No es el primer estudio en el que Mark Z. Jacobson, director además del programa Atmosphere/Energy de la Universidad de Stanford, advierte sobre los riesgos de un uso masivo de los biocarburantes. En abril de 2007 publicó otro en el que destacaba que la emisión de compuestos carcinógenos (producen cáncer) que se emiten tras la combustión del etanol es similar, e incluso superior, a la de la gasolina tradicional.
Los efectos para la salud vuelven a contar en el informe comparativo que ha publicado Jacobson en la página web de la revista Energy & Environmental Science, ya que entre los impactos que se estudian figura la mortalidad achacable a la contaminación del aire. Pero es solo una de las variables, ya que abarca otras más, como la contribución al cambio climático, la seguridad energética, el uso de agua y tierras y la afección a la biodiversidad.
A la hora de analizar el impacto causado por la utilización de fuentes energéticas en el transporte, Mark Z. Jacobson ha trabajado con 12 combinaciones diferentes, entre las que ha excluido al petróleo y a otros biocombustibles que no son el etanol. Nueve de ellas se basan en la producción de electricidad para cargar baterías de uso en los automóviles, una en la producción de hidrógeno para pilas de combustible con el mismo fin y dos en biocarburantes: etanoles a partir de maíz y de celulosa (segunda generación).
La clasificación final, de la más limpia a la más sucia y menos eficiente, queda así: eólica, eólica con producción de hidrógeno, solar de concentración, geotérmica, maremotriz, solar fotovoltaica, undimotriz, hidroeléctrica, nuclear, carbón con captura de carbono, etanol de maíz y etanol de celulosa (el último). Es decir, los dos biocarburantes analizados dan peores resultados que la energía nuclear y las térmicas de carbón con captura y almacenamiento de carbono.
11. Overall results
Table 4 ranks each of 12 technology combinations for running US vehicles in terms of 11 categories considered, then weights each ranking by the relative importance of each category to obtain an overall ranking of the technology combination. The weights ensure that effects on CO2e emissions and mortality are given the highest priority. The third priority is footprint on the ground combined with spacing, followed by the combination of reliability plus energy supply disruption, then water consumption and resource availability, then the combination of effects on wildlife plus water chemical and thermal pollution. Sensitivities of results to the weights are discussed shortly.
The rankings for each category are referenced in the footnote of the table and were discussed previously, except not completely with respect to resource availability. With respect to resource availability, we consider the technical potential of the resource from Table 1, whether the spread of the technology to a large scale is limited by its footprint land area from Fig. 5, and the difficulty of extracting the resource. Based on these criteria, PV-BEVs are ranked the highest in terms of resource because solar-PV has the greatest overall resource availability without the need to extract the resource from the ground and is not limited by area for supplying a substantial portion of US power. Wind-BEVs and wind-HFCVs are ranked second and third, respectively, since wind is the second-most-abundant natural resource, wind does not require extraction from the ground, and wind’s footprint area is trivial. CSP-BEVs are ranked fourth due to the great abundance of solar. They are behind PV-BEVs and the wind technologies due to the greater footprint required for CSP-BEVs. Wave- and tidal-BEVs follow due to the renewable nature of their resource and their small footprint. Geo-BEVs are next, since they require extraction from the ground and the resource (heat from the earth) can dissipate at a given location although it will replenish over time. CCS-BEVs and nuclear-BEVs follow due to their abundant, although limited resource, but with the need to extract the resource from the ground, transport it, and process it. Hydro-BEVs are limited by the land required for reservoirs. Similarly, corn-E85 and cellulosic-E85 are limited by their significant land requirements, with cellulosic ethanol potentially requiring more land than corn ethanol (Fig. 5 and 6).
From the overall rankings in Table 4, four general tiers of technology options emerge based on distinct divisions in weighted average score of the technology. Tier 1 (<4.0), includes wind-BEVs and wind-HFCVs. Tier 2 (4.0–6.5) includes CSP-BEVs, geo-BEVs, PV-BEVs, tidal-BEVs, and wave-BEVs. Tier 3 (6.5–9.0) includes hydro-BEVs, nuclear-BEVs, and CCS-BEVs. Tier 4 (>9) includes corn- and cellulosic-E85.
Wind-BEVs rank first in seven out of 11 categories, including the two most important, mortality and climate damage reduction. Although HFCVs are less efficient than BEVs, wind-HFCVs still provide a greater benefit than any other vehicle technology. The Tier 2 combinations all provide outstanding benefits with respect to climate and mortality. The Tier 3 technologies are less desirable. However, hydroelectricity, which is cleaner than coal-CCS or nuclear with respect to climate and health, is an excellent load balancer. As such, hydroelectricity is recommended ahead of the other Tier 3 power sources, particularly for use in combination with intermittent renewables (wind, solar, wave). The Tier 4 technologies are not only the lowest in terms of ranking, but provide no proven climate or mortality benefit and require significant land and water.
The rankings in Table 4 are not significantly sensitive to moderate variations in the weightings. For example, increasing the weighting of mortality by 3% and decreasing that of CO2e emissions by 3% does not change any overall ranking. Similarly, increasing the weighting of normal operating reliability by 3% and decreasing that of water supply by 3% does not change any ranking. Larger changes in weightings do not change the rankings at the top or bottom. They can result in some shifting in the middle, but not significantly.
12. Example large-scale application
Table 4 suggests that the use of wind-BEVs would result in the greatest benefits among options examined. How many wind turbines, though, are necessary for the large-scale deployment of wind-BEVs? Assuming an RE Power 5 MW turbine (126 m diameter rotor),116 the US in 2007 would need about 73,000–144,000 5 MW turbines (with a 126 m diameter rotor) to power all onroad (light and heavy-duty) vehicles converted to BEVs (Fig. 9, ESI ). The low estimate corresponds to a mean annual wind speed of 8.5 m s−1, a BEV plug-to-wheel efficiency of 86%,117 and conversion/transmission/array losses of 10%; the high number, to a mean wind speed of 7.0 m s−1, a BEV efficiency of 75%, and losses of 15%. This number of turbines is much less than the 300 000 airplanes the US manufactured during World War II and less than the 150 000 smaller turbines currently installed worldwide. This would reduce US CO2 by 32.5–32.7% and nearly eliminate 15 000 yr−1 vehicle-related air pollution deaths in 2020. A major reason the number of turbines required is small is that the plug-to-wheel efficiency of BEVs (75–86%) is much greater than the average tank-to-wheel efficiency of fossil-fuel vehicles (17%) (ESI ). As such, a conversion to BEVs reduces the energy required, resulting in a small number of devices. Fig. 9 also indicates that the US could theoretically replace 100% of its 2007 carbon-emitting pollution with 389 000–645 000 5 MW wind turbines. Globally, wind could theoretically replace all fossil-fuel carbon with about 2.2–3.6 million 5 MW turbines (assuming the use of new vehicle technologies, such as BEVs) (ESI ).
This review evaluated nine electric power sources (solar-PV, CSP, wind, geothermal, hydroelectric, wave, tidal, nuclear, and coal with CCS) and two liquid fuel options (corn-E85, cellulosic E85) in combination with three vehicle technologies (BEVs, HFCVs, and E85 vehicles) with respect to their effects on global-warming-relevant emissions, air pollution mortality, and several other factors. Twelve combinations of energy source-vehicle type were considered. Among these, the highest-ranked (Tier 1 technologies) were wind-BEVs and wind-HFCVs. Tier 2 technologies were CSP-BEVs, geo-BEVs, PV-BEVs, tidal-BEVs, and wave-BEVs. Tier 3 technologies were hydro-BEVs, nuclear-BEVs, and CCS-BEVs. Tier 4 technologies were corn- and cellulosic-E85.
Wind-BEVs performed best in seven out of 11 categories, including mortality, climate-relevant emissions, footprint, water consumption, effects on wildlife, thermal pollution, and water chemical pollution. The footprint area of wind-BEVs is 5.5–6 orders of magnitude less than that for E85 regardless of ethanol’s source, 4 orders of magnitude less than those of CSP-BEVs or PV-BEVs, 3 orders of magnitude less than those of nuclear- or coal-BEVs, and 2–2.5 orders of magnitude less than those of geothermal, tidal, or wave BEVs.
The intermittency of wind, solar, and wave power can be reduced in several ways: (1) interconnecting geographically-disperse intermittent sources through the transmission system, (2) combining different intermittent sources (wind, solar, hydro, geothermal, tidal, and wave) to smooth out loads, using hydro to provide peaking and load balancing, (3) using smart meters to provide electric power to electric vehicles at optimal times, (4) storing wind energy in hydrogen, batteries, pumped hydroelectric power, compressed air, or a thermal storage medium, and (5) forecasting weather to improve grid planning.
Although HFCVs are less efficient than BEVs, wind-HFCVs still provide a greater benefit than any other vehicle technology aside from wind-BEVs. Wind-HFCVs are also the most reliable combination due to the low downtime of wind turbines, the distributed nature of turbines, and the ability of wind’s energy to be stored in hydrogen over time.
The Tier 2 combinations all provide outstanding benefits with respect to climate and mortality. Among Tier 2 combinations, CSP-BEVs result in the lowest CO2e emissions and mortality. Geothermal-BEVs require the lowest array spacing among all options. Although PV-BEVs result in slightly less climate benefit than CSP-BEVs, the resource for PVs is the largest among all technologies considered. Further, much of it can be implemented unobtrusively on rooftops. Underwater tidal powering BEVs is the least likely to be disrupted by terrorism or severe weather.
The Tier 3 technologies are less beneficial than the others. However, hydroelectricity is an excellent load-balancer and cleaner than coal-CCS or nuclear with respect to CO2e and air pollution. As such, hydroelectricity is recommended ahead of these other Tier 3 power sources.
The Tier 4 technologies (cellulosic- and corn-E85) are not only the lowest in terms of ranking, but may worsen climate and air pollution problems. They also require significant land relative to other technologies. Cellulosic-E85 may have a larger land footprint and higher upstream air pollution emissions than corn-E85. Mainly for this reason, it scored lower overall than corn-E85. Whereas cellulosic-E85 may cause the greatest average human mortality among all technologies, nuclear-BEVs cause the greatest upper-estimate risk of mortality due to the risk of nuclear attacks resulting from the spread of nuclear energy facilities that allows for the production of nuclear weapons. The largest consumer of water is corn-E85. The smallest consumers are wind-BEVs, tidal-BEVs, and wave-BEVs.
In summary, the use of wind, CSP, geothermal, tidal, solar, wave, and hydroelectric to provide electricity for BEVs and HFCVs result in the most benefit and least impact among the options considered. Coal-CCS and nuclear provide less benefit with greater negative impacts. The biofuel options provide no certain benefit and result in significant negative impacts. Because sufficient clean natural resources (e.g., wind, sunlight, hot water, ocean energy, gravitational energy) exists to power all energy for the world, the results here suggest that the diversion of attention to the less efficient or non-efficient options represents an opportunity cost that delays solutions to climate and air pollution health problems.
The relative ranking of each electricity-BEV option also applies to the electricity source when used to provide electricity for general purposes. The implementation of the recommended electricity options for providing vehicle and building electricity requires organization. Ideally, good locations of energy resources would be sited in advance and developed simultaneously with an interconnected transmission system. This requires cooperation at multiple levels of government.
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