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Our Message to the Oil Industry: Blue-Skying Petroleum's Future

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  • Felix Kramer
    Last week, Felix spoke in Houston at the Rice University Baker Institute s conference Energy Market Consequences of an Emerging U.S. Carbon Management
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 4 1:58 AM
      Last week, Felix spoke in Houston at the Rice
      University Baker Institute's conference "Energy
      Market Consequences of an Emerging U.S. Carbon
      Management Policy". We think you'll enjoy reading
      the "Op-Ed" that we prepared as a companion to
      that speech, which has also reprinted (so far) at
      Climate Progress. And below that you'll find
      links to a report on the event and to presentations and papers from the Forum.

      (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.)


      [Here's how it was introduced at Joseph Romm's
      Climate Progress blog
      where you can add your comments.]

      Felix Kramer, founder of the California Cars
      Initiative, was a keynoter at a recent Houston
      energy conference sponsored by Rice University's
      Baker Institute and ConocoPhillips. Here is the
      message he wanted to send to the petroleum industry.

      Would your family want to live within breathing
      distance of the Houston Ship Channel? Or near one
      of the world's top targets for terrorists? Can
      you imagine that choke point someday as a recreational destination?

      As Yogi Berra said, "If you don't know where
      you're going, you might not get there." Can you
      picture a world where fossil fuels are the last
      resort, not the first? If anyone can think big,
      it's Texans. What if Houston's corporate HQs and
      its giant port found their way to a new winning streak?

      After eight years in which CalCars.org and our
      partners put plug-in hybrids on the map -- and
      soon into dealer showrooms near you -- I'm
      looking up for the Next Big Thing. As a serial
      entrepreneur, as I blue-sky, I'm thinking
      optimistically about the actual blue sky we look
      up at -- the one that brings out the best in every shade of green we see.

      I'm as conservative as they come about our sky.
      How about you? Just as scientists know that the
      sky is blue because light scatters when it hits
      oxygen and nitrogen, they also recognize just how
      poisoned air can threaten our way of life --
      perhaps even human existence itself. That's why
      so many government and business leaders convened
      September 27 to talk about "Energy Market
      Consequences of an Emerging U.S. Carbon Management Policy."

      That's why I've made it my business to take on a
      daunting goal. I work to reduce greenhouse gases
      80% by 2050. Some countries and industries -- and
      lots of smart money -- are embracing this
      challenge. But more still look the other way.
      That's short-sighted. Besides the impacts of
      climate change, these days we have so many
      reasons to redefine business as usual. Do you
      really like spending over a billion dollars a day
      on imported oil? We get our oil and natural gas
      from deep and remote underground sources. But as
      we've seen from our beloved Gulf Coast to the
      Marcellus Shale Formation, can we ever fully
      protect against all the risks? And do we have the
      vast amounts of water and other resources to
      divert to extract those fuels? How much fun will
      it be to fall far behind Asia and Europe as they
      reinvent economic growth around efficiency,
      cleantech, and renewable energy -- while we're
      stuck like fossils in a second-rate backwater?

      Every day I work hard to move us towards a
      low-carbon world, just 40 years out. The
      low-hanging fruit -- ending our addiction to oil
      for transportation -- could be our generation's
      triumph. Right after Pearl Harbor, Americans
      stopped making cars and trucks and built planes
      and tanks faster than anyone thought possible.
      Now it's our turn to retool and recharge.

      My family will be among the first to reload and
      refuel, replacing our two cars with a Chevy Volt
      and a Nissan Leaf . I'm delighted we'll have a
      million plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles on
      U.S. roads within five years. But even if they
      penetrate the market at lightning speed -- 10
      times faster than hybrids sold in the last decade
      -- in 15 years, plug-ins will still be less than
      one fifth of America's 250 million vehicles.
      That's because gas-guzzlers stay on the road much
      longer than you think. So why don't we upgrade them to plug in?

      A "Big Fix" to do just that could create many
      local jobs and make and save lots of money. With
      Intel co-founder Andy Grove and others, I'm
      promoting the idea of converting most of our
      large gas guzzlers to run partly or entirely on
      electricity. We're already retrofitting homes,
      offices and factories. We can extend the lives of
      our pickups, SUVS, vans, and buses. And by
      replacing gallons with kilowatts, we'll spend
      only a quarter as much per mile to drive them.

      Federal and state governments are already paying
      tens of thousands of dollars per vehicle to
      companies that convert trucks to run on natural
      gas. Unfortunately, that doesn't get us off
      fossil fuels. Natural gas cuts CO2 by a measly
      30%. But every vehicle we retrofit to run on
      electricity will get cleaner as it gets older,
      because its power will come from increasingly
      low-carbon sources -- including all that West Texas wind.

      In 2011, new companies will surprise us with
      technical solutions and business models for a
      giant, new U.S.-led global industry. They'll show
      how to convert almost anything except long-haul
      trucks. In a few years, as batteries get cheaper,
      and we can put lightweight motors right inside
      wheels, many of today's small cars can also
      become affordable, safe, all-electrics or plug-in
      hybrids. And they might use battery separators invented by Exxon Mobil.

      I'm a big fan when the oil industry zeroes in on
      the smartest, best uses for its products. I love
      it when hydrocarbons are locked up in plastic for
      consumer products, synthetic fibers and building
      materials. I hope oil technologies and rigs are
      soon used globally for lots more geothermal
      drilling . I cheer when Chevron invests in a
      startup that sells aviation biofuel from algae to
      the U.S. Navy. That's 21st century leadership,
      inspiring the entire industry to go beyond petroleum.

      I'd like to see the industry sponsor a successor
      to the Progressive Insurance Automotive X Prize
      focused on retrofit solutions. I invite a
      born-again oil industry to accelerate its rebirth
      by forging a bipartisan consensus to put a price
      on carbon emissions. And I'd welcome any oil
      companies announcements that they are not joining
      Valero, Tessoro and the Koch brothers in funding
      efforts to kill California's pioneering legislation on global warming.

      The industry can jump on many huge business and
      job creation opportunity. Take agriculture.
      Rather than continuing to pump up hundreds of
      ocean dead zones with runoff, and watch as others
      capture their customers, oil companies can invest
      in better solutions. The industry can look at
      biochar–an emerging no-side-effects
      geoengineering and soil enrichment technology. It
      can invest in smarter substitutes for
      petroleum-derived pesticides. That's scalable
      since low-carbon farming techniques yield larger
      harvests than today's global average. The icing
      on the cake? Biochar and organic farming could
      capture half the world's greenhouse gases!

      In 2050, I'd like to see my grandchildren run
      around a Houston Ship Channel full of yacht
      marinas and dune buggy trails. I'd watch them
      gulp fresh air as they take up my new favorite
      sport, stand-up paddle boarding, on its clean,
      still waters. And I'd love to hear what crazy new
      challenge they dream up as they gaze at the big Texas sky.

      OUR PRESENTATION ( 1.5MB PDF) is at
      . The 16 "slides" include several updated pages,
      including an update of our "vehicle tracking
      page" plus several focusing on our "Big Fix"
      gas-guzzler conversions campaign, including new information on ALTe's business,

      PLUG-IN CARS REPORT is a good summary of the
      event and its significance. It highlights the
      Baker Institute's endorsement of an aggressive
      transition to electric vehicles as "the single
      most effective way to reduce U.S. oil demand and
      foreign imports as a key component of a carbon

      At a time when Congress is considering spending
      lots of money to convert gasoline and diesel
      vehicles to run on natural gas, the Institute's
      report includes the welcome key recognition that
      putting natural gas into power plants to fuel
      electric motors at about 80% net efficiency is a
      far more effective strategy than using natural
      gas to directly vehicles with internal combustion
      engines at about 20% net efficiency

      The Baker Insitute's page for the event,
      including PDFs of presentations (ours will be
      there within a day), and soon a pointer to the archived webcast is at
      . The reports prepared by the Institute are

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