Making The Sell...

Douglas Nash, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons
Morning Email

I woke up today to a full email inbox, greeted by a variety of daily mail I enjoy reading or giving a quick browse. Some of it pertinent to daily life while other mail was pertinent to important issues. Today was no different than any other day other than the fact that there was an email from a scientist and environmentalist I look up to urging action on a particular issue North America. Well actually it was from Jodi, who works through said scientist's organization.

Sign On The Dotted Line

Sometimes I just put my signature to whatever it is they're presenting in the form of a petition, trusting in their dedication to their cause to fully research and build a good argument upon which to found the platform of a petition to Government or Industry in a manner that doesn't alienate or divide us. More like building the bridge from one group to another on the issue involved. Getting more people involved.

In today's case though, I chose to refrain from immediately jumping on it and offering up my signature, simply because I thought that there was more I could do than just to sign something after glancing at it quickly, and I suppose that's exactly what they're trying to inspire in us to do. Hence, this post.

Sometimes I write my own letter, augmenting what they've already written, often spending a few hours researching what I'd like to say. This post ended up being that letter, but rather than send it in a petition, I thought I'd try to reach more of my readers here online.

Nandu Chitnis from Pune, India,
CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Kissing Butt Or...

So today's issue was with regard to the Oil And Gas industry. A group often vilified in many forms, but yet the same group upon which the entire modern world and all of its luxuries was built. Including the energy, technology development and transport necessary to produce the very computer I am typing this post on and uploading it to a communications infrastructure that simply wouldn't exist without that industry's initial investment in society.

No, I'm not kissing butt here. I'm pointing out something that must be taken under consideration if we're going to progress to the next level in terms of our reliance on fossil fuel energy because the real monster is emissions and environment harming byproducts: aka pollution. Putting something into the environment that alters its ability to sustain itself and us detrimentally. 

Fossil Fuels And The Future

Regardless of how quickly we proceed to alternative fuels, the fossil fuel industry will always be a safety net for civilization and it will take at least a century before humanity is able to transition completely away from the third generation of fuels derived from fossil fuels. If we stumble backwards, they're whose arms we'll fall into. Behind them, the coal and before them, the steam age and so on (not to mention Steam rocks!). 

They aren't monsters. They're made up of people like ourselves. These technologies are steps on the flight of stairs we call progress. There will come a time when we step up to the next step, and hopefully we never have to step backwards.

What Is The Real Point Of All This?

The point however is to get us on track to reduce our carbon emissions substantially to meet future emission goals, while minimizing the cost enough so that industry is willing and can afford to make the leap. Remember that the forces that dictate successful business often operate in conjunction to the forces that maintain the environment. The resources that sustain us come directly from the environment, and its this exploitation that sustains us all whether we like it or not. Whether we eat meat or vegetables (or both). The whole point is that our direction on that flight of stairs of progress is always upwards rather than back.

How Do We Get There?

So how do we ensure that, while keeping the global economy stable enough for such a transition that business both big and small around the world is able to achieve it?

What are the contenders, and does there even need to be one single winning contender? The only contender that should win should be standardization through engineering institutions like ISO, and only enough so that it doesn't inhibit progress in the area of low to zero emission fuels technology. The truth is that there are many options and more are being added every day.

Tesla is an industry pioneer for being amongst one of the many businesses getting the momentum of this movement going, a movement that has been pioneered by environmentalists for decades if not a couple of centuries. But we also need to examine some of the other areas in which progress has been made.

Overall to successfully transition to lower emissions requires knowing which sectors are producing the highest emissions overall (c/o Our World In Data), but we're going to focus strictly on fossil fuels seeing as that's what my morning email from one of my favourite scientists (possible sarcasm?) was targeting.

So here are some of the alternatives to electric power, though they'll be included towards the end, just so people can see some of the other options that are coming into play.

Engines And Fuel

There are technologies that will be ready in the future, such as the Valencian Agency for Innovation's Internal Combustion Engine, which could be  in operation by 2040 and produces zero emissions. That's only fifteen years from now, but that will be the beginning of its potential industry life cycle. 

In the arena of fuel itself, there are many other options such as Porsche's Synthetic eFuel (c/o Car And Driver), which reduces carbon emissions by 85% and works without modification on standard gasoline engines.

There is also Audi's Synthetic Fuel (c/o Car And Driver), which contains zero petroleum. Though this synthetic fuel is a long ways away from making the transition from the lab to gas tank, this is definitely a step in the right direction from the automotive industry and their engineering expertise. Of the two synthetic fuels, Porsche's seems closer to the starting gate, but still a few years off.

Fossil Fuel alternatives (c/o Treehugger) can range from plant based ethanol, to natural gas, propane and hydrogen. Natural gas, ethanol and propane based cars run with considerably lower emissions than their gasoline based counterparts, while hydrogen cars typically produce no emissions and only water as a byproduct. With each of these alternatives, a different engine and fuel system is required than is already installed on most vehicles, making them a sizeable expenditure, but certainly a consideration for those already considering a new purchase. Not to mention the cost of up-front investment in such a vehicle is 

The Transportation Industry

Around the world, the transportation industry accounts for about 16.9% of all energy use as of 2016 and 8.07 billion tons of carbon emissions (c/o Our World In Data). Most of that energy is consumed as fossil fuels, which also accounts for the emissions as well, though this isn't about pointing fingers as much so as it is about going over the data. The truth is that we all benefit from these services and the real question is how to we make it possible for industry to invest in a reduced emission strategy? In the transportation industry, this comes down to the type of fuel used or vehicle consuming that fuel.

By considering the factors involved in any transportation business replacing their fleet with reduced emissions vehicles, Government can lead the way with incentives that reward those companies, specifically targeting the incentives that are most likely to turn heads in a boardroom as pointed out in this great 2020 article in Transportation Dive and this one posted by the International Council on Clean Transportation.

Out of the gate with any new technology, there is always going to be a sizeable investment for the first few through the gate. They're going to pave the way for those that follow behind them. The Government should target incentives that make these costs negligible for business, and reward the first few through the gate, while supporting those who follow. The more that follow, the less the cost for all business in moving to cleaner fuel alternatives in the long run, but the first need incentives that amortize the burden of their initial investment over the course of their first ten years or so of operating with these changes. Government policy and incentives stand to be a key factor in making that happen.

As I stated above, these possibilities include more than just a transition to electric vehicles, though they are currently the most promising low emission vehicles we have to date, but there are hidden costs that need to be considered.

A few weeks ago, I watched Elon Musk introduce the new Tesla Semi Truck, that is, a big rig truck designed for hauling transport that runs on electricity. This is certainly big news for transportation and it will be interesting to see what costs are involved and how Government can help business move to alternative vehicles like the Tesla Semi. The next step is getting long haul transportation and drivers on board with cost effective low or zero emission vehicles.

This excellent article on the Environmental Defense Fund's website illustrates what is at stake, and why we should move to low or zero emission vehicles, especially in the transportation industry.

So What About That Petition?

If you're interested in putting your signature to the David Suzuki Foundation's petition to which I referred at the beginning of this post so amorously, just click here and sign your life away. You'd be helping the issue out a great deal, and the whole idea is to remind Government that they stand to help industry get there by policy and incentive.

Thank you for reading this article, and I'll see you see with more Shhhh! Digital Content.

Oh and btw. I am occasionally a gamer, and on world of warships, I don't play as SHIPHOP. I play as Two Dragons Official. On Conan Exiles, I play as shhhhiayuanlin. ;-)