Our Message to the Oil Industry: Blue-Skying Petroleum's Future
- 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.)
OUR OP-ED: BLUE-SKYING PETROLEUMS FUTURE
[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
biocharan 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
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Felix Kramer fkramer@...
Founder California Cars Initiative
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