Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Bush Uses Alternative Fuels

An imperiled attorney general, an unpopular war, a hung-over housing market and a presidential approval level of 32 percent: White House officials took all that into consideration and made their decision.

They would have President Bush do another event promoting cellulosic ethanol.
Thus begins Dana Milbank's story in the Washington Post today.

Alternative fuels has become the issue Bush returns to in order to take our eyes off the various disasters befalling both the administration and the country. Six altfuel events for the Prez already this year. According to Milbank:
[Bush's] role as uncompensated pitchman for gasoline alternatives makes perfect sense: If anybody needs a new fuel source, it is George W. Bush in 2007.
Unfortunately, the President can't even muster feigned enthusiasm at these events. The plug-in hybrid and Phoenix showing on the White House lawn seems a flash in the pan. Certainly not part and parcel of a serious exploration of the potential of grid electricity as an alternative to oil.
The president, escorted by the chief executives from Detroit's Big Three, arrived 20 minutes late for yesterday's South Lawn event. Eight minutes later, he was on his way back inside.
The discussion stayed on biofuels. Nothing about raising CAFE, or the "electrification of the automobile" much touted by GM's Volt booster Bob Lutz, who wasn't present. As reported in today's NY Times story about the event,
“If the goal is to reduce oil imports and improve the environment, the opportunity is first of all in ethanol, biodiesel,” [GM's] Mr. Wagoner told reporters after the meeting. The executives spent “very little time” talking about mileage rules, he said."
And nothing about the Volt, I presume.

Friday, March 23, 2007

What up with GM's Plug-in hybrid Volt?

"GM tries to unplug Volt hype" is not the headline I've been hoping to see out of Motor City this spring. But there it is in a Detroit News Autos Insider piece today. Just weeks after announcing production, perhaps, in 2010, the industry's hometown paper lets us know this is no done deal.
The Volt grabbed headlines, lit up online chat boards and dominated the buzz at the auto show in Detroit.
There's just one problem: The Volt may never get built.
GM continues to spread the gospel of the Volt. The recent "presser" to explain how all things Volt are coming along was very well-attended. Interest in plug-in cars of all sorts is real and growing. However, as the article points out, it feels like a trip down a well-traveled green road to nowhere.
The auto industry has disappointed before when it comes to green technology. DaimlerChrysler AG promised a production fuel-cell vehicle by 2004, but couldn't deliver despite spending $1 billion on the technology. And little came of a $1.5 billion taxpayer-funded effort, called the Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles (PNGV), to build an 80-miles-per-gallon car. Last year, Ford Motor Co. took an image beating when it backed away from a pledge to put 250,000 hybrids on the road by 2010.
The story essentially asks whether the Volt is intended for production, simply a green gesture, or perhaps both. Arguably, the Prius hybrid halo has enabled Toyota's more recent play for the American's profitable big SUV and truck market.

Is GM just looking for its halo or a future? Regardless, GM ought to be producing the Volt now with the best available batteries, a PHEV-version of the NiMH in every hybrid on the road and which took the EV1 140 miles between charges. Laptops didn't wait for Lithium, and neither should cars.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

The Mountain and Mohammed: Halliburton Moves HQ to United Arab Emirates

The NY Times website reports that Dick Cheney's old stomping grounds, oil services giant Halliburton, is moving their world headquarters out of friendly Texas into even friendlier Dubai, one of the United Arab Emirates. Nearer to the where oil action is, and "an Arab boomtown where free-market capitalism has been paired with some of the world's most liberal tax, investment and residency laws," according to this AP article. This should help their bottom line, suffering under the numerous Bush/Cheney time no-bid contracts. And by the way, "Federal investigators last month alleged Halliburton was responsible for $2.7 billion of the $10 billion in contractor waste and overcharging in Iraq."

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Phoenix Rising?: All-electric SUT Debut in LA

Phoenix Motor Cars in California has been working with lithium battery manufacturers AltairNano to come out with a new all-electric car. The car had a coming out in LA last week. Noel Adams blogs the car and the stars. Surf around his site EVFinder.com, and you just might find yourself an electric vehicle.

She Wrote the Book on Plug-in Hybrids

Sherry Boschert has a piece in Sunday's San Francisco Chronicle Insight section. Read it here.

Friday, March 2, 2007

Plug-in Hybrids in Toyota's Future, Jim Press Tells Reuters; Desires Joint OEM Battery Research

Reuters reports on an interview with Toyota North American President Jim Press that Toyota Motor Corp. is working on developing a plug-in hybrid vehicle and is open to joining with other automakers in battery development.

Echoing its American counterparts Ford and GM, Toyota bemoans the unavailability of batteries which will take their plug-ins half as far as their own electric cars could manage just 5 years ago.
Press added the biggest challenge would be developing the next-generation battery, which Toyota is now working on internally. "We would be quite open to any kind of sharing," Press said of a possible alliance on battery development with other automakers.
A tad unusual, if you think car companies compete. Of course, the Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles already taught us how to bring the car companies together, spend tax money and do nothing to foster efficiency other than spur on the Japanese. Who figured out how to do it without threatening their own growth or profits or offering an alternative to oil.

While proposing joining with the Americans to stall or shelve battery development, Press also said Toyota would not be opposed to buying existing plants from other automakers as it expands its capacity in North America.

Press's interview has me seeing lots more Tundras and nary a plug-in. Prove me wrong, Jim.

Thursday, March 1, 2007

WNBC TV Does Plug-in Hybrids Right


You've got to see this series of local TV new reports by Chuck Scarborough out of WNBC New York. The Defense Hawk Frank Gaffney and Environmental Entrepreneur Felix Kramer are brought together by the logic of plug-in cars. The best local news report I've seen on the subject.

Three great reports, including the full posted interview with TeslaMotors CEO Martin Eberhard.