Quite often, there’s way too much news on the solar, EV and environmental front for yours truly to cover and/or analyze it all in depth. Rather than pass up all the juicy stuff that’s out there just waiting to be analyzed – and critiqued, I’ll go bullet point on some of the interesting – one might also say distressing – news out there about solar, electric cars and, more broadly, the environment.
Exxon CEO disses EVs. USA Today recently interviewed Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson on the topic of oil prices. Midway through, USA Today columnist Maria Bartiromo, asks Tillerson for his thoughts on EVs. Tillerson gives a terse answer, taking a swipe at government subsidies for EVs. Of course, he never mentions the massive subsidies Big Oil receives in the U.S. Tillerson also predicts gasoline cars will continue to rule the world pretty much indefinitely. Big surprise, eh? It’ll be Tillerson who’s in for the real surprise when plug-ins take off a lot quicker than he thinks, or wants. This will happen in large part because far more people than Tillerson would like to admit are sick and tired of the arrogance and greed of Big Oil companies such as Exxon-Mobil.
Higher gas prices – but more big cars for Americans. According to a Consumer Reports survey, 56% of Americans say their next car will be about the same size as their current car. Another 19% say they plan on getting a bigger car. To be fair, 25% said they planned on getting a smaller car. But that group is still outnumbered by the status quo + bigger is better group by 3 to 1. Can’t wait until gas prices push above $5 in the U.S. and some of the folks who went with a bigger car get stuck in their gas hogs — and $200 fill-ups!
Anti-EVers lay it on after home fire burns Chevy Volt. Yes, a Chevy Volt was burned – completely burned – in a home garage fire in Connecticut this week. Of course, it’s pretty clear that the most likely cause of this fire is the do-it-yourself wiring of home owner Storm Connors and/or the home-conversion job he did on a Suzuki car also parked in the garage. GM sent a team to investigate and it concluded the Volt did not start the fire. There’s also the fact of 24,000 gasoline vehicle fires in the U.S. annually. All of this matters little to the truly virulent – and ignorant — anti-Evers who troll the Internet in support of Big, Dirty Oil. I get that these folks hate the “green” crowd, because, after all, destroying the earth is just so “manly”. What I don’t get is what’s so “manly” about sucking at the you-know-what of Big Oil rather than, for example, independently powering your own vehicle with home solar.
Short-sighted investment advice from USA Today. This past Friday’s USA Today contained an interesting column by analyst John Waggoner on oil prices and alternative energy stocks. Well, let’s say the headline was intriguing: ‘ Oil prices may have you thinking of alternative energy stocks’. Waggoner gives luke-warm support to alternative energy stocks while also clearly illustrating the limitations of mainstream analysis. He dismisses any link between oil and solar energy, claiming “there really isn’t an alternative to oil for transportation.” He claims further that U.S. electricity production is all about coal and natural gas. Not very forward thinking, John. Put solar and electric cars together, wind and electric cars together, etc. and you have a revolutionary formula that could radically change the way we think about fueling the American transportation sector.
SolarCity CEO: EVs represent future growth bonanza for solar. For a forward, rather than stuck-in-the-mainstream view of the transportation sector, check out a recent blog entry by Fortune’s Christian Wolan . In it, SolarCity CEO Lyndon Rive talks about the future of solar, and he sees electric cars as a huge part of that future. “The U.S. has installed 150,000 solar units in the last 30 years,” Rive tells Fortune. “If next year, 100,000 EVs are sold, and half adopt solar PV [photovoltaic] systems, that’s one-third of the total.” Yes indeed, there is plenty of growth potential in the EV + PV synergy and yes, indeed, there IS an alternative to fossil fuels powering the transportation sector in the U.S. – and around the world.
Short-sightedness of American economic system. A story in this past Friday’s New York Times focuses on a drop in the consumption of so-called “green” products that correlates with the economic downturn in the U.S. Sadly, many – not all — green products are more expensive (even though, ironically, they often have fewer, rather than more ingredients in them) than their less-green counterparts. There are a variety of reasons for this, but the biggest is a lack of true cost economics in the U.S. The true cost of a product – which has to include the environmental and health costs its production, distribution and disposal incurs – is typically not reflected in the price consumers pay. This has to change or we’ll never make the real environmental, health, and, yes, economic progress we need to as a society.
Record breaking, tragic weather in U.S. – and still no one’s talking about global warming. Let’s see, we’ve got raging wildfires consuming much of West Texas, a record breaking number of tornadoes in the American Southeast for the month of April – and we’ve still got almost a week to go in April! – an extremely active 2010 hurricane season, a near tropical storm forming at a record-breaking early time in the Atlantic, a severe drought in the American Southwest, record breaking snows and rains in the American Northwest, a second straight backbreaking, snowy winter on the American East Coast, and yet essentially we’ve got no discussion that I’ve seen in any of the American mainstream news outlets I read regularly – USA Today, The New York Times and The Denver Post – of possible connections to climate change. More severe weather occurring with greater and greater regularity is all consistent with climate change – see Bill McKibben’s latest book Eaarth for more on this – and we’ve still got essentially no critical reflection in mainstream America about this. Maybe when devastating weather hits the homes of Big Oil and Big Coal Executives we’ll finally get some reaction and action. Of course, by then, it’ll be far too late.
Net-zero home building movement. OK, so the entries above are mostly a downer – what can I say, despite the fact that I created a site focused on sun energy, I’m not wired to be the sunniest guy out there :-). So, let’s close on a more upbeat not: Several American home builders are trying to boost business by tapping a growing desire among some Americans for greener living. For example, Meritage Homes is now offering a ‘net-zero’ home designed to produce as much energy as it uses annually. And these homes will be affordable, starting at $140,000 in Tucson, Ariz. And $160,000 in Las Vegas — OK, so Vegas might not be the most sustainable place to live in America J. I’m jealous. Our next home (probably our retirement home, meaning a home that’s at least 20 years away from being bought/built), will definitely be a net zero home. Of course, we aren’t doing too badly on energy here in our 1978, 3-bedroom, 1,600 square foot Aurora, Colo. home. In the past 10 months, thanks to our 5.59 kW home solar system we’ve generated 3,800 kWh more than we’ve used (we’ve used about 3,000 kWh), although, to be fair, we use natural gas, not electricity, to heat our home (except for the 750 Watt Furnace Fan that blows hot air through our house, which is electric.).
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