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 Spring 2011


Other Alternatives to Gasoline?
I read your great story “Evolution of a Revolution” concerning the future use of electric vehicles. I was wondering why you didn’t include the potential of natural gas for solving our country’s vehicle energy needs. I think there is great potential in equipping our UPS trucks, garbage haulers, postal trucks, etc. to operate on compressed natural gas. A CNG Honda seems like a great alternative to a Nissan Leaf.

Bob Myrick
Tacoma, WA

The author responds:
Natural gas can indeed play a role in helping to reduce global warming pollution, but it is not one of the best climate solutions available to us for use in cars. For example, a CNG Honda Civic delivers about a 15 percent reduction in global warming pollution compared with gasoline, but a hybrid gasoline-electric Civic costs less and delivers a 30 percent emissions reduction. While it can make sense to use CNG in some vehicles such as taxis or delivery vehicles that are fueled in a central location, expanding the CNG passenger vehicle fleet significantly would require major investments in new fueling infrastructure that would become obsolete as cleaner technologies come to market. A better use for natural gas in the transportation sector would be as a resource for generating cleaner electricity (for plug-in vehicles) or hydrogen (for fuel-cell vehicles).

David Friedman, deputy director
UCS Clean Vehicles Program

Wind’s Impact on Wildlife
In your article “Offshore Wind Power” you write, “Turbines can harm birds and bats. . . . Observational data from the 72-turbine Nysted facility in Denmark . . . show that birds tend to fly around, rather than through, the wind farm, even in conditions of poor visibility.” You do not mention that bats have no mechanism for avoiding the turbine blades as their radar doesn’t pick them up, leaving far too many to be killed.

Peter Shire
New York, NY

The author responds:
Existing and proposed offshore wind farms appear to be less of an issue for bats than land-based facilities. The Danish government’s study of the Nysted wind farm did not assess the impact on bats, but the U.S. government’s thorough environmental assessment of Cape Wind—the only U.S. project to have undergone permitting—did, and it projected “negligible to minor” impacts on bats. While the assessment concluded that more information was needed to understand bat flight behavior over the proposed site, it stated that there were no suitable bat habitats and no known bat migration corridors in the project area.

John Rogers, senior energy analyst
UCS Climate and Energy Program