Jun 272014
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Originally published on Cleantechnica By Tina Casey.

Just in time for the 2014 Go Further With Ford auto trend conference in Dearborn, here comes news that Ford’s new super-efficient EcoBoost 1.0-liter engine has just been named International Engine of the Year for the third year in a row, and it also garnered the honor for Best Engine in the under 1.0-liter class. That’s according to a survey of 82 automotive journalists at Engine Expo 2014 in Stuttgart.

We were just talking about a bigger version of the EcoBoost, which is standard on that all new 2015 Ford Edge crossover SUV. The 1.0 version is in the Ford Fiesta available now and it will be available later this year on the 2015 Focus.

The Ford EcoBoost Engine

We happened to be visiting Dearborn (okay, so we were invited by Ford) last December and we caught a hands-on look at the Ford EcoBoost engine, so here are a few more details about the 1.0.

For starters, the three-years-in-a-row achievement is unprecedented. It brings the 1.0 EcoBoost up to 13 awards, including a Breakthrough Award from Popular Mechanics and a Ward’s 10 Best Engines award in the three-cylinder class, which is a first for any automaker.

Performance-wise, the 1.0 liter EcoBoost has a compact turbocharger that clocks in at a maximum rpm that compares to 2014 Formula 1 engines. We don’t really know what that means in terms of the numbers but we had a chance to experience it on the road when a Ford staffer offered us an “enthusiastic” spin in a Fiesta around the high-speed track at Ford’s Dearborn facility.

For those of you in the know, we’ll admit there’s a 70 mph limit on the high-speed track but hey you can still feel the burn.

Of more interest to the clean tech angle are the efficiency refinements. Some of them relate directly to fuel efficiency, and others help enhance life cycle factors that have more to do with general resource conservation.

As Ford describes it, the 1.0 liter can fit into an airplane overhead luggage compartment, but packed into that space is a system for cooling exhaust temperatures that provides for an optimal fuel-to-air ratio.

Here’s some more green goodies:

An innovative flywheel and front pulley design delivers improved refinement compared with traditional three-cylinder engine designs.

Engine friction is reduced by specially coated pistons, low-tension piston rings, low-friction crank seals and a cam-belt-in-oil design.

A variable-displacement oil pump tailors lubrication to demand and optimizes oil pressure for improved fuel efficiency.

Engines With Benefits

As Ford describes it the 1.0-liter EcoBoost delivers “big-car benefits from a small engine.”

That goes to the heart of a conversation we’ve been having about the future of liquid fuel. While first-generation biofuel has some serious ball-and-chain issues in terms of sustainability, the emergence of next-generation sources means that gasmobiles have the potential for a sustainable supply chain far into the future, even as the electric vehicle market grows.

Efficiency enhancements like the EcoBoost series and the advent of new lightweight materials will also contribute to that trend.

Speaking of contributing, the EcoBoost is the result of an intensive collaborative effort involving more than 200 Ford engineers and designers.

Collaboration also emerged as a running theme throughout the Go Further with Ford conference, and we’ll have more details on that in a later post.

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Apr 082014
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The United States And Iraq Have Increased Oil Production

An article found on CNBC indicates that the United States will soon overtake Russia and Saudi Arabia as the biggest oil producer in the world. And though the United States is also the biggest consumer of oil in the world, the United States International Energy Administration indicates that it may become self-sufficient by 2020.

petroleum refinery

Oil refinery.
Image obtained with thanks from Iraq Business News.

The Wall Street Journal sudden surge in local production is mainly due to the use of hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling to get at shale oil. And with this newfound capacity comes the pressure to lift the ban on exporting fuel.

US is Not the Only One with Booming Production

However, the United States is not the only one with increased production. Reuters reported that Iraq is now the world’s fastest growing oil producer in the world. Currently, it is the second largest producer in Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, or OPEC.

Iraq’s southern fields are one of the main contributors to the expansion, with the huge North Rumaila probably being the largest oilfield in the country with the potential to churn out as much as 2.85 million barrels of oil per day in the second half of the coming decade. British Petroleum holds the technical service contract, while the field services and inspection contract is held by the joint venture by Unaoil and RBG Middle East.

An article on USA Today suggests that Iraq’s production would rise by 20% in 2014, the equivalent of about 4.5 million barrels per day. By the year 2020, production is expected to jump by 157% for a total of about 9 million barrels per day.

The balance of oil production appears to be shifting to the United States and Iraq. Projections from the United States International Energy Administration indicate that growth from non-OPEC producer is expected to lower oil prices. From a little under $109 in the year 2013, prices of Brent crude oil are expected to go slightly below $105 per barrel in 2014.In terms of WTI crude oil, the price in 2013 was at about $98 and is projected to down to around $95 per barrel in the year 2014.

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Feb 252014
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In 2001, Dale Earnhardt died in a devastating accident during a NASCAR race at the Daytona International Speedway in his number 3 car. The number 3 car was retired since then.

Now, it has returned with an ethanol-powered engine. It was raced at the Daytona 500 on February 22, 2014 by Austin Dillon, the grandson of Richard Childress, who is the owner of the Richard Childress Racing team. It came in at ninth place.

It was good to see that the number 3 car’s comeback was a good one, and it was done using renewable, American-grown ethanol fuel.

See the press release below:

Continue reading »

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Jan 032014
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Mark Ruffalo is a strong advocate of environmental conservation, and has focused on hydraulic fracturing, which is a relatively recent extraction method for natural gas. Opponents of hydraulic fracturing are concerned that it causes severe water pollution and earthquakes. Their primary focus is earthquakes, as its impact on seismic activity isn’t quite as clear.

Mark Ruffalo at The Common Good.  Image obtained with thanks from thecommongoodusa on Flickr.

Mark Ruffalo at The Common Good.
Image obtained with thanks from thecommongoodusa on Flickr.

Hydraulic fracturing is highly controversial, and some still consider natural gas to be relatively clean. However, as scientists get past this learning stage, they may or may not find that hydraulic fracturing really is a serious environmental problem. It’s better to find out via testing, rather than an outbreak of toxicity, which is why hydraulic fracturing should have undergone more careful analysis before implementing it on a large scale.

Dip your toe in the water before jumping in. Caution is a virtue!

Mark Ruffalo advocates transitioning to renewable energy, especially solar power, wind power, and hydroelectric power, but…what happens when the wind stops blowing, or the weather becomes cloudy? Won’t that cause blackouts?

No. Wind and solar power plants are not carelessly integrated into the electricity grid without backup or energy storage. All power stations are backed up with peaking power plants which can start in only 15 minutes to provide power while power plants are being repaired. Their uptime is in the 70% to 90% range, so they rely on backup/energy storage as well. Coal and nuclear power plants are actually barely adjustable, resulting in the need for peaking power plants to augment electricity production when electricity demand increases during the afternoon.

Hydroelectric power plants are the only truly reliable power plants that don’t require backup. However, their use is limited to regions that are not environmentally sensitive.

According to the Department of Energy’s NREL, wind power is only 9.7 U.S. cents per kWh without subsidies, while coal was 9.4, so it won’t increase electricity bills much.

Apart from that, solar and wind energy can be utilized with no energy storage or backup for certain applications. As far-fetched as that may sound. For example: Solar thermal water heaters absorb sunlight which turns into heat, and then the water absorbs that heat. These units are very common, and I actually use one.

A simple insulated tank keeps the water hot all night, so there are no ‘what if’ questions about night-time.

Solar and wind power can also be used to pump water via electric water pumps. If you need to get water from point A to point B. You can set up a water tank at point B, and use wind turbines or solar panels of adequate capacity to power the electric water pumps, so that they pump surplus water into the tanks. It can then flow back out of the tanks to whoever needs them .

Solar and wind farms can also power desalination plants and then pump the clean water into tanks afterwards, so there are no water supply interruptions. For regions which are not too far from the ocean, this could be a great way to set up a water supply. Desalination is very energy intensive.

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