Indonesia. Acquiring Unocal in 2005 brought three more sites for geothermal energy production into the Chevron portfolio: Gunung Salak in Indonesia and Tiwi and Mak-Ban in the Philippines. Combined, the four Pacific Rim sites generate 1,273 megawatts of geothermal energy, about 13% of the world's geothermal supply.
Shell, meanwhile, has been developing alternative sources of energy for more than a decade. It is the largest distributor of biofuels and is an investor in second-generation biofuels, thin-film solar cells, and hydrogen. Shell also is one of the biggest investors in wind energy, which is at the forefront of the renewable fuels pack.
According to Stanislaw’s report, wind-power capacity quadrupled between 2000 and 2006 and will continue to grow dramatically. Numbers published by Douglas-Westwood Ltd. in the “World Offshore Wind Report” back up Stanislaw’s claims. An estimated $2 billion in capex went to wind energy from 2003 to 2007, and $16 billion in capex will be spent between 2008 and 2012, the report says.
Though the idea of a landscape dotted with wind turbines and freeways teeming with electric cars seems farfetched today, the winds of change could blow these and many more unimaginable things our way.