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 to Purchase 25,000 Electric Cars by 2015

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).

Race for resources panel on as Markey makes bid official

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.

Scientific Grand Challenges Identified To Address Global Sustainability

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.

U.N. and World Bank Report Says Act Now or Pay Much More Later for Climate Disasters

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.

Arctic Drilling Poses Untold Risks, Study Concludes

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 to melt snow to address water shortage

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 to launch Africa’s first carbon exchange

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.

Italy Goes Solar With First Sun-Powered Road

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.

Urban sprawl contributes to extreme heat events.

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.

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

  1. paulm says:

    Great move by GM!
    Now if we can just get solar chargers to juice the cars its a perfect story.

    Interesting to see if CO2 emissions go up due to increased coal consumption due to this over then next few years.

  2. Michael T. says:

    Interview with Dr. James Hansen

    “UNU Vice-Rector Prof. Kazuhiko Takeuchi interview 2010 Asahi Blue Planet Awards winner Dr. James Hansen.”

  3. spiritkas says:


    I think the electricity mostly comes from coal, think about the CO2 emissions argument is mostly pushed by the denialists. This argument creates confusion and uncertainty and will slow the adoption of the technology (the big polluters hope). It is a red herring and the solution of that problem is completely unrelated to the techonlogical leap electric vehicals represent. CO2 generated from coal is significantly less than that generated by gasoline.

    It is the denialists who take a gigantic reduction in carbon emissions that the electrification of the transporation network represents and turn that beautiful green step into the future into a point of confusion and a supposed challenge to the validity of electric vehicals. It is inane and banal and is already quiet effective. It is a talking point and a distractor from the massive reduction in carbon emissions electric cars have over hybrids or ICE. Every denialists and obstructionist can now get into long convoluted conversations invovling the maths behind converting coal emissions through electricity into a gasoline equivalent that will turn people off. It is a single number and we can all agree to it, but instead we’re talking about it and not about the awesomeness of the electric car.

    Not to mention the electric car will be the ONLY technology talked about today in terms of transit for the masses that will be compatible with the solar/wind/geothermal/hydro/etc. that represent the future of electricity generation. Ethanol will only work in some places and we can’t turn all our land into corn or switchgrass to fuel our electricty, cars, and industry! What else is there? That’s what I want to see more of, getting a proposed soltuion out of the people who use arugments about the fact that electricity for electric cars will mostly come from coal.

    You’ll find it is an argument of distraction and they either agree with you that electricity will become green in time or they are just a confused person parroting arugments they heard about.



  4. J A Turner says:

    The new crop of Congressional Representatives can be expected to wield the budget axe to undermine any federal funding for research efforts like the Scientific Grand Challenges that are a threat to the status quo. Global environmental problems can’t exist because that would get in the way of making money, and it would falsify small-government, free market fundamentalist ideology, since addressing global problems requires government regulation and international cooperation. The don’t-confuse-me-with-the-facts crowd doesn’t want to know that nature is about to rain on their party.

  5. This week, New York State released its first ever Climate Action Plan, aiming for 80% reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 2050:

  6. Inverse says:

    I am OK with electric cars from a local level as emissions as cars drive past schools and built up areas will be less which will help with child and adult respiratory conditions. My concern would be on the gradual inability of the current power grids to cope with the extra demand and the solutions adopted to keep up. Moving a problem is not normally a good solution.

    The only true solutions will be Hydrogen or solar powered cars. Maybe one day we will use the earths gravity to propelle cars forward?

  7. Chad says:

    With the new and drastically-reduced estimates by USGS of the oil reserves in ANWR, no fair-minded person could possibly support drilling there. When the reserves were estimated at over 10 billion barrels, it was reasonable to argue that the trillion dollars in revenue could be harnessed in a win-win strategy for both the economy and the environment. With the reduction in the estimated reserves to less than 900 million barrels, the revenue stream is just too small. The $10-15 billion the government might collect over a few decades would not even come close to offsetting the risks associated with this special habitat.

  8. Ranjit says:

    Re: the cost of delaying response to CC – would it really be a cost at all – especially, for the developed world societies?

    The experience of the developed world in responding to disasters in poor countries has been disappointing to say the least. See the article linked below:

    There will be more climate-related disasters in the future – especially, horrific in the poor countries where coping capacity is meager. But no one will pick up the cost of the aftermath. Essentially – by not mitigating CC – we are condemning millions to an early demise in the poor world. This scenario is almost grounds for criminal lawsuits by the poor countries against the developed world.

  9. catman306 says:

    If it snows in Beijing and this snow just melts, doesn’t the runoff flow into the river basin anyway? Or into the ground water?

    These machines seem to be very un-green.

    Electric sit down scooters are all the rage in my neighborhood. These scooters have just enough range to get to the market and back. I’ll bet there’s a solar charger available for these useful/fun machines.

  10. paulm –
    re increase electric demand from electric cars.

    not as big a problem as some people would like you to believe

  11. sarah says:

    A parable for naysayers, moral: “Listening to a spiritual leader instead of scientists can turn you to toast.”

    NPR reporter Kuhn interviewed about the Indonesian volcano Mount Merapi this morning.

    KUHN: … volcanologists actually predicted this eruption before it happened. So they managed to evacuate large numbers of people. I also went to a stadium yesterday where the refugees are living. But, you know, not all the residents heeded the warnings.

    And one reason for this is they have this so-called spiritual guardian of the mountain who didn’t think the eruption was going to happen. And a lot of people listened to him. So, you know, as we were going out to the volcano today, we passed farmers cultivating their rice paddies, just about oblivious to this huge volcanic activity going on right to the north of them.

    INSKEEP: What happened to that spiritual leader, Anthony?

    KUHN: He, himself, became a burned offering to the mountain, you could say. He was found in his home, burned to death in a prayer position. The appointment of the next guardian is up to the local sultan. There’s a selection process in progress right now.

  12. riverat says:

    #10 catman, by collecting the snow before it melts they avoid all of the pollution it would collect flowing over the streets and ground.

  13. paulm says:

    Thks for that Peter. Looks doable. I had seen your video before. Interesting to see how it works out.

  14. Prokaryotes says:

    Heavy rains and storms this year have left Mexico and Central America with hundreds of millions of dollars in repair bills, a trend officials expect to be a perennial strain on budgets as climate change sets in.

    The unusually fierce hurricane season, which brought 19 major storms through the region, left local governments scrambling to find the money to rebuild roads, bridges and homes, forcing them to rethink tax cuts or seek outside aid.

  15. Prokaryotes says:

    I think the PEW Research on arctic drilling misses the unique circumstance about the geopolitical situation at the arctic, which further impacts negatively any clean up affords or even safety precautions in the arctic regions.

  16. Edward says:

    The World Bank’s numbers are completely nonsense because under BAU, there will be no civilization and no World Bank beyond 2055. I just received and read the second draft of Barton Paul Levenson’s paper “Preliminary Analysis of a Global Drought Time Series” to be published in the Journal of Climate. The bottom line is that under BAU [Business As Usual] agriculture [and civilization] crash some time between 2050 and 2055. That means 1 person in 10,000 survives, at most. The population crashes from 7 Billion to somewhere between zero and seven hundred thousand.
    The confirming paper is available at:
    “Drought under global warming: a review” by Aiguo Dai

    It is only 40 years until 2050. It won’t do any good to start doing something in 2049. We must shut down the coal industry completely by the end of 2015. We have to go with technology we already have.

  17. quokka says:

    China revises it’s 2020 target for nuclear power upward (again). New target is 112 GWe, up from 70 GWe:

    China to invest some serious money – $175 billion – in the development of nuclear industry:

  18. Some European says:

    Flooding in Belgium,two-dead-in-belgium-floods.html
    Yesterday I was surprised by a man who came to me to sign up for Greenpeace. He said: “I hope we can stop global warming, so it would rain less.” I took advantage of the situation to reinforce the link between warm oceans and heavy snow. Apparently, some sources (not necessarily credible) are predicting a severe winter over western Europe.
    Obviously, it’s just weather but I’ll do my best to capitalize on every available event, just like the denialists. After all, we’re in a street fight.

  19. Mike says:

    Two news items:

    New Ocean Acidification Study Shows Added Danger to Already Struggling Coral Reefs

    ScienceDaily (Nov. 13, 2010) — Over the next century, recruitment of new corals could drop by 73 percent, as rising carbon dioxide levels turn the oceans more acidic, suggests a new study led by scientists at the University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science. The research findings reveal a new danger to the already threatened Caribbean and Florida reef Elkhorn corals.

    The Danger of Cosmic Genius

    In the range of his genius, Freeman Dyson is heir to Einstein—a visionary who has reshaped thinking in fields from math to astrophysics to medicine, and who has conceived nuclear-propelled spaceships designed to transport human colonists to distant planets. And yet on the matter of global warming he is, as an outspoken skeptic, dead wrong: wrong on the facts, wrong on the science. How could someone as smart as Dyson be so dumb about the environment? The answer lies in his almost religious faith in the power of man and science to bring nature to heel.
    By Kenneth Brower

  20. Mike says:

    Some European wrote “Obviously, it’s just weather but I’ll do my best to capitalize on every available event, just like the denialists. After all, we’re in a street fight.”

    Be careful. There is a line between capitalizing on an ambiguous event and misrepresenting what is known. Saying “this is the sort f extreme weather event that scientists tell GW will bring more of” is OK. Saying, “this is what GW will look like is border line.” Saying “this is caused by GW is over the line.”

    I was talking to a neighbor’s father. He was complaining about the weirdly warm summer in Chicago and the flooding. I just said “well we are changing the climate.” Then he said how glad he was to be moving to a retirement home in Florida. I just wished him all the best.

  21. _Flin_ says:

    Just wanted to point out the annual report of the IEA ( ) where it seems as if the IEA assumes peak oil to have happened already.

  22. Leland Palmer says:

    Hi Edward (post number 17)

    Wow. That’s a scary paper, in your link:

    Despite all
    these uncertainties, the large-scale pattern shown in
    Figure 11 appears to be a robust response to increased
    GHGs. This is very alarming because if the drying is
    anything resembling Figure 11, a very large population
    will be severely affected in the coming decades
    over the whole United States, southern Europe, Southeast
    Asia, Brazil, Chile, Australia, and most of Africa.

    As alarming as Figure 11 shows, there may still
    be other processes that could cause additional drying
    over land under global warming that are not included
    in the PDSI calculation. For example, both thermodynamic
    arguments124 and climate model simulations125
    suggest that precipitation may become more intense
    but less frequent (i.e., longer dry spells) under GHGinduced
    global warming. This may increase flash
    floods and runoff, but diminish soil moisture and
    increase the risk of agricultural drought.
    Given the dire predictions for drought, adaptation
    measures for future climate changes should
    consider the possibility of increased aridity and
    widespread drought in coming decades. Lessons
    learned from dealing with past severe droughts, such
    as the Sahel drought during the 1970s and 1980s,137
    may be helpful in designing adaptation strategies for
    future droughts.

    And, of course, these predictions do not include dissociation of methane hydrates at all.

    What fools we are.