Energy and Global Warming News for January 21: Over 80 U.S. companies call on Obama & Congress to enact comprehensive climate and energy legislation; Toyota secures long-term lithium supply for batteries

Over 80 U.S. Companies Call on Obama & Congress to Enact Comprehensive Climate and Energy Legislation

More than 80 leading CEOs from U.S. businesses, including Exelon, Virgin America, NRG Energy, eBay and PG&E, sent a letter to President Obama and members of Congress today calling on them to move quickly to enact comprehensive climate and energy legislation that will create jobs and enhance U.S. competitiveness.

Saying that the U.S. is “falling behind” in the global clean energy race, the letter calls for forceful leadership to achieve legislation that will unleash innovation, drive economic growth, boost energy independence and decrease our carbon emissions. The letter comes just one week before President Obama delivers his State of the Union address on January 27th.

“American businesses recognize this challenge and have already begun to respond and innovate. However, today’s uncertainty surrounding energy and climate regulation is hindering the large-scale actions that American businesses are poised to make,” the letter states. “We need strong policies and clear market signals that support the transition to a low-carbon economy and reward companies that innovate. It is time for the Administration and Congress to embrace this policy as the promising economic opportunity that will empower American workers to compete and American entrepreneurship to lead the way.”

The letter was signed by 83 CEOs from some of the nation’s largest electric power, manufacturing, clean tech, technology and consumer facing companies. To view the full text and the list of signatories please go to:

“The United States can’t afford to fall behind in the global race to lead the new energy economy,” said Jonathan Wolfson, CEO of Solazyme, a leading renewable oil and bioproducts company. “American businesses have a history of leadership and innovation and are poised to do that in a new clean energy economy.”

“Power companies need and want to be part of America’s clean energy transition,” said David Crane, president and CEO of NRG Energy Inc., which owns and operates more than 24,000 megawatts of electricity generation capacity in the U.S. “But we need the certainty of clear rules and strong policies that will help us invest in that transition while also addressing climate change and keeping power affordable.”

“The same inventive solutions that will help the environment will also help move the airline industry forward,” said David Cush, president and CEO of Virgin America, a U.S. commercial passenger airline. “Big challenges have historically propelled more innovation and greater efficiencies. Strong climate and energy policies can be that challenge  one from which we will all emerge stronger.”

“Smart businesses can only do so much on their own to address climate change,” said Stonyfield Farm CEO Gary Hirshberg. “At this point, the rules need to change: there needs to be a price or tax on carbon. This incentive for genuine innovation needs to be firmly in place in order for the US to compete effectively in the global race to a clean energy economy.”

Peter A. Darbee, Chairman, CEO and President of PG&E Corporation said, “As the country looks to ways to support job creation, promote economic growth, and improve energy and national security, it’s clear to leading businesses that smart, sensible energy and climate policies can and should be part of the solution. We are asking leaders to recognize this opportunity and make it a reality.”

Toyota secures long-term lithium supply for batteries

Toyota Tsusho Corp., a key supplier for Toyota Motor Corp., secured loans for a stake in an Argentina-based lithium project, with production planned for 2012.

The investment, valued at $100 million to $120 million, would give Toyota and Japanese battery makers a steady supply of lithium, used in hybrid and electric car batteries, rather than leave them at the mercy of producers as global supplies dwindle. The move is a first in the global search for electric-car age resources.

Toyota Tsusho will pay for a feasibility study and then take a 25 percent stake in the Australian-listed Orocobre Ltd. project. Lithium is only found in a few locations where weather and geography make extraction easy, and Orocobre’s supplies are located near the rich deposits in Chile.

But like with oil fields, rapid extraction to increase short-term production can harm long-term productivity, said James Calaway, Orocobre chairman.

Japanese electronics makers already control the majority of the lithium-ion battery market. Toshiba Corp., Hitachi Co. and NEC Corp. all have invested in automotive uses, while Panasonic Corp. owns a majority stake in Sanyo Electric Co., the world’s top supplier of lithium-ion batteries

T. Boone Pickens Tweaks His Energy Plan

T. Boone Pickens, the Texas billionaire, got his first car, a 1942 Ford, in 1946. But in an interview today at The New York Times, he made it plain that the national romance with the automobile was beyond his reckoning. “America is nuts about cars,” he said. “I don’t quite understand this thing about horsepower. Cars are not a big deal to me, but they are a big deal to a lot of people.”

Nevertheless, the Pickens plan he began in 2008 seeks to transform the way Americans drive by powering vehicles with what he calls our “abundance of clean, cheap, domestic natural gas.” But, in New York, Mr. Pickens said he was refocusing the plan, not only de-emphasizing wind energy, but also turning his natural gas focus from cars and pickup trucks to big commercial vehicles, including buses and the 18-wheelers that move American freight.

“We have to target the heavy-duty vehicles, which is where you can get the volume,” Mr. Pickens said. He said he had been meeting with large trucking companies, hoping to persuade them to switch at least part of their fleets to natural gas. Mr. Pickens said he once explained to Al Gore that battery propulsion was not likely to work well for large trucks. “Natural gas is 130-octane fuel, and it is 25 percent cleaner than diesel,” he said.
Mr. Pickens drives a natural gas-burning Honda Civic GX, he said, but he appears to be backing away from trying to put its equivalent in American driveways. Mr. Pickens, who has met with President Obama about his plan, likes the idea of requiring large freight haulers to run on domestic fuel. And he’s not talking about ethanol. “Ethanol is a stupid fuel,” he said.

Mr. Pickens is a supporter of legislation introduced last April that, among other provisions, offers new and stronger tax credits for purchasers of natural gas cars and the companies that produce them. The legislation, H.R. 1835, would also require 50 percent of new federal government vehicles bought before the end of 2014 to be capable of operating on either compressed or liquefied natural gas. “It has 127 co-sponsors,” he said.

How to make a play in the smart electrical grid: executives

The sector includes high-flying start-ups and heavily regulated utilities. Technology giants like Google Inc and Microsoft also are moving to the area.

“This is changing. It’s going to take some time … It’s the first inning and we got to make sure these early projects are really flawless,” said Scott Lang, president and chief executive at Silver Spring Networks, speaking at the Clean-tech Investor Summit being held this week in Palm Springs.

The privately-held Silver Spring Networks is smart grid networking company and is often cited as a candidate for an initial public offering.

The smart grid will allow two-way communications between utilities and their customers. Analysts have said it will marry clean power, electric vehicles, advanced meters, and power storage into a seamless network, modernizing thousands of miles of outdated power lines and allowing for more efficient energy use.

Increased momentum for smart grid technology helped push power storage and energy efficiency stocks to perform the best on the WilderHill New Energy Global Innovation Index in 2009, which tracks the performance of 86 global clean energy stocks.

The sector also has seen a boost from the Obama administration, which announced a $3.4 billion package in 2009 to help build a smart electric grid meant to trim utility bills, reduce blackouts and carry power generated by solar and wind energy.

“The scale is even bigger than the Internet … but the speed of adoption is still going to be slow,” said Adrian Tuck, chief executive at Tendril, a Boulder, Colorado-based smart grid company that GE recently acquired a stake in.

Yet risk-averse utilities and still emerging technologies pose challenges to the smart grid, often likened to the Internetization of how energy is moved and managed.

“There is very little tolerance for problems in this industry and I think that’s what distinguishes it from the telecom industry,” said Anne Pramaggiore, president and COO at Exelon Corp’s ComEd.

Pramaggiore explained that in the early days of cellphones consumers tolerated dropped calls, but consumers of electricity might not be so tolerant of problems with new smart grid technology.

Scenarios: How Obama can re-energize his climate policy

The Democratic president came to office promising to seek comprehensive energy and environmental reforms, including the passage of a cap and trade bill to reduce carbon dioxide emissions blamed for global warming.

But the U.S. Senate — historically a burial ground for many presidential initiatives — hasn’t yet responded to Obama’s call.

Here are some possibilities for Obama regaining momentum:


Senator John Kerry has been working with Republicans and independents in the Senate on a grand compromise bill that would include cap and trade, expanded domestic oil and gas drilling and added incentives for nuclear power.

But cap and trade has many opponents. It would require industry to reduce its carbon pollution over the next 40 years and require companies to hold permits for every tonne they emit. Those permits could be traded on a regulated market. Opponents say it will drive jobs abroad and raise U.S. consumer prices.

Some Democratic leaders are now raising the possibility of passing just part of a comprehensive energy policy — the less controversial part, such as incentives for utilities and others to use more alternative fuels such as wind and solar power.

That would leave the door open for possibly debating cap and trade, or another approach to lowering carbon emissions, for another time.


A special election on Tuesday resulted in Republicans picking up a seat in the Senate and robbing Democrats of the supermajority of 60 that they needed to overcome roadblocks.

As a result, Obama is staring down the possibility that his leading initiative, healthcare reform, may not pass.

Some Congress-watchers think that as a result, Obama and his fellow Democrats in Congress should try to regain momentum in Washington by scoring a quick victory on something, such as an energy/environment initiative that recent polls show the public supports.

“If healthcare is not dead, it’s awfully close to sleeping for a while and the agenda is going to have to focus on someplace they can win. They need to post some points and quick, no matter what. Time is running out,” said Kevin Book, an analyst at ClearView Energy Partners in Washington.

As the year wears on, Democrats’ hopes of getting major bills passed diminish as the November congressional elections further politicize debates.

15 Responses to Energy and Global Warming News for January 21: Over 80 U.S. companies call on Obama & Congress to enact comprehensive climate and energy legislation; Toyota secures long-term lithium supply for batteries

  1. Sergi Melzar says:

    So this is the list of companies that want handouts? Going to the pork trough.

  2. anniversary says:

    Investors urge governments to take immediate action on climate change

    First major gathering of business leaders since Copenhagen warn of lost opportunity to create low-carbon economy
    Over 450 investors controlling $13tn of assets yesterday urged world governments to pre-empt an international climate change treaty and take immediate action on global warming, or risk losing the opportunity to establish a clean and sustainable low-carbon economy.

    Everything else seems to be a threat to national security.

  3. Dean says:

    What does todays’ horrible SC decision on corporate activity in elections mean for climate issues? Will reps who favor strong action now be targeted by far more negative ads accusing them of pushing people’s gas and heating costs up?

  4. John McCormick says:


    you asked:

    What does today’s horrible Supreme Court (the height of irony) decision on corporate activity in elections mean for climate issues?

    The answer is, for anyone reading and comprehending…. the game is over. We Democrats and environmental activists have lost the last fight.

    The outcome of the Massachusetts Senate race and now this Supreme Court decision have put the ball on our five yard line, forth down and 5 second remaining….by the way, we are 109 points behind (current 389 ppm CO2 minus historic 280ppm CO2).

    Love optimism. Embrace realty. Hug our children.

    Is there a spiritual power we can call upon? Fraid not.

    We (the collective planet inhabitants) are on our own.

    John McCormick

  5. PSU Grad says:

    I respectfully disagree with comment 4. I prefer these lines from the movie Animal House:

    Otter: Dead! Bluto’s right. Psychotic, but absolutely right. We gotta take these bastards. Now we could do it with conventional weapons, but that could take years and cost millions of lives. No, I think we have to go all out. I think that this situation absolutely requires a really futile and stupid gesture be done on somebody’s part.

    Bluto: And we’re just the guys to do it.

    Personally, I’ve been downloading my local actual, normal and record temperatures and putting them into a spreadsheet. I had no idea that our little cold snap about 10 days ago actually pales by comparison to another cold snap about the same time just last year. So next time one of our local TV weathercaster “eminences” pontificates about how global warming isn’t real (not one but two in our area are doing that), I’ll be there. With real data.

    Shoot, let some anonymous clown post the same on a local blog, I’ll be there. And if I hear the “well, weather isn’t climate” excuse, I’ll simply say “so why did you bring up the cold snap”?

    I can’t save the world, but I can do my little part in my own little world. If enough of us do that, it might make a difference.

  6. To add to the critical phase we are in, in the US, we should look also on the global fight against GW. Copenhagen was a bust and it seems now it is even worse than we thought. Read the item below from today’s BBC about lack of global interest in even following up on the last-minute informal agreement president Obama arrange. Even the time to submit promises cut GHG is now a flexible item, and the next global meeting is nearly a year from now. The pressure of Copenhagen is off, and we are back to business as usual. We are in worse trouble than we think. We have no spare time to cut our GHG any longer.

    UN climate deadline is ‘flexible’
    By Richard Black
    Environment correspondent, BBC News website

    The UN climate convention says nations signing up to the accord reached at last month’s summit will not have to do so by the deadline of 31 January.

    The “Copenhagen Accord” asks countries to send figures by the end of the month on how much they will curb emissions.

    But amid uncertainty over who is going to sign up, climate convention head Yvo de Boer said the deadline was “soft”.

    He said the Copenhagen summit had not delivered the “agreement the world needs” to address climate change.

    His comments will come as a disappointment to campaign groups, who would like to see a firm timetable for further talks and political moves pursued through the year.

    There is also some concern in “green” circles about the election of Republican Scott Brown to succeed Democrat Edward Kennedy as Massachusetts Senator.
    “ The window of opportunity we have to come to grips with this issue is closing faster than it was before ”
    Yvo de Boer

    Some campaigners fear this will delay, weaken or derail the progress through the Senate of the Boxer-Kerry bill on limiting carbon emissions, and could induce wavering supporters of the legislation to jump ship.

    Earlier in the week, North Dakota Senator Byron Dorgan, a Democrat opposed to the draft bill, predicted that the Senate “will not do a climate change bill this year, but we will do energy”.

    Mr Brown has spoken against measures to cap US greenhouse gas emissions. One Greenpeace campaigner described his election as “definitely bad news”.

    However, Alden Meyer from the Union of Concerned Scientists told BBC News it did not necessarily signal major problems ahead for the legislation.

    “It was already clear that we would need some Republicans [to support the bill], because some Democrats have said they wouldn’t support cap-and-trade anyway,” he said.

    Basic positions

    It appears that despite any uncertainty over domestic legislation, the US will send in its commitments on reducing greenhouse gas emissions to the UN climate convention secretariat by the end of the month.

    This coming weekend, the BASIC group of Brazil, China, India and South Africa are due to consider their response.

    As developing countries, the four will not commit to emission cuts but are supposed, under the accord, to detail what measures they will take to curb emissions growth.

    There were signs that despite playing a leading role in writing the accord, they might decide not to endorse it. But sources now predict that all four will send in their plans, though they might not be as ambitious as the intentions they revealed before Copenhagen.

    The EU has also indicated it will submit figures and support the accord, even thought it falls short of the “minimum ambition” the bloc was looking for in Copenhagen.

    However, many other countries are known to have grave doubts about offering any endorsement of what they regard as a fundamentally flawed document; and at the end of the Copenhagen summit, several, including Bolivia, Cuba and Tuvalu, indicated they would not support it.

    Mr de Boer described the accord as a “political letter of intent”.

    He said that policymakers were now in a “cooling-off period” before beginning discussions on what they might want from this year’s UN climate summit, to be held in Mexico at the end of the year.

    “The window of opportunity we have to come to grips with this issue is closing faster than it was before,” he said.
    Story from BBC NEWS:

    Published: 2010/01/21 03:14:39 GMT

    © BBC MMX

  7. Ken Johnson says:

    Re “Comprehensive Climate and Energy Legislation,” is “cap and trade” fading out of the political lexicon?

    [JR: Let’s hope so!]

  8. Brenda says:

    It’s good to see that Mr. Pickens has updated his old flawed plan to a new flawed plan that still keeps him in the spotlight (of course his own personal interests are in the forefront). I’m not sure what he really thinks he’s going to accomplish, but I think in the grand scheme of things, he helps the environmentalist side of the discussion by suggesting that you don’t have to be part of the left to support clean(er) energy (even if his motives are not meant to show that).

    On a different note, I don’t know that the SCOTUS decision will hurt the climate change movement. It could have been a disaster if it happened a few years earlier, but now the momentum is in the direction of clean energy. Outside of company that have control on resources, where competition can be limited, stagnant companies don’t make a lot of money, that’s why it’s safe to invest in breakfast cereal, but the real money is in new technology. Note that there’s also not a powerful cereal lobby (at least that I’m aware of). So many big companies have buried massive dollars in clean energy research and development, and the costs are coming to the point where clean energy is becoming competitive from a purely economic standpoint, I don’t think there are many companies that are going to throw it all away at this point. Not to mention that accumulated years of goodwill through costly green-washing campaigns could be wiped out over night if companies make start campaigning the other way. I see this being a much bigger deal for health-care than the environment. My gut feeling is that the GE’s and GM’s of the world will stay out of it, and ads sponsored by Exxon and Peabody front groups might not be that persuasive outside of their employment hubs (where the votes are likely to be going their direction without the ad money). It’s too easy for the opponent to then say that the candidate is beholden to Exxon because they are advertising for him/her. As far as I can tell, the coal industries non-candidate-specific lobbying up to this point hasn’t gotten them very far, so it’s hard to imagine it will be much more effective due to this decision (note, this is not meant to mean I agree with the decision though – corporations are still not people and therefore should not be afforded the same rights).

  9. John McCormick says:

    PSU grad, thanks for the response,

    but youa re not the problem norare you the response.

    “do my little part in my own little world.

    If enough of us do that, it might make a difference.”

    No, No No

    You cannot hold back the ocean with a teaspoon.

    But, that is about all the global community can contribute.

    Does that save the next generation or make us feel we are doing all that we can….so what more can you ask of me?

    It is too late folks to talk about indivdiual contributions even if that is not the message environmentalists want us to hear.

    Sorry folks, I do believe what I know about the changing climate’s impacts. We are about three decades too late to change that trajectory. MA Voters have sealed our fate.

    John McCormick

  10. To John McCormick,
    You are correct that our individual response can do very little and is insignificant in the total global picture. Unless we come together to create massive pressure on our Congress, but that is not likely to happen.
    You are also right, in my view, that the time- criticality of GW is ignored by most people that fight GW. We simply are unable to face reality.
    Read my yesterday blog on this very point: just click on my name above to go to my site.

  11. Roger says:

    I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, because most people in the climate movement would rather do their own little thing, rather than stand together in powerful unison.

    United we stand, divided we fall: Meet in Washington on Earth Day, April 22nd, at 1 P.M. (“WED1”) at The White House for a cool Citizens Climate Congress (CCC).

    We will ask President Obama: 1) to inform misinformed Americans of the urgent need to deal with climate change, and 2) to exercise the bold leadership that the science demands.

    If just a fraction of our climate-oriented groups will cooperate to FOCUS our attention on this ONE place, on ONE day, at ONE time, on ONE VIP, we will have a huge impact.

  12. C. Vink says:

    Glacier National Park May Need a Name Change Soon
    AlterNet, January 21 – Glacial retreat in the the U.S: One of Montana’s most majestic places will be gone in a little over two decades, and 99% of Alaska’s glaciers are shrinking.

    Finnish winters less icy by century’s end: study
    Relax News, 21 January 2010 – Freezing weather could be a thing of the past in parts of Finland by the end of the century as climate change leads to rising temperatures, Finland’s Meteorological Institute said Tuesday. “By the end of the century, the average annual temperature is forecast to rise in Finland by two-to-six degrees (Celsius),” it said, adding winters would heat up faster than summers.

    The real holes in climate science
    Nature, January 21 – Like any other field, research on climate change has some fundamental gaps, although not the ones typically claimed by sceptics. Nature has singled out four areas — regional climate forecasts, precipitation forecasts, aerosols and palaeoclimate data – that some say deserve greater open discussion, both within scientific circles and in the public sphere.

    Chile Water Authority Fears Future Water Shortages
    The Santiago Time, January 21 – More than 700 fruit growers rely on the Lautaro water reservoir, fed by the Copiapo River, which has a maximum capacity of 23 million cubic meters of water and normally holds about 10 million cubic meters of water. But today the reservoir is completely dry – the result of prolonged drought conditions and overuse of limited water resources.
    Authorities say the prolonged drought conditions could be make worse by the climate change wild card – diminishing glacier melt – and unchecked urban/agricultural expansion. And they fear Copiapo could be a prelude for what Santiago – far sooner than many people expect.

    Pacific’s rising acid levels threatening marine life
    The Seattle Times, January 20 – The most extensive survey of pH levels in the Pacific Ocean confirms what spot measurements have suggested: From Hawaii to Alaska, the upper reaches of the sea are becoming more acidic in concert with rising carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

    Why Hasn’t Earth Warmed as Much as Expected? New Report on Climate Change Explores the Reasons
    Science Daily, January 19 – According to current best estimates of climate sensitivity, the amount of CO2 and other heat-trapping gases added to Earth’s atmosphere since humanity began burning fossil fuels on a significant scale during the industrial period would be expected to result in a mean global temperature rise of 3.8°F — well more than the 1.4°F increase that has been observed for this time span. [A new] analysis attributes the reasons for this discrepancy to a possible mix of two major factors: 1) Earth’s climate may be less sensitive to rising greenhouse gases than currently assumed and/or 2) reflection of sunlight by haze particles in the atmosphere may be offsetting some of the expected warming.

    UN climate body admits ‘mistake’ on Himalayan glaciers
    BBC News, january 19 – The vice-chairman of the UN’s climate science panel has admitted it made a mistake in asserting that Himalayan glaciers could disappear by 2035.
    Also see: UN climate report riddled with errors on glaciers (AP, by Seth Borenstein).

  13. RyanT says:

    Presumably the grandiose headline of that last link was applied by Forbes and not the AP? But at least the second to last link in post 12 might be worth tackling, Joe. I’ve seen it floating around the denialosphere, and I see you’ve written about Schwartz’s material before (

    Not sure who wrote the interpretation on ScienceDaily or whether it’s entirely trustworthy. But on the one hand Schwartz et al. seem to allude to the possibility that climate sensitivity is under-estimated, and then proceed to discuss three scenarios based on the IPCC climate sensitivity range?

    They also say “this present study found the role of so-called thermal lag to be minor” when the AR4, if memory serves, notes that 70+ percent of the heat trapped by the amplified greenhouse effect has gone into the oceans. Other studies suggest thermal inertia alone means decades of continued warming even after emissions are finally cut, and Hansen seems to think we’re in for nearly a doubling of atmospheric warming from thermal lag (assuming no major long-term feedback is triggered?). Doesn’t look like RC has posted anything on this yet, so any thoughts?

  14. espiritwater says:

    I agree with Roger, (#11). Also, people really need to read Naomi Wolfe’s books (“Letter to a Patriot” and “End of America”), which tells what we’re up against and what we need to do.

    At another website, it was stated that in near future, there will be a convergence of several problems: peak oil, climate change, population spike, food and water shortages, AND RIGHT WING NEO CONS ATTEMPTING TO TAKE AWAY OUR CIVIL RIGHTS.

    We WILL win in the end, because God is on our side. (And yes, John, #9, there really is a God. Just as you and I know the reality of climate change and others don’t, likewise, not everyone knows there is a God. But some people do. There is.)

  15. espiritwater says:

    For some encouragement, maybe this little video will help:

    YouTube – Avatar: The Movie (New Extended HD Trailer)
    TAGS: Avatar: The Movie New 2nd Trailer [HD] machinima movie 20th century fox …. This is a video response to Avatar Movie New TV Spot Trailer [HD] … – Similar

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