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  • Getting to Green

    An administrator pushes, on a shoestring budget, to move his university and the world toward a more sustainable equilibrium.

June 24, 2008 - 4:15pm

I'm wondering about pushing Greenback U. to get into the green fuel business. I'd like some success stories, if anyone's willing to share theirs.

One fact about that UK-spec Land Rover that gets up to 45.5 highway miles per gallon - it has a 2.2 liter turbo-diesel engine in it. I'm guessing that part of the reason diesel-engined vehicles are more popular in other countries than they are in the USA is that it's hard to make a diesel which meets US passenger vehicle smog standards. Higher particulate emissions, and all that.

However, current US vehicle emissions standards are based on previous understandings of environmental trade-offs. Particulates are a nasty form of pollution, but if there's a trade-off between them and CO2 emissions, that trade-off isn't factored into existing laws. (I suspect there must be a trade-off, as when I was studying such things, an engine was considered "clean" to the extent that it emitted almost exclusively water vapor and CO2.

One reason to think that the trade-off might be worth thinking about is the fact that diesel engines can burn lots of fuels that aren't derived from petroleum. Diesel technology is well understood, it's widely available, and even if it's only a step along the road to some other form of portable power, it makes more short-term sense (on the vehicle side of the equation) than nuclear or "clean coal" approaches do for electric generation.

Is your campus generating fuel from biomass or some other non-petroleum source? As a pilot-scale project? In the lab? If so, how's that working for you?



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