Springer Online Journal Archives 1860-2000
Abstract A model of the U.S. automobile market is used to test the role that natural gas vehicles (NGVs) might play in reducing greenhouse-gas emissions. Since natural gas (primarily methane) emits less CO2 per unit of energy than petroleum products, NGVs are an obvious pathway to lower CO2 emissions. High-and low-demand scenarios are used to forecast the emissions from unrestricted growth and a modest program of conservation, respectively. Based on these scenarios, a reference scenario is developed that projects a possible future path of automobile use and efficiency. It is found that without a dramatic increase in automobile use, fuel consumption and greenhouse-gas emissions from automobiles in the United States will probably decrease in the future, provided that efficiency continues to improve at modest rates. In theory, NGVs can help shift emissions even further down. A second objective is to quantify the role that leaking methane might play in offsetting some of the greenhouse advantages of NGVs. To do this, a simple atmospheric chemistry model is applied to the reference scenario; several leak rates and feedback factors are used to test the sensitivity of the projected green-house forcing from now until 2050. Committed warming beyond 2050 is not included, and the results should be interpreted with that in mind. It is highly unlikely that switching automobiles from gasoline to natural gas will appreciably lower future greenhouse forcing. Constraints on vehicle miles travelled as well as continued improvements in vehicle efficiency will make a much larger contribution towards controlling global warming.
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