Friday, February 10, 2012

Clean Fuel:

Is It Always Cleaner?

I was reminded again--as if I needed another reminder--that the supposedly "easy" fixes--just use energy more efficiently or just substitute "cleaner" fuel--doesn't always work.

We've already heard a lot about the downsides of some of these measures. For example, if cars get higher mileage, they are cheaper to run and people tend to drive more.

Another twist on the same theme has come to my attention. Canadian researchers, looking at the results of a program to use "clean fuel" in the form of compressed natural gas in New Delhi, have found that the "clean fuel" was not always successful. A lot of the fuel was used in two-stroke engines, and apparently, the natural gas did not burn properly in these engines, producing high emissions of methane.

The recommendation of the study--"simply" upgrade two-stroke engines to cleaner, more efficient, four-stroke engines.

Hmm. Given the large numbers of two-stroke "auto-rickshaws" that are used largely in poor countries such as Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Pakistan, the Philippines, and Thailand, it's really hard for me to see individuals, or even governments, making the capital investment necessary to upgrade engines.

This is not to say that there is no other solution to this problem. I hope there is another solution. I simply point out that this example serves as yet another reminder that so many of the grand schemes that are proposed to "solve" our energy problems fall apart in the real world.


1 comment:

  1. Gail.

    I know that methane is a greenhouse gas. But did you visit India before the auto-rickshaws had methane? My daughter was there often and said that the fumes from the poorly-refined and poorly -burned fuels were absolutely stifling. There's something to be said for not giving everyone in the country chronic obstructive pulmonary disease!

    In other words I agree it's not perfect, but I still think LNG in India is an improvement.