I Mean “Business”.
The debate about the implementation of energy, fuels and transportation systems based on renewable fuels and new technologies has up until now focused on technologies, and on the pros and cons of different alternatives in isolation.
Little or no effort has been expended on working out the most efficient systems structures including a number of different fuels and technologies and identifying the role of each fuel in the energy systems of the future. This may seem like a highly complex and difficult issue, but it is necessary in order to make the fuel and transport systems of the future as competitive as possible in order for them to rapidly grow in competition with the existing petrol and diesel based transport solutions.
We cannot rely on subsidies or small-scale projects in order to transform these systems on a large scale. Governments together with large companies in the transportation and energy and fuels sectors need to develop competitive systems structures and with determination drive transformation toward the large-scale implementation of the new systems.
We have much more knowledge to base the development of our systems structures on than we may actually realize, for example:
Electric motors are between three and four times as energy efficient as diesel engines.
Engines using vehicle gas (produced from natural gas or biogas), ethanol, or methanol are between ten and fifteen per cent less energy efficient than diesel engines.
We use huge volumes of oil every day. Within the EU we use 13.5 million barrels of oil every day. This is equivalent to 23 TWh, the full annual production of four nuclear reactors every day. 75 per cent of transport energy is estimated to be used for road transport fuels.
If we would replace the entire volume of oil used for road transport in Europe by electricity, we would, based on these rough estimates, need to build electricity production capacity corresponding to some 350 nuclear reactors or 6300 TWh.
If we instead were to replace oil by natural gas, ethanol, or methanol we would need to build annual production resources amounting to almost four times that amount, or for the production of some 20,000 to 25,000 TWh of any of these fuels. Swedish researchers at Chalmers Institute of Technology in Gothenburg have estimated that, in order to replace European oil used for road transportation by cellulose based fuels, we would need to build 1000 production plants in Europe, each receiving 450 truckloads of wood every day. This would amount to a very large logistics system for raw materials that has to be built from scratch.
If we base transport and fuels systems transformation on infrastructures that we to a substantial extent already possess, the investments needed in order to build new infrastructures will be substantially smaller, and the process of building the new systems will be faster than if we decide to build a number of new infrastructures from scratch.
The cost effectiveness and competitiveness of the new systems will to a large extent depend on the size of the investments necessary, the cost of producing fuels, and the cost of distributing fuels in the new systems. All of these aspects will become more favorable and cost effective, the fewer new infrastructures and systems we need to build.
Using gas, wood, and other raw materials to burn and produce electricity to drive electric vehicles will be substantially more cost efficient than using vehicle gas, ethanol, methanol and other fuels directly as vehicle fuels. This higher efficiency comes partly from the availability of large parts of the infrastructures for power transmission and distribution, and partly from the high level of energy efficiency of electric motors, compared to other fuels.
By avoiding the size of the transformation and the systems aspects in the debate and in our efforts to transform transport and fuel systems we jeopardize the whole effort, cause delays, and put our own future energy supply and the energy supply of future generations at peril.