By Ashutosh Pandey
In 1973, a handful of oil-rich countries, led by Saudi Arabia, Iran and Iraq, brought the mighty U.S. economy to its knees by slapping an oil embargo on Washington and its allies. The suspension of oil shipments from the Middle East to the U.S. and steep production cuts in retaliation for the Americans' support of Israel during the Yom Kippur War wreaked havoc on the U.S. economy, leading to fuel shortages and causing oil prices to go through the roof.
The ban was lifted within months following hectic negotiations, but not before it pushed the U.S. economy into its worst recession since World War II. The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), which until then had maintained a relatively low profile, mainly negotiating higher oil prices from major oil companies for its members, had emerged as a force to reckon with.
Nearly five decades later, OPEC remains only a pale shadow of its past glory, weakened by infighting within its ranks, the rise of the United States as a major oil exporter thanks to a shale boom, and a global push for renewable sources of energy amid climate change worries.
"OPEC is significant primarily as a political club. It fails economically as a cartel, but it does boost the prestige and standing of its members, most of whom would not otherwise have a seat at the table in world affairs," said Jeff Colgan, a professor at Brown University who authored the book Petro-Aggression: When Oil Causes War. "A functional cartel needs to set tough limits to production and stick to them. OPEC sets easy targets and still often fails to meet them," he told DW.
The bloc has seen its market share progressively diminish over the years, in part thanks to its efforts to artificially boost oil prices by holding back its own production. OPEC's share of the global oil market has fallen to around 30% from above 50% in 1973. It has also been hurt by involuntary losses in war-torn Libya and the fallout from U.S. sanctions in both Iran and Venezuela.
It was OPEC's weakness amid the rise of the U.S. as a major oil producer that prompted the once exclusive club to join hands with Russia and some other oil producers to form OPEC+ and attempt to balance the oil markets. The alliance's inception in 2016 was preceded by a disastrous campaign by the Saudi-led bloc to force weaker U.S. shale players out of business, which caused oil prices to collapse to around $30 a barrel. U.S. shale players then proved to be more resilient than the Saudis had expected — strong enough to push the U.S. to become the world's biggest oil producer.
Peak Oil Debate Heats Up Amid COVID-19 Crisis
The bloc's waning influence has coincided with oil's fall from grace. The fossil fuel has seen its share in the global energy mix diminish to about 33% from a peak of 50% in 1973, according to estimates by BP, as governments and companies shift to cleaner energy sources to combat climate change. By contrast, renewables, mostly from solar and wind, have seen their share rise, accounting for over 40% of global energy growth last year, according to BP's data.
"Oil isn't as significant or visible as it used to be. For example, do you know who the head of Exxon is? Probably not. Do you know who the head of Tesla is? Yes, Elon Musk," said Philippe Benoit, from consultancy Global Infrastructure Advisory Services 2050.
The COVID-19 pandemic has further dimmed oil's prospects. Global lockdowns brought cars, planes and trains to a screeching halt, causing oil consumption to drop by a quarter and oil prices to crash to multiyear lows, even trading below $0 a barrel in the US at one point. Transportation accounts for close to a third of the global oil demand.
Experts don't see the automobile and aviation sectors returning to their pre-pandemic levels for the next 3-5 years at least. The airline industry was touted to be the biggest growth engine for oil, riding on demand from people getting richer, but that now looks unlikely, especially over the next few years.
Oil industry leaders, including BP's chief executive, Bernard Looney, and Royal Dutch Shell's boss Ben van Beurden, have said the current crisis may cause the oil demand to peak sooner than expected.
"The backdrop of declining demand means that the Kingdom [of Saudi Arabia] and its Gulf allies would find it increasingly difficult to manipulate supply and boost prices for any length of time," Jason Tuvey, of Capital Economics, wrote in a note to clients. "If prices are kept artificially high for an extended period, oil demand will end up declining at an even faster pace and the nimbleness of U.S. shale production means that non-OPEC supply will expand."
'OPEC Is a Saudi Mouthpiece'
OPEC was founded in Baghdad in September 1960 by Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela. The bloc, which has expanded and contracted over the years, has been plagued by squabbles over strategy and regional power struggles, which have occasionally turned into full-blown conflicts like the Iran-Iraq war and Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in 1990.
Saudi Arabia, which produces a third of OPEC's oil, has remained the de facto leader of the bloc since the 1990s, when conflicts, corruption and poor management wrecked production in other member countries, including regional rivals Iran and Iraq.
Riyadh has oscillated between propping up crude oil prices and shielding its market share, often unilaterally. "OPEC is a Saudi mouthpiece," Colgan said. In March, when OPEC+ negotiations to cut output in response to the pandemic collapsed, Saudi Arabia launched a price war against Russia — much to the dismay of weaker OPEC members such as Nigeria and Angola, already bleeding due to low oil prices caused by Riyadh's 2015-16 misadventure.
Despite all its sway, Saudi Arabia has struggled to rein in the bloc's so-called cheaters, including Nigeria and Iraq, which have been notorious for failing to comply with pledged output cuts aimed at propping up oil prices. Riyadh, which is more vulnerable to low oil prices than other major oil producers with its break-even oil price exceeding $80 a barrel, has ended up doing much of the heavy lifting to ensure overall compliance.
Tuvey of Capital Economics says in the medium-term Saudi Arabia will scale back its efforts to prop up oil prices and revert to the strategy of shielding its market share at any cost to avoid leaving substantial quantities of oil stranded amid falling demand.
"Such a shift in policy, particularly if it were sudden and unexpected, would put some downward pressure on oil prices. But this is unlikely to be too troubling for the kingdom, and the government has proven its willingness to impose harsh fiscal austerity," Tuvey said. "Saudi policymakers won't have much sympathy for other producers that fail to adjust their economies to low oil prices."
Bigger Role for OPEC?
Yet it may be too early to write an obituary for the bloc, which has survived many crises in the past 60 years, eliciting comparisons to the proverbial cat with nine lives. Oil is likely to remain the world's most important commodity for years to come.
"Paradoxically, OPEC as an aggregator, a point of meeting for many producing nations, could potentially play a bigger role in managing the tensions of a contracting market among those oil producers," Benoit said.
Reposted with permission from Deutsche Welle.
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By John R. Platt
When things get tough, many of us often turn to books for new information, inspiration or simple entertainment. Well, we've got you covered on all three counts, with 14 great new environmental books coming out this month. The list includes books for eco-interested kids, dedicated activists and everyone in between.
The publishing industry isn't immune to the economic threats posed by the current pandemic. Most local bookstores and libraries have closed their doors to customers and patrons, and many authors have needed to cancel their planned promotional tours. Publishers themselves are feeling the pinch, and at least three additional books that would have appeared on our list this month have been pushed back to later in the spring or summer.
But we're all adapting. Many publishers and bookstores will happily ship new books to you (or, in the case of local shops, offer curbside pickup). E-books may also be great options (they're often available through publishers or your local library website). The links below go to publishers' sites for each new book, which should provide you with a variety of options.
No matter how the books end up coming your way, may they offer the ideas and inspiration you need to keep you going and continuing to find ways to protect the planet.
1. Nature Obscura: A City’s Hidden Natural World by Kelly Brenner
With many of us currently restricted to our homes or neighborhoods, now's the perfect time to become a backyard naturalist (as we wrote recently). This magnificent book offers stories about the varied plants and wildlife that lives around us — even in the hearts of big cities — and ideas about how to make our urban ecosystems even wilder.
2. The Not BAD Animals by Sophie Corrigan
An utterly delightful kids' book that tries (and succeeds) to soften the reputation of the critters "that make us squirm and wriggle in our seats," but which, beneath their sharp teeth and odd habits, fulfill important roles in the world. You'll never look at a spider or vulture the same way again.
3 - 4. Becoming Wild and Beyond Words by Carl Safina
Two new books from the famed ecologist and bestselling author. The first, for adult audiences, examines "how animal cultures raise families, create beauty and achieve peace." The second, for younger readers, adapts one of Safina's earlier adult books and discusses the inner lives of wolves and dogs. Both are must-reads.
5. Green Meat? Sustaining Eaters, Animals and the Planet edited by Ryan M. Katz-Rosene and Sarah J. Martin
This book tackles some tough questions about meat, examining issues related to production and consumption through a wide and varied set of lenses. Throughout, the book and its contributors invite readers to examine what they eat, where it comes from and how it's produced. You won't find easy answers inside, but it'll give you something to chew on.
6 - 7. A Field Guide to Climate Anxiety by Sarah Jaquette Ray and Facing the Climate Emergency by Margaret Klein Salamon
"Climate grief" is both real and draining. These two complementary titles offer readers some great psychological tools necessary to keep going in these trying times — and beyond. Field Guide is aimed more at young adults ("the climate generation"), but both books provide key tips for turning your negative emotions into powerful action.
8. Do Androids Dream of Electric Cars? Public Transit in the Age of Google, Uber and Elon Musk by James Wilt
Public transportation was already in crisis before the pandemic, thanks in no small part to the Koch brothers' assault on local transit systems. Things could get even worse now, with ridership in trains and busses on the decline while we maintain safe distance from each other, a trend that could undermine critical low-carbon transportation initiatives. This book, which addresses issues ranging from transit to electric cars to ridesharing, aims to provide a model for a greener future.
9 - 10. How Birds Work and How Insects Work by Marianne Taylor
These two heavily illustrated science books provide great insight into both intriguing groups of species. Taken together or individually, they may offer hours of fun educational opportunities in this era of home-schooling.
11. Reimagining Capitalism in a World on Fire by Rebecca Henderson
The pandemic reinforces the tragic reality that our systems are terribly broken. Many experts and activists feel that this crisis — which comes on top of the already existing climate and wildlife crises — also provides an opportunity for change. This book offers an ever-so-timely economic model, along with working examples, for a safer and more just future. (Expect several more books on similar topics in the months ahead.)
12. Leave Only Footprints: My Acadia-to-Zion Journey Through Every National Park by Conor Knighton
We probably shouldn't personally be visiting national parks during the pandemic, but here's the next best thing. This thoroughly delightful travelogue (from a CBS Sunday Morning correspondent) brings national parks to you and delivers a deeply personal and revelatory take on what makes America's natural spaces so important.
13. The Human Planet: Earth at the Dawn of the Anthropocene by George Steinmetz and Andrew Revkin
Steinmetz is renowned for his aerial photography projects, which often capture the stark reality of climate change, agriculture and sea-level rise. Revkin is a prominent environmental journalist and educator. Together they've delivered a beautiful, haunting coffee-table book that provides a powerful portrait of the ways we're changing the planet.
14. Sea Otters: A Survival Story by Isabelle Groc
Your required dose of cuteness combined with important conservation messages, all wrapped up in a fun and heavily illustrated book for teen readers. Dame Judy Dench provides the foreword, which may be the most unexpected fact in this whole column.
That's it for this month. Stay safe and stay tuned for another batch of books on May's list in a few short weeks. Until then you can find dozens of additional eco-books in the "Revelator Reads" archive.
Reposted with permission from The Revelator.
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As more and more homeowners make the switch to solar power, you may be considering putting panels on your own roof. But before you purchase a home solar system, you should consider the major solar energy pros and cons.
Of course, using the sun as an energy source can reduce your household's monthly electric bills and minimize your carbon footprint. However, making the switch to renewable energy isn't always the best choice for all homeowners. Let's take a closer look at the pros and cons of solar energy.
Each product featured here has been independently selected by the writer. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
Pros and Cons of Solar Energy: What You Need to Know
By installing a home solar system, you can use solar panels to harness the sun's rays, convert them into electrical energy and use that energy to power your home. This can offset or even completely replace the energy you'd typically get from your utility company.
While the advantages of solar energy are plenty, there are also some drawbacks. Here are the top solar energy pros and cons to consider when deciding if solar panels are worth it for your home.
Benefits of Solar Energy
We'll begin with a summary of the main advantages of solar energy.
1) You can significantly reduce or even eliminate your household electric bills.
One of the most significant benefits of solar energy is also the most obvious: By harnessing energy from the sun, you can cut back your dependence on electric utility, which means you'll see a sharp drop off in your monthly electricity bills. In fact, the average solar system lasts for two to three decades, which means that your return on investment will pay for the system itself over time.
2) Going solar can reduce your carbon emissions.
Another one of the main advantages of solar energy is that it's a clean and renewable energy source. What this means is that you reduce your greenhouse gas emissions and decrease your environmental impact. While energy from coal and other fossil fuels tend to create a lot of environmental pollutants, solar energy does not produce any direct pollution at all, which makes it far and away the most environmentally friendly way to power your home.
3) Investing in a solar power system can increase the value of your home.
Solar homes are becoming considerably more appealing, and installing the best solar panels can bump an estate's resale value by a decent amount. Note that this helps offset one of the primary cons of solar energy, which is the steep startup cost of solar panels — but more on that later.
4) Going solar can make you eligible for rebates and tax incentives.
Over the past couple of decades, the federal government has implemented numerous plans to incentivize solar energy, including tax credits and rebates. Many state governments have followed suit, particularly those where sun exposure is most consistent. (North Carolina has actually been one of the leaders in this space.) Thanks to this, there are some significant ways to recoup part of your solar investment almost immediately. Again, this can help offset the initial cost of your solar panel system, allowing you to generate some savings even before those utility reductions begin to stack up.
Disadvantages of Solar Energy
There are obviously some significant benefits of solar energy, but it's only fair to outline some of the drawbacks, too. A few of the most notable disadvantages include:
1) Not every roof can accommodate a solar system.
Solar panel installation requires you to have a certain kind of roof. If you have an older home, especially one with slate or cedar tiles on the roof, then you may not be able to buy solar panels for your personal use. Additionally, homes with skylights and other rooftop features may not have the surface area needed for solar panels. If you don't have a lot of space or you're unsure about your home's solar capability, contact a local solar installer for a consultation. Most top solar companies will send out a representative free of charge.
2) Solar energy can be very location-dependent.
You may have a roof that's ideal for solar panel installation and still not be a good candidate for solar energy. Why? Because to take full advantage of solar energy, you need to live in a place that gets consistent sun exposure from day to day. So, if you live in a part of the country that tends to be pretty cloudy or grey, solar may be a non-starter. And if your roof is partly shielded by trees or by neighboring homes, you may not get the best mileage from a solar energy system.
3) Solar savings tend to correspond with energy bills.
If you have high energy bills, then going solar will probably give you significant savings. But the inverse is also true: If you live somewhere with low utility costs, then the savings from switching to solar energy are going to be more modest. In other words, there are some parts of the country where the financial advantages of solar energy are going to be pronounced, and other places where those financial advantages are going to be fairly inconsequential. It all depends on the cost of electricity where you live.
4) The upfront cost of going solar can be quite expensive.
According to some estimates, the average cost of a solar system investment is around $13,000, and for some homeowners, may exceed $20,000. The specific number will vary according to the size of your home, your household energy needs and the type of solar panels you choose. For example, if you make your own DIY solar panels, you'll cut down on installation costs, or if you want to get the most efficient solar panels, they'll cost significantly more.
There are plenty of ways to offset the cost, including tax incentives, utility savings, increased home value and financing options. Still, there's no getting around it: Making the switch to solar energy is always going to prove costly.
Free Quote: How Much Can You Save on Solar?
Cost is a major factor to consider when weighing the pros and cons of solar energy. Fill out the 30-second form below to get a free, no-obligation quote from a top solar company in your area to help you decide if solar is right for you. You could save up to $2,500 each year on your electric bills and receive both federal and state tax rebates.
Weighing the Solar Energy Pros and Cons
So, do the advantages of solar energy outweigh the disadvantages? Unfortunately, there's no easy answer here, as different homeowners may experience different levels of savings when they make the jump to solar.
Before investing in a system, make sure you do your due diligence. Research local sun exposure, tax incentives and your own household energy expenses. And, get quotes from a few solar providers that can give you more details about how much a new system will cost you. By weighing the pros and cons of solar energy, you can make the most advantageous decision for your household.
The company is planning its first European electric car and battery factory in the town of Gruenheide, but local environmental groups opposed the tree clearing necessary to construct it, Reuters explained. The court had issued a temporary injunction against the tree felling Sunday, The Guardian reported, but its decision now to allow the trees to be cleared is final and cannot be appealed, MarketWatch pointed out.
The factory has divided environmentalists in Germany, DW explained. On the one hand, Tesla plans to clear 92 hectares of forest for its factory. Local environmental groups are worried about how it will impact wildlife and water supply, and their vocal opposition has surprised authorities, according to Reuters. Demonstrations against the plant have drawn hundreds.
Local environmental group Grüne Liga Brandenburg (Green League Brandenburg) also argued that the company should not have been granted permission to clear trees until the March 5 deadline for environmental groups to comment on the factory, Bloomberg reported.
"To fell half of the forest when many aspects of this process are yet to be clarified seems fairly problematic, which is why we have asked the court to deal with it," Heinz-Herwig Mascher of Grüne Liga said, according to The Guardian. "It is not that we have something as such against Tesla as a company or its objectives. But we are concerned the preferential treatment they're being given could set a precedence."
On the other hand, the Gigafactory will produce at least 500,000 electric cars every a year, DW pointed out, making it part of the fight against the climate crisis. Tesla CEO Elon Musk has also argued that the forest was not natural, but was planted for cardboard. He also said the plant would not use as much water as the peak estimates that had alarmed activists.
@EvaFoxU @Tesla Sounds like we need to clear up a few things! Tesla won’t use this much net water on a daily basis.… https://t.co/0oi9YhR8yh— Elon Musk (@Elon Musk)1579929424.0
Some environmental leaders took his side.
"[Y]ou don't always have to oppose everything," Berlin Green Party politician Ramona Pop said, as DW reported. "It is absurd to declare a pine plantation as a forest. We need to keep some perspective. Tesla's future investment should be allowed quickly for clean mobility and climate protection."
In its ruling Thursday, the court decided that the local authorities did not violate any laws when they allowed work on the factory to start, Bloomberg reported. Their decision means that Tesla should be able to finish clearing and begin construction before the breeding and nesting period for local wildlife in mid March. This will put the company on track to meeting its goal of opening the Gigafactory in the middle of 2021.Musk said on Twitter that the plant would be designed with "sustainability and the environment in mind," and that the company would plant three trees for every tree cut down.
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Tesla just unveiled its first electric truck.
CEO Elon Musk showed off the new design at a launch event at the company's Design Studio in Hawthorne, California Thursday.
"We need sustainable energy now," Musk said, according to Reuters. "If we don't have a pickup truck, we can't solve it. The top 3 selling vehicles in America are pickup trucks. To solve sustainable energy, we have to have a pickup truck."
But some commentators questioned whether Tesla's new electric vehicle would attract traditional pickup buyers. Teslas and other electric vehicles tend to sell in the coastal U.S., while truck sales are highest in the Midwest, CNN pointed out. The overall electric truck market is not expected to be large in the near future, according to Reuters: tracking firm IHS Markit estimates electric trucks will only account for about 75,000 sales in 2026 compared to three million trucks sold total. (These estimates do not account for the Tesla model.)
Then there's the design of the truck itself, which is, as CNN described, far from traditional:
When the truck initially drove onto the stage, many in the crowd clearly couldn't believe that this was actually the vehicle they'd come to see. The Cybertruck looks like a large metal trapezoid on wheels, more like an art piece than a truck.
Instead of a distinctly separate cab and bed, the body appears to be a single form. The exterior is made from a newly developed stainless steel alloy, Musk said, the same metal that's used for SpaceX rockets.
The futuristic design may not appeal to typical truck lovers.
"It will be a niche product at best and poses no threat in the pickup market as we know it today," Kelley Blue Book senior managing editor Matt DeLorenzo told CNN.
However, fellow Kelley Blue Book employee executive publisher Karl Brauer thought the truck would appeal to a different market — fans of high tech.
"Everything from its styling to its drivetrain will be a major departure from standard pickup trucks," he said in a statement reported by The New York Times. "As a technology statement for tech-oriented professionals and fans, this truck's departures from the norm will be seen as assets, not liabilities."
Tesla announced three models at different prices: a $39,900 single-motor rear wheel drive, a $49,900 dual motor all wheel drive and a $69,900 tri-motor all wheel drive. The most expensive car will be able to tow 14,000 pounds and drive 500 miles before recharging. The cheapest model will be able to travel half that, according to CNN.
Production on the trucks is expected to begin in late 2021 and they are now available for order on the Tesla website, The New York Times reported.
The truck is also advertised as being especially resilient. Musk said its doors could resist a bullet from a nine millimeter handgun, and Tesla's chief designer Franz von Holzhausen hit them with a sledge hammer during the unveiling to prove their strength. They remained undented.
A test of the windows, however, did not go as well. When von Holzhausen threw a metal ball at the front and near left windows, they smashed.
Musk swore and then said, "Room for improvement," BBC News reported.
"It didn't go through, that's a plus side," Musk said further, according to BBC News. "We threw wrenches, we threw literally the kitchen sink at the glass and it didn't break. For some reason it broke now… I don't know why."
Jessica Caldwell of vehicle marketplace Edmunds told BBC News she thought the "fail" would overshadow the announcement of the new truck.
Tesla isn't the only company looking to make electric trucks in the coming years. Both General Motors and Ford plan to sell electric trucks by the end of 2021, according to Reuters. Ford also invested $500 million in a startup called Rivian, which plans to build electric trucks starting in the fall of 2020.
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By Fiona E. McNeill
The Michigan community of Flint has become a byword for lead poisoning. Elon Musk recently entered the fray. He tweeted a promise to pay to fix the water in any house in Flint that had water contamination above acceptable levels set by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
On Twitter and elsewhere, people argued whether this offer was a big deal or not. Some said his follow-up tweets that most houses in Flint had safe water were wrong. Some said the issue had already been fixed so he was doing nothing.
@DylanSheaMusic Please consider this a commitment that I will fund fixing the water in any house in Flint that has… https://t.co/UT3wmEE0m8— Elon Musk (@Elon Musk)1531342347.0
Others argued that his clarification that he would pay to fit water filters in the small number of houses with high lead levels ("outliers," as he called them) meant he was backtracking.
Even as controversy swirls this week around Musk's financial contribution to a Republican fundraising committee and his comments about a British cave rescuer in Thailand, I argue the Tesla founder has made an important offer regarding Flint. What's more, he's clearly explored the issues surrounding lead in the town's drinking water.
I have studied lead exposure for 30 years. I develop biomedical devices to measure long-term exposure. I recently showed that long-term exposure to lead in Canada has been reduced by half since the early 1990s.
I know that removing lead from drinking water is important because lead is such a toxic metal. It lowers children's IQs, and my colleagues and I showed that lead-exposed children have higher blood pressure late in life. We also found that women exposed to lead undergo menopause earlier than non-exposed women.
In Flint, controls of lead levels in drinking water failed, and an increased number of children were exposed to high lead levels for months. These children will suffer long-term consequences to their health and quality of life.
The children were lead poisoned in Flint because of poor management, complacency and intransigence.
Like many municipalities in North America, a proportion of the water lines in Flint are made of lead. Water running through lead pipes picks up small amounts of the metal, but more lead dissolves when the water is warm and/or acidic.
In April 2014, the city switched the source of water to the Flint River. This water was corrosive, and they failed to add corrosion control. More lead dissolved into the water and children drinking tap water were poisoned. The switch in water supply increased the number of children with blood lead levels above the U.S. action level of 5 µg/dL by 50 percent.
Government Officials Prolonged Crisis
It took months for the problem to be acknowledged and some state officials "stubbornly worked to discredit and dismiss others' attempts to bring the issues of unsafe water… to light" and "prolonged the Flint water crisis." The source of water was finally switched back, and slowly lead levels in drinking water and the number of children with blood levels above the action level fell.
As of 2018, the state of Michigan's sampling data of high-risk areas in Flint shows that four per cent of water samples in Flint over a six-month period had lead level levels above the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulatory level of 15 parts per billion.
As Musk noted, most of the tap water in Flint (more than 90 percent) is indeed safe by the EPA standard. Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder announced the withdrawal of supplies of bottled water in April 2018, arguing that tap-water testing met federal guidelines and declaring the crisis over.
But that doesn't mean that lead has been completely eliminated. There are still properties in the city in 2018 with tested levels that exceed the EPA standard. While ongoing work to replace pipes, some the result of lawsuits, should mean lower levels of lead in the community's tap water in the future, it can cause spikes in lead water levels as particular pipes are cut apart and replaced.
Musk went further in his Tweets than a commitment to water levels below the EPA standard. He committed to fixing the water in any house that exceeded Food and Drug Administration (FDA) levels.
In the U.S., bottled water and tap water are regulated at different levels. The FDA (bottled) water level is three times lower than the EPA limit at five parts per billion. The state data from high-risk areas in Flint from January to July 2018 shows that 50 to 100 per cent more samples fail at this level.
And so by using the FDA standard, Musk is committing to paying to add filters to the water supply in potentially twice the number of homes in high-risk areas.
Lead can be removed from water by filtration. Some filters work better than others, but even low-cost filters can work well, so Musk's pledge to add filtration to house water supplies could work as an interim measure. Free water filters and replacement cartridges are available at City Hall, but as Musk noted in his Tweets, some local people distrust the state agency information and the filters. Who can blame them?
@elonmusk Hey Elon! Sean Hollister here with CNET. Can you confirm this is 100% real... and any comment on reports… https://t.co/uDuhPH6niW— Sean Hollister (@Sean Hollister)1531343892.0
The official report of the Flint Water Advisory Task Force notes that state officials tried to discredit the issue of unsafe water. Why would people in Flint accept on faith an offer of help from government, when governments have failed them?
Elon Musk may have an important role to play, not as an engineer and an installer of filters, but as an arm's-length third party whose help can be believed. The mayor of Flint, Karen Weaver, has said her conversation with Musk's team gave her hope that Musk could help with improving local confidence in water quality.
If Musk can help achieve safe drinking water more quickly for every home in Flint, then he should be lauded. Water is life. Giving all of the residents of Flint confidence in the safety of the tap water in their homes helps restore their lives and dignity.
Reposted with permission from our media associate The Conversation.
The car is a compact SUV that will have a range of 300 miles, The Verge reported. Three versions will be available for sale in fall of 2020: a $47,000 long-range version, a $51,000 all-wheel drive dual-motor version and a $60,000 performance version. A cheaper standard version with a 230 mile range will sell for $39,000, but won't be available until 2021.
The Model Y looks essentially like a larger version of the Model 3, the company's first mast-market car, according to The Verge. The Model 3 just became available for its target $35,000 price two weeks ago, three years after the car was first announced.
The announcement comes at a difficult time for Tesla, BBC News reported. Musk was sued by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in 2018 after tweeting about Tesla going private. The launch in 2019 of the $35,000 Model 3 came with a decision to lower prices across the board, at the expense of closing the majority of the company's retail outlets. But customers, employees and landlords complained, so the company reversed course and raise prices again, except for on the Model 3s, according to The Verge and BBC News.
Tesla car prices go up ~3% next week, except for $35k Model 3. Order online at https://t.co/46TXqRrsdr before then for current prices.— Elon Musk (@Elon Musk)1552363358.0
In addition, Consumer Reports revoked its recommendation of the Mode 3 in February, saying customers had reported problems with body hardware, paint and trim.
Executive Director of Industry Analysis at Edmunds Jessica Caldwell told The Verge the Model Y could be an important car for Tesla if it plays its cards right, seeing as SUVs currently sell very well in the U.S.:
"If Tesla truly wants to be a mainstream brand, it's going to have to figure out how to sell cars to people besides young men in California," Caldwell said in a statement. "Tesla has the right foundation for the Model Y to be a turning point: Tesla has the youngest buyer base of any luxury brand, and the Model X has more female buyers than any other vehicle in the brand's lineup. If the Model Y is priced right, offers a roomy interior, and delivers flawless safety and quality, it has the potential to be the 'it' vehicle for young families."
But Tesla does have competition. Most German automakers either already do or soon will ship electric SUVs.Transit, driven largely by fossil-fuel-powered cars and other land vehicles, is the fastest growing source of climate-change causing emissions, according to the World Health Organization (WHO.) The sector is also currently responsible for the largest share of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions at 28 percent, according to the most up-to-date data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
"We are incredibly excited to announce that the standard Model 3, with 220 miles of range, a top speed of 130 mph and 0-60 mph acceleration of 5.6 seconds is now available at $35,000!" the company announced in a blog post. "Although lower in cost, it is built to achieve the same perfect 5-star safety rating as the longer-ranged version, which has the lowest probability of injury of any car ever tested by the U.S. Government."
$35,000 Tesla Model 3 Available Now https://t.co/xZ0J4rbbgM— Tesla (@Tesla)1551392579.0
This is now the cheapest electric vehicle on offer from the company, bringing the Model 3 price-point down from the $42,900 it went for after a price reduction this February.
"From the beginning, this has been the goal," Tesla CEO Elon Musk said on a press call reported by The Verge. "It's an incredible car."
The car is available to order now online in the U.S. and will be available in Europe and China in three to six months.
In addition to the newly-discounted Model 3, Tesla also announced other variations on the car at newly low prices, including a Model 3 Standard Range Plus for $37,000 that gets 240 miles on the charge and a Mid Range for $40,000 that gets 264 miles per charge.
Model 3s now available Standard Range: 220mi, $35k Standard Range Plus: 240mi, $37k Mid Range: 264mi, $40k Long R… https://t.co/A891MuqeJK— Tesla (@Tesla)1551399077.0
The move squares with the goal of the company as announced by Musk in 2017, according to USA Today.
"The whole point of Tesla was to build a great affordable electric car," Musk said when the first Model 3s were released.
The lower prices come at a cost though: Tesla is moving to all online sales. This is what allowed the company to reduce all vehicle prices by an average of six percent. The company will shut down most of its retail stores, keeping a few open in particularly busy locations as showcases and information hubs. This means Tesla will have to lay off staff, Musk admitted on the press call reported by The Verge.
"There's no other way for us to achieve the savings required to provide this car and be financially sustainable," he said. "I wish there was some other way, but unfortunately, it will entail reduction in force on the retail side. There's no way around it."
In order to bypass the need for a test drive, the company touted a generous return policy.
"You can now return a car within 7 days or 1,000 miles for a full refund. Quite literally, you could buy a Tesla, drive several hundred miles for a weekend road trip with friends and then return it for free. With the highest consumer satisfaction score of any car on the road, we are confident you will want to keep your Tesla," the announcement said.
Musk hinted at the announcement with a cryptic series of three tweets on Wednesday.
"Thursday 2pm." "California." "Some Tesla news." he wrote.
Some Tesla news— Elon Musk (@Elon Musk)1551255713.0
Musk has gotten in trouble with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) before for his tweets, as USA Today explained:
On Monday, the SEC filed a claim against Musk for not complying with an agreement reached with the Wall Street regulatory agency in late September. The SEC accused Musk of securities fraud after the Tesla chairman tweeted that "Tesla made 0 cars in 2011, but will make around 500k in 2019."
It is not known if Tesla approved Musk's tweets Wednesday, but they caused its stock to jump five percent.Transportation is responsible for the largest share of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, according to the most up-to-date data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Most of this is due to the burning of fossil fuels for vehicles including cars.
Top Clean Cars and Trucks of 2018 https://t.co/GEEUua5BX6 #renewable #solar #wind #PV https://t.co/ZX5w810xNn— Renewable Search (@Renewable Search)1518271815.0
When it goes live in three months, Hyundai's 150-megawatt system will overtake Tesla's 100-megawatt facility in South Australia as the world's largest industrial energy storage system, Independent.ie reported. Sorry, Elon Musk.
It's an exciting—albeit geeky—race to help the planet wean off environmentally harmful fossil fuels. That's because if we want to accelerate the world's renewable energy transition, we'll have to modernize the energy grid and much of that depends on energy storage technology.
Tesla famously built its ginormous battery within 100 days after Australian billionaire Mike Cannon-Brookes dared Musk to help fix the South Australian's electricity woes. The system, which is connected to Neoen's Hornsdale wind farm, has exceeded expectations after switching on about a year ago. The lightning-fast system has saved about $40 million in grid stabilization costs, prevented blackouts and helped restore confidence in the state's energy resources, the Australian Financial Review noted.
Hyundai's $45 million battery is being built for the metal smelting company KoreaZinc, which intends to be energy self-sufficient and wants to reduce electricity costs, according to Climate Action. The company estimates it will save almost $60 million in electricity expenses over the next three years once the facility is built. KoreaZinc is also complying with the South Korean government's larger efforts to boost renewables and mitigate air pollution, the publication added.
These large-scale projects are enabled by less expensive battery prices, with prices dropping by almost half since 2014, according to Bloomberg.
Other entrepreneurs are joining in the big battery race, including billionaire Sanjeev Gupta's SIMEC ZEN Energy, which plans to build a 120-megawatt battery near Adelaide. Tesla is also vying to build another giant Powerpack system in Colorado for Xcel Energy Inc., an electric utility operating in eight Western and Midwestern states.
Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) estimated that developers announced 1,650 megawatts per hour of new lithium-ion battery projects in 2017, four times the amount for all of 2016.
"Musk has set a benchmark on how quickly you can install and commission a battery of this size," Ali Asghar, a BNEF senior associate, said in a Bloomberg interview.
Falling costs are "making them a compelling mainstream option for energy-storage applications in many areas around the world, and projects even bigger than Tesla's are now under construction."
Battery Storage Revolution Could 'Sound the Death Knell for Fossil Fuels' https://t.co/HXbegsfUqn @Tesla @elonmusk… https://t.co/7d7APPuBUd— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1516303748.0
In the event of World War III, the only way for humanity to survive is to colonize Mars or the moon, according to Elon Musk.
"I'm not predicting that we're about to enter the dark ages, but there's some probability that we will, particularly if there's a third world war," the SpaceX and Tesla founder said during a question and answer session at the South by Southwest (SXSW) Conference in Austin on Sunday ahead of President Donald Trump's possible nuclear talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
"We want to make sure there's enough of a seed of human civilization somewhere else to bring civilization back and, perhaps, shorten the length of the dark ages," Musk continued during his chat with Jonathan Nolan, the co-creator of HBO's Westworld.
"It's important to get a self-sustaining base ideally on Mars, because Mars is far enough away from Earth that [if there's a war on Earth] the Mars base is more likely to survive than a moon base," he said. "But I think a moon base and a Mars base that could perhaps regenerate life back here on Earth would be really important."
Musk's remarks—which you can watch below—are similar to comments made by theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking, who also thinks that humanity needs to colonize Mars, the moon or other planets in order survive threats such as climate change.
Elon Musk wants a self-sustaining base for human civilization, ideally on Mars, in case WWIII on Earth #tictocnews https://t.co/lEwBrwE0I9— Bloomberg Quicktake (@Bloomberg Quicktake)1520792894.0
Musk said it will not be easy for the first people living in space.
"The moon and Mars are often thought of as some escape hatch for rich people, but it won't be that at all," he said. "Really it kind of reads like Shackleton's ad for Antarctic explorers ... difficult, dangerous, good chance you'll die, excitement for those who would survive."
Once the space settlers are established, the billionaire visionary envisions a "direct democracy" for Martian colonies, "where people vote directly on issues instead of going through a representative government."
Musk suggested that SpaceX will be ready to fly a rocket to Mars in 2019.
"I think we'll be able to do short flights, sort of up-and-down flights, probably some time in the first half of next year," he said.
However, he admitted this interplanetary project, like many of his other grand plans, could be a little too ambitious.
"People have told me that my timelines historically have been optimistic, and so I'm trying to recalibrate to some degree here."
Elsewhere in his wide-ranging interview at SXSW, Musk spoke about the threat of climate change and why there must be a price on carbon.
"Anything that pushes carbon into the atmosphere … has to have a price," Musk said.
Musk, whose many companies build electric vehicles, batteries and solar panels, has spoken frequently about his vision of a cleaner, more sustainable future.
"In the absence of a price, we sort of pretend that digging up trillions of tons of fossil fuels and putting in the atmosphere … won't have a bad outcome," he said. "It's up to people and [their] governments to put a price on carbon."
Tesla Installing World's Largest Solar Rooftop on Nevada Gigafactory https://t.co/HG8WuegadG @solarfeeds @cleantechnica— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1520289309.0
- Dear Elon Musk: Your Dazzling Mars Plan Overlooks Some Big ... ›
- NASA Releases First Video and Audio of Mars Landing - EcoWatch ›
One of the biggest sources of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. is from burning fossil fuels for transportation, so accelerating the electrification of our planes, trains and automobiles is crucial in a clean energy future.
In a recent interview with CNBC's Squawk Box, Bob Carter, executive vice president of sales for Toyota Motor North America, spoke about the Japanese automaker's plans to offer an electrified option for every model in the Toyota and Lexus line-up by 2025. This includes hybrids, plug-in hybrids, full electric and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.
"We are working on an entire portfolio of hybrids which we have been selling since 1997, plug-in hybrids, full battery electric vehicles as well as our fuel cell vehicles," Carter said on the show. "Those vehicles represent about 9 percent of our sales in 2018. We have set a goal that it will be 15 percent of our sales next year in 2020."
Toyota aims for electrified option for every model by 2025 www.youtube.com
Toyota's ambitions are a major shift away from traditional gas guzzling vehicles—and that commitment should be commended.
However, instead of pouring its resources into purely electric cars—à la Elon Musk's Tesla—Toyota is focusing more on gas-electric vehicles.
"Our strategy is to keep utilizing our hybrids, plug-in hybrids, and eventually bring in battery-electric vehicles as the market grows," Carter told CNBC.
But Toyota could be missing the boat by sidestepping fully electric cars, sales of which are taking off and poised to accelerate.
"Toyota's emphasis on hybrids comes at a time when U.S. demand for the traditional gas-electric vehicle is dropping. LMC Automotive estimates full hybrid sales in the U.S. fell 6 percent last year, while Toyota's hybrid sales dropped 5 percent.
The lower price of gasoline gives potential buyers less incentive to opt for a hybrid over a model powered by an internal combustion engine. Another factor: The growing number of electric models for sale gives eco-friendly buyers the option to plug in and stop pumping gas. In that area, Tesla, not Toyota has become the clear leader."
Toyota sold about 28,000 plug-ins in U.S. last year, compared to the 191,000 EVs Tesla reportedly sold, LeBeau noted.
Fred Lambert, the editor in chief of the electric vehicle blog Electrek, also said it was "dumb" for Toyota to not focus on a mass-market EV.
"If the EV market is small right now, it's not because people don't want to buy EVs, it's because the industry is not manufacturing enough attractive all-electric vehicles at a decent price," he wrote in a blog post.
Toyota's commitment to an electrified fleet was announced in Decemeber 2017 an environmental push. The company said it would no longer develop models without an electrified version.
"Electrified vehicles, which are effective for economical consumption of fuel and promoting usage of alternative fuels, are indispensable in helping to solve current environmental issues," Toyota said then in a press release.
Government subsidies for electric vehicles and solar panels are an important tool to help accelerate a clean energy… https://t.co/1NhzEYsvK0— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1544002571.0
Government subsidies for electric vehicles and solar panels are an important tool to help accelerate a clean energy economy. However, a top White House economic advisor said on Monday that the Trump administration is looking to end such federal incentives, Reuters reported.
Sweeteners for purchasing EVs and other Obama-era items could be eliminated in as little as two years, according to Larry Kudlow, the director of the White House National Economic Council.
"As a matter of our policy, we want to end all of those subsidies," Kudlow said, as quoted by Reuters. "And by the way, other subsidies that were imposed during the Obama administration, we are ending, whether it's for renewables and so forth."
Kudlow blamed General Motors' recent plant closures and layoffs as the catalyst behind the decision. His comments echoed President Donald Trump's tweet last week that threatened to cut all subsidies for GM, including ones for electric vehicles, in order to punish the automaker.
....for electric cars. General Motors made a big China bet years ago when they built plants there (and in Mexico) -… https://t.co/0U7lwZ3pfy— Donald J. Trump (@Donald J. Trump)1543345539.0
When asked for a timeline, Kudlow added: "It's just all going to end in the near future. I don't know whether it will end in 2020 or 2021."
The federal government currently offers $7,500 in tax credits for purchases of new electric vehicles under a 2009 federal law. Congress caps the tax credits at 200,000 vehicles per manufacturer. After hitting that mark, the credit phases out.
The only U.S. carmaker to hit this threshold is Elon Musk's Tesla, although GM is said to be close to losing this credit. This means the timeline suggested by Kudlow wouldn't really hurt GM since their tax credits could soon phase out anyway, as Electrek pointed out. However, it would punish other EV-makers and its customers if the proposal comes to fruition.
Kudlow did not provide exact details on how the White House would eliminate the tax credits, as it would require an act of Congress. It's also unlikely to happen after Democrats—many of whom are pushing for additional clean energy incentives—take control of the House in January.
However, federal subsidies for the renewable energy sector have declined significantly from about $15.5 billion in 2013 to $6.7 billion in 2016, according an April analysis by the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
Elon Musk Slams Coal Baron: Challenges Him to 'Go to Zero' With Taxpayer Subsidies https://t.co/gK4zxlMQq3 @BeyondCoal @quitcoal— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1476230440.0
The $800 million (US $634 million) project—struck in February by Tesla CEO Elon Musk and former South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill—involves installing solar panels and batteries on 50,000 homes to function as an interconnected power plant.
But the plan was nearly scrapped under the new state government headed by Liberal leader Steven Marshall, who was elected in March. Marshall's government had their own plan to offer discounts on battery storage for 40,000 homes.
In a happy twist, Energy Minister Dan van Holst Pellekaan announced at the Australian Energy Conference this week the newly elected government would proceed with both plans.
"It's very important to be clear about this—we are honoring the existing commitments around the Tesla virtual power plant (VPP)," he said, as quoted by Australia's ABC News.
Van Holst Pellekaan, who met with Tesla soon after he was sworn in, added that he wants South Australia to become a world leader in home battery installation.
By doubling down, the state will eventually emerge with some 100,000 household batteries, or more than one in ten homes, Renew Economy noted.
"We'll show the world how the mass adoption of home batteries can and will work," he said. "This is a complicated task—I don't think that anyone has attempted to do what we're about to do at this scale relative to population and market size."
The virtual power plant involves installing a 5-kilowatt solar system and a Powerwall 2 battery on roughly 50,000 low-income and social housing units across the state over the next four years. The setup would be installed at no charge to the households and financed through the sale of electricity. Participants would save an estimated 30 percent on their power bills.
"My government has already delivered the world's biggest battery, now we will deliver the world's largest virtual power plant," Weatherill said then. "We will use people's homes as a way to generate energy for the South Australian grid, with participating households benefiting with significant savings in their energy bills.
Tesla told AFP that the virtual power plant would have 250 megawatts of solar energy and 650 megawatt hours of battery storage.
"At key moments, the virtual power plant could provide as much capacity as a large gas turbine or coal power plant," the company added.
Van Holst Pellekaan also said at the Australian Energy Conference that the trial phase, which starts with installing home energy systems on 1,100 public housing properties, is currently proceeding.
Tesla's Giant Australian Battery Saved Consumers $35 Million in Four Months https://t.co/0sgrLy8vaF @Tesla… https://t.co/1XIeb68OZp— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1526309066.0