Tuesday, July 22, 2008

2 interesting articles from the Goldstream Gazette

I find the increase in bus riders an interesting change. I wonder how this will pan out in the fall and how much of a change there is in Vancouver.

I also interested in knowing which routes in Victoria have had the biggest increase.

Fuel prices boost bus ridership

By Edward Hill - Goldstream News Gazette

Published: July 17, 2008 1:00 PM

High gas prices are finally prompting more people to hop the bus, says Ron Drolet, senior vice-president of BC Transit.

Transit saw a 11 per cent increase in ridership in late June as compared to a year earlier, after gas prices began their upward march in April. Typically, it takes a few months for pain at the pump to push people out of their cars — April only had a four per cent increase.

“We see growth every time there is a significant run up in retail gas, but there is a lag,” Drolet said. “(Early June) had normal weather. There was no intensive marketing. Obviously people are reacting to the retail prices. We’ll see if that holds true now that were at the lofty level of $1.50.”

BC Transit is planning to add 24 buses to the fleet and 60,000 service hours this September, the largest increase in Greater Victoria since the “heyday” of 1994 Commonwealth Games, Drolet said.

Where last year’s transit increases focuses on West Shore routes, this year it will be on the Saanich Peninsula, specifically the Royal Oak area.

Colwood OKs CRD climate plan

By Amy Dove - Goldstream News Gazette

Published: July 17, 2008 1:00 PM

With safeguards in place for taxpayers, Colwood council is officially supporting the Capital Regional District’s climate action plan.

The plan, which needs support from all 13 member municipalities, will see one person hired to oversee several projects.

These include a regional emission survey, ways to make buildings more energy efficient and assistance for smaller communities in finding grants.

Expected to cost $200,000 annually, Colwood councillors originally balked at the idea because it lacked an opt out clause if the service was unsatisfactory, as well as a cap on costs.

“Council unanimously supports this. We just wanted a few controls,” said Mayor Jody Twa.

“This shows we can have an opt out clause (on various CRD functions),” added Coun. Ernie Robertson.

The CRD board added Colwood’s requests to its climate action bylaw last week. In order for those two items to be added the rollout of the service has been delayed by at least six months, said Dwayne Kalynchuk, CRD environmental services general manager.

Each municipality will have to vote on the bylaw again before it can be enacted. Colwood was the only council which reserved support the first round.


BC Goverment to be Carbon Neutral in 2 years

The current government in BC is moving light years ahead of anywhere else in North America in relation to climate change issues.

We have a carbon tax - though there is now a backlash against the tax from the left.

We have a comprehensive climate change plan - though once again, the left seems to dislike it

The government has given $90 000 000 to the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions

And the government itself is preparing to be carbon neutral by 2010 - which means a market for 600 000 to 900 000 tonnes of CO2 offsets, a great kick start to the system of offsets sales here in BC.

What this all means is that Gordon Campbell is clearly the greenest major politician in Canadian history.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Hypermiling and such stuff

I found this very interesting graphic online. It shows where the energy in a car is going. The top is city driving and bottom is highway driving.

The first big thing that you can see is that only 4-7% of the energy actually ends up making the car go forward.

The second thing you can see is that standby - or idling - uses more energy in city driving than driving and braking. 17% of the energy into the car goes into idling.

The third thing you can see is how much energy is lost in the engine - over 60%, close to 70%. There is clearly a huge potential for industry to improve fuel economy by improving engine efficiency.

So what can we as drivers control? Only a few aspects

* Idling
* Aero resistance
* Braking

If we change our driving habits, we can reduce the loses.

Idling - if we can reduce our urban idling by 50%, frees up 8% more energy to flow into the rest of the system, about 1/2 of that will be lost in the engine, but this still gives a boost to 23% of the energy actually making it to the driveline instead of 19%. This means 17% goes through to driving the car.

Braking is the next area where you can gain a reasonable amount. Each time you use the brakes, you are wasting the energy you used to get up to speed. By driving with a fair amount of distance between you and the next car and by looking ahead to the lights and letting the car coast to the light, you can cut your braking in half again. These two things are the main differences between a hybrid and a regular car. They do not idle and they use the brakes to recharge the batteries.

If you idle less, and this does mean turning off the car each time you stop for even a few seconds, and if you drive as if the brakes do not work, you can very quickly get highway mileage for your car in the city. Saving 15 to 20% in fuel is easy.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Turning off your car at traffic lights

About three years ago I had a chance to drive a Prius. Once I was in the car and driving it, I realized that the single biggest thing the Prius did to save fuel was to have the engine turned off when you do not need it.

I decided to adapt one aspect of this to my driving - I turn off my car at traffic lights. When I am driving in the city I am amazed at how long I sit at lights. There are some rather long ones in Victoria and the benefit is clear - I can save as much as 300 ml at some of the lights.

This issue was the subject of an editorial on CFAX today with the station coming out against the idea because it would make no difference.

I have been doing this most of the time for about three years now. I have not seen any issues with my starter, that was my initial concern. I estimate that I am saving about 200 litres a year doing this at the moment, more than enough to buy a new starter every six months at current prices.

I turn on my car an extra six times a day on average because of this. Without this I would be turning the car on average six times a day total.

I have researched the issue as much as is possible - google hypermiling for extreme tips on how to save gas. I have not found any data that points to what I am doing as being bad for the car or not being useful in saving fuel. The only issue I can not answer with certainty is the time one needs to have an engine off to save an fuel. I have seen all manner of estimates, the best I can find is that anything more than five seconds will save you fuel.

One argument against it is that I am not in control of my car - well, I am in control, it is not moving. No stationary car has ever caused or been the reason for an accident. All accidents are caused by moving cars. Slowing your car down and coming to a stop is always the best option in a dangerous situation - yes, I am sure someone can come up with some odd situation where this would not be the case, but they are reaching and I am sure I could solve the same situation by stopping the car.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Capture and Storage

The only direction that anything is going to go with global warming is towards capture and storage.

The hair shirt brigade has to wake and see that the future means more cars, more trucks, more holidays overseas, and more everything. The concept of voluntary simplicity is not going to happen on a large scale and no government is going to force it on us.

The only answer is capture and storage. The task is huge, but it is doable.

The process is a relatively simple one. One would force companies to capture all of their green house gases or pay a fine/fee to have the same amount removed from the atmosphere.

This process would offer a real price to the cost of producing GHGs. A company could decide to either reduce their emissions, capture their emissions or pay the government to capture a like amount of emissions. A market would be created offering options and real world prices for each option - there is no need for a carbon tax.

As Carbon Capture and Storage takes off, the technology to do it will dramatically improve and the costs will fall. The companies best at CCS would get market advantages and make good money.

The government can use the fine/fee as a last case option and thereby set the upper price.

Initially there would be a large cost to develop technologies and build the infrastructure. The first years would likely see high prices for CCS, but these would quickly fall.

The biggest problem will be for produces of methane and other GHGs that have a much higher impact than CO2. Meat production could take a really big hit unless producers figure out how to deal with cow farts. I have heard there is work in Australia being done on a vaccine that is supposed reduce cow farts......

Friday, July 4, 2008

Another Solution

Here in BC the biggest source of greenhouse gases is from driving, though if we had account for the cow farts et al of our meat consumption, that would be up there.

When it comes to cars we have to keep in mind that we need to work on ways that assume we will keep driving. Assuming we are going to quit driving goes against the global love affair that comes with the freedom having a car offers.

What can be controlled is how much CO2 a car produces. Better fuel efficiency for new cars helps, as does educating the public in how to maintain and drive their cars to reduce demand. Higher gas prices will promote these things. But we still need to do more to encourage less gas being used.

The biggest source of high gas use by a driver is from driving fast. The faster you go the faster you suck the gas out of the tank. It is time to make it much less appealing to drive over the speed limit.

First off, there needs to be a return to photo radar. The chances of being caught with photo radar are much higher than the status quo and therefore people will take the threat of being caught much more seriously.

Second, the time has come to make the fines for speeding hurt. Since most people rarely get caught speeding, when you get a speeding ticket, the cost is amortized over tens of thousands of kilometres. The cost per kilometre driven is so low as to be pointless. The fine for speeding should be high enough to hurt and make people think again about driving. The fine should be in in the range of $500 for up 10% above the posted speed and then another and then another $100 per 1% over the posted limit with no end fine. For a second fine within five years, double the amounts.

With high enough fines and a real threat of being caught, the marginal cost of speeding becomes too high and people will slow down.

If you can get the traffic slowed down 10% on average on highways, there would be a drop in the amount of fuel purchased in BC and therefore a drop in CO2 emissions. Knock benefits would be that the cost of gas would fall as demand falls. Traffic problems at major choke points like the Port Mann would also be eased as the traffic coming into the problem area would be arriving slightly slower.

A quick note on traffic choke points such as the Massey Tunnel or the Port Mann bridge. Translink should introduce variable speed limits based on volumes of traffic. If traffic is building up, slow the traffic coming into these chokepoints and the traffic will move through the chokepoint at a reasonable speed. High speeds and stop and start are two of the worst situations for gas use in a car. Getting all the traffic through the Port Mann at 40 Km/H would reduce fuel use.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Better Gas Mileage - Ban Air Conditioners

Here is a quick and easy solution for Canada to reduce gas consumption - ban air conditioning in cars.

Air conditioning has a huge impact on gas consumption at low speeds and a mixed impact at highway speeds. On balance a car with air conditioning uses more than a car without.

This is Canada, I have lived in the hottest place possible in the country, Lillooet BC, and lived there without air conditioning in my Subaru - it can be done. First step was to avoid driving during the hottest time of the day. Second step was to make sure the car was parked so that it did not get direct sun on it and if it did to cover the windows with cardboard.

When I was a kid, my parents often took us on trips to the Okanagan. We went from Vancouver to the Okanagan about five times a year, many of them in the heat of the summer. My parents dealt with the heat issue by either leaving early in the morning or in the evening. It worked then, it can work now.

We should also consider getting rid of air conditioners for houses and buildings - this is Canada and it should not take rocket science to keep a building cool in the summer in the coldest country on earth.