Dark Clouds Over Clean Diesels

Soot's health impacts and global warming potential dilute diesel's fuel-efficiency benefit

4 min read

11 June 2008—Diesel vehicles are increasingly presented as an equal alternative to gas-electric hybrids, thanks to their up to 5.88-liter-per-100-kilometer (40-mile-per-gallon) fuel economy advantage over conventional gasoline-powered cars and trucks and new emissions-control devices that vastly reduce their exhaust. ”We think that’s a win-win for both the environment and the climate,” says Allen Schaeffer, executive director of the Diesel Technology Forum, a Frederick, Md.–based trade group that promotes diesels.

But mounting evidence on the pernicious effects of particulate pollution—including a potentially serious contribution to climate change—suggests that diesel’s promise may be oversold. Some regulators are getting the message. California is implementing new fuel standards to reduce the carbon content of transportation fuels, and draft rules for the state’s Low-Carbon Fuel Standard, to be finalized by the end of this year, seem to explicitly avoid giving automakers and consumers an incentive to switch from gasoline cars to diesels as a solution to climate change.

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How to Prevent Blackouts by Packetizing the Power Grid

The rules of the Internet can also balance electricity supply and demand

13 min read
How to Prevent Blackouts by Packetizing the Power Grid
Dan Page

Bad things happen when demand outstrips supply. We learned that lesson too well at the start of the pandemic, when demand for toilet paper, disinfecting wipes, masks, and ventilators outstripped the available supply. Today, chip shortages continue to disrupt the consumer electronics, automobile, and other sectors. Clearly, balancing the supply and demand of goods is critical for a stable, normal, functional society.

That need for balance is true of electric power grids, too. We got a heartrending reminder of this fact in February 2021, when Texas experienced an unprecedented and deadly winter freeze. Spiking demand for electric heat collided with supply problems created by frozen natural-gas equipment and below-average wind-power production. The resulting imbalance left more than 2 million households without power for days, caused at least 210 deaths, and led to economic losses of up to US $130 billion.

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