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NYTimes' Friedman: Hope from Google, MIT; McKinsey's Promising Report

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  • Felix Kramer
    On the eve of the Bali COP-13 meeting to begin to build the global plan to follow up on the Kyoto Acccord s limited, incomplete start, here s a forward-looking
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 1, 2007
      On the eve of the Bali COP-13 meeting to begin to
      build the global plan to follow up on the Kyoto
      Acccord's limited, incomplete start, here's a
      forward-looking report by Thomas Friedman about
      new ways of talking about global warming's
      consequences -- "global weirding" -- plus
      Google's new initiative and the MIT Vehicle
      Design Summit that's putting together college
      teams around the world to build PHEVs.

      Then a very important report by leading business
      consultants McKinsey (together with leading
      corporate and environmental partners) that
      concludes that through a range of solutions, the
      US could reduce projected 2030 emissions of
      greenhouse gases by up to one-half at relatively
      little cost. The report includes considerable discussion of PHEVs.

      The New York Times
      Sunday, December 2, 2007
      Op-Ed Columnist
      The People We Have Been Waiting For

      It was 60 degrees on Thursday in Washington, well
      above normal, and as I slipped away for some
      pre-Christmas golf, I found myself thinking about
      a wickedly funny story that The Onion, the
      satirical newspaper, ran the other day: “Fall
      Canceled after 3 Billion Seasons”:

      “Fall, the long-running series of shorter days
      and cooler nights, was canceled earlier this week
      after nearly 3 billion seasons on Earth, sources reported Tuesday.

      “The classic period of the year, which once
      occupied a coveted slot between summer and
      winter, will be replaced by new, stifling
      humidity levels, near-constant sunshine and almost no precipitation for months.

      “‘As much as we’d like to see it stay, fall will
      not be returning for another season,’ National
      Weather Service president John Hayes announced
      during a muggy press conference Nov. 6. ‘Fall had
      a great run, but sadly, times have changed.’ ...
      The cancellation was not without its share of
      warning signs. In recent years, fall had been
      reduced from three months to a meager two-week
      stint, and its scheduled start time had been
      pushed back later and later each year.”

      You should never extrapolate about global warming
      from your own weather, but it is becoming hard
      not to — even for professionals. Consider the
      final report of the U.N.’s Intergovernmental
      Panel on Climate Change (I.P.C.C.), which was
      just issued and got far too little attention. It
      concluded that since the I.P.C.C. began its study
      five years ago, scientists had discovered much
      stronger climate change trends than previously
      realized, such as far more extensive melting of
      Arctic ice, and therefore global efforts to
      reverse the growth of greenhouse gas emissions have to begin immediately.

      “What we do in the next two to three years will
      determine our future,” said the I.P.C.C. chairman, Rajendra Pachauri.

      And sweet-sounding “global warming” doesn’t
      really capture what’s likely to happen. I prefer
      the term “global weirding,” coined by Hunter
      Lovins, co-founder of the Rocky Mountain
      Institute, because the rise in average global
      temperature is going to lead to all sorts of
      crazy things — from hotter heat spells and
      droughts in some places, to colder cold spells
      and more violent storms, more intense flooding,
      forest fires and species loss in other places.

      While the Bush team came into office brain dead
      on the climate issue and will leave office with a
      perfect record of having done nothing significant
      to mitigate climate change, I’m heartened that
      our country is increasingly alive on this challenge.

      First, Google said last week that it was going to
      invest millions in developing its own energy
      business. Google described its goal as “RE < C” —
      renewable energy that is cheaper than coal —
      adding: “We’re busy assembling our own internal
      research and development group and hiring a team
      of engineers ... tasked with building one
      gigawatt of renewable energy capacity that is
      cheaper than coal.” That could power all of San Francisco.

      Its primary focus, said Google.org’s energy
      expert, Dan Reicher, will be to advance new solar
      thermal, geothermal and wind solutions “across
      the valley of death.” That is, so many good ideas
      work in the lab but never get a chance to scale
      up because they get swallowed by a lack of
      financing or difficulties in implementation. Do not underestimate these people.

      Last week, I also met with two groups of M.I.T.
      students who blew me away. One was the M.I.T.
      Energy Club, which was founded in 2004 by a few
      grad students discussing energy over beers at a
      campus bar. Today it has 600-plus members who
      have put on scores of events focused on building
      energy expertise among M.I.T. students and
      faculty, and “fact-based analysis,” including a trip to Saudi Arabia.

      Then I got together with three engineering
      undergrads who helped launch the Vehicle Design
      Summit — a global, open-source, collaborative
      effort, managed by M.I.T. students, that has 25
      college teams around the world, including in
      India and China, working together to build a
      plug-in electric hybrid within three years. Each
      team contributes a different set of parts or
      designs. I thought writing for my college
      newspaper was cool. These kids are building a
      hyper-efficient car, which, they hope, “will
      demonstrate a 95 percent reduction in embodied
      energy, materials and toxicity from cradle to
      cradle to grave” and provide “200 m.p.g. energy
      equivalency or better.” The Linux of cars!

      They’re not waiting for G.M. Their goal, they
      explain on their Web site — vds.mit.edu — is “to
      identify the key characteristics of events like
      the race to the moon and then transpose this
      energy, passion, focus and urgency” on catalyzing
      a global team to build a clean car. I just love
      their tag line. It’s what gives me hope:

      “We are the people we have been waiting for.”


      To read about PHEVs in the report, download the
      full PDF and look at PDF numbered pages (not
      publication numbered pages): 19,21,25,9,52,64,65, 68-69 (lengthy), 92

      McKinsey: Reducing U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions: How Much at What Cost?

      Consensus is growing among scientists, policy
      makers, and business leaders that concerted
      action will be needed to address rising
      greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the United
      States. The discussion is now turning to the
      practical challenges of where and how emissions
      reductions can best be achieved, at what costs, and over what periods of time.

      The central conclusion
      The United States could reduce GHG emissions in
      2030 by 3.0 to 4.5 gigatons of CO2e using tested
      approaches and high-potential emerging
      technologies. These reductions would involve
      pursuing a wide array of abatement options with
      marginal costs less than $50 per ton, with the
      average net cost to the economy being far lower
      if the nation can capture sizable gains from
      energy efficiency. Achieving these reductions at
      the lowest cost to the economy, however, will
      require strong, coordinated, economy-wide action
      that begins in the near future.

      Project methodology overview
      Starting in early 2007, a research team from
      McKinsey worked with leading companies, industry
      experts, academics, and environmental NGOs to
      develop a detailed, consistent fact base
      estimating costs and potentials of different
      options to reduce or prevent GHG emissions within
      the U.S. through 2030. The team analyzed more
      than 250 options, encompassing efficiency gains,
      shifts to lower-carbon energy sources, and expanded carbon sinks.
      Read the executive summary (PDF - 460 KB)
      Read the full report (PDF - 4.11 MB)

      US could cut GHG emissions up to 50% at 'manageable' cost: study
      Washington (Platts)--29Nov2007

      The US could reduce projected 2030 emissions of greenhouse gases by
      one-third to one-half at a "manageable" cost to the economy and without
      requiring big changes in consumer lifestyles, according to a report issued
      Thursday by management consultant McKinsey & Company and The Conference Board,
      a business research organization.

      The report, "Reducing US Greenhouse Gas Emissions: How Much at What
      Cost?" was based on an analysis of 250 opportunities for reducing emissions of
      carbon dioxide and other gases believed to contribute to global warming.

      The report said that based on government forecasts, US annual GHG
      emissions will rise 35% to 9.7 billion mt of CO2 equivalent in 2030 if no new
      mitigation actions are adopted. At this level, emissions would overshoot by
      3.5 billion to 5.2 billion mt the targets currently implied by economy-wide
      climate change bills introduced in the US Congress.

      The McKinsey-Conference Board report said a reduction of 3.0 billion to
      4.5 billion mt in 2030 is achievable at "manageable cost using proven and
      emerging high-potential technologies--but only if the US pursues a wide array
      of options and moves quickly to capture gains from energy efficiency."

      "Almost 40% of the opportunity for greenhouse gas reduction identified
      comes from options that more than pay for themselves over their lifetimes,
      thereby creating net savings for the economy," the report said, adding that
      improving energy efficiency in buildings, appliances and industry could, for
      example, "yield net savings while offsetting some 85% of the projected
      incremental demand for electricity in 2030."

      But the report warned that "private sector innovation and policy support
      will be necessary to unlock these and other opportunities. Without forceful
      and coordinated action it is unlikely that even the most economically
      beneficial options would realize their full potential," Ken Ostrowski, a
      McKinsey director, said in a statement.

      McKinsey said its analysis focused on options likely to yield greenhouse
      gas reductions at a cost of less than $50/mt of CO2e.

      The report found, among other things, that "opportunities to reduce
      greenhouse gas emissions are highly fragmented and widely spread across the

      The study said a single option--carbon capture and storage from
      coal-fired power plants--offers less than 11% of total potential identified.
      The largest sector, power generation, accounts for less than one-third of
      the total potential reductions, the report added.

      In addition, the report said that cutting emissions by 3 billion mt of
      CO2e in 2030 would require $1.1 trillion of additional capital spending, or
      roughly 1.5% of the $77 trillion in real investment the US economy is expected
      to make over this period.

      The study said investment would need to be higher in the early years to
      capture energy efficiency gains at lowest overall costs and accelerate the
      development of key technologies, and would be highly concentrated in the power
      and transportation sectors.

      Such investment, the report continued, would "likely put upward pressure
      on electricity prices and vehicle costs."

      The study also said that "five clusters of initiatives, pursued in
      unison, could create substantial progress towards the targets implied by bills
      currently before Congress. From least to highest average cost, they are:
      improving energy efficiency in buildings and appliances (710-870 megatons);
      increasing fuel efficiency in vehicles and reducing carbon intensity of
      transportation fuels (340-660 megatons); pursing various options across
      energy-intensive portions of the industrial sector (620-770 megatons);
      expanding and enhancing carbon sinks, such as forests (440-590 megatons) and
      reducing the carbon intensity of electric power production (800-1,570

      McKinsey and The Conference Board said the report was produced in
      association with DTE Energy, Environmental Defense, Honeywell, National Grid,
      Natural Resources Defense Council, Pacific Gas & Electric and Shell.

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