The Energy and Global Warming News for March 25: GM to unveil Segway-powered electric vehicle; Mitsubishi to triple electric car production; Don’t risk ‘clean energy’ future to save coal jobs — BP CEO


GM to unveil prototype of Segway-powered electric vehicle

General Motors Co. will unveil a prototype pod-shaped electric vehicle at May’s World Expo in Shanghai that it says will combat urban congestion, traffic accidents and pollution.

The Electric Networked Vehicle, or EN-V, is an upright, two-wheeled pod powered by a Segway Personal Transporter. The vehicles are designed to be small and clean enough to solve growing problems of congestion, parking availability, air quality and affordability.

There will be an estimated 1.2 billion vehicles in 2030, up from 844 million three years ago, according to the Motor & Equipment Manufacturers Association. At the same time, 60 percent of the world’s population will live in urban areas, according to GM, making commuting more difficult. Currently, the association says, 30 percent of fuel is wasted while drivers look for parking spots, a problem GM hopes to combat with the smaller EN-V.

The EN-Vs will have a top speed of 25 miles per hour and a range of 25 miles. They are powered by lithium-ion batteries. GM hopes to outfit them with sensors, cameras and GPS devices so they can communicate with each other, avoid crashes and be operated autonomously. The communication would also let drivers talk to each other while driving, hypothetically creating a situation where two vehicles could hold a video conference while commuting to work.

There is no price available, but GM estimates they would coast one-sixth to one-fifth the cost of a conventional motor vehicle.

Glad to see something potentially useful may come out of the Segway (aka electrifyied walking).

Mitsubishi to triple electric car production

Mitsubishi Motors Corp. will more than triple the annual production of its electric car over the next three years to meet higher global demand.

The company will produce 9,000 of its zero-emission i-MiEVs in the coming fiscal year, 18,000 the next year and 30,000 the following year, according to spokesman Yuki Murata.

Mitsubishi sold 1,400 of the cars in Japan and another 250 abroad in 2009, the car’s first year of production. The i-MiEV will enter the U.S. market in the fiscal year starting in April 2011.

The i-MiEV can be recharged from a regular home socket and can go 100 miles on just seven hours of charge. But it is twice as expensive as the Prius hybrid, a problem Murata said the company is hoping to combat in the coming years.

Meanwhile, Mitsubishi’s rival Nissan Motor Co. unveiled its electric car, the Leaf, which will go into mass production in 2012. The Leaf can go 100 miles on a single charge.

Don’t Risk ‘Clean Energy’ Future to Save Coal Jobs, Says BP’s CEO

The United States isn’t going to get “beyond petroleum” anytime soon, but the chief executive of oil giant BP says it’s time for the nation to start thinking beyond coal.

The nation should not be trying to save coal jobs at the expense of cleaner fuel industries, Tony Hayward, head of BP PLC, told a Washington think tank audience yesterday, adding that there is no reason to keep building coal-burning power plants here.

“We’ve got to find a better way to create jobs than preserving coal jobs,” Hayward told his audience at the Peterson Institute for International Economics.

Hayward’s comments reflect an increasingly bitter political rift between two of the largest elements of the country’s energy industry — coal and natural gas.

Gas executives are irritated that authors of the House climate bill last year built significant protections into the legislation to protect coal industry jobs and coal-state lawmakers. If lawmakers want to cut carbon emissions, they say, they should look more to natural gas, which emits about half as much carbon as coal. They say gas should be the “bridge fuel” to a low-carbon future or, even better, a permanent fixture of a diverse approach to lowering emissions.

“The coal sector was disproportionately favored in the first go at this,” Hayward said. “It’s about creating jobs.”

BP is one of the world’s largest producers and refiners of oil and gas. But it has little or no stake in coal, a fact that the coal industry highlights in challenging Hayward’s assertions.

‘Smart growth’ taking hold in U.S. cities

Redevelopment of urban centers has continued to outpace construction in the outskirts of suburbia, according to a recent U.S. EPA study, suggesting a “fundamental shift” has begun in the real estate market as the Obama administration pushes denser development through its “livability” initiative.

Though the nation’s urban centers emptied for decades as suburbs sprawled outward, developers in many large cities are increasingly looking inward for building opportunities, according to the study, titled “Residential Construction Trends in America’s Metropolitan Regions.” In 26 of the nation’s 50 largest metropolitan areas, the share of residential construction taking place in central cities more than doubled since 2000.

As expected, the effect was strongest in the metropolitan areas with the strictest regional land-use policies, such as Portland, Ore. But many metropolitan areas known for sprawl, including Chicago and Los Angeles, saw similar increases in redevelopment at the urban core.

“This acceleration of residential construction in urban neighborhoods reflects a fundamental shift in the real estate market,” the report concludes. “The market fundamentals are shifting toward redevelopment even in the absence of formal policies and programs at the regional level.”

Environmentalists have long embraced the idea of urban redevelopment, which conserves untouched land while reducing pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. So, too, have they supported the dense, transit-oriented housing typically built in urban centers.

Those ideas have found support from the Obama administration’s Partnership for Sustainable Communities, run jointly by EPA, the Transportation Department and the Department of Housing and Urban Development. This year’s budget includes $100 million for the Sustainable Communities Planning Grant Program, which offers funding for the development of state, regional and municipal policies on sustainable development.

Decades of federal housing and transportation policy have worked at cross-purposes, “precluding smart, integrated problem solving,” Ron Sims, deputy secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, told a House panel last month. The livability initiative will be a step toward “improving building-level energy efficiency, cutting greenhouse gas emissions through transit-oriented development, and taking advantage of other locational efficiencies,” he said.

Critics of the “livability” program have painted it as an effort to tell Americans where to live, but data in the recent study suggest consumers might be one step ahead of the administration.

“The livability initiative is in sync with where the marketplace was going anyway,” said Ed McMahon, senior resident fellow for environmental policy at the Urban Land Institute. “There’s been a pent-up demand for urban living, and that demand is evident in housing prices.”

Development continued moving toward the city center in 2008, the most recent year for which data were available, even as the housing market collapsed. The buildings started that year were less often single-family homes and more often large, multi-family developments such as apartment complexes and blocks of condominiums, according to the study.

Construction of single-family homes fell to about 600,000 units in 2008, down from 1.7 million three years earlier. High-density residential construction remained flat at about 200,000 units, the same number of units built before the housing bubble burst.

Those developments made up 23 percent of all housing projects started in 2008, up from 10 percent in 2005.

Much of the shift appears to be demographic, said Kaid Benfield, director of the Smart Growth Program at the Natural Resources Defense Council. Aging baby boomers and young people today are drawn to urban areas, he said, but that tendency is inextricably tied to environmental issues.

“There has been a lot of thought given at all levels of government and among the consuming public to what our environmental footprint is, and what the shape of our communities ought to be,” Benfield said. “The experience with sprawl over the last few decades has produced a reaction.”

U.K. to Create Clean Energy Bank, Boost Port Funding

The U.K. plans to create a 2 billion-pound ($3 billion) “green investment bank” to promote low-carbon energy as the nation seeks to cut emissions.

“We need to renew and modernize our energy supplies,” Chancellor of the Exchequer Alistair Darling said in his annual budget in Parliament in London today. “China is building a new power station every week to meet its growing energy needs.”

Asset sales and private investments will be used to fund the bank, Darling said. The proposal comes three months after opposition Conservative Party leader David Cameron suggested a green bank to consolidate government funding for clean energy. Prime Minister Gordon Brown must call an election by June.

Britain, chasing a target to get 15 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2020, is planning $120 billion of offshore wind projects as well as gas and nuclear plants to replace aging generators. As much as 30 percent of the country’s power capacity is set to be shut down over the next decade.

Darling said the government will sell assets including the Channel Tunnel rail link to raise 1 billion pounds for the fund, which would be matched by private investments. The Chancellor also pledged about 60 million pounds to develop ports in support of offshore wind turbine makers.

While the green bank will help kick-start important projects, it “doesn’t fit with the urgency of the task at hand,” Ben Caldecott, head of U.K. energy policy at Climate Change Capital in London said in an e-mailed statement.

‘Difficult Market’

“As the cash for it is dependent on selling off strategic assets in difficult market conditions, it will take many months or even years before the fund is able to make a meaningful difference,” Caldecott said.

The structure of the bank will be developed by the government in consultation with investors and could be functioning by the second half of 2011, according to the Treasury. The money will help finance companies aiming to provide clean energy and reduce pollution, Darling said.

The U.K. has two to three years of “very comfortable” electricity supplies before aging capacity is phased out, Ofgem Chief Executive Officer Alistair Buchanan said in February. The country will need to spend as much as 200 billion pounds to replace infrastructure and curb emissions within the next 10 years, according to the regulator.

Last week, the Conservatives said they would adopt measures including a carbon floor price and feed-in tariffs if they win the election. The party also suggested speeding up the roll-out of smart meters and providing consumers with as much as 6,500 pounds of energy efficiency improvements.

Browner: Fuel economy, tailpipe emissions rules to go final next week

The Obama administration plans to finalize tougher auto efficiency regulations next week, White House climate and energy czar Carol Browner said Wednesday.

The joint Transportation Department-EPA rules will boost car and light truck mileage standards to reach an average of 35.5 miles per gallon in 2016. They include first-time greenhouse gas requirements.

The standards represent a deal struck last year between the administration, automakers, and states that were planning to implement their own tailpipe greenhouse gas rules.

The states, led by California, agreed to shelve their rules while the joint national program is in effect.

The White House has frequently cited the new federal rules in opposing Capitol Hill proposals that would overturn EPA’s ability to regulate greenhouse gases. The White House argues that nullifying EPA power would hurt automakers by opening the door to a patchwork of state requirements.

15 Responses to The Energy and Global Warming News for March 25: GM to unveil Segway-powered electric vehicle; Mitsubishi to triple electric car production; Don’t risk ‘clean energy’ future to save coal jobs — BP CEO

  1. Leif says:

    What is the carbon foot print of every coal job produced? (By that I mean how much coal is produced by each coal worker and ultimately transfered into CO2. I would not be surprised to learn that each coal worker job would require a thousand or even ten thousand third world folks not being born to compensate. Could it go as high as a million? Can anyone give me a number to hang my hat on?

  2. Lavonne Sackett says:

    It does use a lot of carbon/petrol for the plastics in these cars.
    The claim about less accidents is a false claim.

    America needs more jobs to support these utopian dreams for wind turbines. I notice above that new home construction is down 2/3rds. That is to be expected when the economy is threatened daily by communism.

  3. Yogi -One says:

    These are good initiatives, and people need to press on their governments to do more, and move faster.

    The USA cannot be a leader. Even though Obama may personally want to move ahead towards significantly reducing America’s carbon footprint, the fact remains that the coal industry finances political campaigns in a way that the average citizens cannot.

    The US Congress is an alternate universe where the usual rules don’t apply. Big polluters, high-roller investment bankers, and well-oiled lobbies dictate policy, regardless of what the public wants. It’s broken in many nearly intractable ways.

    So don’t wait for the US – it’s too paralyzed and stuck to the past.

    But if private companies and other nations step up to lead, they may stimulate the US, because US entrpeneurs will realize they are losing big money by not doing anything to contribute.

    China is forging their own path – they do not want to co-operate with other nations, and they now see themselves as a powerful enough economy to act unilaterally. That’s why they tanked Copenhagen.

    It’s true that the Chinese are aggressively pursuing wind and solar, but it’s also true that they are building more new coal plants than anyone else in the world, and their citizens are putting more new conventional autos on the road than anyone else.

    Of course, this is an unsustainable strategy. Sooner or later, they will have to choose whether they want a clean economy or a coal economy. They have already faced severe environmental disasters, so they know how that feels. What they choose will have a profound effect on the whole global economy, and therefore the whole planetary environment.

  4. prokaryote says:

    Even soil feels the heat: Soils release more carbon dioxide as globe warms

    Twenty years of field studies reveal that as the Earth has gotten warmer, plants and microbes in the soil have given off more carbon dioxide. So-called soil respiration has increased about one-tenth of 1 percent per year since 1989, according to an analysis of past studies in today’s issue of Nature.

  5. prokaryote says:

    GE says to invest $453 mln in offshore wind

    OSLO, March 25 (Reuters) – General Electric Co. (GE.N) will invest 340 million euros ($453 million) in offshore wind technology in Europe until 2020, the company said on Thursday.

    “Today’s announcement is the beginning of our offshore wind effort where technology and network of suppliers is located in Europe, which is where we see the biggest growth potential,” GE said in a statement.

    GE said it will build development centres in Norway, Sweden and Germany, and manufacturing facilities for offshore wind turbines in the United Kingdom.

    GE said it would test and demonstrate a four-megawatt machine designed for offshore wind in Norway, and invest 600 million Norwegian crowns ($99.20 million) in offshore wind power technology in the country by 2016. (Reporting by Oslo newsroom)

  6. GFW says:

    Wow, every word Lavonne Sackett wrote is a lie, including “and” and “the”. (That’s a historical/literary allusion for anyone who wants to point out she didn’t use “and”.)

    Let the debunking begin:

    Large cars use lots of plastics too. Total manufacturing carbon footprint for these mini cars will be lower than for regular size cars.

    Networking and accidents: Obviously this is many years off, but eventually the technology for such networking will be developed and deployed. You’ll just tell your car where you want to go, and it will do it. Networked cars will “platoon” for aerodynamic efficiency, and will be timed to match up with the (also networked) traffic lights. Yeah, it’s not going to happen large-scale this decade, but incremental steps are already happening.

    New home construction is down so much because “Conservative” anti-regulation zealots freed banks and mortgage brokers to do a lot of crazy things, resulting in a housing bubble followed by the near-collapse of the financial system. A fraction of the profiteering by those bankers could instead have funded a green energy revolution. (Not to mention what we could have done with the money wasted in Iraq…)

  7. Bob Wallace says:

    GE is also entering the thin film solar market.

    When we see major corporations entering the green energy market then we can be assured that the world is changing. Big corporations have access to government ears unlike small start-ups who have a hard time getting attention.

  8. Bryson Brown says:

    Does Lavonne Sackett really think Communism is the reason for the collapse of the housing market? Or is that a Poe? Taking it at face value, what about the bubble, the sub-prime mortgages and all the capitalists who got rich (and left many of their own companies backrupt) betting that housing values could never go down? Seems to me that capitalism gone mad had a lot more to do with it…

  9. Barry says:

    I love the fact that giant industries like natural gas are entering the fight against the number #1 climate villain: coal!

    Much as we might harbour dreams of a david-vs-goliath citizen revolt against Big Coal, the reality is that the fight gets much more likely to succeed if the mega-bucks and mega-political-power of other industry giants join in.

    Best scenario is Senate leaders somehow figure out a way to pit coal vs natural gas even more clearly. A big WWF smackdown. Only one can emerge from the cage victorious.

    The same dynamic is happening up here in BC with GE taking minority stakes in some big clean energy projects. Some enviros hate this, but I see it as essential to have a big stick partner in the fight against Big Fossil which currently dominates BC energy production.

    We can’t fight the Exxons and Peabodys alone. Shifting as much of the rest of the economic powerhouses to the climate sanity side is crucial.

  10. SecularAnimist says:

    Bryson Brown wrote: “Does Lavonne Sackett really think Communism is the reason for the collapse of the housing market?”

    The answer to the question formed by the first five words of your question is no.

  11. prokaryote says:

    How Republicans Learned To Reject Climate Change

  12. prokaryote says:

    Policy-makers take aim at new recycling frontier: solid waste, retailers and packaging

  13. prokaryote says:

    Coastal First Nations Oppose Canada Tar Sands Pipeline

    “Our decisions are based on the safety of the project and how it will impact our culture,” said Art Sterritt, executive director of Coastal First Nations. “We have invested several hundred million dollars to create a sustainable economy on the coast; we are not going to jeopardize it with one project that can destroy all that.”

    “We are still gatherers, and the ocean is our supermarket,” Sterritt explained. “To jeopardize that so we can eat baloney and spam with the rest of the country is not acceptable. If there was no danger to our environment, to our culture, we would sit down and talk to Enbridge, but they haven’t even made it over the first hurdle: not jeopardizing our culture and the very existence of our society.”

  14. prokaryote says:

    China tops USA in spending on clean energy

    China is emerging as the world’s clean-energy powerhouse, according to a new study by The Pew Charitable Trusts.

    Last year, China spent more than any other major country on clean energy, including wind and solar, toppling the U.S. from the top spot for the first time in five years, the Pew report says. The U.S. is also on the verge of losing the top spot in terms of installed renewable energy to China.

    Unless U.S. policies change to encourage more investment, the U.S. could miss its chance to lead the expanding clean-energy industry, says Phyllis Cuttino, project director at Pew. The USA’s entrepreneurial tradition and strengths in innovation give it the potential to recoup leadership, the Pew report says.

    Cuttino’s sentiments echo those expressed late last year by Energy Secretary Steven Chu. He noted in congressional testimony that the U.S. “has fallen behind” other countries in the race to be at the forefront of the clean-energy industry. Although Chu said he was confident the U.S could make up the ground, he cited China as a formidable competitor.

    In recent years, China has emerged as the No. 1 maker of solar cells for solar panels and, most recently, as the leader in wind-turbine-making capacity. China’s leaders have also set in motion plans to get 15% of the country’s energy from renewable sources by 2020.

    The Pew report, using data compiled by Bloomberg New Energy Finance, examined the world’s top 20 economies. It found that:

    • From 2005 through 2009, China’s clean-energy investment, including wind and solar, soared 148% vs. 103% for the USA.

    • Clean-energy investment in Asia, mostly China, rose 37% last year to $39 billion. By contrast, investment declined 33% last year in the Americas as the economy slowed and credit markets tightened.

  15. prokaryote says:

    Report: Cleantech driving Canada’s economy

    The 2010 SDTC Cleantech Growth & Go-to-Market Report, based on input from more than 160 cleantech companies, said the cleantech sector in Canada grew 47 percent during the 2008-09 recession. That could increase to 117 percent from 2010-12, the report projected, with the highest growth rates being found in power generation, energy efficiency, smart grid, and industrial process efficiency.

    Canada expects to see a shift towards exporting this year, as its cleantech companies move from making 42 percent of sales abroad in 2009 to 52 percent in 2010.

    The report estimated that 96 percent of Canadian cleantech companies needed $30 million or less in capital to be efficient sources of job creation.

    Building on the success of the cleantech sector during the past few years in Canada, the government announced today a goal to establish 20 cleantech companies worth $100 million by 2020.