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Monday, December 17, 2007

Optical illusion

B.C. Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon painted himself as Mr. Enviro on December 10 when he announced a contract with a Canadian company to supply the province with hydrogen to fuel its proposed fleet of hydrogen-powered buses. “When these buses are up and running, BC Transit will have the largest hydrogen fuel cell bus fleet worldwide,” said Falcon. “The development of this fleet is a major step in our commitment to hydrogen and fuel cells as a zero-emission transportation solution.”

One little thing, though: that oh-so-green hydrogren fuel will have to be trucked about 5,200 kilometres by not-so-green diesel-powered trucks to get from the Quebec plant to B.C.

Posted by Terry O'Neill on December 17, 2007 in Science | Permalink


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Thanks for keeping them honest. Hybrid cars also have some hidden drawbacks, like some of the parts practically circling the globe to get to North America.

Posted by: dp | 2007-12-17 5:03:21 PM

Illusion? The story you link says:

"However, before entering the contract B.C. Transit did what are called 'well-to-wheel' calculations, Rothwell says, looking at the total greenhouse gas emissions involved in getting either hydrogen buses or standard diesel buses on the road. The hydrogen buses do better.

"To power a diesel bus, he says, generates the equivalent of 2,000 grams of carbon dioxide per kilometre. Using hydrogen, he says, even when it is shipped across the continent, emits 800 grams per kilometre. About 65 per cent of those emissions are from transporting the fuel.

"'It's a 60 per cent reduction from diesel,' he says."

A 60% reduction, with the prospect of it being even more in the future, is no illusion.

Posted by: Fact Check | 2007-12-17 6:10:35 PM

And it the scietists in our midst ever latch on to tapping into geothermal, hydrogen can be produced on the West Coast just as it is in Iceland. Then the carbon footprint would be even smaller.

Posted by: DML | 2007-12-17 6:20:26 PM

Ah! And tomorrow I continue enlarging my carbon footprint with a major road trip while the Leftoids yammer away on how the world is coming to an end.

If they are wrong, I'll be having a great time!

If they are right, I'll be having a great time!

That's a win-win situation for me while they (supposedly!) limit their enjoyment of this life.

Posted by: obc | 2007-12-17 6:29:37 PM

My contribution is to use the SUV to run to the store instead of the '69 Chevelle. It probably burns as much fuel, but my carbon footprint is smaller.

Of course my idea of a carbon footprint is a mixture of rubber and carbon black in parallel lines across the parking lot. But don't worry, it's a small block.

Posted by: dp | 2007-12-17 7:06:01 PM

This is a great thing, and not only because of the very real CO2 reduction Fact Check points out. It's also a move away from oil, and the beginning of an infrastructure that will make hydrogen fuel more viable overall.

You can cite your "climate change myth" all you want, but even if you're right (hint: you're wrong), we'll still run out of oil eventually. If we can move on to cheaper, more efficient fuels earlier rather than later, we'll all be in a better position.

Now if only we could get a few nuclear plants built in BC...

Posted by: Voice of Reason | 2007-12-17 10:13:54 PM


The new buses cost four times as much as regular ones - at least. And I doubt if their service lives/costs will be any lower.

And, dollar for dollar, they're going to cost more to run.

In other words, even from an environmentalist position, this is probably a bone-headed move. There's an opportunity cost here.

Instead of focusing on reducing emissions from the buses, they could have spent the money improving the public transit system in order to make it actually usable. Or they could have returned it to taxpayers, many of whom would have used some of that money to buy newer and cleaner cars.

Posted by: Adam Yoshida | 2007-12-18 10:25:44 PM

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