RFK and Garbage Trucks: Two Measures of Success

Vincent V. in NYC writes: Garbage trucks are a major source of urban air pollution. One truck pollutes about as much as 350 cars. NYC has been moving to switch utility vehicles to hybrid tech (w/city buses & taxis), but not with garbage trucks.

There was a PR event yesterday at Union Sq for natural gas powered trucks: http://www.businesswire.com/portal/site/google/?ndmViewId=news_view&newsId=20080410006271&newsLang=en

But Volvo just introduced the first hybrid garbage truck in Sweden, which seems even better suited than CNG to congested environments like NYC. Garbage trucks idle for 60-70% of the time they're in use. But Volvo's hybrid shuts off completely, eliminating pollution and noise. (sorry for the autochannel.com spam...)

It would be great to push the NYC Dept of Sanitation to look into purchasing hybrid garbage trucks in their next round of ordering.

And under the fold, if you are needing a little inspiration/thinking, you'll find a brief speech by RFK on GDP and measuring success in America. :)

I saw part of the presentation in Stockholm. Even the hydraulics are silent, most of the noise were from the small wheels on the garbage can as it were rolled on the cobblstones. The hydraulics run on accumulators and the truck runs on accumulators below 20 km/h and then the diesel engine starts.

The technical people told me that the hybridization saves at least 20% of the diesel. I were told that the basic truck would be series produced in a year and the garbage truck within two years. Volvo has already demonstrated that they have engines for e95, e85, m85, biodiesel, DME, LNG and CNG and thus also biogas. (I might have forgoten one of the fuels. )

Hello all,

I have served in the military for twenty years and have followed the discussion concerning World fossil fuel supply and demand, climate change, and the rationale for conservation/efficiency measures and the development of 'alternative'/renewable energy sources for many years now.

I am a huge cheerleader for implementing strategies to achieve level-off of the world's population, investing in and implementing dramatic conservation and efficiency improvements, and transitioning the bulk of of energy production to CSP and PV, both industrial-scale and mass-distributed rooftop installations, wind, and geothermal. Biomass just doesn't make much sense on almost any level currently.

However, in the interest of a full and accurate discussion, I have some questions about the true nature of recoverable oil and gas reources:

Bakken Formation




Marcellus Formation



Haynesville Formation


Fayette, Haynesville, Barnett, Lower Huron


Here is a document claiming to back up the current Television commercial claiming that the United States has sufficient oil and natural gas to power 60 million cars and 120 million households for the next 60 years:


This claim that the United States can exploit its own oil and gas resources to power 60 million cars and heat 160 million houses for the next 60 years is indeed bold. If true, then the average 'Joe Lunchbucket' might think that Peak Oil will not begin to be an issue for at least 50 years...which is basically beyond most people's 'ability to care horzion'. Add to this the claim from cornucopians (or realists, depending on the point of view) that even more such discoveries yet remain in the World (wilds of Africa and Brazil, polar and deep-sea oils, heavy oil and tar sands, etc) to power everyone's standard of living (including the rising standards of living for all the new first-world contenders such as China, India, Brazil, etc) for 'hundreds of years'.

What say the best minds on TOD...does increased demand (and even more so, increased price, say above $200/barrel) unlock enormous new supplies, while simultaneously restraining demand growth? Is it true, does humanity have many generations to slowly perfect beyonf fossil fuel energy sources?

The ability to build fossil fuel extraction infrastructure is already a bottleneck. Retooling and retraining takes time even when it is extremely profitable. This means that extremely large resources at great depths in the sea or in very remote areas or in forms that needs lots of processing like Canadian tar sands wont matter much in the short and medium term. And what will the effects of the accelerated CO2 emissions be?

There is an awful lot of "ifs" and "coulds" in those links. But no "when" and "how".

Don't belive the hype.

You can find estimates online that only 1% of the Bakken oil is technically recoverable. Hey, doubling that using an amazing feat of unknown technology would give you 2% recoverable oil.

Now, asking the pros on The Oil Drum: Is a 100 000 barrels of total production from a single well good? Not per day. Total lifetime of well. I don't think so. A pretty normal offshore well produces 10 000 barrels per day, not for ten days, but for a few years. just goes to show how difficult it will be to produce Bakken. Can anyone spell "rig count"?

It's not great, but would likely be proftable, depending on the IP and well cost. Some quick and dirty economics I use are that it takes ~20,000 bbls of reserves to payout for each $1 million you spend on the well. This is considering royalties and taxes which take a big chunk right off the top of $100 oil. So... If this was a 7,500' well for $1.5 million, with an expected IP over say 100 boe/d I might drill it, depending on my other opportunities, but if it were a $4 million deep well, it would probably not be drilled.

What is not widely understood is that the USA is quickly being surpassed by China as the #1 consumer marketplace. At current rates, Chinese auto sales will surpass USA auto sales in three years. USA stats like GDP can be manipulated indefinitely, but it appears that China will eventually become by far the largest market for every product or commodity. The conclusion is that lowered demand in the USA will increasingly become irrelevant to global commodity demand, year by year.

This claim that the United States can exploit its own oil and gas resources to power 60 million cars and heat 160 million houses for the next 60 years is indeed bold.

Not really. A better word would be "irrelevant".

60 million cars sounds like a lot, until you realize that there are 250 million cars in the US. So if somebody's talking about a wholly arbitrary number like 60 million, you should be curious about what their agenda is.

At 250 million cars, that 60 years is down to 14, which doesn't sound quite as impressive.

Much the same sleight of hand is being done with their natural gas figure. 160 million households sounds like a lot - and it is - until you realize that households consume only 1/3 of natural gas in the US.

Is it true, does humanity have many generations to slowly perfect beyonf fossil fuel energy sources?

Probably not, but neither is it likely the process will take many generations. The requisite technologies are advanced enough that a changeover within a generation is entirely possible, with a few small exceptions (air and possibly sea travel).

At 250 million cars, that 60 years is down to 14, which doesn't sound quite as impressive.

Nobody knows what the crisis of high fuel prices will get the number of cars down to. the number of cars is not that relevant it's how many are on the road at a given time and etc.

If the number of cars isn't relevant, then why would the person saying "60 million for 60 years!" mention them?

Point is, it's a dodgy claim.

The rising cost of oil raises the cost of everything else eventually and that includes the cost of new oil wells. $200 bbl will not open up enormous new supplies of petroleum but will lead to enormous political demand for investment in renewables and energy efficiency. Investment in a wind farm has a greater chance of providing energy to the market than poking new holes in the ground. There is a very small window of opportunity that exists before these increased costs kick in. That is why we shouldn't wait for the economics to be right before making substantial investments in alternatives to fossil fuels. The size of the need is so large that it will take decades to adapt to the shortfall in oil supply and waiting for the market to decide how and when to change will only make things worse.

Simple answer is no it does not, main reason, these formations will all kick in very likely after the world peak so the problem will be there an all they will do is offset some declines elsewhere. The main reason is in the media and in many energy organizations there is a lack of understanding between a "flow" and a "stock." These formations all will have a proportionally very small rate of production compared to the reserves which are not anything amazing. It's akin to two 8 years olds sucking milk out of cartons, 1 has a coffee straw and the other a giant super straw. These reserves are like the kid with the coffee straw. Not even the super optimistic EIA and IEA think we have anywhere close to 60 years of BAU.

Given your background in military I like to ask do that "strategies to achieve level-off of the world's population" include martyring a few million in regions of high oil reserves?

Biomass just doesn't make much sense on almost any level currently.

I agree with you there. It do not make any sense anyway. Feeding human and animal food to cars is purely an evil act.

This claim that the United States can exploit its own oil and gas resources to power 60 million cars and heat 160 million houses for the next 60 years is indeed bold.

If there was anyway to meet the domestic demands of oil in usa domestically after usa's peak oil and especially after oil price increases of 1979 usa would have done that given the deepened cold war period and the volatile years of late 1970s and early 1980s. When usa was not able to do so 25 years ago it can't do that now when usa production has declined further and rest-of-the-world's demand has increased a lot.

I think we can have a rough estimate of world's fossil fuel reserves by estimating carbon di oxide percentage in air before fossil fuel production has started.

What say the best minds on TOD...does increased demand (and even more so, increased price, say above $200/barrel) unlock enormous new supplies, while simultaneously restraining demand growth? Is it true, does humanity have many generations to slowly perfect beyonf fossil fuel energy sources?

If there is any such region where a major discovery of oil reserves is expected then the usa army would have established its military basis over there already. Right now usa army is using its energy and prestige in iraq and caspian sea area so that seems like the place with greatest existing oil reserves.

Water diviners use sticks to find water. Are you saying we could use the US military to find oil in the same way? :D

I just told the most efficient and effective way to find oil.

I had never heard that RFK speech. Really, really good.

Agreed - nice sentiments.

Somewhat coincidentally there is this article in the current Time magazine on the use of GDP.


As a daily cyclist in London, we could really use some hybrid vehicles here! The diesel pollution is horrendous. A lot of it is from taxis and trucks/lorries accelerating rapidly for just a hundred meters up to the next light or speed bump and then sharply braking. Diesel pollution performance is horrible under these conditions. And then all this sturm and drang is a complete waste, as I end up pulling around these idiots at the next red light. I really wish I could blow a fart in their general direction, but to make as much of an impression as they do on me, I would need absolutely towering butt cheeks...

I would agree with this comment. A lot of it is HOW the truck driver operates his vehicle. Around here, I believe that the drivers and loaders have a specific route. They get paid to complete that route. The faster they do it, the earlier they get to leave work. I've seen my driver come hauling butt down the road, send the 10 ton truck into a drift, skidding to a stop. The loaders jump off, empty the cans into the truck as quickly as possible (usually spilling garbage), toss the cans back towards the driveway (sometimes, the cans are left in the road) Meanwhile, as the driver is gunning the engine, they jump back on, and the driver floors it, taking off in a cloud of diesel soot.

I'd imagine that's REALLY hard on a rather expensive truck.

No fair. These guys have a plugless PHEV,and I can't even buy a Chevy Volt yet.


"Ooops. Nearly forgot to add how eBox "greens" your wallet. The typical auto is driven 1 or 2 hours per day on average. For the remaining hours, assuming the eBox can 'plug and play' at a regular parking spot, each owner will earn several thousand dollars per year, it is estimated. And yes, the battery will still be charged when you need to drive home."


Magnus Redin, Cornucopia, and BryanT and everyone else:

I heave been reading TOD and numerous other web media and own and read numerous books on Peak Oil and alternative energy for years.

I will go straight to my point: Interests in the United States clearly opposed to anything more than lip service to significant energy efficiency improvements or serious development of renewable energy sources have been running very slick television commercials (even as we speak)claiming that the US has plenty sufficient oil and natural gas to sustain our needs for at least 60 years...all is well, all is hunk-dory. Don't worry-be happy, those nay-sayers and doomers simply don't understand the situation. It's morning in America folks, all over again...brook no talk of change, sacrifice, or anything less than your inalienable right to consume all you want.

The people with the case to make for Peak Oil and the things we need to do to transition to a sustainable ecomony are losing the contest of ideas in the average joe Americans' understanding of how the World works.

Trust me, there are many, many college-educated, intelligent-seeming people who are entrusted with operating the most expensive war machines and weilding the most awesome weaponry who will look you right in the eye with a straight face and claim: "...there is enough oil in the world to last for millions of years..." They them claim that all the oil and gas scaricity talk amounts to scare tactics from 'left-wing' 'bleeding heart liberals' who want to wreck American society by taking away our freedoms to do what we want and implement socialist subsidies to chase pipe dreams of wind and solar energy that will always be too expensive to be practical.

I have heard this for twenty years. I do not know what the answer is. How can we convince the masses, who are more interested in American Idol and driving to the mall, that there is a PO problem? How can this message be conveyed when interests invested in trillions of dollars of existing oil, gas, and coal (and now ethanol) infrastructre will spend any amount of money to say anything to counter the PO and climate change message?

Who in Congress 'gets it'?

Which likeley candidate to be the next President will have the insight and courage to lead the country in the right direction?

"I have heard this for twenty years. I do not know what the answer is."

At least you're honest about it Ben. Some people run their mouths,while others lead by example.

Yikes! Gore is an energy glutton. Now compare this to President Bush's comparatively modest home in Crawford, Texas, which is a model of environmental friendliness:


Hmmm... How much energy does an Aircraft carrier group use? Sometimes leading by policy example in far more important.

I dunno how much energy a carrier group uses, but according to this Energy Bulletin article, the US DoD is the world's single largest customer for oil. Apparently they spent $17 billion on it in 2006, making it a minimum of $17 billion / $66/bbl = 257Mbbl for the year - but of course they don't buy crude, so it'll be less than that in actual volume of fuel.

That doesn't seem right Kiashu. The U.S. spends over $750 billion on oil each year. Surely a military that defends the worlds largest,as well as the 3rd and 4th largest economies in the world (Japan and Germany) uses more then 2 1/2% of that. I do know the D.O.D. funds a lot of research into alternative fuels. They're pushing a move into space-based solar energy,among other things.

With a dollar burn rate going to mercenary's and ineffective nuke interceptors and inability to tax the 3rd and 4th largest economies in the world - the DOD wont be funding anything else for long very soon.

I said that, "the US DoD is the world's single largest customer for oil". Whole countries don't buy oil, except perhaps North Korea, lots of different companies buy the stuff.

There's a difference between saying that this or that country is the largest consumer of oil, and that this or that company or government department is the largest customer for oil.

I guess my initial reaction is that this is more a band-aid to prop up BAU for a bit longer. Here's an idea for how to reduce fuel consumption for garbage trucks by 50% - instead of two collections a week, how about one collection a week.

Most people generate far too much trash as it is. Buying too much stuff, too much packaging for the stuff we do buy. Recycling is fine (to a point), but choosing to not purchase things like beverages in single-use containers is a better answer.

When I used to live alone, I would only need to put out the trash once a month or so. I guess I never really threw away stuff that would stink either, so I didn't have any problems in that area. Yet my neighbors would have the bin out at the curb twice a week - apparently stuffed full. With what I don't know.

The one I got to see had two compartments for different fractions.

The solutions need to be combined, take your 0.5 savings X 0,8 hybridization X locally produced biofuel.

I guess my initial reaction is that this is more a band-aid to prop up BAU for a bit longer.

My lord, you guys are obsessed with this concept BAU. this isn't a band-aid, it's a natural reaction to global warming, pollution ,higher prices and declining oil supplies. they very idea of a garbage truck shows we aren't going about with BAU. maybe they will go to rash collection once a week?

Garbage trucks are a major source of urban air pollution. One truck pollutes about as much as 350 cars.


1) That number 350 seems far from reality, 35 to 70 seems closer number given the mass, miles traveled per day etc of garbage truck vs cars.

2) How many garbage trucks are operating per thousand cars? It need to be atleast one to be a "major source of pollution".

3) If new hybrid garbage trucks are replacing old ones that have to be replaced anyways then only it help reducing pollution otherwise if its replacing fully functional non-hybrid garbage trucks then there is no reduction in pollution on global scale (though there can be at local level assuming the garbage trucks are not constructed in the city where its used) considering that construction of garbage trucks might have used more energy than the garbage truck would use in its entire life, I know the number in case of cars is 5 (meaning construction of car use 5 times the amount of energy that the car will use in its entire life), not know for garbage trucks but I assume its more than 1.

(4) If its not replacement but just addition in existing fleet of garbage trucks then it results in increase in pollution both at global scale (by construction of new garbage trucks) and local scale (by addition of new garbage trucks).

we can't just have a single good development, can we? can't we be happy about something?

I'll call your good development; and, raise you one.

This is an interesting development in "trash to ethanol" technology:


Looks very "energy efficient."

My good development is this: my household produces 10% the average rubbish and recyling, and none of the organic waste. So if everyone were like us, there'd be 90% reductions from garbage trucks :D

It occurs to me that every trip we take TO a grocery store is, to some degree, wasted, save that it gets US to the store.. but what if we were carrying some payload in both directions on those trips?

Instead of having massive trucks frequently trolling every neighborhood in the developed world, It would be worth considering having central collection sites instead, as some towns have for their recycling materials, with bins for different categories. I know we are used to having the convenience, as well as the dogs ripping bags up on the sidewalks, the noises of cans crashing 45min before the alarm goes off, and the added wear and tear on our streets.. but it is an expensive cultural assumption we've saddled ourselves with.