Electric, hybrid and small cars will grab center stage at the Detroit auto show this week, as the industry adapts to a world reshaped by the Great Recession and environmental worries.
The event will demonstrate just how automakers are responding to this new reality. Ford wants to build on its success in midsize sedans and re-ignite its small car sales, while Hyundai aims to extend last year’s triumph in budget-conscious models. GM and Chrysler will start fresh with electric vehicles but also try to boost their small-car credibility. Toyota hopes to solidify its dominance in hybrids. [An October AP file photo shows the Nissan Leaf and CEO Ghosn.]
The new crop of models must be successful if automakers are to reverse last year’s 21 percent sales plunge. Mounting job losses, GM and Chrysler’s bankruptcy filings and the death of several iconic brands sent sales skidding to their lowest level since 1982.
Americans feel less wealthy – and more certain that the trend toward higher fuel prices remains a threat. It’s a change U.S. automakers were slow to embrace – and it cost them the last two years as gas prices surged and consumers stopped spending. Most Japanese and European car makers were also caught in the sales downdraft, even though they depended less on pickup trucks.
In 2010, with frugality embedded in drivers’ minds, automakers want to show off new versions of smaller, less expensive cars, many of which get 40 mpg on highways. That also appeals to motorists concerned about climate change.
The Obama administration will announce on Monday funding for nine projects designed to significantly increase fuel efficiency in heavy trucks and passenger vehicles, with more than half the money coming from the $787 billion stimulus package.
Energy Secretary Stephen Chu will detail the projects during a ceremony in Columbus, Ind., home of Cummins Inc., which is to receive nearly $40 million to develop a more efficient and cleaner diesel engine, a more aerodynamic long-haul truck cab and trailer, and a fuel cell that would deliver auxiliary power to reduce engine idling while the vehicle was not on the road.
The White House said the nine projects would receive $187 million from the federal government, with more than $100 million coming from stimulus funds and the remainder from DOE appropriations. Recipients are expected to match government funding, creating a total investment of $375 million in the projects.
According to the administration, the nine recipients are expected to create more than 500 research, engineering and management jobs, with 6,000 more positions anticipated when the technologies go into production and assembly.
In detailing the project awards, the administration said the new technologies, when in broad use, “could save more than 100 million gallons of oil per day and reduce carbon emissions from on-road vehicles by 20 percent by 2030.”
Three of the projects, receiving $115 million, are aimed at improving long-haul truck fuel efficiency by 50 percent, with new designs to be ready by 2015.
In additions to Cummins, Daimler Trucks North America LLC, of Portland, Ore., will receive nearly $40 million; Navistar Inc., of Fort Wayne, Ind., is in line for $27.3 million.
The remaining six projects for passenger vehicles will spread more than $71 million among Chrysler, Ford, General Motors, Delphi Automotive Systems, Robert Bosch and a second Cummins project.
The money will go to companies based in economically hard-hit Michigan and Indiana, with the exception of Daimler Trucks.
Canadians believe climate change poses a significantly bigger threat to the “vital interests” of this country over the next decade than international terrorism, a new poll suggests.
While nearly half of those surveyed said climate change is a “critical threat,” only about one in four people said the same about international terrorism. A similar poll conducted in 2004 showed Canadians believed the two threats were about equal.
The results come from a survey commissioned by the Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute and conducted by the Innovative Research Group, Inc. between Dec. 22, 2009, and Jan. 4, 2010.
Canadians were asked about their “threat perceptions” on a number of issues. While fears about climate change remained relatively stable, falling 3% from 52% in 2004 to 49% in 2010, international terrorism tumbled from 49% in 2004 to 28% in 2010.
Lt.-Gen Michael Jeffery, a senior research fellow for the institute, said the reason for the shift is that the threat of terrorism is not on the front burner for many Canadians. Lt.-Gen Jeffery, the former chief of the land staff with the Canadian Forces, said that is a “dangerous perception.”
He said that while the events of 9/11 were relatively fresh in the minds of citizens in 2004, almost a decade later, they have been buried by other concerns.
“Canadians are blessed by living in a secure environment. They have been for a couple of centuries. All of the major threats have been on other people’s shores, not here, and that’s great,” Lt.-Gen Jeffery said.
“We are not aware that the world around us has changed and is continuing to change, and emerging from that very, very different world are increasing threats to Canada, Canadians and our way of life.”
Lt.-Gen Jeffery said that growing hatred and violence from extremist Islamic groups toward the West presents an uphill battle for Canada’s leaders — and not a muted threat as the survey would suggest.
“The reality is that the extremist elements of certain cultures are exporting their value systems around the world,” he said. “They are going to use whatever means, and whatever violence necessary, to see their value system in place. I really believe that’s what we’re facing.”
He added that he didn’t want to incite fear or panic, but rather to address underlying issues and begin a process of international development and change.
“It really is up to the leadership, political or otherwise, to educate society about what those risks are, and to move to policies — both domestically and internationally — that start to deal with the underlying root causes,” Lt.-Gen Jeffery said.
“What we want is a society that is aware, that knows these threats are there and sees them for what they are, and is prepared to support a government in dealing with those threats in a logical fashion.”
Lt.-Gen Jeffery also said the government should take a more dominant role in combating climate change, through environmental policies and international trade agreements.
The poll also found an increasing concern about immigration. The percentage of Canadians who believe large numbers of immigrants and refugees pose a critical threat rose slightly, from 21% in 2004 to 27% in 2010. Other categories were on the decline, with globalization falling from 28% to 19%, and potential epidemics such as AIDS and flu plummeting from 60% in 2004 to 16% this year. Lt.-Gen Jeffery said the perception in the recent survey, as opposed to 2004 after the SARS era, was that the government was more prepared to deal with epidemics.
The online survey was conducted among current members of Innovative’s Canada 20/20 panel, recruited from a wide variety of sources that represent Canadians by age, sex, region and language. The sample included 1,229 responses, with a margin of error of 2.8 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.
Pope Benedict XVI denounced the failure of world leaders to agree to a new climate change treaty in Copenhagen last month, saying Monday that world peace depends on safeguarding God’s creation.
He issued the admonition in a speech to ambassadors accredited to the Vatican, an annual appointment during which the pontiff reflects on issues the Vatican wants to highlight to the diplomatic corps.
Benedict has been dubbed the ”green pope” for his increasingly vocal concern about the need to protect the environment. Under his watch, the Vatican has installed photovoltaic cells on its main auditorium to convert sunlight into electricity and has joined a reforestation project aimed at offsetting its CO2 emissions.
For the pontiff, it’s a moral issue: Church teaching holds that man must respect creation because it’s destined for the benefit of humanity’s future.
In his speech, the pontiff criticized the ”economic and political resistance” to fighting environmental degradation and creating a new climate treaty at last month’s negotiations in Copenhagen.
Officials from 193 countries met at the summit, which ended Dec. 19 having failed to produce a successor treaty to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. It produced instead a non-biding accord that included few concrete steps to combat global warming.
The Copenhagen summit did set up the first significant program of ensuring aid to help poorer nations cope with the effects of a changing climate. But while the accord urged deeper cuts in emissions of carbon dioxide and other gases blamed for global warming, it did nothing to demand them.
”I trust that in the course of this year … it will be possible to reach an agreement for effectively dealing with this question,” Benedict said.
He said the issue was particularly critical for island nations and in places like Africa, where the battle for resources, increased desertification and over-exploitation of land has resulted in wars.
”To cultivate peace, one must protect creation!” Benedict told the ambassadors, many of whom wore their national dress or medal-draped formal attire for the audience in the frescoed Sala Regia of the Vatican’s apostolic palace.
The pontiff said the same ”self-centered and materialistic” way of thinking that sparked the worldwide financial meltdown was also endangering creation. To combat it will require a new way of thinking and a new lifestyle — and an acknowledgment that the question is a moral one, he said.
”The protection of creation is not principally a response to an aesthetic need, but much more to a moral need, inasmuch as nature expresses a plan of love and truth which is prior to us and which comes from God,” he said.
To illustrate his point, the German-born pope pointed to the experiences of eastern Europe under the ”materialistic and atheistic regimes” of the former Soviet bloc.
”Was it not easy to see the great harm which an economic system lacking any reference to the truth about man had done not only to the dignity and freedom of individuals and peoples, but to nature itself, by polluting soil, water and air?” he asked.
”The denial of God distorts the freedom of the human person, yet it also devastates creation.”
The fight against climate”„change and securing biodiversity is crucial to preventing costly environmental damage, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Monday.
“Copenhagen hasn’t made us optimistic,” Merkel said at an environmental event on biodiversity. “But we will go on. There is no alternative to it.”
Her comments come after the disappointing outcome of the United Nations- sponsored climate”„summit in December, which ended with a face-saving note and no agreement on binding targets on how to reduce greenhouse”„gas”„emissions.
Merkel said the issue of “maintaining biological diversity has the same significance as maintaining climate protection.”
She added that it is clear that the world will face “enormous costs” if no action is taken.
The most ambitious offshore wind project in the world would see 6,400 turbines built around the coast by 2020 – the equivalent of building almost two turbines every day for the next ten years.
In the most significant boost for industry in the UK since the exploration of North Sea oil in the 1970s, the Prime Minister announced the power companies that will raise around £100bn to construct the new turbines including major players like E. ON, RWE Npower, Scottish Power and Centrica.
The turbines will be built in nine zones including sites in the Irish Sea, the Bristol Channel, the Moray Firth, the Firth of Forth, off the coast of Norfolk and west of the Isle of Wight. Construction could begin by 2013.
Mr Brown said the project could provide 32GW of power, enough to meet more than a quarter of the country’s electricity needs and replace the power lost as ageing coal and nuclear plants close down.
But energy companies have warned that the only way to transport the electricity to land is to build a massive “supergrid” in the North Sea with Denmark, Germany and Norway. The multi-billion pound grid will also deal with the peaks and troughs caused by the intermittent nature of wind by spreading the supply of energy across a greater area when the wind blows and taking advantage from back up supplies when it is still.
Energy experts also said the UK will need to build a “gigantic new harbour”, somewhere like the Humber Estuary, to deal with the equipment needed to build the turbines as well as new boats and an apprenticeship programme to deal with the skills shortage in engineering.
However Mr Brown was confident that Britain could provide the infrastructure to unlock “one of the great untapped resources of the world”.
In a bid to boost his industry credentials before the election, the Labour leader said the Government would encourage manufacturers to build component parts in Britain, invest in research and construct the necessary equipment like new ports.
“Our policies in support of offshore wind energy have already put us ahead of every other country in the whorl,” he said. “This new round of licences provides a substantial new platform for investing in UK industrial capacity.
“The offshore wind industry is at the heart of the UK economy’s shift to low carbon and could be worth £75 billion and support up to 70,000 jobs by 2020.”
Eddie O’ Connor, Chief Executive of Mainstream Renewable Power, one of the companies that will be building turbines, said the UK will also have to be part or a “supergrid” with the rest of Europe to transport the energy to shore. The network, made up of thousands of miles of highly efficient undersea cables, would initially be a basic connection with other countries off the North Sea to enable the wind power to start flowing from 2020. Eventually it could spread across the whole of northern Europe and cost hundreds of billions of pounds.
Mr O’Conner was confident the wind industry could deliver in “record time” as long as the necessary infrastructure is in place.
“To see this vision realised we need a commitment to a new supergrid, the skills shortage needs to be addressed and we need a gigantic new harbour,” he said.
The UK Government is in discussion with other European countries, including France, Ireland and Sweden, about setting up the supergrid.
Energy companies, environment groups and trade unions as a whole welcomed the announcement as an opportunity to boost manufacturing and jobs whilst helping the UK meet climate change targets to cut emissions from fossil fuels.
However there were concerns over the cost of the project, especially as energy companies are heavily indebted and subsidies for wind are not laid out until 2020. After Britain’s only wind turbine plant, Vestas on the Isle of Wight, closed last year there were also concerns jobs would go abroad because of a lack of capacity.
Dr Neil Bentley, CBI Director of Business Environment, said wind development could be as important as North Sea oil to the economy – if it is done right.
“Although the development of the UK’s offshore wind market could potentially create huge opportunities, there are a number of supply chain challenges,” he said. “These include the shortage of skilled engineers, ramping up turbine manufacturing capacity to meet demand, and getting the turbines connected to the grid.”
Nick Rau, Friends of the Earth’s renewable energy campaigner, said the Government must do more to support green technology.
“Plans to build thousands of offshore turbines are fantastic news – but the Government must do more to develop the UK’s vast wind energy potential and ensure that Britain reaps the benefits of creating thousands of new green jobs,” he said.
Greg Clark, Tory spokesman on energy and climate change, said much of the manufacturing will go abroad.
“Offshore wind can make a significant contribution to reducing our carbon emissions and providing home-grown energy,” he said.
“Labour’s boasts about green jobs ring hollow however as much of the money will be spent overseas.
“Britain has some of the best natural resources in the world for wave, tidal and wind power but Labour’s lack of action on renewable energy means that Britain has lost its leading position and is now losing jobs and business too.”