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NYTimes' Friedman: Hope from Google, MIT; McKinsey's Promising Report
Dec 2, 2007 (From the CalCars-News archive)
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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
By THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN­2007/­12/­02/­opinion/­02friedman.html

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’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 — — 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?­clientservice/­ccsi/­greenhousegas.asp

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: study­Electric%20Power/­News/­8390578.xml?src=Electric%20Powerrssheadlines1 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 economy."

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 megatons).

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.

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