Plunging battery costs will bring the greatest change in automotive history

❝ Plunging battery costs will drive the auto industry’s biggest change in more than a century, enabling a boom by 2030 in technologies from self-driving electric cars to ride-sharing applications.

The price of lithium-ion battery packs for electric cars has fallen 65 percent since 2010 and is likely to keep declining, according to a report by Bloomberg New Energy Finance and McKinsey & Co. Consumers may appreciate the biggest impact in the form of cheaper costs for taxis, including substantial reductions for ones run by machines.

Driving the trend are cheaper batteries, which are the biggest cost in electric cars, along with rapidly improving computer technology that will make self-driving cars a reality on roads within the next decade. Changes already are starting to feed through in the form of an investment boom in ride-hailing applications such as Uber Technologies…and the mushrooming of software developers that will link electric cars to utilities and payment systems.

Those trends will reduce the cost of running a taxi driven by a human by 3.1 percent to $2.76 a mile driven by 2025, according to the report. Self-driving taxis may be as cheap as 67 cents a mile to operate. The study counted in the total cost of owning the vehicle, driver’s pay and allowances for overhead and returns for investors…

❝ The changes will reshape the auto industry, tilting the need for investment away from developing engines and toward perfecting software that drives cars and links them to the web for managing payment and navigation, McKinsey said. Power companies could benefit from a 3 percent increase in electricity demand in the next 15 years…

❝ Battery and hybrid vehicles on the world’s roads may displace as many as 13 million barrels of oil a day by 2040, BNEF forecast this year in a separate report. The costs of lithium-ion batteries, which typically make up about 40 percent of an electric car’s value, may fall by 16 percent to 20 percent with each cumulative doubling of the vehicles’ manufacture…

The only cornball advice I have to offer is – it’s better to invest in rapidly growing tech too soon rather than too late. But, I welcome the changes coming in safety and environment with open arms.

European Union upgrades building codes to include an electric car charging point for every new home

Pawel Libera/LightRocket

Every new or refurbished house in Europe will need to be equipped with an electric vehicle recharging point, under a draft EU directive expected to come into effect by 2019.

In a further boost to prospects for the electric car market in Europe, the regulations due to be published before the end of the year state that by 2023, 10% of parking spaces in new buildings in the EU zone will also need recharging facilities…

❝ As well as extending the driving range and convenience of electric cars, the mushrooming number of recharge stations would allow vehicles to feed their electricity back into the grid.

That in turn would open the door to a futuristic world in which cars supply energy to Europe’s power network at all times of the day and night, balancing shortfalls from intermittent renewable energies when the sun is not shining and the wind not blowing…

❝ Martin Adams, the head of the EEA’s air pollution unit said: “A higher amount of electric vehicles will need additional power to be generated. The source of this extra energy is of prime importance. It is clearly feasible that we use clean renewable sources but when you think of where the different countries are at, I think some fundamental decisions are needed to develop a more sustainable energy system across Europe.”

❝ The French carmaker Renault said that it accepts that electricity supply problems could emerge as the vehicles’ market share increases exponentially, although it sees a solution.

“We could make a huge investment to green our electricity but I personally think the future will be built around local storage with a second life battery,” Berthier said.

Vehicle batteries that have worn down still contain energy which can be topped up with energy from on-site wind and solar power generators and sold back to the grid at peak times.

Renault is strategically partnering with companies such as Connected Energy in second-life projects, while last month, BMW opened a similar 2MW power station near Hamburg, using 2,600 used electric vehicle batteries.

Bravo! Always worth a cheer and a chuckle when common sense from industrialists defeats some of the churlish deceits raised by defenders of the past.

U.S. coal production down 26% – first half of 2016

Just showing how up-to-date coal-based energy really is

Coal production fell in the first half of 2016 dropped 26% from the same period of 2015 on widespread output curtailments especially in the massive Powder River Basin of Wyoming and Montana…

This output drop has been foreshadowed by the idling of dozens of coal mines across the U.S. in the first half of this year.

In terms of overall drop in production half year-over-half year, the Powder River Basin was the hardest hit, dropping about a third from 199.2 million tons produced in the first half of 2015 to only 134.2 million tons in the first half of this year. That 65 million ton drop represents more coal than that actually produced in the first half of 2016 in any of the three other major producing regions: Illinois Basin, Central Appalachia and Northern Appalachia.

Look elsewhere for jobs, folks. Learn to do better with your life.

Massive Catholic divestment from fossil fuels

Climate Solidarity Prayer March in ManilaAP/Aaron Favila

❝ If you care deeply about humanity and its role on this planet, climate change represents a significant, existential threat.

The victims of climate change include people who live near the ocean, people who live in forests, people who live in deserts, and people who live in the mountains. Young people. Old people. Poor people and rich people: If they aren’t already feeling the impacts of a changing climate, they will someday.

And human-caused climate change is threatening and destroying many, many species of plants and animals.

❝ It’s with this view that faith groups have become leaders in the climate change movement. Churches were some of the earliest adopters of fossil fuel divestment — the practice of pulling funds from companies for a range of reasons, including mining for coal, selling oil and gas, or financing tar sands development.

A new cadre of Catholic groups joined the movement Tuesday, announcing a coordinated, global divestment push…

Italian, Canadian, Australian, U.S., Brazilian, and international Catholic groups announced a range of measures distancing themselves from fossil fuels. Some goals are relatively modest: For instance, SSM, a U.S. hospital group, will divest from coal companies. But the Brazilian Diocese of Umuarama will become the first diocese and the first Latin American institution to commit to divest from fossil fuels, according to The diocese is also reducing its carbon footprint and has joined an anti-fracking coalition in Latin America…

❝ Laudato Si’ is an encyclical, issued by Pope Francis last year, that emphasizes the need to be responsible guardians of the environment, particularly in the face of climate change and carbon pollution.

“Every community may take from the bounty of the earth that which it needs for its own survival, but it also has the duty to protect it and ensure the continuity of its fertility for future generations,” the encyclical, an official, high-level teaching for Catholics, says.

❝ Divestment is commonly seen as a powerful tool to reduce access to financing for fossil fuel companies. It also allows individuals and groups to take ownership of their role in the fossil fuel industrial complex, which, in turn, helps raise awareness.

Done it before. I’ll do it, again. Owning shares in fossil fuel companies is like owning shares in cigarette manufacturers. Trying to profit from firms whose products destroy our lives, our existence, is not ethical in my view of a principled life.

Always nice to see some of the oldest philosophies of good will joining in to a modern struggle.

Tesla rewrote the book on electric car sales last month

We’ve been pointing out the many electric vehicle sales records on the board in 2016. Nearly every month established a new high for the plug-in segment in the U.S., and June was best on the books. Still, Tesla had yet to have that breakout sales showing that rattled an industry built on gasoline. In September, things changed. Tesla not only shattered EV sales records on every level; it also outsold 13 long-established brands, including Porsche, Mitsubishi, and Volvo.

InsideEVs estimates Tesla delivered 4,350 Model S sedans and 3,200 Model X SUVs in September. Both are record totals for Tesla; Model S’s total is the highest ever for plug-in vehicle; and as a brand Tesla more than doubled the best EV sales by any other automaker in America…Overall, Tesla reached 24,500 deliveries worldwide.

The showing puts Tesla on pace to break the annual sales record (30,200) set in 2014 by Nissan Leaf. The industry as a whole was buoyed by the performances of Model S and Model X…

Parochial motorheads who favor EVs may be peering worried into their lite beers; but, globalized gear monkeys know the future is guaranteed. At least through the next few 5-year plans in the world’s largest auto market – China.

The government there has committed to electric transport, cars, truck, trains, for all the good reasons from fighting pollution to climate change. Doing so at a level we aren’t likely to approach in the GOUSA – even with Dems in the White House and controlling the lobbyist country club called Congress.

The cars will be built and available. Even if we’re only stealing a small share of what is destined for Asian shores.

Attention Shoppers: Nuclear power plant for sale cheap$ (needs work)

Click to enlargeTVA

❝ After spending more than 40 years and $5 billion on an unfinished nuclear power plant in northeastern Alabama, the nation’s largest federal utility is preparing to sell the property at a fraction of its cost.

The Tennessee Valley Authority has set a minimum bid of $36.4 million for its Bellefonte Nuclear Plant and the 1,600 surrounding acres of waterfront property on the Tennessee River. The buyer gets two unfinished nuclear reactors, transmission lines, office and warehouse buildings, eight miles of roads, a 1,000-space parking lot and more…

❝ The sale is bittersweet for site manager Jim Chardos, who went to work at Bellefonte in 1994 expecting it to be finished as a nuclear power plant. All these years later, he commutes 90 minutes each way to work to oversee a plant that has never been stocked with radioactive fuel or used either of its reactors to generate a single watt of electricity.

Work began at Bellefonte in the mid-’70s on the backside of the nuclear energy boom in the United States, Chardos said. The utility initially planned to construct four reactors at the site, but demand for power in the region never met those early expectations and work halted in 1988. A series of starts and stops preceded TVA’s decision earlier this year to sell Bellefonte.

“If you’re going to make 1,200 megawatts you need to sell it to somebody, and if there’s no need for it you’re not going to finish,” he said. “And that’s really what’s happened.”

I advocated for nuclear power plants for over a half-century. Started-out working for a subcontractor/vendor and learned enough about the process to consider it worthy. Ideally – which means “almost impossible in the United States – nuclear power plants can produce lots of affordable electricity over their lifespan. Radioactive fuel can be recycled. Safe construction is not rocket science.

Just not in the United States. and in recent years, the diminishing cost and alternatives – especially solar electricity – makes the question moot. Nuclear power can’t compete in our markets.

Tesla taxi crossing 200,000 miles – maintenance costs, battery life, impressive!

Click to enlarge

Tesloop, a Tesla-only intercity shuttle service for Southern California and Las Vegas residents, has just surpassed the magical 200,000 mile marker driven in a Model S. The achievement goes down as one of the highest mileage Teslas we’ve ever heard of which is notable in itself.

The folks at TechCrunch had the chance to catch up with Tesloop CEO Rahul Sonnad to find out more about what it’s like behind the wheel of a high mileage Tesla. When asked about whether there were any concerns over battery degradation as the vehicle continued to tack on hundreds of thousands of miles driven, Sonnad indicates that the Tesloop Model S, which reached the 200k mile marker in one year, has lost only 6% of battery range.

Sonnad tells TechCrunch, “For your daily driver, you don’t fully charge unless you’re doing a long trip, We’re doing a long trip every day. We save, like, three minutes in charging in Barstow if we fully charge beforehand. We decided that we’re gonna suck it up, fully charge, and let it degrade. We figured that if it degraded enough, we could take it off a Vegas route and put it on a local Orange County route.”

Even more noteworthy is the fact that Tesloop’s Model S has had little to no maintenance costs. Aside from replacing tires and the 12V battery, the car has never gone through a set of brake pads, nor experience any major issues…

Tesloop’s remarkable achievement in crossing 200,000 miles and counting further validates why Tesla owners embrace having a high mileage car and treat it as a badge of honor. Free long-distance travel courtesy of Tesla’s growing Supercharger network, combined with virtually no maintenance costs, is a win-win no matter how you look at it.

Nothing to add. If you can afford it up front, nothing wrong with owning one of the best and saving money at the same time.

My wife and I are both retired. Couple years ago, she got the last new car we’ll have in the family from here on out. Between the two of us, we drive about 2000 miles/year, now. Otherwise? If we were still a few years away from the end of commuting, electric is the way we’d go.

BP will settle 25,000 lawsuits over toxic Texas refinery

Click to enlargeAP/MSNBC

BP is poised to settle a mass tort lawsuit with more than 25,000 people who were exposed to toxic emissions from its southeast Texas refinery.

A common sight in Texas, flares intermittently crown refineries and chemical plants like huge Olympic torches.

Flares are as a last-resort pollution-control measure. They burn off excess gases that can’t be recycled. They are also deployed during power outages or when plants are shut down for maintenance.

The BP litigation arose from a faulty flare at its Texas City refinery…

More than 40,000 residents of Texas City and neighboring La Marque sued BP, claiming that over 40 days in April and May 2010 the company released more than 500,000 pounds of toxic chemicals, including carcinogenic benzene, after diverting the compounds to the flare that was only 33 to 66 percent efficient…

Due to the volume of cases, they were funneled to Galveston County Judge Lonnie Cox by the Texas multidistrict litigation panel, to streamline pretrial proceedings, which is regularly done for asbestos cases…

Cox dismissed about 20,000 claimants from the case Monday, granting a motion for summary judgment in which BP claimed the litigants had no evidence of damages caused by the toxins.

Anthony Buzbee represents dozens of the more than 25,000 remaining plaintiffs…“These were mostly people who didn’t respond to repeated requests for information. That is common in a mass tort with this many plaintiffs,” Buzbee said…about the dismissed cases…

Buzbee, a high-profile Houston attorney, is very familiar with BP, having represented litigants who sued the company over the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

BP attorney James Galbraith declined comment and the company has not publicized the amount of the impending settlement.

Texas City refining has a long and dangerous history, disasters have claimed anywhere from dozens to hundreds of lives each time. While the Oil Patch Boys lead the world in whining about over-regulation, this history makes clear that the lives of workers in these facilities means next to nothing to the owners – or state officials who bear much of the responsibility for death and destruction. Whether it was eventful and grabbed headlines – or destroyed the lives of thousands of families over decades.

Examples of China’s commitment to combating climate change

Click to enlargeReuters/Jason Lee

❝ Two years after President Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping announced that their countries would work together to combat climate change, Republicans and conservatives in the U.S. continue to cite China’s rising carbon emissions as a reason not to bother cutting our own.

Earlier this month, Donald Trump’s economic advisor Stephen Moore claimed that limiting our carbon pollution is pointless because of China’s supposedly growing coal dependency. “Every time we shut down a coal plant in the U.S., China builds 10,” Moore told E&E News. “So how does that reduce global warming?”

❝ Not only is Moore’s statement simply untrue, but the broader conservative theory behind it is badly outdated. China’s coal use and carbon emissions have dropped for the last two years. In 2015, China cut its coal use 3.7 percent and its emissions declined an estimated 1–2 percent, following similar decreases in 2014.

If China continues to cut its emissions, or even just keeps them at current levels, the country will be way ahead of its goal of peaking emissions by around 2030, which it laid out in 2014 and recommitted to during the Paris climate talks last December.

❝ In part, China’s emissions are dropping because the country is undergoing a dramatic shift in the nature of its economy. For years, China had been rapidly industrializing and growing at a breakneck pace. Growth often causes emissions to rise, all the more so when a country has an expanding manufacturing sector and is building out its basic infrastructure such as highways and rail lines. Heavy industrial activity — especially making cement and steel, which are needed for things like buildings, roads, and rail tracks — can be extremely energy intensive and have a massive carbon footprint…Now, as China is becoming more fully industrialized, its growth is slower and driven more by service industries, like technology, that are much less carbon intensive.

RTFA for several indicators. The author missed one of the most important because it’s still mostly under the radar of those who don’t read deeply into political economy.

Like the UK and many industrial Europeans nations – before the 1960s – China has relied on home coal fires for heating and cooking. China now is on the way to making the same change the West did. Switching to gas. Major pipeline conduits are under construction to bring natgas from Siberia, other regions outside of China. Different pipelines will link into LNG landing facilities at major harbors. As the last-mile, last city block hookups fall into place, the change will be rapid. And welcome.

China wants to deal with their immediate air pollution as much as the ongoing effect on climate. That shouldn’t surprise anyone.

Clean energy costs continue to fall

The Department of Energy just released Revolution Now, an annual update on its progress in accelerating clean energy. Specifically, it focuses on advances in five technologies: wind power, utility-scale solar power, distributed solar power, electric vehicles, and LEDs…


Since Obama entered office, these key technologies have dropped in cost between 41 and 94 percent.

Innovation in clean technology has come as a result of a concerted and diverse policy effort, from advanced research to tax credits, loans, pollution regulations, prizes and awards, and performance standards.

The bulk of the policy effort has come in blue states and at the federal executive level. After 2010, the GOP Congress refused Obama any legislative help, on anything…

Reasonable people would like to see these cost savings continue to improve. Depending on how folks vote – and that means all the way down-ticket to Congress-critters – good sense may prevail. Or not.