Nov 10, 2008 (From the CalCars-News archive)
We saw convincing evidence this weekend that experts and advocates for immediate action to cut greenhouse gases have reached a tipping point on plug-in cars. They now recognize them as a critical element of their strategies and platforms. They've progressed from talking generally about a range of ways to get "cleaner cars someday" to seeing electrification of transportation as the most achievable near-term approach. They recognize plug-ins both as the primary future direction for transportation and as an enabler to clean the power grid. (This doesn't mean they're forgetting about finding ways to drive less, improve driving efficiency, or use liquid fuels with lower CO2 content.)
An incoming administration developing its environmental strategy and hearing an auto industry asking for a rescue means we're no longer talking about theoretical or long-term plans. We'll be posting our overall perspective on post-election strategies, but we didn't want to delay sending out this weekend's news. We summarize the key developments and follow with full statements:
- THE ALLIANCE FOR CLIMATE PROTECTION has just launched a new campaign to show how its goals are essential and achievable. The organization Al Gore founded (and supported with his Nobel Prize funds) is getting specific about how we can "Repower America with 100% clean electricity within 10 years." The GRAPHIC on each page at http://www.repoweramerica.org shows a new equation: Energy Efficiency + Renewable Generation + Unified National Smart Grid = 100% Clean Electricity and Clean Plug-in Cars." Digging into the details, we find a THREE-POINT PROGRAM: #1. Energy Efficiency and #2. Renewable Generation. Then we see #3.Unified National Smart Grid, explained as "Modernize transmission infrastructure so that clean electricity generated anywhere in America can power homes and businesses across the nation. National electricity 'interstates' that move power quickly and cheaply to where it needs to be; local smart grids that buy and sell power from households and support clean plug-in cars. Now at the group's website is the first of two new 30-SECOND POST-ELECTION VIDEOS: "Now What" features images of an electric vehicle and a sign, "Electric Vehicle Parking Only".
- AL GORE'S TWO HIGH-IMPACT OP-EDS: In the SUNDAY NEW YORK TIMES, "THE CLIMATE FOR CHANGE" takes up most of a page. Gore presents a five-point program. Here's #3: "We should help America's automobile industry (not only the Big Three but the innovative new startup companies as well) to convert quickly to plug-in hybrids that can run on the renewable electricity that will be available as the rest of this plan matures. In combination with the unified grid, a nationwide fleet of plug-in hybrids would also help to solve the problem of electricity storage. Think about it: with this sort of grid, cars could be charged during off-peak energy-use hours; during peak hours, when fewer cars are on the road, they could contribute their electricity back into the national grid." And THE DAY AFTER THE ELECTION, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL gave Gore and his business partner, David Blood, a platform at "WE NEED SUSTAINABLE CAPITALISM: NATURE DOES NOT DO BAILOUTS" to say, "by challenging America to generate 100% carbon-free electricity within 10 years -- with the building of a 21st century Unified National Smart Grid, and the electrification of our automobile fleet -- we can encourage investment in our economy, secure domestic energy supplies, and create millions of jobs across the country."
- GOOGLE CEO ERIC SCHMIDT, member of Senator Obama's transition economic advisory board, weighed in on priorities. A long-time supporter of plug-in cars and of Google.org's RechargeIT project, he singles out plug-in cars as part of the solution for the grid. He said in the Saturday NY Times, "The strongest position I have taken from an economic point, with Senator Obama, now President-elect Obama, has been to try to solve all of our problems at once. And the easiest way to do that, at least in domestic policy, is by a stimulus program that rewards renewable energy and over time attempts to replace fossil fuels with renewable energy. The Google calculations, which we announced about a month ago, indicate that over a 22-year period, you can save a trillion dollars by investing in these technologies, including plug-in hybrids, and thereby reduce our reliance on oil." [http://knol.google.com/k/-/-/15x31uzlqeo5n/1# is the See Clean Energy 2030 plan plus links to blog announcements and to Schmidt's hour-long discussion of the plan.]
BACKGROUND: MAKING THE CASE TO CLIMATE CHANGE ADVOCATES
CalCars and other plug-in advocates have worked for many years to get those concerned about climate change to feature plug-in cars centrally rather than as a list of options. One way has been to show them PHEVs. And we and others have met frequently with their organizations. (See the pages linked from http://www.calcars.org/photos.html to get a sense of that effort, including a time in 2006 when we gave Gore a ride.) One of the early supporters was leading climatologist James Hansen of NASA. In 2006 he said we had 10 years to begin a massive transformation away from fossil fuels. For this reason, he concluded in 2006, "The plug-in hybrid approach, as being pursued by CalCars, seems to be our best bet for controlling vehicle CO2 emissions in the near-term. Vehicle emissions are the greatest challenge that we must overcome to stabilize climate." http://www.calcars.org/calcars-news/282.html
TAKE TIME TO READ THE FULL STATEMENTS AND DOCUMENTS BELOW: Al Gore in The NY Times and Wall Street Journal, Eric Schmidt in The NY Times, information about James Hansen and 350.org, and the press release and website of Repower America.
"THE CLIMATE FOR CHANGE" BY AL GORE IN THE NEW YORK TIMES
Sunday November 9, 2008
Al Gore, the vice president from 1993 to 2001, was the co-recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007. He founded the Alliance for Climate Protection and, as a businessman, invests in alternative energy companies.
THE inspiring and transformative choice by the American people to elect Barack Obama as our 44th president lays the foundation for another fateful choice that he -- and we -- must make this January to begin an emergency rescue of human civilization from the imminent and rapidly growing threat posed by the climate crisis.
The electrifying redemption of America's revolutionary declaration that all human beings are born equal sets the stage for the renewal of United States leadership in a world that desperately needs to protect its primary endowment: the integrity and livability of the planet.
The world authority on the climate crisis, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, after 20 years of detailed study and four unanimous reports, now says that the evidence is "unequivocal." To those who are still tempted to dismiss the increasingly urgent alarms from scientists around the world, ignore the melting of the north polar ice cap and all of the other apocalyptic warnings from the planet itself, and who roll their eyes at the very mention of this existential threat to the future of the human species, please wake up. Our children and grandchildren need you to hear and recognize the truth of our situation, before it is too late.
Here is the good news: the bold steps that are needed to solve the climate crisis are exactly the same steps that ought to be taken in order to solve the economic crisis and the energy security crisis.
Economists across the spectrum -- including Martin Feldstein and Lawrence Summers -- agree that large and rapid investments in a jobs-intensive infrastructure initiative is the best way to revive our economy in a quick and sustainable way. Many also agree that our economy will fall behind if we continue spending hundreds of billions of dollars on foreign oil every year. Moreover, national security experts in both parties agree that we face a dangerous strategic vulnerability if the world suddenly loses access to Middle Eastern oil.
As Abraham Lincoln said during America's darkest hour, "The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew." In our present case, thinking anew requires discarding an outdated and fatally flawed definition of the problem we face.
Thirty-five years ago this past week, President Richard Nixon created Project Independence, which set a national goal that, within seven years, the United States would develop "the potential to meet our own energy needs without depending on any foreign energy sources." His statement came three weeks after the Arab oil embargo had sent prices skyrocketing and woke America to the dangers of dependence on foreign oil. And -- not coincidentally -- it came only three years after United States domestic oil production had peaked.
At the time, the United States imported less than a third of its oil from foreign countries. Yet today, after all six of the presidents succeeding Nixon repeated some version of his goal, our dependence has doubled from one-third to nearly two-thirds -- and many feel that global oil production is at or near its peak.
Some still see this as a problem of domestic production. If we could only increase oil and coal production at home, they argue, then we wouldn't have to rely on imports from the Middle East. Some have come up with even dirtier and more expensive new ways to extract the same old fuels, like coal liquids, oil shale, tar sands and "clean coal" technology.
But in every case, the resources in question are much too expensive or polluting, or, in the case of "clean coal," too imaginary to make a difference in protecting either our national security or the global climate. Indeed, those who spend hundreds of millions promoting "clean coal" technology consistently omit the fact that there is little investment and not a single large-scale demonstration project in the United States for capturing and safely burying all of this pollution. If the coal industry can make good on this promise, then I'm all for it. But until that day comes, we simply cannot any longer base the strategy for human survival on a cynical and self-interested illusion.
Here's what we can do -- now: we can make an immediate and large strategic investment to put people to work replacing 19th-century energy technologies that depend on dangerous and expensive carbon-based fuels with 21st-century technologies that use fuel that is free forever: the sun, the wind and the natural heat of the earth.
What follows is a five-part plan to repower America with a commitment to producing 100 percent of our electricity from carbon-free sources within 10 years. It is a plan that would simultaneously move us toward solutions to the climate crisis and the economic crisis -- and create millions of new jobs that cannot be outsourced.
First, the new president and the new Congress should offer large-scale investment in incentives for the construction of concentrated solar thermal plants in the Southwestern deserts, wind farms in the corridor stretching from Texas to the Dakotas and advanced plants in geothermal hot spots that could produce large amounts of electricity.
Second, we should begin the planning and construction of a unified national smart grid for the transport of renewable electricity from the rural places where it is mostly generated to the cities where it is mostly used. New high-voltage, low-loss underground lines can be designed with "smart" features that provide consumers with sophisticated information and easy-to-use tools for conserving electricity, eliminating inefficiency and reducing their energy bills. The cost of this modern grid -- $400 billion over 10 years -- pales in comparison with the annual loss to American business of $120 billion due to the cascading failures that are endemic to our current balkanized and antiquated electricity lines.
Third, we should help America's automobile industry (not only the Big Three but the innovative new startup companies as well) to convert quickly to plug-in hybrids that can run on the renewable electricity that will be available as the rest of this plan matures. In combination with the unified grid, a nationwide fleet of plug-in hybrids would also help to solve the problem of electricity storage. Think about it: with this sort of grid, cars could be charged during off-peak energy-use hours; during peak hours, when fewer cars are on the road, they could contribute their electricity back into the national grid.
Fourth, we should embark on a nationwide effort to retrofit buildings with better insulation and energy-efficient windows and lighting. Approximately 40 percent of carbon dioxide emissions in the United States come from buildings -- and stopping that pollution saves money for homeowners and businesses. This initiative should be coupled with the proposal in Congress to help Americans who are burdened by mortgages that exceed the value of their homes.
Fifth, the United States should lead the way by putting a price on carbon here at home, and by leading the world's efforts to replace the Kyoto treaty next year in Copenhagen with a more effective treaty that caps global carbon dioxide emissions and encourages nations to invest together in efficient ways to reduce global warming pollution quickly, including by sharply reducing deforestation.
Of course, the best way -- indeed the only way -- to secure a global agreement to safeguard our future is by re-establishing the United States as the country with the moral and political authority to lead the world toward a solution.
Looking ahead, I have great hope that we will have the courage to embrace the changes necessary to save our economy, our planet and ultimately ourselves.
In an earlier transformative era in American history, President John F. Kennedy challenged our nation to land a man on the moon within 10 years. Eight years and two months later, Neil Armstrong set foot on the lunar surface. The average age of the systems engineers cheering on Apollo 11 from the Houston control room that day was 26, which means that their average age when President Kennedy announced the challenge was 18.
This year similarly saw the rise of young Americans, whose enthusiasm electrified Barack Obama's campaign. There is little doubt that this same group of energized youth will play an essential role in this project to secure our national future, once again turning seemingly impossible goals into inspiring success.
WE NEED SUSTAINABLE CAPITALISM: NATURE DOES NOT DO BAILOUTS"
BY AL GORE AND DAVID BLOOD in THE WALL STREET JOURNAL, November 5, 2008
Mr. Gore, chairman of Generation Investment Management, is a former vice president of the United States. Mr. Blood is managing partner of Generation Investment Management.
When greeting old friends after a period of absence, Ralph Waldo Emerson used to ask: "What has become clear to you since we last met?"
What is clear to us and many others is that market capitalism has arrived at a critical juncture. Even beyond the bailouts and recent volatility, the challenges of the climate crisis, water scarcity, income disparity, extreme poverty and disease must command our urgent attention.
The financial crisis has reinforced our view that sustainable development will be the primary driver of economic and industrial change over the next 25 years. As a result, old patterns and assumptions are now being re-examined in an effort to find new ways to use the strengths of capitalism to address this reality. Indeed, at the Harvard Business School Centennial Global Business Summit held earlier this month, the future of market capitalism was one of the principal themes discussed.
We founded Generation Investment Management in 2004 to develop a new philosophy of investment management and business more broadly. Our approach is based on the long-term, and on the explicit recognition that sustainability issues are central to business and should be incorporated in the analysis of business and management quality.
Nearly five years on, our conviction on the importance of sustainability in delivering long-term performance has increased. Indeed, the past year, and certainly the past two months, has reinforced our view on sustainability. While certainly not a complete list, the causes of the current financial crisis include: short-termism (including but not limited to increased leverage), poor governance and regulation, misaligned compensation and incentive systems, lack of transparency, and in some firms, poor leadership and a dysfunctional business culture.
Forty years ago, Robert F. Kennedy reminded Americans that the Dow Jones Industrial Average and Gross National Product measure neither our national spirit nor our national achievement. Both metrics fail to consider the integrity of our environment, the health of our families and the quality of our education. As he put it, "the Gross National Product measures neither our wit nor our courage, neither our wisdom nor our learning, neither our compassion nor our devotion to country. It measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile."
The Keynesian system of "national accounts," which still serves as the backbone for determining today's gross domestic product, is incomplete in its assessment of value. Principally established in the 1930s, this system is precise in its ability to account for capital goods, but dangerously imprecise in its ability to account for natural and human resources.
Business -- and by extension the capital markets -- need to change. We are too focused on the short term: quarterly earnings, instant opinion polls, rampant consumerism and living beyond our means. As we have often said, the market is long on short and short on long. Short-termism results in poor investment and asset allocation decisions, with disastrous effects on our economy. As Abraham Lincoln said at the time of America's greatest danger, "We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we will save our country."
At this moment, we are faced with the convergence of three interrelated crises: economic recession, energy insecurity and the overarching climate crisis. Solving any one of these challenges requires addressing all three.
For example, by challenging America to generate 100% carbon-free electricity within 10 years -- with the building of a 21st century Unified National Smart Grid, and the electrification of our automobile fleet -- we can encourage investment in our economy, secure domestic energy supplies, and create millions of jobs across the country.
We also need to internalize externalities -- starting with a price on carbon. The longer we delay the internalization of this obviously material cost, the greater risk the economy faces from investing in high carbon content, "sub-prime" assets. Such investments ignore the reality of the climate crisis and its consequences for business. And as Jonathan Lash, president of the World Resources Institute recently said: "Nature does not do bailouts."
Sustainability and long-term value creation are closely linked. Business and markets cannot operate in isolation from society or the environment.
Today, the sustainability challenges the planet faces are extraordinary and completely unprecedented. Business and the capital markets are best positioned to address these issues. And there are clearly higher expectations for businesses, and more serious consequences for running afoul of the boundaries of corporate responsibility. We need to return to first principles. We need a more long-term and responsible form of capitalism. We must develop sustainable capitalism.
GOOGLE CEO ERIC SCHMIDT IN "GOOGLE AT 10: SEARCHING ITS OWN SOUL,"
NYTimes November 10
Saturday Interview, on the occasion of Google's 10th anniversary,
INTERVIEWER MIGUE HELFT'S INTRODUCTION: Mr. Schmidt, 53, spoke earlier this week from the company's Mountain View, Calif., headquarters about his plans for managing Google in a downturn, the unraveling of an advertising partnership with Yahoo and his recent public endorsement of Barack Obama. Mr. Schmidt is also a member of Senator Obama's transition economic advisory board.
Q. You publicly endorsed Barack Obama for president saying, among other things, that you liked his economic plan. Are there other ideas or proposals that you think could help America's and Silicon Valley's economy?
A. The strongest position I have taken from an economic point, with Senator Obama, now President-elect Obama, has been to try to solve all of our problems at once. And the easiest way to do that, at least in domestic policy, is by a stimulus program that rewards renewable energy and over time attempts to replace fossil fuels with renewable energy. The Google calculations, which we announced about a month ago, indicate that over a 22-year period, you can save a trillion dollars by investing in these technologies, including plug-in hybrids, and thereby reduce our reliance on oil.
UNDERSTANING 350 PARTS PER MILLION: 350.org is a new organization co-founded by Bill McKibben. It's I part the successor to "StepItUp," the 2007 campaign for global warming awareness events. The name universally in every language conveys the need to stabilize and reduce CO2 emissions to 350 parts per million. Read the FAQ "Understanding 350" at http://350.org/understanding-350, and see the link to DR. JAMES HANSEN ON 350 PPM: http://arxiv.org/abs/0804.1126 There he says, "If humanity wishes to preserve a planet similar to that on which civilization developed and to which life on Earth is adapted, paleoclimate evidence and ongoing climate change suggest that CO2 will need to be reduced from its current 385 ppm to at most 350 ppm…If the present overshoot of this target CO2 is not brief, there is a possibility of seeding irreversible catastrophic effects."
REPOWER AMERICA PRESS RELEASE: 'Now What?' 'Repower America' Plan Answers Call for Bold Answers to Address America's Growing Economic, Security and Environmental Crises
MENLO PARK, Calif., Nov 06, 2008 As the nation winds down from an historic election, many Americans are asking the question: Now What? Today, the "We" Campaign responded to that question with a comprehensive solution to the three core challenges facing our country: our economy, national security and the climate crisis.
In July, former Vice President and Nobel Laureate Al Gore issued a challenge to Repower America with 100% clean electricity within ten years. Building on that challenge, the "We" Campaign is launching a major advertising and grassroots effort to support the new President-Elect and other leaders as they seek to fulfill the election's mandate for change and enact bold policies to revitalize our economy and help solve the climate crisis.
"There has never been a better time than right now to Repower America," said Cathy Zoi, CEO of the Alliance for Climate Protection, the nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that manages the 1.8 million-member "We" Campaign. "Now is not the time for small steps or a narrow focus. The American people are calling for bold change, and Repower America is the big solution to get our country back on track quickly. Quickly transitioning to clean energy will kick-start our economy, generate millions of new jobs and provide the foundation for long term economic growth."
Starting on November 6, a series of new advertisements will run on television, in print and online. The first ad poses the question, "Now What?" The answer: "Our nation just made history. We have an historic opportunity to boost our economy and Repower America with 100% clean electricity within 10 years. It will create new American jobs, end our addiction to dirty coal and foreign oil and solve the climate crisis." The ad concludes, "Big problems need big solutions. History is watching."
On Sunday, a second television ad entitled "Common Thread" will begin airing, pointing to America's continued harmful dependence on carbon-based fuels as the common thread running through our economic, national security and climate crises. If we pull that thread and end our carbon dependence, the ad states, we have the ability to solve these problems by Repowering America.
The plan to Repower America outlines immediate investments in three areas: energy efficiency, renewable generation and transmission:
- Energy Efficiency: A national upgrade to eliminate waste, save money, and improve comfort. Make every bit of energy we produce work harder for us.
- Renewable Generation: Accelerate the ramp-up of clean, renewable electricity sources through policies that support increased private and public investment in technologies that work, like wind, solar, and geothermal.
- Unified National Smart Grid: Modernize transmission infrastructure so that clean electricity generated anywhere in America can power homes and businesses across the nation. National electricity 'interstates' that move power quickly and cheaply to where it needs to be; local smart grids that buy and sell power from households and support clean plug-in cars.
"We have the tools in hand today to make the plan to Repower America a reality," Zoi said. "But transforming our economy will require bold leadership and resolve. We need our new administration to embrace the Repower America goal and usher in a new era of American excellence, in which our nation leads the world in clean energy technology." To view the ads, visit http://repoweramerica.org/raads. For more information on the plan to Repower America, visit www.repoweramerica.org.
About the "We" Campaign: Unprecedented in scale for a public policy issue, the Alliance for Climate Protection's "We" Campaign draws from the best practices of successful commercial, social marketing and political campaigns. The We Campaign combines advertising, online organizing and partnerships with a diverse and growing group of grassroots organizations, to educate the American public on the urgent need to solve the climate crisis and activate them to demand real solutions from elected officials - in part through repowering America with 100 percent of its electricity from clean carbon-free sources within 10 years.
READ THE ANALYSIS OF HOW TO GET TO A CLEAN GRID IN 10 YEARS at http://www.repoweramerica.org/elements/analysis/ AND SEE A RANGE OF COMMENTS from President-elect Obama, Senator McCain, and many others at http://www.repoweramerica.org/content/what-experts-are-saying/
REPOWER AMERICA'S PAGE ON CLEAN PLUG-IN CARS
The Problem: US passenger vehicles (cars and trucks) consume about 390 million gallons of gasoline per day and contribute 20% of our global warming pollution. The gasoline for these cars is almost entirely refined from petroleum, nearly 60% of which is imported. And with a record year of price volatility ranging from $2/gal to more than $4.50/gal in some parts of the country, fueling these cars has created severe hardship and ongoing anxiety.
The Solution: Commercialize clean, affordable cars that 'fuel' by plugging in to a unified national smart grid carrying clean energy. With the development of a unified national smart grid that transmits carbon-free electricity, transition to a cleaner, more energy-efficient fleet of plug-in passenger vehicles. Help speed the transition by supporting American companies (big and small) that are pursuing plug-in cars and advanced vehicle and battery technologies.
The Benefits: Clean plug-in passenger vehicles will reduce dependence on foreign oil, provide transportation for as little as $1 per equivalent gallon, create price certainty with renewable energy sources that are abundant and free, and help solve the climate crisis. A plug-in fleet will also contribute to energy storage on the grid. And the transition will revitalize the American auto industry.
How We Get There
As the rest of the Repower America plan matures, begin the transition to plug-in vehicles for the nation's passenger car fleet. A plug-in vehicle draws electricity from the grid to charge its batteries. Full battery electric vehicles use only the batteries for power while plug-in hybrid vehicles use both a fuel like gasoline, as well as grid-charged batteries, for power. For either option, cars that charge from a clean electricity system will be cleaner too. Plug-in cars could also have fuel costs as low as $1 per equivalent gallon of gasoline if they drive only on electricity
Plug-in cars can also act as battery storage for the grid. This means owners can sell power back to the grid from their charged batteries when the electricity is most valuable and the price is the highest. It also helps the grid operate more smoothly - with only 3% of the car fleet plugging in to the grid at optimal times, wind power could support up to 50% of the US electricity mix.
It is unclear how long the transition will be to a plug-in passenger fleet or what operational strategy the vehicles will eventually settle on (there is ongoing research, development, and demonstration for full electric cars, plug-in hybrid cars with gasoline, and plug-in hybrids with diesel). The auto industry, however, is forecasting retail vehicle availability in the next several years. Support to the auto industry to accelerate production could begin immediately and would help secure jobs for skilled American autoworkers. And the grid infrastructure and renewable generation investments that will enable these clean cars can commence immediately as well.