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NYTimes' Thomas Friedman Cites CalCars' Felix Kramer on Global Fleet Electrification

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  • Felix Kramer
    Thomas Friedman, Pulitzer-Prize winning NYTimes columnist, has been writing eloquently and persuasively about cleantech s potential to change and improve the
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 18, 2009
      Thomas Friedman, Pulitzer-Prize winning NYTimes
      columnist, has been writing eloquently and
      persuasively about cleantech's potential to
      change and improve the world. He says "E.T. --
      energy technology" will have an even greater
      impact than "I.T. -- information technology." In
      his bestselling book, "Hot, Flat and Crowded," he
      devoted great attention to plug-in hybrids and
      the smart grid, citing CalCars' work and views
      (see http://www.calcars.org/calcars-news/996.html
      ); he also included us in his film, "Addicted to
      Oil." On Monday, he moderated the panel at the
      launch of the Electrification Coalition
      event (more from us on that soon), after which
      he and I exchanged emails. In today's column, he
      writes about oil dependency, and cites a comment
      I made to him. Read the column below, followed by
      the complete thought from which he quotes part 1.

      (Shortly after it goes out on email, this posting
      will also be viewable at
      http://www.calcars.org/news-archive.html -- there
      you can add CalCars-News to your RSS feed.)

      For an index to Friedman's columns, see
      (among the best recent ones are "More Poetry,
      Please," (Nov 1) and "Real Men Tax Gas" (Sept. 20)

      The New York Times November 18, 2009
      " What They Really Believe" by Op-Ed Columnist Thomas L. Friedman

      If you follow the debate around the
      energy/climate bills working through Congress you
      will notice that the drill-baby-drill opponents
      of this legislation are now making two claims.
      One is that the globe has been cooling lately,
      not warming, and the other is that America simply
      can't afford any kind of cap-and-trade/carbon tax.

      But here is what they also surely believe, but
      are not saying: They believe the world is going
      to face a mass plague, like the Black Death, that
      will wipe out 2.5 billion people sometime between
      now and 2050. They believe it is much better for
      America that the world be dependent on oil for
      energy -- a commodity largely controlled by
      countries that hate us and can only go up in
      price as demand increases --rather than on clean
      power technologies that are controlled by us and
      only go down in price as demand increases. And,
      finally, they believe that people in the
      developing world are very happy being poor --
      just give them a little running water and
      electricity and they'll be fine. They'll never want to live like us.

      Yes, the opponents of any tax on carbon to
      stimulate alternatives to oil must believe all
      these things because that is the only way their
      arguments make any sense. Let me explain why by
      first explaining how I look at this issue.

      I am a clean-energy hawk. Green for me is not
      just about recycling garbage but about renewing
      America. That is why I have been saying "green is the new red, white and blue."

      My argument is simple: I think climate change is
      real. You don't? That's your business. But there
      are two other huge trends barreling down on us
      with energy implications that you simply can't
      deny. And the way to renew America is for us to
      take the lead and invent the technologies to address these problems.

      The first is that the world is getting crowded.
      According to the 2006 U.N. population report,
      "The world population will likely increase by 2.5
      billion ... passing from the current 6.7 billion
      to 9.2 billion in 2050. This increase is
      equivalent to the total size of the world
      population in 1950, and it will be absorbed
      mostly by the less developed regions, whose
      population is projected to rise from 5.4 billion
      in 2007 to 7.9 billion in 2050."

      The energy, climate, water and pollution
      implications of adding another 2.5 billion mouths
      to feed, clothe, house and transport will be
      staggering. And this is coming, unless, as the
      deniers apparently believe, a global pandemic or
      a mass outbreak of abstinence will freeze world population -- forever.

      Now, add one more thing. The world keeps getting
      flatter ­ more and more people can now see how we
      live, aspire to our lifestyle and even take our
      jobs so they can live how we live. So not only
      are we adding 2.5 billion people by 2050, but
      many more will live like "Americans" -- with
      American-size homes, American-size cars, eating American-size Big Macs.

      "What happens when developing nations with
      soaring vehicle populations get tens of millions
      of petroleum-powered cars at the same time as the
      global economy recovers and there's no large
      global oil supply overhang?" asks Felix Kramer,
      the electric car expert who advocates
      electrifying the U.S. auto fleet and increasingly
      powering it with renewable energy sources. What
      happens, of course, is that the price of oil goes
      through the roof -- unless we develop
      alternatives. The petro-dictators in Iran,
      Venezuela and Russia hope we don't. They would only get richer.

      So either the opponents of a serious
      energy/climate bill with a price on carbon don't
      care about our being addicted to oil and
      dependent on petro-dictators forever or they
      really believe that we will not be adding 2.5
      billion more people who want to live like us, so
      the price of oil won't go up very far and,
      therefore, we shouldn't raise taxes to stimulate
      clean, renewable alternatives and energy efficiency.

      Green hawks believe otherwise. We believe that in
      a world getting warmer and more crowded with more
      "Americans," the next great global industry is
      going to be E.T., or energy technology based on
      clean power and energy efficiency. It has to be.
      And we believe that the country that invents and
      deploys the most E.T. will enjoy the most
      economic security, energy security, national
      security, innovative companies and global
      respect. And we believe that country must be
      America. If not, our children will never enjoy
      the standard of living we did. And we believe the
      best way to launch E.T. is to set a fixed,
      long-term price on carbon ­ combine it with the
      Obama team's impressive stimulus for green-tech ­
      and then let the free market and innovation do the rest.

      So, as I said, you don't believe in global
      warming? You're wrong, but I'll let you enjoy it
      until your beach house gets washed away. But if
      you also don't believe the world is getting more
      crowded with more aspiring Americans -- and that
      ignoring that will play to the strength of our
      worst enemies, while responding to it with clean
      energy will play to the strength of our best
      technologies -- then you're willfully blind, and
      you're hurting America's future to boot.


      On Monday, Friedman asked, "How close are we at
      scale from clean power? If not, what's the point
      of elect cars powered by coal?"

      It's of course true that we need to fix the grid
      while we build green cars. (That's where we get
      my favorite thing about plug-in cars, quoted in
      "Hot, Flat and Crowded" -- they're the only ones
      that get cleaner as they get older, because the grid gets cleaner.)

      Still, Nissan's Carlos Ghosn gave the simple
      answer to that question: we're ahead on emissions
      even if we power cars by coal. That's because
      electric motors are up to 4x more efficient than
      internal combustion engines (well-to-wheel energy use).

      But what about China and India? Here's the
      scenario I've NEVER seen analysts or journalists talk about:

      What happens when developing nations with soaring
      vehicle populations get tens of millions of
      petroleum-powered cars at the same time as the
      global economy recovers and there's no large
      global oil supply overhang? These countries and
      their customers will have to scramble to fuel
      their cars. (As you know, China is already
      working to lock in contracts around the world.)

      What if they can't get enough? India and China
      will then look to their enormous coal reserves.
      As Germany and South Africa did when they had no
      supply, they will go the route of liquifying coal
      into gasoline. The CO2 impacts will be 2-3x
      higher than using that coal directly to power
      EVs. (Let's not even talk about water....)

      That's why, YES, we'll better off if starting
      right now, India and China build new cars that
      run on electricity. Even if (short-term), that
      electricity comes form coal, long-term they too
      will have every reason to get their grids off
      coal. And then everyone will be glad their vehicles can plug in.

      -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- --
      Felix Kramer fkramer@...
      Founder California Cars Initiative
      -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- --
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