Business & Technology

Do plug-ins dream of electric horses?

VW to join Toyota, GM with 2010 plug-in hybrid

The following post is by Earl Killian, guest blogger at Climate Progress. ----- The German government announced it will be helping to fund VW's plug-in hybrid development program with 15 million euros. VM aims for a 2010 vehicle with 31 miles of all-electric range. VW head Martin Winterkorn said that while petrol or diesel powered cars would be around for some time to come, "the future belongs to all-electric cars." According to autoblog, the Twin Drive uses a 82-hp electric motor and a 2.0L turbodiesel producing 122 hp. VW recently signed a deal with Sanyo, which is aggressively ramping up automotive lithium-ion battery production. It expects the hybrid and plug-in hybrid markets to be 4 to 4.5 million vehicles by 2015, and aims to capture 40 percent of this market. Sanyo uses a mixture of Ni, Mn, and Co for the positive electrode, thereby producing a safer battery that exhibits power retention ratio of 80 percent or higher after 10,000 cycles (10-15 years in a hybrid vehicle). Last week, Daimler announced it would bring an electric car to market in 2010. For more on plug ins, see "Turn on, plug in, drop out." This post was created for, a project of the Center for American Progress Action Fund.

Airlines must pay for emissions, E.U. says

All flights into, out of, and within the European Union will be included in the bloc’s emissions-trading scheme as of 2012, the E.U. Parliament decided Thursday. If the plan is given final approval, airlines will have to cut emissions 3 percent in 2012 and 5 percent per year from 2013 on. Airlines would buy 15 percent of their emissions permits from the E.U.; the rest would be allocated for free. Big Air Travel strongly opposes the plan, saying it would be extra expense for an already struggling industry. The United States is also opposed, and insists that forcing non-European airlines …

New coal plant approved in Virginia, may fuel mountaintop-removal mining

An embattled $1.8 billion coal plant slated for Wise County, Va., was granted pollution permits Wednesday by a state regulatory board, allowing construction to proceed. The company that will be building the 585-megawatt plant, Dominion Resources, promised local officials it would only source coal from within Virginia; that move is expected to fuel increased mountaintop-removal mining in the state. Air officials were quick to point out that they issued permits for air pollution at drastically lower levels than Dominion had requested — some 80 percent lower for both sulfur dioxide and mercury. As part of the deal, Dominion agreed to …

Auto industry loses suit to sink California vehicle emissions standards

A federal judge has struck down the auto industry’s attempt to gut California’s greenhouse-gas emissions standards for vehicles. California’s law, which would cut vehicle emissions by some 30 percent by 2016, has been stalled due to the U.S. EPA’s denial of a waiver the state needs to implement it. However, the industry lawsuit sought to stop the emissions-reduction law from taking effect even if a new federal administration eventually granted the waiver. The auto industry has complained that the California rules would be far too expensive and would essentially create different fuel-economy rules for California and the 15 other states …

Business sense

BP, Shell, Airbus, and other multinationals call for 50 percent emission cuts by 2050

The CEOs of 100 large multinational corporations -- including companies from carbon-intense industries -- have signed a World Economic Forum statement [PDF] that calls on the G8 to create a strategy to cut global greenhouse-gas emissions by at least 50 percent by 2050. The G8 will be meeting in Japan next month, and Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda will be pushing hard for an agreement on climate change. Notable signatories to the statement: Airbus, British Airways, BP, Duke Energy, DuPont, Electricite de France, Entergy, E.ON, Michelin, Petrobras, Renault, Rolls-Royce, and Shell. Are pigs flying? Not quite.

Home Depot will collect CFLs for recycling

Home Depot announced Tuesday that it will collect compact fluorescent light bulbs and send them off to be recycled. The home-improvement behemoth hopes the new program will keep the bulbs, which contain a small amount of mercury, out of household trash and recycling bins. IKEA also collects CFLs for recycling but doesn’t have the market saturation of Home Depot; more than three-quarters of U.S. households are estimated to be within 10 miles of a Home Depot store. The company’s 1,973 U.S. stores will also switch to CFLs in light-fixture showrooms by the fall, a move expected to save it $16 …

U.S. Supreme Court rejects asbestos company’s appeal, clearing way for trial

The U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal from asbestos company W.R. Grace, clearing the way for a long-awaited criminal trial to begin. The company and six of its executives were indicted in 2005 on charges of violating the Clean Air Act by allegedly releasing asbestos-contaminated vermiculite from a mine in Libby, Mont., between 1963 and 1990, when the mine closed; the executives have also been charged with knowingly endangering the lives of mine workers and town residents. Some 300 of Libby’s 2,600 residents have died from asbestos-related diseases and many hundreds more have been sickened. If convicted at …

Big Three on credit watch

S&P cites automakers’ cashflow concerns

Originally posted at the NDN Blog. While news about high fuel prices this past week centered on disingenuous calls by President Bush and others to drill our way out of the crisis, perhaps the most significant -- and ominous event -- was the barely publicized action by S&P Friday to place the Big Three U.S. automakers on a credit watch. In taking the action, S&P cited "renewed concerns about the three car makers' future cash flows." Given Ford's preexisting troubles -- accentuated by its announcement last week as well that it is postponing relaunch of its star vehicle, the F150 truck -- Chrysler's uncertain future under private equity management, and GM's plummeting market share, the announcement raises real questions about the survival of the U.S. auto industry. Domestic car sales were already down about two million vehicles this year from their high in 2006 before the current fuel crisis. Plummeting sales and oceans of red ink -- as customers struggling under the weight of sky-high consumer debt payments and declining wages eschew the gas guzzling stars of only two years ago -- threaten the U.S. auto industry's very existence. The potential collapse of the Big Three -- still the second largest employer in the country after the government -- calls into question the very essence of the American way of life.

Sustainable economy 101

Lessons from Europe and Japan

The following article appeared in Foreign Policy in Focus, and was reposted at When New York City wanted to make the biggest purchase of subway cars in U.S. history in the late 1990s -- more than $3 billion worth -- the only companies that were able to bid on the contract were foreign. The same problem applies to high-speed rail today: Only European or Japanese companies can build any of the proposed rail networks in the United States. The U.S. has also ceded the high ground to Europe and Japan in a broad range of other sustainable technologies. For instance, 11 companies produce 96 percent of medium to large wind turbines (PDF); only one, GE, is based in the United States, with a 16 percent share of the global market. The differences in market penetration come down to two factors: European and Japanese companies have become more competent producers for these markets, and their governments have helped them to develop both this competence and the markets themselves.

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