Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Latest from: CleanTechnica

Latest from: CleanTechnica

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Next Five Years: 4x the Energy Storage (Maybe)

Posted: 22 Feb 2012 07:24 AM PST

Energy Storage Quadruple

Energy storage is always an issue, whether it's storing enough power to run an electric car or storing enough solar-generated electricity to supply power while the sun isn't shining. KEMA, a global energy consultancy company headquartered in the Netherlands, recently released a report analyzing U.S. energy storage over the next five years. In a nutshell, the market is expected to quadruple.

The study was requested by the Copper Development Association, in order to determine what impact changes in storage tech will have on copper. Its findings are a bit broader than that, however. The study made two different forecasts as to how much (or little) storage tech would expand based on whether or not a tax incentive would become available (last year's U.S. Storage Act, S. 1845 proposed just such an incentive).

Expand, Expand, Expand

Current energy storage capacity is mostly one of two options. The first is thermal storage, or maintaining a thermal reservoir above or below ambient temperature – storing energy as heat – which accounts for roughly 1,000 megawatts of current capacity. The second is from renewables generation; either as pumped hydro – water moved from lower to higher elevation – which accounts for 115 megawatts, or compressed air energy storage, which accounts for 500 megawatts.

KEMA's report says that the biggest growth will be in neither of these technologies, but in distributed storage. In other words, ancillary services for the existing grid and also technology and applications that help integrate renewable energy into the grid.

Get Tax Credit, Invest More

Whether or not a tax incentive is available will likely have a massive effect on storage tech expansion, KEMA found. Total growth of storage capacity without a tax incentive is projected to be around 626 megawatts (mainly in thermal storage and batteries). With tax incentives, that growth is projected to be 2,300 megawatts – and that mainly in technology for integrating renewable power with the grid.

KEMA estimates that the current political climate makes no incentive the most likely outcome. I, however, can only hope that they're mistaken on this one prediction; clean power generation is tremendously important, and power storage helps integrate energy from renewable sources into the grid.

Comments or questions? Let us know below.

Source: Green Tech Media | Image: Wikimedia Commons

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Cheap Natural Gas Won’t Kill Renewable Energy Growth (3 Reasons Why)

Posted: 22 Feb 2012 07:08 AM PST

I'll be the first to admit that cheap natural gas prices are one of the biggest short-term threats to deployment of renewable energy in the U.S. today. With a glut of gas dropping prices to historic lows, the competitiveness of technologies like wind, solar PV, and solar hot water are facing significant challenges.

But here's the important thing to remember: The industry is being challenged, not beaten. Amidst all the hand wringing over what cheap natural gas will do to investment in renewables, we often lose sight of the fact that the cost and price of renewable energy technologies are still chasing the record price drops in natural gas. When the price of natural gas starts to climb back up (according to many estimates, it will fairly soon), renewables will be more competitive than ever.

Over the next couple of years, I believe that the age-old idiom will again be proven true: "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger."

Below are my top three reasons why natural gas won't be the death of renewables.

1. Cheap gas won't stay "cheap" for too much longer

cheap natural gas won't last


It's often said that America has a 100-year supply of natural gas. However, those figures, which are based on estimates from the Potential Gas Committee, factor in "proved" reserves, "possible" reserves and "speculative" reserves. If we narrow these figures down to proven, technically-exploitable resources based upon current natural gas consumption rates, more cautious estimates put our supply at roughly 11-21 years.

With mature gas plays like the Barnett Shale and Marcellus Shale in decline or appearing to be nearing a peak, and drillers scaling back on operations because it's not profitable to drill with such low prices, a growing number of analysts are questioning whether the U.S. gas industry is approaching peak production. Petroleum Geologist Arthur E. Berman recently wrote about the decline rates in conventional and unconventional gas fields at the Oil Drum:

"This development may expose the notion of long-term natural gas abundance and cheap gas as an illusion. The good news is that this adjustment will lead to higher gas prices in a future less distant than most believe. Higher prices coupled with greater discipline in drilling will allow operators to earn a suitable return and offer the best opportunity for supply to grow to meet future needs."

In its latest Annual Energy Outlook, the U.S Energy Information Administration also cut estimates of unproved technically recoverable resources by 42%. As energy analyst Chris Nelder recently wrote: "Everything you know about shale gas is wrong."

2. Renewable energy is challenged, but still competitive

Source: Institute for Local Self Reliance, using data from Lazard

Over the years, the conversation around gas has changed dramatically in renewable energy circles. For example, up until 2008 when gas prices were at their peak and wind development was soaring, the industry's message was simple: We're a far more cost-effective, reliable investment than gas.

But the tide turned in 2009, when gas prices started their precipitous drop. I remember the American Wind Energy Association's annual conference in 2010, when shale gas dominated the CEO roundtable discussion. "Our single biggest challenge is improving technologies to compete with these low prices," said one executive.

The industry clearly took the challenge seriously. Today, due to bigger turbines, more reliable equipment and better materials, the cost of wind has dropped to record lows. In fact, some developers are even signing long-term power purchase agreements in the 3 cents a kilowatt-hour range. And last fall, Bloomberg New Energy Finance projected that wind would be "fully competitive with energy produced from combined-cycle gas turbines by 2016″ under fair wind conditions.

The same technological improvements and maturation in project development in wind are driving down the cost of solar PV as well. For example, in California, solar developers have signed contracts for power below the projected price of natural gas from a 500-MW combined cycle power plant. (That projection does include a carbon price).

These trends are driving record levels of interest from investors. In 2011, for the first time ever, global investments in renewable energy surpassed investments in fossil fuels.

The bottom line: the price of renewable energy continues to come down while the projected price of natural gas is only expected to rise.

We do have to be realistic about the situation: assuming gas prices stay near record low levels for a long period of time — which they likely won't — renewables deployment won't grow at the rate we need it to. But if you look at the where large-scale renewables stack up with the cost of energy from peaking gas plants and combined cycle plants (chart above), you can see that the industry is still nipping at the heels of gas — even with a "revolution" underway in accessing shale resources. That's something that can't be ignored.

3. Natural gas is a fossil fuel and still contributes to global warming

Source: Nature

When considering our energy investment choices, it's important for us to remember why we want renewable energy in the first place. Sure, it's a domestic resource that empowers local communities, encourages entrepreneurial innovation, and spurs new types of economic development. But ultimately, renewables are an important tool for helping us reduce greenhouse gas emissions and combat global warming. We should never lose sight of this environmental context.

So while gas will be an important short-term tool to knock old coal plants out of the energy mix and provide a source of back up for intermittent renewables, the global warming challenge will eventually present limits to our investments in natural gas, if not this decade, then certain in the 2020s.

As we've pointed out numerous times, without a price on carbon, natural gas is not a bridge fuel — it is a bridge to nowhere. Under the International Energy Agency's "Golden Age of Gas" scenario that assumes an aggressive build-out of "clean" natural gas plants, we would still see global temperatures rise 6° Fahrenheit.

While the science is still far from settled on the life-cycle emissions issue, measured emissions in some cases are well above what drillers claim (see chart above).

Even if natural gas is cleaner than coal, it is still a fossil fuel. When we get serious about addressing global warming and put a price on greenhouse gas emissions, the current economic advantages of natural gas are diminished or disappear. Last October, three center-right economists — Nicholas Z. Muller, Robert Mendelsohn, and William Nordhaus — found that with a carbon price of $27 per ton, the cost of environmental and health damages from natural gas were greater than the resource's added value to society.

In other words, natural gas isn't nearly as inexpensive as current prices suggest (see also "Economics Stunner: Natural Gas Damage Larger Than Its Value Added For Even Low CO2 Prices").

Writing to 415 of the world's biggest global warming polluters this week, global investors representing $10 trillion put it best:

"The external costs of greenhouse gas emissions will become internalized into company cash flows and profitability," Paul Abberley, chief executive officer at Aviva Investors in London said in the statement today. ''Managing greenhouse gas emissions is therefore essential to delivering sustainable shareholder returns.''

Natural gas certainly has a role to play in this long, complicated energy transition — assuming we properly value its environmental impact. But if we listen to these forward-thinking global investors and take their call for a low-carbon strategy seriously, renewables, efficiency and demand response will not be swept aside, no matter what the short-term challenges are.

This article was originally posted on Climate Progress and has been republished with permission.

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Wind Energy News (Humungous Crossroads Wind Farm Complete; 70-MW Wind Farm Planned for Northern Chile; Steel Winds II Expansion Complete; Vestas Lands Big Orders from Italy & US…)

Posted: 22 Feb 2012 06:58 AM PST

Some top wind energy news from the past week — several announcements from the past couple days, several big wind power projects (or wind farms), and a mysterious wind turbine order for the US.

227.5-Megawatt Crossroads Wind Farm Complete

crossroads wind energy project news

Renewable Energy Systems Americas Inc. (RES Americas) announced the completion of the 227.5-megawatt Crossroads Wind Farm. If you’re unfamiliar with wind farm or power plant sizes, that’s HUGE. It will create enough electricity for approximately 70,000 homes, offsetting about 400,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide each year.

“During the 12 month construction period the project had an average of 150 people working on site each day, for a total of 650 temporary construction jobs, and the project also created 10 permanent jobs,” RES Americas writes.

“Located inDewey County, Oklahoma, the 227.5 megawatt (MW) project consists of 95 Siemens 2.3 MW turbines and three Siemens 3.0 MW direct-drive turbines, the first of their kind in the United States.”

70-MW Wind Farm Planned for the North of Chile

wind farm chile

Global renewable energy developer Mainstream Renewable Power (Mainstream) and wind turbine manufacturer Xinjiang Goldwind Science & Technology (Goldwind) signed “a 50/50 joint venture to build the first phase of the Ckani Wind Farm in the Antofagasta region of Northern Chile” on Monday.

“The Ckani wind farm, which received environmental approval in December 2011, has a total potential capacity of 240MW and has been developed by Mainstream since 2009. It will be connected to the SING Electrical System and this first 70MW phase is expected to start construction by end of 2012. Mainstream plans to have all 240MW operational by 2015.”

First Wind Has Completed Its Steel Winds II Expansion

Steel Winds II site.

The completion of Steel Winds II, located just south of Buffalo (NY), was celebrated yesterday by wind energy company First Wind, U.S. Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo, and local leaders. “With Steel Winds II now in commercial operations, the 35 MW cumulative Steel Winds project will have the capacity to generate enough clean electricity to power approximately 9,000 New York homes—and help bring the state closer to its goal of 30 percent renewable energy sources by 2015.”

Vestas Signs 56-MW Order with Italy

“Vestas has received an order for a total capacity of 56 MW consisting of 28 units of the V90-2.0 MW platform for the "Castellaneta" wind farm, which will be located in the Apulia region, Italy,” Vestas has announced.

“The contract comprises supply and installations of the turbines, a VestasOnline® Business SCADA system, as well as a 12-year service and maintenance AOM 4000 agreement (Active Output Management). The AOM 4000 is a full-scope service contract, consisting of scheduled and unscheduled maintenance and consumables, which offers solid risk management for customers, who want an availability guarantee measured against an agreed threshold.”

Vestas Signs 150-MW Order for US Wind Project

vestas wind power project turbines

While almost no details could be disclosed, Vestas announced that it had received an order for a 150-MW wind power project in the US yesterday.

Iberdrola Sells 50 MW of Wind Power to City of Santa Clara

Iberdrola Renewables announced last week that it had “sold 50 megawatts (MW) from its Manzana Wind Power Project – now under construction in California – to the City of Santa Clara's Silicon Valley Power (SVP), a repeat customer for Iberdrola Renewables.”

The power will supply enough electricity for about 20,000 Santa Clara homes while “the total project will provide up to 189 MW of energy, representing a reduction in green house gas emissions comparable to removing more than 21,500 cars off of California's roads for one year.”

“The contract will provide 50 MW to Santa Clara for a term of 20 years beginning upon the commercial operation of the facility, expected in the fourth quarter of 2012. Iberdrola Renewables owns the Manzana Wind Power Project in Kern County, California, in the wind-rich Tehachapi area near the town of Rosamond. The project includes 126 General Electric ("GE") SLE 1.5-MW wind turbines, a 34.5kV collector system, an operations and maintenance building, a new collector substation and a 220kV five-mile gen-tie line to interconnect the project to the new Whirlwind 220kV substation that is being constructed by Southern California Edison.”

Cape Wind Secures Contract for 75% of Its Power

cape wind farm

Last but not least, Cape Wind announced last week that it has secured contracts with energy companies Northeast Utilities and NStar to buy more than a quarter of the projects power. “With 50 percent of its power previously under contract to National Grid, the terms of the merger agreement between the two companies means Cape Wind will have a buyer for more than three-quarters of its electricity, paving a clearer path for the company to generate the investments that will allow construction to begin,” Michael Conathan and Kiley Kroh wrote on Climate Progress.

Cape Wind got its ocean lease in October 2010, about half a year after the Obama administration approved the project, and its construction plan was approved in April 2011, but it has faced a rocky sea of opposition and continues to face that today.

Photo Credits: Antofagasta, Chile photo via shutterstock; all other photos via companies/sites linked above.

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Gamesa, Iberdrola Bring Central America’s Largest Wind Farm Online

Posted: 21 Feb 2012 11:49 PM PST

Photo courtesy Gamesa

Gamesa and Iberdrola Renewables have brought the 102-MW Cerro de Hula wind farm in Honduras online for owner Mesoamerica Energy. The largest wind farm in Central America, Cerro de Hula will boost Honduran electricity generation capacity by 10% — in a country where an estimated 36% of residents do not have access to electrical power.

The Cerro de Hula project demonstrates one of the key advantages of modern, distributed wind, solar and renewable energy systems: they can be deployed quickly and efficiently. With a $200-million investment, it took just over one year to build and bring the Cerro de Hula wind farm online. Honduran President Porfirio Lobo Sousa laid the wind farm’s foundation stone in late January 2011, joined by the Spain and US ambassadors and project partners to mark the occasion.

Timelapse of Turbine blade assembly, Cerro de Hula from Energia Eolica de Honduras on Vimeo.

Multinational Wind Power Project Development

Built as per a turnkey contract for owner Mesoamerica Energy, a total of 51 Gamesa G87 2-MW wind turbines are now up and running at the Cerro de Hula site, 24 kms (~14 miles) south of the Honduran capital of Tegucigalpa. The contract includes the provision of maintenance services for two years following start-up.

Honduras’ state-owned grid operator Empresa Nacional de Energia Electrica will take up and distribute Cerro de Hula’s electricity output under the terms of a 20-year power purchase agreement (PPA). Investment funding was provided by the US Export-Import Bank and the Central American Bank for Economic Integration.

Gamesa and Iberdrola were awarded the contract to build Cerro de Hula in August 2010, with Gamesa controlling 76% of the venture. The first wind turbine was installed in July last year.

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From “Sticks Like Glue” to “Sticks Like Gecko”

Posted: 21 Feb 2012 07:25 PM PST

Biomicicry at its best

University of Massachusetts Amherst Scientists Create Super-Strong Adhesive with Geckskin


Biologists have long been drawn by the adhesive power of gecko feet that enable these 5-ounce lizards to scale vertical walls with nary a slip. Now polymer scientists and a biologist at the University of Massachusetts Amherst have duplicated how the gecko accomplishes this feat. The result: “Geckskin,” a sticky material that can hold up to 700 pounds on a smooth wall.

Put in perspective, this Geckskin could hold a flat-screen television, and come down as easily as it was put up. Nor does it leave any unpleasant odor.

According to a press announcement from University of Massachusetts Amherst,  many polymer scientists formed the research team, plus biologist Duncan Irschick, who has studied geckos’ climbing ability for more than 20 years. A gecko is able to move with ease on vertical, slanted, even backward-tilting surfaces.

In its research, the team reported that a gecko’s skin, bones and tendons work in unison to remarkable and sticky effect. ”Amazingly, gecko feet can be applied and disengaged with ease, and with no sticky residue remaining on the surface,” Irschick says.

The scientists believe these properties, high-capacity, reversibility and dry adhesion offer remarkable potential for synthetic materials that can easily attach and detach heavy everyday objects such as televisions or computers to walls, as well as medical and industrial applications, among others.

Geckskin is a stiff woven fabric incorporating a soft adhesive pad, woven into a “synthetic tendon” like that of a gecko’s foot. “Our design for Geckskin shows the true integrative power of evolution for inspiring synthetic design that can ultimately aid humans in many ways,” said Irschick. The team is aiming to further improve the Geckskin by looking at the wide variation evident in the evolution of gecko feet.

The UMass Amherst researchers are now improving the Geckskin design, even taking lessons from the evolution of gecko feet, which show remarkable variation in anatomy.

The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) through a subcontract to Draper Laboratories, plus UMass Amherst research funds supported the research project. The team’s findings have been published in the current online edition of Advanced Materials.

Photo:  cthoyes

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RGGI Withdrawal Could Cost New Jersey $680 Million in Future Revenue

Posted: 21 Feb 2012 02:15 PM PST

Could Trenton be making more money from carbon emissions?

As New Jersey debates continued participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a new report says the state risks hundreds of millions in future revenue, thousands of jobs, higher utility rates for consumers, and cleaner air.

The report from Environment New Jersey, Benefits of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, comes as the state legislature considers bills to re-insert New Jersey into RGGI after Governor Chris Christie called the program a failure and began pulling out of the compact in May 2011.

RGGI is a regional carbon emissions reduction system in operation across nine Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states (New Jersey was the tenth participating state). It is America's only functioning cap-and-trade program, applies to all fossil-fuel burning power plants 25 megawatts (MW) or greater in size, and aims to reduce emissions 10 percent from 2009 levels by 2018.

Total 2011 emissions across the RGGI region were projected to fall 34 percent below the regional cap of 188 million tons of CO2, auction proceeds have, to date, generated $952 million in revenue for participating states, and an estimated 80 percent of auction proceeds have been invested in clean energy programs.

While RGGI's benefits have been significant across the region, Environment New Jersey's report put a much finer point on its local impact, finding:

  • Clean energy investments through RGGI have eliminated the need for 52,000 megawatt-hours (MWh) of electricity from fossil fuel sources and cut emissions by 13,100 metric tons per year.
  • RGGI investments will save state consumers $150 million in utility bills.
  • RGGI has led to the installation of 7.5MW of solar energy in New Jersey and created 1,800 job-years of employment.

RGGI's existing benefits to New Jersey are clear, but future potential benefits are even more significant by 2018, including:

  • Avoiding 127,000 metric tons of CO2 emissions annually, the equivalent of taking 24,300 passenger vehicles off the road.
  • Eliminating demand for 461 gigawatt-hours (GWh) of centrally generated electricity per year – enough to power 52,000 homes.
  • Installing up to 730MW of clean energy electricity generation, including 100MW of solar power and 95MW of combined heat-and-power capacity.
  • Up to $171 million in auction proceeds at current program levels and up to $680 million in auction proceeds if the program were strengthened.

"With data like this, the right choice is crystal clear: New Jersey should remain in RGGI and continue to reap the economic and environmental benefits for decades to come," said Matt Elliott of Environment New Jersey.

Legislation to reinstate New Jersey in RGGI has been passed by a State Assembly committee, but has not yet progressed to a full Assembly vote. A similar bill has been introduced in the State Senate by Senate President Stephen Sweeney.

Image courtesy of Mister Chou

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33,000 More Offshore Wind Power Jobs in Germany by 2021, Study Finds

Posted: 21 Feb 2012 12:00 PM PST

offshore wind farm

How about the U.S.? (OK, let’s not go there today.)

The news: A new study Price Waterhouse Coopers (PWC), Volle Kraft aus Hochseewind ("Full power from offshore wind"), has found that Germany will have a not-so-tiny 33,000 jobs in the offshore wind power sector by 2021! That’s 18,000 more than in 2010.

Even more good news: small and midsize companies will be providing about 90% of the added value, according to the report.

“In the fields of project development, the supply chain, construction services, and other services, I still see a lot of growth opportunity for midsize companies,” Thomas Ull, SME expert at PWC loan, said. Companies all over Germany, providing components for the offshore wind industry, would benefit.

In total, PWC estimates Germany will have 8.7 gigawatts (8,700 megawatts) of offshore wind power capacity up and running by 2021.

“Along the entire value chain from planners to equipment manufacturers and servicing technicians, revenue is to grow from 5.9 to 22.4 billion euros a decade from now – and that does not even include revenue from the sale of offshore wind power,” Regine Krüger and Craig Morris of Renewables International write.

Approximately 1,000 companies took part in a phone survey as part of this study.

(OK, I’ll come back to it—can we please make sure that the U.S. has at least a couple of offshore wind farms up by that time!? I know the Obama administration has done a lot on this front, as we’ve been covering for year, but we really need citizens to put more pressure on Congress and on local governments, and to bust the many wind power myths promoted in the U.S., if we are going to compete in this important green jobs and clean, renewable energy sector.)

Photo: offshore wind farm via shutterstock

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Japan’s Cosmo Oil Enters the EV Market

Posted: 21 Feb 2012 11:30 AM PST

Cosmo Oil is one of those companies that you see everywhere in Japan – a gas station on half the street corners kind of thing. They were, in fact, the only gas station I ever used while I lived there; the staff was friendly, they were super recognizable, and they were incredibly easy to find. Their move into the electric vehicle market gives me one more reason to be pleased with their service.

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Tesla Roadster Takes on Porsche 911 Carrera.. & Wins (Video)

Posted: 21 Feb 2012 11:00 AM PST

While hanging around the internet on a lazy Sunday, I found this little video of a Roadster taking on a 911 Carrera. It’s a lot of fun to watch, and while I suspect that in a longer race the gasoline-powered cars might have won, all we know for sure is that the EVs are awesome at getting off the line.

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Companies Could Save Tons with Electric Vehicles, MIT Study Finds

Posted: 21 Feb 2012 10:30 AM PST

If companies switched out gasoline-burning vehicles with new electric vehicles for their urban delivery fleets, a new MIT study has found that they could save some serious dineros.

"New MIT research suggests that electric delivery trucks, like this one, can help both the environment and the business bottom line."

“The study, conducted by researchers at MIT's Center for Transportation and Logistics (CTL), finds that electric vehicles can cost 9 to 12 percent less to operate than trucks powered by diesel engines, when used to make deliveries on an everyday basis in big cities,” the MIT News Office writes.

And, with battery costs continually coming down, “the case will only get better," says Jarrod Goentzel, director of the Renewable Energy Delivery Project at CTL and one of four co-authors of the new study.

The study also looked at potential savings if a vehicle-to-grid (V2G) system were implemented (“in which their batteries could be plugged into the electricity grid for 12 hours overnight, as an additional resource for providing reliable electricity to consumers”).

“After running the numbers for various scenarios in which trucks are parked at slightly different times overnight, the MIT team found that businesses could earn roughly $900 to $1,400 per truck per year in V2G revenues in current energy markets, representing a reduction of 7 to 11 percent in vehicle operating costs.” Nice.

Firms would also save money on fuel, and on maintenance, because electric trucks induce less wear and tear on brakes.

All told, the operational cost per mile — the basic metric all fleet managers use — would drop from 75 cents per mile to 68 cents per mile when V2G-enabled electric trucks are substituted for internal-combustion trucks. Moreover, as Goentzel notes, "almost all these costs scale down to the individual vehicle." Firms do not need fleets as big as 250 trucks to realize savings.

Yet again, we see that EVs are cost-competitive (well, cheaper) already. This apparently surprised some of the truck drivers, who have vowed to go electric and never go back.

Michael Payette, director of fleet equipment at Staples, found "no real surprises from a reliability perspective” and found that these findings matched up with his own, but said, “I was surprised by the drivers' acceptance, to the point where they do not ever want to drive a diesel [truck] again." Who would? (Oil trolls, please do not respond.)

Source: MIT | h/t REVE (& one of our awesome readers)
Photo courtesy of Staples via MIT (caption quote from MIT).

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1 comment:

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