April 19 News: U.S. on track for 800k to 1M electric cars by 2015; Lithium-ion car battery maker projects 50% price drop by 2020

Energy Dept. says U.S. on track for 1M electric cars by 2015

U.S. President Barack Obama’s goal to have more than 1 million plug-in electric cars on U.S. roadways by 2015 is well on its way to being completed, according to Assistant Energy Secretary David Sandalow.

Sandalow’s statement comes as delays of the Nissan Leaf and other concerns have fanned scrutiny of how the commercial viability of electric cars. Pike Research estimates that U.S. electric vehicle supply in 2015 will be closer to 841,000 cars. Sandalow made the statements at a meeting with the Society of Automotive Engineers in Detroit today.

The government released a  report saying its the electric car supply in the U.S. will total 1.2 million cars by “conservative” estimates for 2015. The report doesn’t include key automakers like Toyota, which has the plug-in Prius planned for 2012, and startup Coda, which says it wants to sell an ambitious 14,000 of its electric sedans in its first year of production.

But the report projects supply of the Nissan Leaf in the U.S. this year to be 25,000 cars. By the DOE report’s account, 300,000 of the expected 1.2 million electric cars in 2015 will be Nissan Leafs, meaning the government expects Leafs to account for one in every four electric cars available by 2015. Nissan has to date only brought 453 leaf vehicles stateside. The company has about 20,000 reservations, and reportedly 40 percent of those reservations have become purchases. And Nissan seems to face a setback in the Leaf’s production every time it turns around “” whether it’s a glitch in the system or a massive earthquake that stalls the car’s production line.

JR:  It seems to me an 800,000 to 1,000,000 range is more plausible to use right now — and let’s hope it’s on the high range, but some of that will be dependent on events out of anyone’s control.

LG Chem Power: Battery jobs to rise, prices to decline

As CEO of LG Chem Power, Prabhakar Patil is at the center of the automotive industry’s charge to develop affordable, battery-powered electric cars that will be accepted by mainstream consumers. And it is a leader in employing Michiganders in the green economy.

For now, Patil said, plug-in electric cars such as the Chevrolet Volt and Nissan Leaf need support from federal rebates for the price to be low enough to entice buyers.

But Patil is confident that by 2020 the industry will be able to cut the price of lithium-ion batteries in half. The cost will decline as production increases and as the power per pound and the lifespan of the batteries improves.

LG Chem Power, established in Colorado Springs, Colo., in 2000, moved to Troy in 2005. The company, a subsidiary of Korea-based LG Chem, employs about 150 at its engineering and development center in Troy.

The Koch Brothers and Climate Science, Redux

Last year, Greenpeace, the environmental group, accused the brothers Charles and David Koch of a stealth campaign to attack climate science, setting off extensive media scrutiny of the Kochs and their company, Koch Industries. (A Koch subsidiary is a major oil refiner.) Now Greenpeace is out with an update.

The new report largely adds detail, from the advocacy group’s perspective, to some previously disclosed activities of the company and various groups financed by its owners and employees. For instance, the report highlights donations from Koch interests to the unsuccessful attempt last year to get voters to roll back California’s ambitious clean-energy policy. Similarly, the report lays out Greenpeace’s take on the battle over the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a compact of states in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast that seeks to limit greenhouse gases.

Greenpeace now has a whole section of its Web site devoted to tracking the Koch interests. Koch Industries itself, under heavy media scrutiny since last year’s report, has started a blog to challenge its critics and publicize demands the company makes for corrections to articles, as well as to lay out the Koch brothers’ positions on various issues.

The Times has e-mailed the company to ask whether it plans any specific response to the new Greenpeace report, and if it posts one, we will link to it.

Climate change policy is EPA’s job, not courts’

THE DEMOCRATS’ global warming bill died in the Senate last year. The new Republican majority in the Housewants to gut carbon regulations at the Environmental Protection Agency. President Obama is reluctant even to discuss global warming publicly. So some environmentalists believe that a case being argued before the Supreme Court Tuesday represents the last, best hope to reduce greenhouse emissions.

This is not where environmentalists had hoped to be when the caseAmerican Electric Power v. Connecticut, was launched in 2004. A group of states and New York City sued several electric companies that year, claiming that the greenhouse emissions from their power plants are a “public nuisance” because they contribute to global warming. Climate change directly harms California’s snowpack, New York’s sea level, shipping in the Great Lakes and so forth, the states argued, and so they turned to an element of common law, non-statutory legal norms imported from England centuries ago that allow for nuisance suits when one party’s activity harms others.

A U.S. District Court judge curtly threw out the states’ case, saying that plaintiffs were asking the judicial branch to settle an inherently political question. The states persuaded the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit toreverse the district court’s ruling, arguing that, under ancient and recent precedent, courts have settled nuisance claims similar to those in AEP v. Connecticut.

Green Jobs Will Trump Climate Change for Young Voters

In November 2008, an estimated 22 million young people voted for President Obama, turning in the third-highest showing of young voters ever, according to the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement.

Nearly 40 years earlier, Sen. Gaylord Nelson had young voters in mind when he chose April 22 as the first Earth Day. The specific day, first dubbed “National Teach-In on the Crisis of the Environment,” was chosen to ensure maximum participation from college students, not overlapping with exams or holidays.

This Earth Week, young people say they plan to hold Obama responsible for his energy and environment policies in 2012.

Over the weekend, more than 10,000 young people gathered in Washington to train leaders in community organizing and challenge the administration on energy policy as part of Power Shift 2011.

The young climate activists, describing themselves as the “forgotten Obama voters,” heard from former Vice President Al Gore, former green jobs czar Van Jones, and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson, among others.

What’s Really Significant About Google’s Big Green Tech Bets

Google’s plowing $100 million into what will be the world’s largest wind farm, Shepherds Flat, near Arlington, Oregon. It follows a $168 million investment in Brightsource’s Ivanpah solar plant in the Mojave and brings the Mountain View company’s total investments in green tech projects to over $350 million.

There are two fascinating things about Google’s recent moves. First, this is money for deployment. It’s project finance, not R&D. Other big tech companies like LG and Samsung have announced massive investments in green tech research, but Google is putting money to get real projects off the ground. Second, this money comes from Google, Inc, not under the RE < C program. Google expects to make money on the big projects. I couldn’t get any specifics out of Parag Chokshi, clean energy public affairs spokesperson, but it’s clear this isn’t a charity program:

Unfortunately, we can’t disclose the deal structure or potential returns for the investment. But overall, we certainly see renewable energy as both good for the environment and a good business opportunity. These projects — Shepherds Flat and BrightSource’s Ivanpah, among the others we’ve invested in — can have attractive returns given the risks involved. So the money for these investments comes out of Google Inc. and as you said, we expect to generate strong financial returns. It’s also great way to diversity our cash holdings while investing in an area that we think is important to support.

Dallas Kachan, who heads the clean tech research and consulting firm Kachan and Co, said that Google could expect to get something like a six percent return on its investment, though that number could vary by project.

EPA: 2009 greenhouse gas emissions were lowest recorded since 1995

Fewer greenhouse gases were emitted in 2009 than any year since 1995, the Environmental Protection Agency said Monday. But the agency noted that overall emissions have increased by more than 7.3 percent in the last two decades.

The EPA found that greenhouse gases emitted in the United States during 2009 decreased by 6.1 percent as compared to those emitted in 2008.

The reason? U.S. fuel consumption and electricity use went down.

Scientists say greenhouse gas emissions are the main contributor to climate change. The EPA has moved to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, but Republicans and some Democrats in Congress are trying to block the agency’s authority to impose climate change rules.

The 2009 emissions represent the lowest annual U.S. greenhouse gas emissions since 1995. But, EPA notes, overall emissions have increased by more than 7.3 percent from 1990 to 2009.

The data is included in EPA’s annual greenhouse gas inventory, which was released Monday. It represents EPA’s most up-to-date greenhouse gas emissions numbers.

The Climate Post: Is Natural Gas All It’s Cracked Up to Be?

Natural gas has a reputation as the least environmentally damaging fossil fuel, but a new study from Cornell University paints a slightly different picture. Study leader Robert Howarth told the BBC that, in terms of greenhouse gas emissions, gas from shale rocks — undergoing a boom in production in the U.S. — is “quite likely as bad [as] or worse than coal.”

Why? Methane, the main component of natural gas, is a far more powerful — albeit shorter-lived — greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, and shale gas production is leaky. For each watt of energy released, the emissions from producing shale gas would cause about 20 percent more warming than the emissions from coal over a 20-year period. This is about the same amount of warming as coal over a 100-year period.

The study received criticism from a variety of groups, including the gas industry and the industry group Energy In Depth. Even The Clean Air Task Force argued it was flawed in several ways.

Meanwhile, shale gas is being hailed as a savior by many, with Time magazine proclaiming on its cover, “This rock could power the world,” and President Obama talking up shale gas production in a recent energy speech, saying “the potential for natural gas is enormous.”

New discovery could lead to cheaper and more efficient solar power

A new discovery about the magnetic fields of light by University of Michigan researchers could lead to a new way of producing solar power that doesn’t require the use of semiconductor solar cells.

The discovery, which overturns a hundred years of scientific theory that assumed the effects of light’s magnetic field were so weak that they could be ignored, could result in a cheaper way to produce solar energy.

Traditional solar energy requires manufacturing solar cells that need extensive semiconductor processing. In contrast, this new process would eliminate that expense by using glass, which is already made in bulk and wouldn’t require nearly as much processing.

The glass would be fitted into lenses that focus light into higher intensities not produced naturally and would use fiber to guide it, according to a report from the university.

Surprise! Developed world uses less energy per person than it did 20 years ago

If you’re the sort who wakes up every morning to a media diet that can only be delivered via a Wolf Blitzer situation room-style array of glowing screens and buzzing whatsits, you probably suspect that you’re using more energy than the mid-90’s you, the one who warmed herself over a kerosene lamp and ate hardtack straight out of the barrel.

But you’re wrong. Per capita, the developed world is using less energy per person than it did in 1995, reports the National Journal. Yet taken as a whole, the world uses more energy per capita than it did 20 years ago. How is this possible?

Zillions of desperately poor people were born into the world since then, and all of them have slowly gained access to a bit more energy.

15 Responses to April 19 News: U.S. on track for 800k to 1M electric cars by 2015; Lithium-ion car battery maker projects 50% price drop by 2020

  1. Gary Peters says:

    If we put a million plug-in hybrids on the highway, then keep in mind that half of them must be considered coal-powered because about half of U.S. electricity is produced by coal-fired power plants.

    [JR: Half coal-powered plug in still easily beats the average car on the road and indeed pretty much every same-class hybrid on the road running on gasoline.]

  2. Lore says:

    We need to get a move on, 1 million electric cars by 2015 is less then ½ percent of the total domestic passenger vehicles on the road in the U.S.

  3. Michael T. says:

    NOAA joins international effort to track black carbon in the Arctic

    Unmanned aircraft, land, ship observations study potential role in Arctic climate

    April 18, 2011

    Six nations are participating in a study that looks at the potential role of black carbon, or soot, on the rapidly changing Arctic climate. NOAA is using two small unmanned aircraft the size of a large suitcase outfitted with sensors to sniff and sample the air.

    The Arctic climate is changing faster than some scientists expected. A continuing decline in summer sea ice, warmer temperatures, changes in vegetation, and other indicators signal polar changes that affect the rest of the globe. Black carbon is contributing to this warming. Scientists say much of the black carbon in the Arctic comes from biomass and fossil fuel burning in North America and Eurasia.

    “Carbon is dark in color and absorbs solar radiation, much like wearing a black shirt on a sunny day. If you want to be cooler, you would wear a light-colored shirt that would reflect the sun’s warmth,” said Tim Bates, a research chemist at NOAA’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory (PMEL) in Seattle and co-lead of the U.S. component of the study. “When black carbon covers snow and ice, the radiation is absorbed, much like that black shirt, instead of being reflected back into the atmosphere.”

    Read more:

  4. Joan Savage says:

    What’s the outlook for the sources of electricity for the new electric cars?

    I’d be fine about plugging into a grid that delivers wind-generated electricity, but it would feel like a defeat to recharge a car in an area that depends on coal for electricity generation. What a pathetic consolation it would be to have only shifted from foreign oil to domestic coal.

    Instead of seeing “Contains 10% ethanol”at a gas pump, I’d like to see “100% wind-generated,” or the like, at a fast electric recharge station.

  5. paulm says:

    THe perfect storm….

    Texas Fire Situation Is of “Historic Proportions”

    In what has been described as being almost the “perfect fire storm,” a never-before-seen wildfire situation in Texas has led to the scorching of nearly 1 million acres and destruction of hundreds of homes and buildings.

    “This is a situation of historic proportions,” said Victoria Koenig, public information officer with the Texas Forest Service, in a phone interview with Tuesday. “The fuels are so dry. The winds are astronomical. The behavior of the winds is a perplexing situation. It’s never been like this before.”

    Koenig added, “When you put all the ingredients together, you’re getting close to having the ‘perfect fire storm’.”

  6. Joan Savage says:

    I’m looking for more news of the US Supreme Court hearing today (4-19-11) on “American Electric Power v. Connecticut” which merits its own separate post.

  7. Colorado Bob says:

    Starting this Earth Day, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will launch a series of 50 stories for 50 consecutive weekdays that will explore the many ways accelerating climate change is impacting or may impact fish and wildlife across America. No geographic region is immune.

    Combined with other resource stressors, such as urbanization, invasive species and water scarcity, climate change is disrupting natural systems upon which wildlife and people depend. The series will cover 50 states, examining regional challenges posed by climate change.

  8. Colorado Bob says:

    Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said late Monday the lashing rains and its destruction of life and property is “without precedence in the history of Colombia.”

    The resurgence of the rains also threatens to derail Colombia’s economy, which only recently got back on track and is expected to grow between 5% and 6% this year. Analysts say the recent rains may destroy coffee crops, just as they did last year, and make it difficult for some multinational companies to transport oil and coal to shipping ports for export.

    Nearly all of nation’s 32 states, or departments, are under a state of emergency, and around 3 million people have been left homeless since the devastation began last year.

  9. Michael T. says:

    Storm’s human, financial toll rises in Raleigh, NC

    RALEIGH, N.C. – The tornado that carved through North Carolina’s capital killed four children, shuttered a university for the rest of the spring semester and felled the signature trees in the metropolis known as the “City of Oaks.”

    It was the most active system of tornadoes on record in the state’s history, leading to 23 deaths in one of the nation’s fastest-growing cities. The death toll and property damages underscored the massive costs that can be inflicted when a tornado makes a rare venture into areas of dense population.

    Read more:

  10. Michael T. says:

    Prof. Scott Mandia discusses how a warmer planet can make storms stronger and increase the risk of flooding. Broadcast April 18, 2011 on My 9 news NY/NJ.

  11. paulm says:
    Climate Change: Doing Nothing Will Cost More Than Preventative Measures, New Report Shows

  12. Leland Palmer says:

    Regardless of what the Wall Street Journal says, regulating greenhouse gases is anyone’s job…who will actually do it. If the Supreme Court rules that states may sue large polluters using public nuisance law, that can only be a good thing, IMO.

    Right now, huge polluters are able to externalize the cost of energy production by dumping unlimited amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere. This creates a market failure, in which power producers are not charged the full social cost of producing their product.

    Of course CO2 emissions should not be given a blanket exemption from responsibility under public nuisance law. Any other industry can be sued for the damages they cause to others- why should the fossil fuel industries be exempt from this?

  13. Mark says:

    The Google story is very positive. Not only is investing in renewable energy an excellent money maker – it is also a hedge against supply disruptions and energy price spikes. Energy is one of Google’s largest costs – I’ve heard numbers as high as 30% of their total cost of doing business.

    I’ll be very interested to see if other companies follow suit.

  14. Lewis C says:

    A fine article in The Tyee, “Japan, oil and the fragility of globalization” by Andrew Nikiforuk, contains the following delightful quote:

    “. . . . the magnitude of the Japanese quake was a reminder that the Green Gal not only bats last and hardest but whenever she damn well pleases.”