New York Times:

Advocates of electric cars and renewable energy have talked for years about repackaging the battery packs built for cars as home energy storage devices once they can no longer hold enough charge to run a vehicle. On Wednesday, ABB and General Motors announced that they are trying out just that idea with the battery packs of five Chevy Volts.

When it is new, the Volt battery pack holds 16 kilowatt-hours. The prototype announced by the two companies promises a capacity of about 10 kilowatt-hours per pack, with five packs lashed together in an array that is supposed to provide two hours of electricity for three to five average houses. For the demonstration, the unit was providing lighting and audiovisual equipment in a structure in San Francisco where the experiment was announced.

The batteries were hardly challenged. In the Volt, each pack is supposed to provide up to 111 kilowatts of power, the watt being a measure of how fast the electricity is delivered. In this case, the five batteries delivered only 2.5 kilowatts, or less than half their original capacity. Using the batteries at low power could extend their lives.

The idea behind the prototype is two-fold: to provide a market for past-their-prime batteries, giving them a resale value that will lower their cost of ownership, and providing distributed storage that could be used to shore up weak spots on the grid or to absorb energy from intermittent sources like solar panels and wind machines and deliver it in a steady stream suitable for the power grid.

ABB believes the installation could also be useful in a neighborhood with a lot of electric cars. The electricity needed to charge those vehicles could come into the area in a steady stream, and be stored by the battery pack and tapped at high speed whenever needed. In that function, the battery pack would resemble the tank on a toilet, which fills slowly but is available for quick discharge.

Battery packs can also be used for frequency regulation, which means keeping the alternating current as close to 60 cycles per second as possible. That is now being done in some large-scale projects like a giant battery array attached to a West Virginia wind farm but not yet in small ones.

Built by Michigan:

A lot of news on electric vehicles in the last month, but the top story of the month has to be that electric-vehicle sales set new records across the country in October.

The ‘Built by Michigan’ plug-in hybrid Chevy Volt, broke its monthly sales record the third month in a row, selling 2,961 vehicles in October. In the first 10 months of the year, General Motors Co. has sold 19,309 Volts, up 286 percent from the same period last year.

Other companies are also reporting record sales in October, and while the numbers are small, they’re promising.

Ford sold 118 ‘Built by Michigan’ Focus Electrics in October, totaling nearly 300 of the cars sold this year and they only went on sale in June. And in the first month Ford C-Max Energi hybrid was on the market, they sold 144 of the plug-ins.

The evidence is becoming clearer every month, that consumers are embracing these new vehicles.

The long and short of it? Sales of electric cars tripled during their second year on the market, far outperforming the sales of hybrids during their own second year on the market, back in 2001. The most popular electric-drive vehicle, the Chevy Volt, is outselling half of all cars on the market today.

Ford’s newest entry in the plug-in hybrid market, the C-Max Energi, tops the pack in fuel-economy according to a recent rating by the Environmental Protection Agency.

The “Built by Michigan” C-Max Energi was given a rating of 108 miles per gallon equivalent (MPGe) for city use, along with a 100 MPGe overall rating.

In announcing the results, Ford noted the that C-Max Energi’s MPGe outpaces the Toyota Prius plug-in by 5 MPGe.

In fact, the C-Max Energi and other vehicles built at the Michigan Assembly Plant are helping Ford “complete a lineup that beats Toyota in fuel economy in every segment where they both compete.” In addition to the $550 million that Ford invested to convert MAP into a flexible factory, the company added a third crew of 1,200 workers in May, bringing total employment there to 5,170.

Informative look at how conspiracy nuts are finding a sympathetic ear in the Georgia Legislature.

Turns out, if you care about the planet, the environment, clear air, clean water, or a future for your children – you are a commie.

ATLANTA, Ga. — Jack Staver wants you to know: the United Nations and much of the American political establishment is behind a program to strip America of its freedom.

“Environmentalism is one of them. There’s a thing called a liveable communities initiative which is incorporated. Smart streets, which they just redid. That’s all based on UN Agenda 21 type theory,” said Staver, who wore a 40 calibre pistol on his belt while speaking at a park in Marietta,

Last month Staver helped put together a meeting at the state capitol hosted by Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers (R-Woodstock). Rogers invited the entire Republican caucus. They watched a power point presentation and documentary about the UN agenda. Seth Clark, a liberal political researcher, attended and recorded much of the meeting.

“Implying that there’s a vicious plot to take over your personal liberties, and implying that the business community is part of that, it seems counterintuitive,” said Clark. Clark says he was ordered out of the meeting after an hour.

Earlier this year, Rogers cosponsored a senate resolution decrying the “social engineering” and “global political control” of agenda 21. During the presentation at the capitol, senators saw a slide likening the policies of President Obama to those of Cold War communists Josef Stalin and Mao Zhedong.

“What (Obama) is doing, and the way that the mandates are done and the things he’s implementing” justify the comparison, said Staver. “It’s not a conspiracy at all.”

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I love Symphony of Science.

A musical creation about the reality of global climate change from the live broadcast of 24 Hours of Reality – The Dirty Weather Report.  The Symphony of Science is a musical project of John D Boswell, designed to deliver scientific knowledge and philosophy in musical form.

Is this an Al Gore Rhythm?

Exxon/Mobil CEO famously declared last summer (see above) that, while the company no longer denies the basic science of climate change, human beings were very flexible, and in the case of extreme climate impacts, “..we’ll adapt to that.”

Today Bloomberg reports that Exxon might find a way to adapt to a carbon tax.  Is this further evidence of a changing climate that could melt climate denial in Washington?


Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM) is part of a growing coalition backing a carbon tax as an alternative to costly regulation, giving newfound prominence to an idea once anathema in Washington.

Conservative economists and fossil-fuel lobbyists united in 2009 to fend off climate-change legislation that would have established a cap-and-trade mechanism. They are now locked in a backroom debate over a tax on carbon-dioxide emissions that could raise an estimated $100 billion in its first year.

A carbon tax would force electricity producers, refiners and manufacturers to pay a fee for the greenhouse gases they emit. It is gaining interest as lawmakers and President Barack Obama pledge to simplify the corporate tax code and try to raise revenue to narrow the deficit. The devastation from superstorm Sandy following the wildfires and drought of this summer have also increased concern about global warming.

“It does fit with the Republican idea of cleaning up the tax code, and to have a clean instrument for addressing this problem,” John Reilly, co-director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change, said in an interview. Given this year’s weather disasters, “it’s hard to stand up and say global warming is a hoax,” he said.

Gilbert E. Metcalf, deputy assistant treasury secretary for environment and energy, said this week that the administration wasn’t planning to propose a carbon tax though it could be “part of the mix” of a tax overhaul, according to The Hill newspaper. Asked about it yesterday, Obama said he doubted there was enough political agreement for the tax, though he warned against delay in combating global warming.

The Washington-based American Enterprise Institute, which says it advocates libertarian and conservative values, held a full-day discussion Nov. 13 to examine how best to implement a carbon tax, which its economists say could enable a cut in corporate taxes and head off regulation by the Environmental Protection Agency. The same day, an opponent of the idea, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, filed a lawsuit against the Treasury Department, seeking private e-mails it said would show the administration is secretly pushing for a carbon tax.

“They need new sources of revenues, and this is a beautiful one,” Chris Horner, a senior fellow at the Washington-based CEI, said in an interview. “This thing is gaining steam.”

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It used to be that the world looked to the United States for technological leadership. Just 20 years ago, the US was leading the world into a new, revolutionary, internet economy.  It’s kind of ironic that, back then, voices on the American right ridiculed “Al Gore’s Information Superhighway” as some kind of wasteful, useless government boondoggle – just as today, the same people rail against electric cars, wind turbines, and solar manufacturing.

I’m optimistic that the US will catch up and perhaps even lead again in the industrial revolution of the new century. For now, if you want to see what the future looks like, look to Germany.


 There is no better place to begin this adventure than the Reichstag, rebuilt from near ruins in 1999 and now both a symbol and an example of the revolutionary movement known as the Energiewende. The word translates simply as, “energy change.” But there’s nothing simple about the Energiewende. It calls for an end to the use of fossil fuels and nuclear power and embraces clean, renewable energy sources such as solar, wind and biomass. The government has set a target of 80 percent renewable power by 2050, but many Germans I spoke with in three weeks traveling across this country believe 100 percent renewable power is achievable by then.

Such a massive power shift may sound impossible to those of us from the United States, where giant oil and coal corporations control the energy industry and the very idea of human-caused climate change is still hotly contested. Here in Germany, that debate is long over. A dozen years of growing public support have driven all major political parties to endorse the Energiewende. If a member of parliament called climate change a hoax or said that its cause is unknown, he or she would be laughed out of office.

“The fight now, to the extent that there is one, is over the speed of the transition,” Jens Kendzia told me as we stood on the Reichstag roof. Kendzia is chief of staff for a leader of the center-left Green Party, which crafted the legislation responsible for the Energiewende‘s success.

In an interview later that day, Dr. Joachim Pfeiffer, a leading spokesman for the center-right Christian Democrats, boasted about the Energiewende‘s progress under his party.

“We’ll definitely get to 35 percent renewable power by 2020,” he said, referring to the next official target. “In fact, we’ll probably reach 40 percent.”

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Watch here.

With the second major poll I’ve seen this week – we see a seismic shift occurring in American attitudes in regard to climate.  Today, the president gave, in his press conference, about as detailed a statement as he has yet made on his developing approach to the climate issue.

John Zogby in Forbes:

Superstorm Sandy is fueling concerns about climate change and how it’s inflating the costs and risks of extreme weather, according to a new post-election poll from Zogby Analytics. The poll shows key voting groups in the 2012 election – Hispanics, women, young voters – are among those most concerned with confronting climate change now and protecting America’s air, water, wildlife and other natural resources.

These results show the dramatic impact 2012′s extreme weather has had across party lines, with half of Republicans, 73 percent of independents and 82 percent of Democrats saying they’re worried about the growing cost and risks of extreme weather disasters fueled by climate change. It’s a major change from our December 2009 poll, which showed two-thirds of Republicans and nearly half of political independents saying they were ‘not at all concerned’ about global climate change and global warming. The political climate has shifted and members of Congress need to catch up with their constituents.

Among the poll’s findings:

  • Two-thirds of voters (65 percent) say elected officials should take steps now to reduce the impact of climate change on future generations, while just 27 percent say we should wait for more evidence.
  • A strong majority (57 percent) says climate change is adding to the severity of recent extreme weather such as Superstorm Sandy and the summer droughts. Concern is even deeper among key demographics, with 75 percent of Hispanics, 67 percent of African Americans, 65 percent of women, and 65 percent of voters 25-34 agreeing that climate change is fueling America’s extreme weather.
  • Seven in ten voters (69 percent) are greatly or somewhat worried about the growing cost and risks of extreme weather disasters fueled by climate change. Six in ten (58 percent) of Tea Party sympathizers are greatly or somewhat worried, showing a connection between climate action and fiscal responsibility.

Whitehouse Transcript:

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  In his endorsement of you a few weeks ago, Mayor Bloomberg said he was motivated by the belief that you would do more to confront the threat of climate change than your opponent.  Tomorrow you’re going up to New York City where you’re going to, I assume, see people who are still suffering the effects of Hurricane Sandy, which many people say is further evidence of how a warming globe is changing our weather.  What specifically do you plan to do in a second term to tackle the issue of climate change?  And do you think the political will exists in Washington to pass legislation that could include some kind of attacks on carbon?

THE PRESIDENT:  As you know, Mark, we can’t attribute any particular weather event to climate change.  What we do know is the temperature around the globe is increasing faster than was predicted even 10 years ago.  We do know that the Arctic ice cap is melting faster than was predicted even five years ago.  We do know that there have been extraordinarily — there have been an extraordinarily large number of severe weather events here in North America, but also around the globe.

And I am a firm believer that climate change is real, that it is impacted by human behavior and carbon emissions.  And as a consequence, I think we’ve got an obligation to future generations to do something about it.

Now, in my first term, we doubled fuel efficiency standards on cars and trucks.  That will have an impact.  That will take a lot of carbon out of the atmosphere.  We doubled the production of clean energy, which promises to reduce the utilization of fossil fuels for power generation.  And we continue to invest in potential breakthrough technologies that could further remove carbon from our atmosphere.  But we haven’t done as much as we need to.

So what I’m going to be doing over the next several weeks, next several months, is having a conversation, a wide-ranging conversation with scientists, engineers, and elected officials to find out what can — what more can we do to make a short-term progress in reducing carbons, and then working through an education process that I think is necessary — a discussion, a conversation across the country about what realistically can we do long term to make sure that this is not something we’re passing on to future generations that’s going to be very expensive and very painful to deal with.

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First, NBC news coverage of the Red Cross’s struggle to reach those impacted by the giant storm.

Below, video of the response from an unexpected player, the apparently still vibrant Occupy movement.

Right wing media can scream all it wants. Electric cars are here to stay – an idea whose time has come again.

Roomy, zippy, and 250 + miles on a charge. Sure it’s expensive, but its half the cost of the first Tesla sports car.  More consumer friendly models are coming.

And – yes, yes, yes, I get it – We’re too auto dependent  – we need mass transit – more transportation options, not just fancier cars. But even if we could magically make the US as mass transit intense as Europe, (in reality, that is a multi-generational process) we’d still be driving a lot of cars – the auto is going to be with us for a long time. We might as well get it right.

CNN Money:

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — Motor Trend magazine has named the Tesla Model S its Car of the Year. The magazine’s staff selected the all-electric plug-in luxury car out of a field of 11 finalists that included models such as the Ford Fusion, Porsche 911 and Hyundai Azera.

It is the first time the magazine’s Car of the Year award has ever gone to an all-electric car.

Just being electric wasn’t enough to earn the Model S the prize, though.

Ed Loh, Motor Trend’s editor-in-chief on Monday said that, with eleven finalists, it was a strong field this year. But in the end there was no question about who the winner was. “The vehicles that placed second and third didn’t get more than three votes. But it was a unanimous decision for the Tesla Model S.”

“At its core, the Tesla Model S is simply a damned good car you happen to plug in to refuel,” editor-at-large Angus MacKenzie wrote in an article about the award.

Motor Trend calls the Model S “as smoothly effortless as a Rolls-Royce” to drive fast while having the cargo and passenger capacity of an SUV.