December 15, 2008

Wind powered electric vehicles top study

Corn ethanol is better than cellulosic ethanol but neither one is a solution to the problems of global warming, air pollution and energy security. This counterintuitive finding is one of Stanford researcher Mark Z. Jacobson's conclusions in a review of recent renewable energy research.

The best options for reducing carbon emissions, air pollution deaths and dependence on fossil fuels are battery electric and hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles powered by wind-generated electricity, according to the report. Battery electric vehicles powered by electricity from concentrated solar, geothermal, photovoltaic, tidal, wave or hydroelectric generators are also good options, in descending order of appeal.

Battery electric vehicles powered by electricity from nuclear power or coal with carbon capture and storage are less beneficial and should be avoided in favor of better options, and ethanol vehicles are simply a bad choice, according to the report.

If the US replaced every vehicle on the road in 2007 with battery electric vehicles, the vehicles could be powered by 73,000 to 144,000 5 megawatt wind turbines. For comparison, the US built 300,000 airplanes during World War II. Doing so would reduce US carbon dioxide emissions by over 32 percent and prevent 15,000 vehicle-related air pollution deaths in 2020, according to the report.

The study evaluated energy sources based on energy production, global warming contribution, air pollution, energy security, water use and pollution, land use, impact on wildlife and reliability.

Research paper:
Review of Solutions to Global Warming, Air Pollution, and Energy Security
Energy & Environmental Science, published online December 1, 2008

Researcher's homepage:
Mark Z. Jacobson

Related stories and briefs:
Net energy under fire -- related policy issues

Back to ERN December 15/22, 2008



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