January 29, 2013 – Vol.17 No. 46
GIVE CREDIT FOR LIFE-CYCLE EMISSIONS CUTS BY AUTOMAKERS?
by Bruce Mulliken, Green Energy News
Long before the first turn of the ignition key to start up a freshly-built car as it leaves the assembly line, a car has left a trail of emissions behind it. From the mining of ore that will eventually become engines and body panels, to the pumping and refining of oil that will later become plastic bumpers and dashboards to the melting of sand for glass, every step along the way to manufacture cars and trucks leaves carbon dioxide and other emissions in its wake.
While we focus mostly on what comes out of tailpipes, emissions from the full life-cycle – the cradle-to-grave life of a car – should be considered and taken into account. While governments regulate tailpipe emissions and penalize car companies that don't make the grade, shouldn't governments also give credit back to manufacturers who cut manufacturing emissions? Shouldn't government emissions regulations consider the life-cycle assessments of emissions of cars and trucks, not just the what comes out of steel pipes at the rear of cars or trucks? For manufacturers that reduce full, life-cycle emissions, shouldn't they be they be rewarded, somehow, perhaps as credits against tailpipe emissions?
Standards set by the Obama Administration aim to increase corporate fleet fuel economy to nearly 55 miles per gallon by 2025. An excerpt regarding the ruling from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in a listing of incentives to manufacturers to meet the new ruling includes: " Credits for technologies with potential to achieve real-world greenhouse gas reductions and fuel economy improvements that are not captured by the standards test procedures." Couldn't this be interpreted to mean cutting life-cycle emissions attributed to manufacturing cars and trucks?
On a global view manufacturing emissions are just as problematic as tail pipe emissions.
One way to clean up auto manufacturing is to reemploy clean, zero emission energy in the production process. Historically clean energy is not new to manufacturing. Using clean energy to make things actually began centuries ago when wind and hydro energy were used directly to operate machinery to do simple tasks such as grinding grain. In more recent times factories used large windows and skylights for sunlight to work by and for ventilation. Hydroelectric plants dedicated factories and mills were common less than a century ago. Even today hydroelectric and geothermal power is used in the energy intensive job of smelting aluminum which is being used increasingly in cars and trucks to lighten up and increase fuel economy.
In efforts to cut emissions attributed to cars and trucks, clean energy in manufacturing may be taking its first baby steps.
At Ford's River Rouge plant in Dearborn, Michigan solar energy provides a small amount of electricity and hot water to the plant. In another interesting project at the "Rouge," hydrogen is stripped from paint fumes used to power a fuel cell generator that, in turn, helps power the nearly century old production facility.
In what is the largest solar installation at an auto factory in the U.S. Volkswagen has just commissioned a 9.5 megawatt DC, (7.6 megawatt (AC)) solar array at its new car plant in Tennessee. The Volkswagen Chattanooga Solar Park, built within a 65 acre plot, can provide 12.5 precent of the plant's electrical needs while the plant is in production and all of the plant's power when auto production has stopped. All of the power from the plant is consumed making cars – Volkswagen Passats.
Chattanooga Solar Park, developed by Phoenix Solar, is also the largest solar facility in the state. Solar Ranch will own and operate the solar system under a 20 year contract selling the power to Volkswagen.
And soon a Honda manufacturing facility in Ohio will be partially powered by wind energy. Juhl Wind is now under contact to develop, install and operate to utility grade wind turbines at the Honda Transmission Manufacturing of America plant in Russell's Point. The $ 8 million turbine installation, to be completed this year will provide about 10 percent of the facility's power needs.
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