Reuters via Nikkei Asian Review:

DETROIT, U.S. (Reuters) — Ford Motor Co’s plan to double its electrified vehicle spending is part of an investment tsunami in batteries and electric cars by global automakers that now totals $90 billion and is still growing, a Reuters analysis shows.

That money is pouring in to a tiny sector that amounts to less than 1 percent of the 90 million vehicles sold each year and where Elon Musk’s Tesla Inc, with sales of only three models totaling just over 100,000 vehicles in 2017, was a dominant player.

With the world’s top automakers poised to introduce dozens of new battery electric and hybrid gasoline-electric models over the next five years – many of them in China – executives continue to ask: Who will buy all those vehicles?

“We’re all in,” Ford Motor Executive Chairman Bill Ford Jr said of the company’s $11 billion investment, announced on Sunday at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. “The only question is, will the customers be there with us?”

“Tesla faces real competition,” said Mike Jackson, chief executive of AutoNation Inc, the largest U.S. auto retailing chain. By 2030, Jackson said he expects electric vehicles could account for 15-20 percent of New vehicle sales in the United States.

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Emoji have become a language of their own, but until recently, the language made it hard to talk about climate change: There are no emoji about pollution, wildfires, or rising sea levels. So artists Marina Zurkow and Viniyata Pany launched a set of mobile stickers specifically about climate change, called Climoji.

The icons depict melting sea ice, starving polar bears, dead trees, and flooded people. They’re intended to raise awareness about some of the most important issues of our time: global warming and environmental destruction. Need an emoji to express your frustration with plastic pollution? Thanks to Zurkow and Pany, now you have a whale with a plastic bottle in its stomach, or a plastic bottle with a fish skeleton inside.

Climate change is already affecting the world, from rising temperatures to rising sea levels. Hurricanes and wildfires made 2017 the most expensive year on record for natural disasters— and scientists say that these catastrophic events will become the new normal as the world continues to warm up. This isn’t an issue for the future, Zurkow tells The Verge. So it seems imperative to make ways for people to talk about it.

“Why are some of our primary communication tools avoiding this issue? Why isn’t there even a hurricane icon in the official emoji set?” says Zurkow.

Climoji was launched as an art project, thanks to New York University’s Green Grants, but Zurkow plans to make it big. In the spring, she wants to approach Facebook, and see if the social media giant will add the stickers to its own library. And eventually, she’d like the Unicode Consortium — the Silicon Valley-based group of computer and internet companies that approve new emoji — to adopt the climate change icons. But before that happens, more people need to use the emoji. Right now, about 400 people have downloaded the set, Zurkow says.

Cranberries: Linger

January 15, 2018

Lead Singer Dolores O’Riordan dead at 46. Read the rest of this entry »

MLK on Government Giving

January 15, 2018

Above, good working definition of denial and fake news in action.

For years I’ve shown a light on the commonality between climate denial and racism in America. We see that playing out in real time now, as ruling Republicans have decided that majority brown, hurricane ravaged Puerto Rico is a shithole, and the Americans living there are thus unworthy of attention.

They’ve also decided that acknowledging the reality of climate change does not serve their donor’s agenda. So accepting that climate fueled disasters are a real fact of life is not possible in their hermetically sealed logic loop. The non-white population of Puerto Rico makes it invisible to the carefully cultivated ignorance of the GOP base – so from their perspective, all good for now.
But under the radar – hundreds of thousands of angry ,displaced Puerto Ricans are immigrating to electorally important red states….watch this space.

Washington Post:

IN THE more than three months since Hurricane Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico, a lot of excuses have been offered to explain the failure to restore power and provide other critical services to American citizens who live on the island. Like the enormity of the devastation. Or the complexity of the work. Or the difficulty of getting workers and supplies to a place surrounded by water. Yadda yadda yadda.

The real reasons for the deplorable response to conditions in Puerto Rico are clear: the island’s lack of political muscle and the mainland’s lack of political will. As a U.S. territory, Puerto Rico has no U.S. senator, no vote in the House and no electoral votes in presidential elections — and so it is all too easy for the White House and Congress to turn a blind eye to the needs of its vulnerable population.

More than 100 days after Maria swept the island on Sept. 20, nearly half of its residents — more than 1.5 million people — remain in the dark, and officials are now saying it will take to the end of February to restore most power. Hard-to-reach rural areas will not get power until the end of May — “just in time,” the New York Times noted, “for the 2018 hurricane season.” Lack of power is seen as a major factor in the higher death rates that occurred after the storm passed, and it continues to pose a danger as Puerto Rico struggles with limited resources, strained health-care services and the worsening of an already-poor economy.

If this were happening in any state — including another group of islands, Hawaii — there would be uninterrupted media attention and demands for action. As Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) put it following a visit this week to Puerto Rico: “If this were happening in Connecticut, there would be riots in the streets.”

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Solar, wind, and battery prices are dropping so fast that, in Colorado, building new renewable power plus battery storage is now cheaper than running old coal plants. This increasingly renders existing coal plants obsolete.

Two weeks ago, Xcel Energy quietly reported dozens of shockingly low bids it had received for building new solar and wind farms, many with battery storage (see table below).

The median bid price in 2017 for wind plus battery storage was $21 per megawatt-hour, which is 2.1 cents per kilowatt-hour. As Carbon Tracker noted, this “appears to be lower than the operating cost of all coal plants currently in Colorado.”

The median bid price for solar plus battery storage was $36/MWh (3.6 cents/kwh), which may be lower than about three-fourths of operating coal capacity.  For context, the average U.S. residential price for electricity is 12 cents/kWh.


Click to enlarge

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One of climate denialdom’s greatest hits is, how expensive it will be to convert our energy infrastructure to renewables.  Forget that continuing with a fossil economy will cost even more. One key piece of the system has to be upgraded no matter what direction we choose.

Our electrical grid is rapidly descending into developing world quality, and no longer adequate to serve a 21st century economy, be resilient to increases in climate extremes, or defend against increasingly sophisticated enemies.

The  improvements needed for a distributed, renewable grid, are much the same as those needed to harden the country against a new generation of threats, both military and climatic.

Washington Post:

Russian government hackers were behind recent cyber-intrusions into the business systems of U.S. nuclear power and other energy companies in what appears to be an effort to assess their networks, according to U.S. government officials.

The U.S. officials said there is no evidence the hackers breached or disrupted the core systems controlling operations at the plants, so the public was not at risk. Rather, they said, the hackers broke into systems dealing with business and administrative tasks, such as personnel.

At the end of June, the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security sent a joint alert to the energy sector stating that “advanced, persistent threat actors” — a euphemism for sophisticated foreign hackers — were stealing network log-in and password information to gain a foothold in company networks. The agencies did not name Russia.

The campaign marks the first time Russian government hackers are known to have wormed their way into the networks of American nuclear power companies, several U.S. and industry officials said. And the penetration could be a sign that Russia is seeking to lay the groundwork for more damaging hacks.

Sara Kendzior in Fast Company:

On June 13, 2017, Attorney General Jeff Sessions testified to the Senate Intelligence committee about Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. After fielding hours of questions about his knowledge of the plot, Sessions was greeted by an abrupt change in topic from Senator John McCain. “Quietly, the Kremlin has been trying to map the United States telecommunications infrastructure,” McCain announced, and described a series of alarming moves, including Russian spies monitoring the fiber optic network in Kansas and Russia’s creation of “a cyber weapon that can disrupt the United States power grids and telecommunications infrastructure.”

When McCain asked if Sessions had a strategy to counter Russia’s attacks, Sessions admitted they did not.

In a normal year, McCain’s inquiries about documented, dangerous threats to U.S. infrastructure would have dominated the news. His concerns are well founded: in recent years, Ukraine’s power grid has been repeatedly hacked in what cybersecurity experts believe was part a test run for the United States. Russian hackers have also hacked many centers of U.S. power, including the State Department, the White House, and everyone with a Yahoo email address in 2014, the Department of Defense in 2015, and, of course, the Democratic National Committee, Republican National Committeestate and local voter databases, and personal email accounts of various US officials in 2016.

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