7 Countries Leading the Way on the Race to Go Electric
By Kieran Cooke
The car maker Volvo has shed its reputation for safe but rather boring models—sledges rather than sleek runabouts—as it takes a decisive step towards electric cars.
The Sweden-based auto manufacturer—since 2010 owned by China's Zhejiang Geely Holding group—is set to become the first of the world's major car makers to wave goodbye to the traditional internal combustion engine.
Emissions from cars and trucks make up a large proportion of climate-changing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Scientists in the U.S. calculate that cars and trucks account for up to 20 percent of the country's total greenhouse gas emissions.
Fumes from diesel- and petrol-fueled engines also cause severe pollution problems, particularly in big cities; there is increasing concern about the impact of these fumes on health.
Starting in 2019, Volvo will be producing only cars with electric motors, or hybrids—vehicles that run on combined electric and petrol-driven engines.
"This announcement marks the end of the solely combustion engine-powered car," said Hakan Samuelsson, Volvo's chief executive. "People increasingly demand electrified cars."
Volvo said it plans to launch five new models—all either fully or partially electric—between 2019 and 2021. Three of them will be marketed under the Volvo brand; the other two more powerful vehicles, designed to compete with the California-based Tesla high performance electric car, will be part of a new Polestar brand.
Volvo, which started producing cars in 1927, has been expanding its sales in recent years, with more than half a million vehicles sold in 2015, up eight percent on the previous year.
Heavy investment—particularly in electric and hybrid vehicles—by the company's Chinese owners is said by industry specialists to have spurred Volvo's revival.
China is the world's biggest market for both electric and hybrid vehicles, with approximately 350,000 sold last year. China gives considerable incentives to purchasers of electric vehicles with various subsidies and tax breaks available; there has also been multi-million dollar investment in networks of charging stations.
Many countries in Europe—where a total of 220,000 electric and hybrid vehicles were sold last year—are also planning to increase electric car sales.
Norway, with the world's highest number of electric cars per capita, and where 40 percent of newly registered vehicles last year were electric powered, aims to end all sales of petrol and diesel cars within eight years.
France recently joined the high-powered rush to electric vehicles, saying it would end all sales of petrol and diesel cars by 2040 as part of its commitment to meeting the targets of the 2015 Paris agreement on climate change.
Developments in technology, such as batteries capable of giving driving ranges of between 280 and 350 miles, are stimulating electric car sales.
The U.S. has tended to lag behind in the race to go electric, with sales of electric-only cars falling in each of the last two years; they now make up less than 0.4 percent of the total U.S. car market.
The big surge in electric vehicle use is expected to happen in the developing world; India, now one of the world's biggest car markets, announced plans earlier this year to have only electric cars on its roads by 2030.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Climate News Network.
By Tim Radford
Scientists have calculated yet another item on the human shopping list that makes up the modern world: plastics. They have estimated the mass of all the plastic bottles, bags, cups, toys, instruments and fabrics ever produced and tracked its whereabouts, as yet another index of the phenomenal change to the face of the planet made by recent human advance.
Altogether, since about 1950, with the birth of a new industry, more than 8.3 billion tonnes (or 9.1 tons) of synthetic organic polymers have been generated, distributed and discarded. Of that total, 6.3 billion tonnes are classified as waste.
By Jessica Corbett
As Senate Democrats stay silent on an energy bill that environmental groups call "a pro-fracking giveaway to oil and gas interests that would commit America to decades more of dangerous fossil fuel dependence," Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is receiving applause for speaking out against it.
"As a nation, our job is to move away from fossil fuels toward sustainable energy and energy efficiency. This bill does the opposite," Sanders said in a statement.
ExxonMobil filed suit against the federal government last week, claiming that a $2 million fine levied against the company by the Treasury Department is "unlawful" and "capricious."
The Treasury Department fined Exxon Thursday morning, alleging that the oil giant displayed "reckless disregard" of U.S.-Russian sanctions in its dealings with Russian company Rosneft in 2014 under CEO Rex Tillerson.
By Andy Rowell
For years, environmentalists have warned that due to climate change, there will be billions of barrels of oil that we will never be able to burn. These reserves will become what has increasingly been called "stranded assets."
To give you one example: In a new report, Friends of the Earth argued that "The coal, oil and gas in reserves already in production and development globally is more than we can afford to burn. There is no room for any new coal, oil or gas exploration and production.
Late last year, the tiny house community celebrated a watershed moment—an official appendix in the 2018 version of the International Residential Code, the model building code used by most jurisdictions in the U.S.
"There are many things that are monumental in the adoption of tiny house construction codes by the IRC," cheered Thom Stanton, the CEO of small space developer, Timber Trails. "Among them, that architects, designers, builders, community developers and (maybe most importantly) zoning officials have a means of recognizing tiny houses as an official form of permissible dwelling."
The colossal mass of throwaway plastic—from straws to bags to bottles—has grown much faster than recycling and disposal efforts can contain it. You might even say this is obvious, no matter where you look.
Check out this video from National Geographic to watch underwater photographer Huai Su film a diver collecting an endless amount of plastic bottles that litter the seafloor off Xiaoliuqiu Island, Taiwan.
A reef off the coast of Cancún will become the first in the world with its own insurance policy, testing a new strategy meant to encourage local investment in the wellbeing of the reef.
Under the policy, created by insurance company Swiss Re and the Nature Conservancy, local hotels and other organizations dependent on tourism will pay into the policy, receiving reimbursements to repair the reef and local beaches after natural disasters.
The Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York (NOFA-NY) denounced the USDA's permit for the world's first open-air trials of the Genetically Engineered (GE) Diamondback moth to be released in Geneva, New York.
This announcement came concurrently with the availability of a final environmental assessment and finding of no significant impact for the field release of the GE Diamondback moths. NOFA-NY considers the Environmental Assessment lacking comprehensive health and environmental details.