24 Responses to Energy and Global Warming News for November 12th: GE to purchase 25,000 electric cars by 2015; Markey makes bid for Resources panel; World bank says act now or pay much more later for climate disasters
GE, the ginormous multinational conglomerate (according to Forbes, they have about $780 billion in assets and $115 billion of yearly sales), has decided to switch 25,000 vehicles from its fleet to electric vehicles, starting with 12,000 Chevrolet Volts starting in 2011. No doubt, this commitment is a milestone for the electrification of transportation, all the more significant because this is private money going into the industry.
This should help GM and other EV makers (and their suppliers) to make enough cash with their early products to keep going and keep improving them and reduce costs via economies of scale so that the general public will soon have better and more affordable electric cars.
GE will convert at least half of its 30,000 global fleet and will partner with fleet customers to deploy a total of 25,000 electric vehicles by 2015. GE will initially purchase 12,000 GM vehicles, beginning with the Chevrolet Volt in 2011, and will add other vehicles as manufacturers expand their electric vehicle portfolios. GE and its partners will use a mix of electric vehicle technologies to meet their respective needs. Chevrolet Volts will roll off production lines this month and other automakers are bringing electric vehicles to market [this probably means Nissan, Ford, Toyota…]. As this occurs, GE is in a strong position to help deploy the supporting infrastructure to help its 65,000 global fleet customers convert and manage their fleets. (source)
Of course, helping to kick-start the EV transition can be good business for GE. They sell all kinds of technologies that would be in demand if more vehicles are running on electrons. But whatever the motivations, this is a good move for people who want to see electric cars progress faster and a good vote of confidence by an extremely tech-savvy company (which could influence other big players).
Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) came out swinging last night as he made official his bid to become ranking member of next session’s House Natural Resources Committee.
In a letter to his Democratic colleagues, Markey said energy and environment issues would be the “paramount” discussion of the 112th Congress and that the resources panel would be a key battleground.
As ranking member, Markey pledged he would be a “cop on the beat policing the oil industry” in the wake of the BP PLC oil spill and would continue to advance a renewable energy agenda in the face of Republican opposition.
“Now is not the time to capitulate to an agenda that will allow China and the rest of the world to win the clean energy jobs race, all at the expense of the planet,” he said.
Markey’s announcement makes official a race to lead Democrats on the panel, as Rep. Raºl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) announced yesterday he would challenge Markey for the seat.
Grijalva, a four-term incumbent and chairman of the committee’s public lands panel, told Greenwire yesterday he could provide the continuity needed to push back on the Republicans’ attempts to strip environmental safeguards from fossil fuel development.
“I don’t see the majority on this committee wanting to compromise,” Grijalva said of the Republicans. “I know how to fight back.”
Several environmental groups declined to comment on the race today, saying privately that they had supported both men in the past but preferred to stay out of the fray.
Whoever leads the Democrats next session will most likely be at the head of a defensive struggle. Incoming Chairman Doc Hastings (R-Wash.) is pledging to roll back restrictions on energy development and has promised to hammer the Interior Department if it gets in the way.
Both Democrats are unapologetic defenders of environmental regulations, but they have prioritized different issues during their tenures.
Grijalva, who was elected in 2002, has pushed for wilderness designations, safeguards against mining and drilling on public lands and tight regulations on offshore oil and gas exploration. He crowed last month after The Washington Post reported that he had been considered to be the Obama administration’s Interior secretary but was passed over because of his opposition to offshore drilling.
Markey is among the most vocal and visible advocates of Democrats’ efforts to address global warming. He, along with Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), co-authored the cap-and-trade bill the House passed last year….
In his letter to colleagues, Markey also touted his conservation credentials, saying he had led the charge against the Bush administration’s effort to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil exploration. He also pledged to “preserve the integrity” of the Endangered Species Act and National Environmental Policy Act, the primary statute for resource protection on public lands….
Markey remains the favorite for the seat, and outgoing committee Chairman Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.) predicted Tuesday that Markey would take his place at the head of Democrats on the panel.
But Grijalva has been more active in recent terms and said his close work with current staff would build a stronger caucus next session.
“I think I’m at least qualified to be considered,” he said.
The international scientific community has identified five Grand Challenges that, if addressed in the next decade, will deliver knowledge to enable sustainable development, poverty eradication, and environmental protection in the face of global change. The Grand Challenges for Earth system science, published today, are the result of broad consultation as part of a visioning process spearheaded by the International Council for Science (ICSU) in cooperation with the International Social Science Council (ISSC).
The consultation highlighted the need for research that integrates our understanding of the functioning of the Earth system””and its critical thresholds””with global environmental change and socio-economic development.
The five Grand Challenges are: 1. Forecasting””Improve the usefulness of forecasts of future environmental conditions and their consequences for people. 2. Observing””Develop, enhance and integrate the observation systems needed to manage global and regional environmental change. 3. Confining””Determine how to anticipate, recognize, avoid and manage disruptive global environmental change. 4. Responding””Determine what institutional, economic and behavioural changes can enable effective steps toward global sustainability. 5. Innovating””Encourage innovation (coupled with sound mechanisms for evaluation) in developing technological, policy and social responses to achieve global sustainability.
‘The challenges are a consensus list of the highest priorities for Earth system research and provide an overarching research framework. If we, the scientific community, successfully address these in the next decade, we will remove critical barriers impeding progress toward sustainable development,’ said Dr Walt Reid, who chaired the Task Team overseeing the first step of the visioning process.
Annual monetary losses for natural disasters are expected to rise to $185 billion worldwide by the end of the century, even without factoring in the anticipated negative impacts of climate change, a new joint U.N. and World Bank study concludes.
With climate change included, the global annual losses could increase by anywhere from $28 billion to $68 billion. But governments can drastically reduce these losses and rising mortality rates by implementing preventive systems and infrastructure changes that are much cheaper and simpler than the post-disaster cleanup that has been drawing so much public funds recently.
That’s the message the report’s authors are hoping to get out to policymakers in a year characterized by some of the largest natural disasters in recorded history. From the city-sized death toll stemming from Haiti’s January earthquake to the 20 million people hit from mass flooding in Pakistan over the summer, the primary lesson being transmitted by 70 experts researching natural disasters over the past year is that disasters are largely caused by a series of man-made mistakes that build up over time. They lead to massive failures when a natural triggering event occurs.
Climate change throws more uncertainty into the equation, but proper planning and prevention will likewise reduce the added losses that shifting climates and extreme weather are feared to bring, the organizations conclude.
Now that the moratorium on deepwater oil and gas drilling has been lifted by the Obama administration, the battle for the Arctic is heating up again.
The suspension of deep-sea drilling was of course a reaction to the disastrous blowout in the Gulf of Mexico that gushed from April to July, producing the biggest offshore oil spill in the nation’s history. The moratorium was lifted last month, about six weeks before a Nov. 30 expiration date.
As soon as it was lifted, my colleague Cliff Krauss reported last week, Royal Dutch Shell began lobbying eagerly to get final approval for its long-delayed plans for exploratory drilling in Alaska’s Beaufort Sea. The petro-giant is paying for national advertising as part of a campaign to convince the public and the government that it is taking safety precautions that would prevent the kind of catastrophe that unfolded in the gulf from happening in the Arctic.
Yet the Arctic is well known to be more fragile ecologically than the gulf. And on Thursday, the Pew Environmental Group released a detailed report brimming with charts and maps that explores the question of how well the government and industry would be equipped to deal with a blowout and spill there. The report concludes, not so well. And here are some word-for-word highlights on why:
Beijing will collect and melt snow this winter in a bid to quench the water shortage that has plagued the Chinese capital for years, state media reported Friday.
Two vehicles with high-powered heaters capable of processing around 100 cubic metres (3,500 cubic feet) of snow and ice an hour will be sent to locations around Tiananmen Square, the Global Times said.
Clean snow will also be dumped into dammed sections in three rivers that drift through the city to be used for road cleaning, irrigation and to supplement the rivers’ water levels, it said.
Additional snow-melting areas have been assigned citywide, it added.
For years northern China has been battling a water shortage that experts say is caused by global warming, drought and rising demand from tens of millions of people who live in Beijing and the booming areas around it.
Water consumption in Beijing, with a population of nearly 20 million and growing, rose to 3.55 billion cubic metres last year, compared with its water supply of 2.18 billion cubic metres, the Global Times said.
Kenya is to launch a climate exchange platform to facilitate the trading of carbon credits and help tackle climate change.
The market will be the first of its kind in Africa, enabling all African countries to sell their carbon credits.
The exchange is expected to be open for business by the middle of next year.
Carbon dioxide is one of the main gases causing climate change, scientists say, and such exchanges are one way to offset carbon emissions.
Polluting industries in rich countries pay for clean development projects in poor countries.
Some forecasts warn that Africa will be badly affected by climate change, even though most of the greenhouse gases which cause it are produced in the West and Asia.
One carbon credit is equal to one tonne of carbon dioxide, or in some markets, carbon dioxide-equivalent gases.
The BBC’s Kevin Mwachiro in Nairobi says officials hope the trade in carbon credits will open up investment in the generation of renewable energy and forestry projects.
A survey of British householders by price comparison site GoCompare released on November 10 via the Energy Saving Trust revealed just how much energy is wasted by Christmas lighting.
Of those surveyed 52% of respondents intended to display decorative Christmas lighting outside the house. With this in mind GoCompare calculated that a display of 100 five-watt bulbs switched on for six hours a day over the festive period will consume 207 Kwh, the equivalent of 22.8 days of the average British household’s electricity consumption.
Aside from taking energy saving measures such as turning down the thermostat by 1 degree, switching off lights or only heating occupied rooms, consumers eager to get in the festive spirit could reduce their energy bills by purchase energy-saving Christmas decorations.
According to American organization Environmental Defense Fund one of the easiest ways to lower Christmas electricity bills is by buying energy-saving LED decorative lighting, suitable for both outdoor and indoor displays. Though LED Christmas lighting often costs more than traditional alternatives, in the long term it consumes far less energy, which leads to lower electricity bills and reduces the environmental impact of the festive season.
Most people will be surprised, but Italy was the first country in the world to build motorways. In fact, the A8 “Milano-Laghi” motorway (“Milan-Lakes”, as it connects the city of Milan to Lake Como and Maggiore) was completed in 1926. Time has passed and all developed nations now boast wide motorway networks, a strategic infrastructure that helps interconnecting people, places and is ultimately essential to economic growth. But Italy will soon be able to claim a new “first”: the A18 Catania-Siracusa motorway, a 30km addition to Sicily’s 600km motorway network, will be a fully solar-powered motorway, the first in its kind.
Work is well underway to complete commissioning of this cutting edge infrastructure, which will be the most advanced motorway in Europe, including many outstanding features in terms of control systems, surveillance apparatus, tarmac quality, safety features (one of its new tunnels has also been awarded for its levels of safety). Construction activities are concluded, and a quarter of its solar photovoltaic (PV) panels were already operational by the end of September.
Pizzarotti & Co., the general contractor for this project, aims at having all of them online by early December (the panels are therefore feeding Sicily’s electricity grid with clean energy even before it’s used on site). Road testing is due in November, while on 1st January 2011 the Catania-Siracusa motorway will open to the public. By then, 100 percent of its electricity needs will be met by the PV panels installed along the road: 80 thousand of them. Lights, tunnel fans, road signs, emergency telephones, all the services and street furniture installed on the A18 will be run with solar power: distributed over a surface of 20 hectares, the photovoltaic array was obtained through the construction of 3 artificial tunnels on a 100m wide, 2.8km long stretch of road, a project with an overall cost of ‚¬60 million. Annual solar electricity production is estimated at about 12 million kWh, which will save – constructors claim – the equivalent of around 31 thousand tons of oil and 10 thousand tons worth of CO2 emissions every year.
Cities with high levels of urban sprawl have more than twice as many days with extreme heat when compared to cities with more compact growth patterns, contributing to heat-related health effects such as sickness and death.
Urban planners take note: the way a city grows and develops influences how often it has heat waves.
For a number of reasons, cities are always warmer than rural areas – a condition attributed to the urban heat island effect. But, according to a study that examined heat patterns over 50 years, the urban areas that sprawl have twice as many days with extreme heat when compared to cities that grow more compactly.
The higher temperatures, in turn, may contribute to increased illness and death in certain groups of people who are more vulnerable to hot weather.
Urban sprawl refers to a city and its suburbs that expand over large areas of land. It is often associated with a lower density of people and buildings; low mixed land use; a reliance on cars with subsequent increases in air pollution, accidents and injuries; and other related health and social effects.