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This Week’s Climate and Clean Energy Brief: Amazon on the Brink, Tesla Competitors Emerge, Civilization Collapse Report, Trump Trashed on Environment, Utilities Partner with EVs

There was quite a lot that we missed in the climate and clean energy world this week. So, in an effort to catch up, we’re going to provide you with a handful of the major highlights. But before we continue, I’d like to also mention that a major and potentially weather event with climate change related influences is now starting to slam the U.S. Northeast with high winds, waves and heavy surf.

We’re compiling a report for later this afternoon on yet one more extreme weather event in a long procession. So watch this space.

The Amazon Rainforest is on the brink of collapseFor a number of years now, we’ve been covering the dual impacts of human-caused climate change and deforestation on the Amazon Rainforest. One of our expert commenters, Umbrios, is a Brazil native and regularly provides updates in the threads below. So those who’ve followed along here have known for a while now that the Amazon is in serious trouble.

Rising temperatures are increasing instances of wildfires within the typically wet forest. Meanwhile, encroaching farms and settlements have cut and burned through the lush jungle, invading it with roads and threatening to choke off what is one of the great ecological treasures of our world.

(A combination of slash and burn deforestation, droughts, rising temperatures and wildfires are pushing the Amazon Rainforest to the brink. A new study finds that human encroachment and climate change are on the verge of transforming half of the Amazon into less productive grasslands. Image source: The Union of Concerned Scientists.)

The concern is that the Amazon, which is under increasing threat like so many other key environments around the world, reaches a tipping point where much of it is transformed into less productive and less helpful Savannah. Where that point rests on the temporal and spatial scale has long been a subject of debate. But a new study finds that it’s much closer than many had feared.

In total, about 17 percent of the Amazon has been deforested. And what the study found was that, due to continued rising temperatures associated with human caused climate change, only another 3 percent deforestation would be enough to transform fully half of the Amazon into Savannah. In this case, global warming is acting in concert with local clear-cutting to provide a dual threat to this great forest that is home to 14 million species and is one of the largest remaining carbon sinks on the planet.

Tesla competitors emergeOn the sustainability side of our ongoing story of tragedy, hope and crisis, we find that a number of automakers are emerging to challenge Tesla’s all-renewable business model. Unfortunately, so far, most automakers are confronting Tesla with single model designs rather than a full transformation of business strategies. But what is encouraging is the rising quality of EVs entering the production fleet.

A good example is this week’s announcement by Jaguar that its I-PACE EV can out accelerate some versions of the Tesla Model X. I-PACE is an EV sporting a 90 KW battery pack and a 240 mile range. It’s priced between 87,000 and 102,000 dollars (US) and it has a stated acceleration of 4.5 seconds from 0-60 mph. This makes it a peer or a near peer to the Tesla Model X which starts at 85,000 dollars, has an all electric range of between 257 and 289 miles, and can accelerate from 0-60 in 4.9 to 2.9 seconds (P100D).

(Jaguar promotes smaller, long-range, high performance, high-price I-PACE electric vehicle as competitor to the Tesla Model X. But is Jaguar really serious about transformational EV production? Or is it just trying to slow Tesla’s all-renewable Juggernaut down? Image source: Jaguar.)

The I-PACE is, however, smaller than the X. Weighing less, it likely relies on this lower mass to match Model X acceleration and range due to Tesla’s superior battery energy density. But what is clear is that Jaguar is trying to compete with Tesla on turf that the all-electric automaker has long dominated.

Jaguar claims that the I-PACE is part of a transformational strategy. But a single EV entry is hardly tranformational compared to Tesla’s larger EV-only production chain and design path. So the question for renewable energy supporters is — does this Janguar really help to speed the clean energy transition, or is it just another rock a primarily fossil fuel based motor company is throwing into the road to delay Tesla? Time, and the number of EVs Jaguar produces (both as models and as single model production) will tell.

Scientists are concerned about the risk of civilization collapse due to climate change and how harmful political ideologies are making matters worse. So my background is one of emerging threats. I worked in the U.S. military, as a member of the U.S. Navy’s DOD force protection group, and as Editor for Emerging Threats at Jane’s Information Group. And it has long been my goal here to analyze climate change impacts in the frame of a systemic threat that increases civilization collapse pressure.

In the military context, climate change is often described as a Threat Multiplier. Rising global temperatures and associated sea level rise, growing season disruption, and increasingly severe weather events can severely damage infrastructure or tear at the fabric of societies — generating conditions of mass desperation the world over. Those focused both on humanitarian relief efforts, often a military mission, and on combating rising instances of extremism (which are often fueled by economic desperation or inability to access shelter, food, and water) are now very concerned about the impact of climate change disruptions on global stability.

(Illustration of instances where climate change has multiplied instability. Note that effects range well outside the regions indicated in the above graphic. Image source: Climate Change as a Problem of National and International Security.)

Unfortunately, these disruptions do not always occur far from home. And no nation has a viable defense against harms associated with climate change. Over the past year, the U.S. has seen some of the most damaging extreme weather events in its history. And most of these have been scientifically linked to climate change. One instance — Maria’s strike to Puerto Rico — resulted in a systemic collapse that has yet to be fully repaired. Part of this failure is due to the severe nature of the climate change enhanced storm. But another aspect of the U.S.’s failure to support Puerto Rico was the fact that the Republican Party was held in the grips of the harmful ideology of climate change denial, jingoism, and anti-government thinking.

This ideology, which has captured so much of the political state of play of one of the world’s greatest nations, cripples responses to the growing existential threat of climate change. It denies both mitigation in the form of renewable energy funding even as it denies the necessary level of support in response to the disasters that climate change produces in ever-greater numbers and on increasingly destructive scales.

The new climate change collapse threat study discussed above is being conducted to examine the societal risks of climate change in light of political capture by harmful ideologies that fail to recognize realities on the ground as they emerge. We’ll be following it here with interest.

Trump trashed on terrible, disjointed, reckless environmental policies. Pretty much every thinking, rational person in the free world has now been woke to the fact that Trump cares little for the safety and security of the American people and sees the office of the Presidency primarily as a means to advance the personal interests of himself, his family, and his close associates. Never before has an Administration acted in so corrupt a fashion or courted so many nefarious entities in a brazen effort at self-promotion, damn all public consequences.

“Over and over again, the Trump administration has put the profits of multinational polluters over the health and well-being of everyday Americans,” — Eric Schneiderman, New York’s attorney general.

One of Trump’s first harmful and self-serving actions was raise Scott Pruitt to head of the Environmental Protection Agency. An unprecedented assault of critical safety-related protections of the American citizenry soon followed. An assault led by policies promoted, through Pruitt, not just by his allies in the coal, oil, and gas industry; but by practically every harmful polluting industry.

(The Center For Biological Diversity has filed 57 lawsuits against the Trump Administration. And it just just one of many agencies leveling an all out response to Trump’s assault on the environment.)

The Trump Administration has tried to enable the dumping of dental mercury into water systems, to allow the use of a substance harmful to child brain development, to enable the environmental release of such dangerous toxins as lead, to let gas companies leak poisonous and climate change enhancing methane plumes into the local environment, to allow trucks and automobiles that spew smog, to halt the protection of key species like bumblebees, and to roll back the Clean Power Plan, the Clean Air Act, and the Clean Water Act.

Such harmful and irresponsible actions have resulted in the Administration being hit by scores of court cases. Rick Sniedermann, the New York Attorney General, alone has produced 50 environmental lawsuits aimed at preventing the roll-back of key protections. And in many instances, the Administration’s pro-polluter policies are suffering serious losses in court.

Utilities partner with EV manufacturers. There’s an amazing clean energy synergy that’s yet to be fully leveraged. It’s a case where wind, solar, other clean energy sources, EVs and EV batteries are capable both of reducing emissions and of creating valuable new energy markets. PG&E apparently recognizes this opportunity and is more than willing to partner with automakers to incentivize it.

BMW and PG&E are offering a 10,000 dollar rebate for the BMW i3 to utility customers. The offer is beneficial to those purchasing an EV because it can reduce the cost of a 44,000 dollar EV to 24,000 after all state, federal, and utility/automaker rebates.

(PG&E power mix shows potential for substantial greenhouse gas emissions reductions for EV owners who purchase electricity from the utility vs those who own a gasoline or diesel-burning vehicle. At some point, PG&E may well considering changing its name to Pacific Electric. As the gas portion is increasingly less relevant to its energy portfolio. Image source: PG&E.)

The utility benefits due to increased electricity demand coming from the EV user. And BMW benefits from the marketing provided by PG&E which helps it to clear old models from its inventory and pave the way for more advanced electrical cars.

It’s also worth noting that PG&E generates more than 70 percent of its electricity from non-carbon-emitting sources and it has a goal for continuing to expand its clean energy allotment. So EV owners who are PG&E customers are engaged in substantially reducing their transportation based carbon emissions over time.

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17 Comments

  1. Thanks for the mention! #^_^#

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  2. kay

     /  March 2, 2018

    Very informative as usual, Robert. Thank you.

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  3. Mblanc

     /  March 3, 2018

    Seeing a lot of negativity for the new Jag online, doesn’t do this, isn’t as fast as that, hasn’t got a decent charging network. To be fair most of the criticism is from comments on US based sites, but I expected EV enthusiasts to be a little happier to see it. It is a sign that Tesla has won the argument.

    I understand that Jaguar won’t get the kind of love that Tesla gets, because it will still be selling far more ICE and hybrid cars for some while yet, but they have beaten all the other prestige trad manufacturers to market. For a smaller company, that is pretty good.

    Is this reaction due to the meme which suggests that these EV’s are effectively window dressing, and not serious attempts at pushing towards a better future? I know that GM has been a disappointment, but Jaguar could easily have waited another year or two and had a good look at the new competition from the German manufacturers, and then gone to market.

    Even you are throwing some shade by suggesting that this might be the only electric Jaguar in the pipeline, and that this design is some kind of spoiler, which I am surprised at. Why would they design the architecture then not do a sports car and a saloon car based on a similar drivetrain? That is like designing a new (old) engine and gearbox, and then only using it in one model. The modern car industry doesn’t work like that. Are you really criticising Jaguar for not launching 3 clean sheet designs at once? They are not that big a player, and I would rather they got one good EV on the market rather than 3 rubbish ones

    As you can probably tell, I’m annoyed. I’ll come back when I have calmed down. 😉

    PS Ian Callum is a really great designer, and it is a pity Tesla couldn’t poach him, because then Tesla’s might look a bit funkier. See how throwing shade works both ways. Perhaps the panel gaps will be up to scratch as well.

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    • I think there are a number of variables at play:

      1. Anti-Tesla snark has the large base of Tesla enthusiasts peeved. Every new EV is marketed as a ‘Tesla killer.’ This gets really old and tinny after a while.
      2. The owners of ICE based vehicle manufacturers that simply stick one toe in the water RE EVs, even when producing a high quality EV, tend to sand bag their own EV products.
      3. Jag generated a false meme by comparing Jag directly to Model 3 (much lower cost) and by setting up a disengenuous ‘race’ between Jag and Model X without telling the truth about all Model X capabilities.
      4. Jag is still mostly an ICE manufacturer and, with self-sabotage of models by GM and others in this business, there is reasonable suspicion that Jag will behave in a similar fashion.
      5. There is no honest acknowledgement of Tesla’s achievements from ICE manufacturers, just continuous negative talk-talk.

      The I-PACE, like the Bolt, is an excellent vehicle. It is near-peer to the Model X. And I hope that Jaguar uses the platform to expand its EV line. They should be commended for moving into the EV sphere. But one EV does not an EV company make. And its dedication to the platform remains to be proven.

      I wrote the above to counter some of the false narrative surrounding the I-PACE and to encourage caution about the actual intent of ICE based vehicle manufacturers. I hope that their behavior changes more toward the positive. But so far, there have been a lot of distractions. I know that multiple billions of dollars are going into EV platforms. And that’s good. But we need manufacturers to become dedicated EV builders, not producers of ‘Tesla-killers.’

      Fair enough?

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      • Mblanc

         /  March 4, 2018

        So, I have calmed down a bit now, posting when you are annoyed is rarely wise.The panel gaps comment was just snarky, my apologies. Tesla have solved far bigger questions than that, and I don’t doubt they know how to solve that issue, if it is a genuine one, not just a minor question on a few early cars. It is worth pointing out that the build quality on US vehicles is, relatively and historically, not particularly good. I’m sure that is just a choice US manufacturers have made in the past, and there is no reason it shouldn’t be different in the future.

        In fairness, I suppose that US EV fans have to face skepticism that is as deeply ingrained as anywhere in the world, and that does lead to a siege mentality. I remember Jason Box talking retreating from the US firing line because he felt he would face less abuse elsewhere. Not that deniers don’t exist elsewhere, but the US does seem like it has it worse, as far as I can see.

        So, the good news is that I have dug out some very reassuring news from Jaguar. It is worth remembering that (in Britain) Jaguar/Land Rover currently sell 90% diesels (all that luxury and off-road tech is heavy), and diesel sales are falling fast, so their motivation to go hybrid and full electric is driven by hard realism. They must be gutted because they made a big investment in the Ignium (sp?) tech on their latest diesels, but the Indian owners have deep pockets.

        …..

        ‘While mass-market automakers are electrifying their fleets in response to regulators’ pressure to reduce emissions, JLR is one of the few established high-end producers to make a strong commitment. Ralf Speth, the division’s chief, outlined plans last year to offer fully electric, plug-in hybrid and so-called mild-hybrid variants of its entire range of cars and SUVs.’

        https://www.iol.co.za/business-report/international/jaguar-previews-i-pace-suv-in-launch-of-battery-powered-line-up-13561256

        …..

        So they are going to offer electric versions of all their range, whilst squeezing the last dregs of profit out of their ICE investments. Like with Porsche, who were surprised how popular their hybrids were, the ditching of diesel will come fast, with regulatory pressure coming on strong. Let’s hope the full EV’s sell like hot cakes (i’m confident it will happen), and encourage manufacturers to face up to the realities of a fully electric future.

        For me, the future of the industry is already decided, and those trad manufacturers are not as stupid as some would have you believe. I think the fight over the future has been won (by Tesla), and the legacy companies are just going to squeeze what remaining profits remain out of their huge investments in the old technologies. I think they are now bailing out of ICE’s as fast as their bean counters will allow them, but it is a hugely risky game, and they know some manufacturers will go to the wall.

        The industry is in flux, which is what needed to happen, and I should accept it will be a bumpy ride!

        In reference to your points.

        1 – I’m not sure that many are actually putting those actual words in their marketing guff, or saying those words, often that is journalistic hype, but certainly there is lots of trolling going on in both directions.

        2 – I agree that has happened a lot, compliance cars etc, and that GM still seem to be doing it now, but you don’t put multi-billion investments into sandbagging. Perhaps you are skeptical that those promised investments are happening, but publicly listed companies don’t tend to lie about investments on that scale, so I am confident there is a tidal wave of EV money feeding through almost all the major car companies. Of course they are trying to get what profits the can out of the old tech, they cannot afford not to, but that isn’t sandbagging, that is fighting for their lives like never before.

        3 – That did seem really bad form to me, I thought that was unbecoming for a company with such a great history. I guess headlines and clickbait drive our world, and that is sad. I think (in retrospect) that is why I was seeing such push back initially from hardcore Tesla fans. I personally think 0-60 times are the kind of thing that small boys get excited over, it is all pretty academic once you get to a certain level of acceleration, and 0-60 in sub 5 secs on public roads is almost always uncomfortable and often dangerous. Maybe my attitude means I didn’t recognise how important that kind of thing is to some, but I guess I was a small boy once, playing Top Trumps (is that a thing in the US?) with all my favourite cars. Can you tell I am past peak testosterone? 🙂

        4 – I understand that past disappointments will affect expectations, that is totally justifiable skepticism, even if I think those worries will be history in a year or two. Personally, 2017 was a big year for me, and I’m sure there is a desperate scramble to get product out. I did journalism training specifically to be a motoring hack, but sadly I lacked a bit of focus. I have read the specialist press for 40 years, can talk for as long as folks will listen on the history, and I know the difference between the greatest disruption in automotive history, and the green-washing of recent times.

        5 – I think if you look hard, or read between the lines, you would see that wasn’t the case. You cannot expect the old industry to take out double-page spreads singing the praises of Elon Musk, because he has turned all their cherished assumptions upside down, and humiliated them on their home turf. They are fighting for their lives, and I am sure that behind closed doors, he is given the respect he deserves.

        Fair play, posting in anger should be avoided where possible. Thank you the reasoned reply.

        PS It is worth pointing out that Jaguar sales were 178k globally last year. Land Rover sales were 442k. Expect to see further JLR EV’s soon, because that is the way the industry works.

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    • As for your final statement RE panel gaps — he who lives in glass houses shouldn’t throw the first stone.

      In any case, in reality, that issue was resolved some time ago. But as for stones and shade, most of it has gone Tesla’s way. For years and years the level of BS misinfomation against that company has reached increasing extremes. So, yeah, fans are pissed. And they know where most of the false spin is coming from — traditional ICE manufacturers and the fossil fuel industry.

      I respect the I-PACE as a platform, but until Jag dedicates itself to a 100 percent renewable transition, I remain skeptical about their intention. And I think that’s a healthy perspective given past shenanigans.

      Now, if Jag goes on a marketing and sales tear like Nissan has with the Leaf, then my skepticism will recede. But, for now, they appear to have come out the gate in exactly the wrong fashion if they’re trying to court the affection of Tesla fans and renewable energy proponents.

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      • From Down Under
        https://www.smh.com.au/business/companies/jaguar-gears-for-electric-sports-car-with-big-spend-on-city-chargers-20180223-p4z1dx.html

        Jaguar gears for electric sports car with big spend on city chargers

        Jaguar plans to invest millions of dollars in electric vehicle charging stations ahead of the launch of its electric vehicle range in Australia.

        The vehicle manufacturer is planning to launch its fully electric sports car, the I-Pace, and two hybrid land rovers in September and October, and will invest between $3 million and $4 million building electric vehicle charging stations for the new vehicles ahead of their release.

        Jaguar Land Rover Australia managing director Matthew Wiesner said it would begin building the infrastructure to support the electric vehicles in the coming weeks.

        “This is a real first for us,” Mr Wiesner told Fairfax Media.

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        • Well, that’s encouraging. The investment in charging infrastructure does help to alleviate some of my concerns. So thanks for this. I’ll say that my view toward Jag would warm considerably if they continue to expand support for their EV platforms and add to their lineup.

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        • I’d also respect them more if they position themselves to compete with ICEs instead of fomenting a war of snark with Tesla. There’s a very large ICE market out there for the taking by the right EVs.

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      • Robert McLachlan

         /  March 3, 2018

        One analyst is forecasting sales of 4500 for the i-pace in Europe in 2018. That would not put it in the top 20 EV models – 300,000 EVs were sold in Europe in 2017, including 12,000 Model Xs – could be 400,000 this year. So, not a game changer, or a whole new direction, by itself, but still significant one of many new EV models coming in the next few years.

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        • I think the global estimates were for 10K to 20K. So decent, but not Earth-shattering. Jag sells about 400K ICE vehicles per year, by comparison.

          Also, given the past discussions we’ve had about cobalt (which I’ve always thought wasn’t as limited as some analysts were saying):

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        • One company I have shares in (Long Term as Early days so Batt Gigafactories either planning or the New York one building) – a Graphite mining Company transtioning to a Battery manufacturer (3 Plants on the way – 1/3 share of each – technology provider and provider of materials supply chain ) with a dream team of board and directors including a Professor in the running for a Nobel Prize for the early developmental work for LI batteries (Magnis Resources – Asx mns) – I think their batteries are a little low powered at this time – 260W/Kg, time line is 400W/Kg by approx 2022 from memory .
          But their batteries have no Cobalt or Nickel. and they are planning recycling plants in conjunction.
          Then we have another company, another Graphite miner, but their graphite is high enough quality they can directly produce Graphene from it (First Graphene (ASX: FGR) with a pilot plant on the way for their joint IP protected tech (Swinbourne Tech Uni research {Know it well good times were had} “Best” battery) – Graphene, it would better be called a super,super capacitor – seconds to charge and a energy density greater than Li but a year or two for full scale production
          Both are small penny stock as treated as resource or mining stocks which technically they are but the shape of things to come.
          http://www.aspecthuntley.com.au/docserver/01952667.pdf?fileid=01952667&datedir=20180220&edt=MjAxOC0wMy0wNSswMDowNDozNCs0ODArMjAyNTQwK2FuZHJld3dlc3QrcmVkaXJlY3QraHR0cDovL3d3dy5hc3BlY3RodW50bGV5LmNvbS5hdS9pbWFnZXNpZ25hbC9lcnJvcnBhZ2VzL3BkZnRpbWVvdXQuaHRtbCtodHRwOi8vd3d3LmFzcGVjdGh1bnRsZXkuY29tLmF1L2ltYWdlc2lnbmFsL2Vycm9ycGFnZXMvcGRmZGVsYXllZC5qc3A=

          Not doing Co Promo’s but pointing out there are so many different solutions being developed, a bit like VHS and Beta and some are very promising

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        • Mblanc

           /  March 5, 2018

          One further follow up on the trolling and shade being thrown at Tesla by the old manufacturers. The Geneva Motor show is (sadly), still lacking in EV launches, with only Kia and Jaguar having production ready product. Electrek seems to think that Audi are going to spring a surprise and launch their E-tron model, but the mainstream motoring press is quiet on that. Perhaps it is a more of an unveiling rather than a full launch

          Whatever the truth, Audi are widely reported to have 250(!) of their soon to be launched E-tron’s in Geneva, just driving around in their camoflage pre-launch disguise. I had to laugh when I read about this.

          To my mind, and that of others, that is clear attempt to take some headlines away from the Jaguar, which is in a similar price bracket. Perhaps Jaguar should have spent less time worrying about, and trolling Tesla, because Audi are proving 2 can play at that game.

          https://electrek.co/2018/03/05/audi-e-tron-quattro-all-electric-prototypes-geneva/

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        • Rumors have been circulating that E-tron pricing will start around 45,000. If it did, it would be pretty revolutionary. Otherwise, it’s another Model X near peer.

          We’ll see an X upgrade to counter this, probably.

          Related to major auto manufacturer CEO anti-EV bias:

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