Archive for the ‘Environment – Green’ Category

I thought my new Smart TV was haunted …

April 17, 2017

Today, as a public service, a Consumer Alert

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Let me set the stage:

Brought home a new 55’ Samsung Smart TV … very excited.

Late afternoon … plugged it in … fired it it up.

Picture looked fine … facsimile below left.

After a couple of minutes, the picture began to get dimmer & dimmer … facsimile below right.

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No problem, just fiddle with the picture settings, right?

Not that simple, my friends … much more to the story.

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Why not undercard debates featuring Johnson and Stein?

September 15, 2016

Last weekend, I caught an interview with Jill Stein – the Green Party’s candidate for President.

While she stands zero chance of winning and I disagree with most of her positions, the interview was interesting.

She was articulate and cut to the chase on the issues in a simple understandable way.

Example: “We should go with renewable energy because pollution from fossil fuels is responsible for more than 200,000 deaths each year.”

That resonated with me.

No reliance on weather predictions from dudes who predicted that Hermine would devastate the East Coast this past weekend.

Just a simple: Stop pollution, it causes deaths every year.

I can buy in to that argument faster than worrying about forecasts of the seas rising in a couple of hundred years.

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According to several polls – the MorningConsult being among the latest – a majority of likely voters would like to see Libertarian Gary Johnson and Greenie Jill Stein on the presidential debate stage even though they are below the 15% popularity threshold.

Based on the Stein interview, I’d like to see more of Johnson and Stein. I wouldn’t waste my vote on either of them, but I’d like to here more.

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The prime argument against their participation is that it would shorten the time allotted to Clinton and Trump …

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“These jeans are made of garbage” … and, that’s a good thing.

October 25, 2012

Punch line: Levi’s, eager to reduce its reliance on water-intensive cotton, has already used 3.5 million plastic bottles in its new Waste​<​Less jeans.

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Excerpted from Bloomberg Businessweek’s, “Levi’s Goes Green With Waste​<​Less Jeans”

levi_strauss_water_less_01

Most apparel companies work hard to give their clothes the sheen of sophistication or whimsy. Levi Strauss is trying hard not to.

When its latest line of jeans arrives in stores early next year, the pitch will be: “These jeans are made of garbage.” Crushed brown and green plastic bottles will be on display nearby.

In 2007, Levi’s was among the first in the apparel industry to conduct a life-cycle assessment of some of its major products.

After measuring environmental impacts … Levi’s found that 49 percent of the water use during the lifetime of a pair of 501 jeans occurred at the very beginning, with cotton farmers.

It turned out that the manufacturing process, where Levi’s can exert the most control, had the least impact on water and energy use.

So Levi’s joined the Better Cotton Initiative … to teach farmers how to grow cotton with less water.

The first of the cotton was harvested last year, and Levi’s blended its share into more than 5 million pairs of jeans.

“Is turning eight bottles of plastic into a pair of jeans worth it? I think so,” says James Curleigh, president of the Levi’s brand.

Curleigh … argues that any reduction in Levi’s cotton use, however small, is worth it: “Cotton is the single most volatile commodity in the apparel industry. Never mind sustainability for a minute. If I could come up with a way to put 20 percent of something else that is cost-neutral and has a reliable source, I would probably take it anyway.”

Edit by JDC

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Appeasing the ‘greenwashing’ cowboys …

February 7, 2011

TakeAway: Today’s consumer speaks out against those companies they feel are falsely marketing themselves as ‘green’  … some companies have stopped trying, so that they don’t get called out.

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Excerpted from AdAge, “Don’t let Greenwashing fears hold you back. Transparency is key as companies move towards sustainability” by Ian Yolles, January 20, 2011

Accusations of greenwashing are rampant right now, and many are well-founded. … consumers are more likely to purchase products from a brand perceived to be more “sustainable”; that is, if faced with a choice (and price being relatively equal), they would select the “greener” product. To capitalize on this trend, some companies have cobbled together feeble marketing programs that have gotten them called out for greenwashing.

Yet today’s consumer speaks out against those companies they feel are falsely marketing themselves… Social media give anyone the ability to immediately amplify and propagate their dissatisfaction, and serves as a forceful greenwashing deterrent.

On one hand, policing by industry and consumer forces is positive, weeding out those that are talking the talk but not walking the walk. …but is the fear of being labeled a greenwasher is preventing brands that are earnestly looking to do something positive from doing so for fear of a massive backlash? …hindering us from making real progress in moving toward a more sustainable future?

When it comes to the notion of a purpose-driven brand and being green, …there’s no such thing as a truly green or truly sustainable product or company. It’s about a journey, a continuum. …everyone is somewhere along the continuum of becoming more sustainable. The key is to be transparent about where you are.

… those that have green DNA intrinsically embedded in their businesses. the foundation, core of their company, service or product. Others integrating sustainability attributes into their products and brands in a way that is meaningful and makes a difference. Moving along this continuum …can be costly and time-consuming and sometimes is even fundamentally impossible. The shift often happens in small steps, especially regarding large brands, and each step needs to be taken one at a time.

So amid this climate of skepticism, how can companies move along this spectrum? Two ingredients can authentically translate corporate responsibility into a positive impact and help avoid accusations of greenwashing and a subsequent social backlash:

  1. Take action: The process of change should reflect an “inside-out process.” By that I mean start with your own house and take steps that move your business practices toward more sustainable solutions. …it gives you permission to engage in a dialogue with your consumers. …the internal transformation inspires a shift in consumer behavior, moving individuals along the green spectrum as well. It’s the “give a man a fish” strategy, and it can be accomplished through education or motivating action.
  2. Make that action measurable and trackable: If you attach goals to your efforts, both internal and external, and are able to measure and track those goals, your efforts become more credible; the impact, more tangible. …showing consumers the impact that their individual actions have in the context of the collective action of others.

To appease the greenwashing cowboys and weary consumers—and to authentically align your brand with a larger social or environmental purpose—you should focus first on measurable internal actions and use those as a basis to engage your consumer audience in a dialogue that inspires them to act in accord with your brand.

Edit by HH

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Never Say Never to Wal-Mart

September 2, 2010

TakeAway:

Seventh Generation specialty products will now be available at Wal-Mart (and its broad, mainstream audience), as Wal-Mart boosts its “green” efforts by winning over a company that said it would never sell there. 

“We now believe that we can have a bigger impact by partnering with Wal-Mart than by shunning it.” 

Seventh Generation lowered prices across the portfolio so that they cost as much as or only slightly more than the leading national brand. 

To justify its decision, Seventh Generation explains that Wal-Mart’s social and environmental targets were specific and its reports seemingly transparent.

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Excerpted from WSJ, “Adversary’s Clean Start with Wal-Mart” by Ellen Byron, July 26, 2010

For years, Seventh Generation Inc. co-founder Jeffrey Hollender liked to say “hell would freeze over” before his company’s environmentally friendly household products would be sold by Wal-Mart Stores . He feels differently now.

Starting next month, Seventh Generation staples, including laundry detergent, dish soap, all-purpose sprays and disinfectant wipes, will be sold in about 1,500 Wal-Mart stores.

Five years ago, the world’s largest retailer began setting goals to reduce its energy consumption, cut waste and introduce more sustainable products.

To be sure, selling green products is also increasingly lucrative.

While many shoppers switched to cheaper labels during the recession, sales of household products billed as environmentally friendly have held up relatively well despite their premium prices. 

  • Sales of green household and laundry cleaning products rose to $557 million last year, having more than tripled since 2005.
  • Green products are still a niche category, however, representing only about 3% of the overall $19.9 billion household cleaners and laundry market.

Seventh Generation’s change of heart toward Wal-Mart came gradually.

Seventh Generation and Wal-Mart are both members of the Sustainability Consortium, a group of manufacturers, retailers, nongovernmental organizations and government officials that is developing tools and strategies to evaluate the environmental and social impacts of products’ lifecycles.

“Wal-Mart can move quicker than probably any government on the planet.”

Edit by AMW

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Full article: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704421304575383271764631764.html?mod=dist_smartbrief

Bayh goes bye … so do the oil companies

February 18, 2010

Bottom line: Three big companies quit an influential lobbying group that had focused on shaping climate-change legislation, in the latest sign that support for an ambitious bill is melting away.

Besides the obvious — that climate change fever has subsided — companies are starting to stand up to the President.  Many companies had been bending over to the anti-business policies and rhetoric, hoping to at least minimize their hurt with sweetheart dealing and avert the wrath of the White House’s’  vindictive Chicago thugs. The worm seems to be turning.

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Excerpted from WSJ: Defections Shake Up Climate Coalition, Feb.   17, 2010

Oil giants BP and ConocoPhillips and heavy-equipment maker Caterpillar said Tuesday they won’t renew their membership in the three-year-old U.S. Climate Action Partnership, a broad business-environmental coalition that had been instrumental in building support in Washington for capping emissions of greenhouse gases.

For companies, the shifting political winds have reduced pressure to find common ground, leading them to pursue their own, sometimes conflicting interests.

More than 20 other large companies, including oil company Royal Dutch Shell PLC and industrial heavyweights General Electric Co. and Honeywell International Inc., remain in the coalition with environmental groups such as the Environmental Defense Fund and Natural Resources Defense Council.

But experts said the companies’ decision to withdraw from USCAP is a sign the politics of climate change is shifting in Washington.

When USCAP was founded in 2007, leaders of big U.S. companies had grown concerned that Democrats in Congress were preparing to put strict limits on industrial emissions of heat-trapping gases linked to climate change. Many executives decided it was better to be part of the debate in a united front.

“The saying in Washington is that if you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu.” 

As long as climate legislation appeared imminent, companies were willing to paper over their differences and continue to work together. But by late last year, momentum had stalled in the Senate as Washington turned its attention to health care, the economy and the midterm elections.

Full article:
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704804204575069440096420212.html

Nouveau rides may leave drivers up the creek without a paddle

January 7, 2010

Takeaway: Green enthusiasts applaud electric cars as a breakthrough innovation to control emissions.

However, these cars’ limited range along with an absence of charging stations may leave consumers stranded.

The product’s success is unlikely unless automakers find an effective way to fill these voids by identifying and serving a niche market better than do legacy products.

Only highly satisfied customers will tout the product’s benefits to others and thereby help the manufacturers cross the chasm to broad-based product adoption.

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Excerpt from Washington Post, “Where can I juice up my ride?”, by Pete Whoriskey, November 17, 2009.

Electric cars entering U.S. showrooms as early as next year will be engineering marvels: stylish, battery-operated, zero-emission wonders.   While most electric cars are expected to be recharged at home, the predicament of a driver who runs out of battery power on the road has yet to be settled. 

A Nissan chief executive said in an interview that he believes that range anxiety will afflict only a portion of the potential market. For plenty of people, trips of 100 miles or less will be fine.

General Motors, meanwhile, has studied range anxiety and seems to have arrived at a different conclusion.  Accordingly, its forthcoming electric car runs on a battery for the first 40 miles, but when the charge runs low, a gasoline engine kicks in. With or without public charging stations, a Volt driver can motor on as long as there is a gas station nearby.

“For a long time, cars have represented a way to move around — freedom,” a GM executive said. “Some people are unwilling to accept restrictions to that.”

Nissan said that by forgoing the gas engine at the expense of a more limited range, Nissan will be better able to make its electric cars cheaply.

Nissan and other companies exploring the market for electric cars say it would be very difficult to win over consumers without the benefit of the $7,500 tax credit for people who purchase electric cars.

Edit by BHC

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Full Article
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/11/16/AR2009111603706.html?wpisrc=newsletter&wpisrc=newsletter&wpisrc=newsletter

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The eco-question: paper or plastic ? … not so fast!

June 26, 2009

TakeAway: Studies suggest that much maligned plastic bags aren’t so bad for the environment after all … as long as they get recycled.

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Excerpted from WSJ, “ Paper or Plastic? A New Look at the Bag Scourge”, June 12, 2009

When plastic grocery bags were introduced some 30 years ago, they were touted as light, long-lasting and cheap. They caught on so well that hundreds of billions are dispensed each year, creating a modern menace that often winds up nestled in trees, stuck in sewers and drifting in oceans.

Faced with the growing blight, countries from Ireland to China and cities from San Francisco to Washington, D.C., have moved to ban or tax their use. A United Nations official called for outlawing them world-wide.

There is growing evidence that the production, use and disposal of plastic bags put less burden on natural resources than paper bags. Meanwhile, a knock against plastic bags — that they can’t be conveniently recycled — is becoming less persuasive as more cities start accepting plastic bags in curbside recycling programs.

Most American consumers .. go through five or 10 plastic bags each week.  More than 90% of Americans reuse their bags at least once … for lining wastebasket,  carrying lunches, or from or cleaning up after a dog.

Various studies have examined whether paper or plastic grocery bags are environmentally friendlier. Plastic bags consume less energy and water and produce less pollution, including greenhouse-gas emissions. But, plastic bags  are rarely recycled. But plastic bags are recycled at less than one-third the rate of paper bags.

Plastic bags are difficult to recycle for the same reasons they are convenient to use. They are so light they fly out of curbside recycling bins, which often lack lids. If they make it to a recycling plant, the bags tend to wrap themselves around machinery, gumming it up. So, most curbside recycling programs don’t accept them.

U.S. cities that accept the bags in their recycling bins typically ask residents to stuff a lot of bags inside one bag, sausage-like, to make the bags easier for recycling workers to handle. It’s what industry insiders call a “bag of bags.”

Virtually all studies say the environmentally friendliest option is to choose a reusable grocery bag, and to reuse it at least 4 times, regardless of what that bag is made of.

Full article:
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124473522987806581.html?mod=djemalert

Words that Work … Rebranding ‘Global Warming’

May 11, 2009

Ken’s Take: While contexted around the global warming debate, there’s an important lesson re: ,essaging using “words that work.”

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According to the NY Times:

Environmental issues consistently rate near the bottom of public worry, according to many public opinion polls. A Pew Research Center poll released in January found global warming last among 20 voter concerns; it trailed issues like addressing moral decline and decreasing the influence of lobbyists.

Why? Well, the problem with global warming, some environmentalists believe, is “global warming.”

The term turns people off, fostering images of shaggy-haired liberals, economic sacrifice and complex scientific disputes

According to the messaging group EcoAmerica; “We know why it’s lowest … When someone thinks of global warming, they think of a politicized, polarized argument. When you say ‘global warming,’ a certain group of Americans think that’s a code word for progressive liberals, gay marriage and other such issues.”

The answer … is to speak in TALKING POINTS aspirational language about shared American ideals, like freedom, prosperity, independence and self-sufficiency while avoiding jargon and details about policy, science, economics or technologyis …  and to  reframe the issue using different language.

For example:

Global Warming becomes Climate Crisis or Deteriorating Atmosphere

Cap & Trade becomes Pollution Reduction Refund

Carbon becomes Pollution

From: “Seeking to Save the Planet, With a Thesaurus”,
May 2, 2009
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/02/us/politics/02enviro.html?_r=1&sq=EcoAmerica%20&st=cse&scp=1&pagewanted=print

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Does anybody really think that Chrysler will survive?

May 6, 2009

Ken’s Take: Let’s see …. a union controlled company, run by Italian automakers, cranking out inherently unprofitable clown cars.  Does that sound like a formula for success to you?  Call me cynical, but I’m betting under on this one.

Great editorial in WSJ today titled “Return of Le Car”.   Worth reading.  Hear are a few of the highlights.

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Last week Pres. Obama said that he hoped you would buy an “American car” — though apparently not one built in a red state in a plant owned by Japanese or German investors. He meant a car built by a company headquartered in Detroit, even if the car itself is assembled in Mexico or Canada. How confusing.

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Chrysler would be in deep yogurt in any case amid the market collapse, but its other problem is a decent franchise in Jeeps, muscle cars, minivans and pickups — and nothing to meet Congress’s stiff new “corporate average” fuel economy rules, and nobody to supply the billions to develop such vehicles and (inevitably) bribe customers to drive them off the lots.

Daimler, its previous parent, certainly had no desire to fund such profitless extravagance. The Germans took a lot of guff but they’re the ones laughing now. They sold their majority stake in Chrysler just months after Democrats took over Congress, and just weeks after President Bush began blathering about “oil addiction” and echoing Democratic demands for stringent new fuel-mileage rules (after opposing them for years).

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Not since Renault teamed up with AMC to bring you Le Car has an odder pairing been seen — or a less promising one.

Credulous media accounts insist the only challenge now is whether Chrysler can hang on for two years until Fiat begins churning out U.S. versions of its popular European models in U.S. factories. Goodness.  Unless gasoline prices go to $5 a gallon,no one can be so foolish as  to believe making and selling teensy eurocars in the U.S. is anybody’s route to salvation. Even in Europe…  a move to bigger, more powerful cars is underway. Motorists are getting fatter and older — and unwilling to contort themselves to get in and out of a car … which ought to caution against any hope that the pixie car will sell particularly well in the U.S.

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Trying to beat Toyota at its own game is a nonstarter. Toyota sets a standard of quality and technology that all must meet — that’s the price of admission. But “what we have that Toyota does not have ?”

Some [Obama auto] task force members acknowledge that the drive for profitability is likely to collide with Mr. Obama’s fuel-efficiency and low-emission goals.”

When will Team Obama explain exactly how Chrysler is supposed to make money building the “green cars” Mr. Obama wants it to build.   You already know the answer: You, the taxpayer, have not finished chipping in to keep Fiat-Chrysler alive.

Full article:
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124157578117190427.html

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Retrofitting Gas Guzzlers with Batteries … hmmm, interesting idea, Mr. Grove

April 21, 2009

Ken’s Take: The conventional plan has been to make small hybrids — that few outside metroplexes are interested in, and which stand no chance of generating profits for auto companies.  I like that this plan tries to transforn SUVs and pick-ups into socially responsible rides..

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Excerpted from the McKinsey Quarterly, “An Electric Plan for Energy Resilience”, by Andy Grove and Robert Burgelman, December 2008

Every president since Richard Nixon has vowed to reduce the United States’ dependence on foreign oil. None has succeeded. Imports—and thus America’s vulnerability to disruptions—have increased to where now they supply two-thirds of consumption.

Our aim should not be total independence from foreign sources of petroleum. That is neither practical nor necessary in a world of interdependent economies. Instead, the objective should be developing a sufficient degree of resilience against disruptions in imports. Think of resilience as the ability to absorb a significant disruption, bigger than what could be managed by drawing down the strategic oil reserve.

The best alternative to oil? Electricity. The means? Convert petroleum-driven miles to electric ones.

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What would it take to build enough plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs) to make a significant dent in oil consumption?

Revamping the fleet of automobiles already on the road through production of new automobiles would take far too long for comfort. If ten automobile manufacturers each introduced a new PEV now and increased its production as fast as Toyota did with its highly successful Prius, the vehicles would still account for less than 5 percent of the 250 million vehicles on US roads a decade from now.

We believe the United States should consider accelerating this movement by creating an industry of after-market retrofitters.

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We estimate the price tag of such a pilot project to be around $10 billion, owing to the present high cost of batteries, which are around $10,000 each.

Assuming an average gas price of $3 per gallon, the payback period to the owner of a retrofitted vehicle is at least ten years, not a strong economic incentive.

But the benefits of this program—testing and validating a key approach to energy resilience—accrue to the well-being of the United States at large. As the general population is the predominant beneficiary, economic assistance flowing from everyone to vehicle owners, in the form of tax incentives, is justified.

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There are different approaches to retrofitting vehicles. We favor GM’s Volt design, in which the car is directly driven by an electric motor. To simplify the retrofitting task, we would limit the scope of the program to six to ten U.S. models, selected on the basis of two criteria: low fuel efficiency and large numbers of vehicles on the road. Most of these vehicles would be SUVs, pick-ups, and vans.

Further, we propose targeting fleets of automobiles owned by corporations or government entities. That way, many retrofits could be performed at just a few locations.

Given the current difficult economic conditions, auto dealers and garage operators may well be attracted by this potential new source of revenue and be eager to participate, helping the program in its early stages.

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The biggest problem, however, is the availability of batteries. The most suitable battery technology, which offers both a sufficient range and enough power to provide the acceleration required by today’s drivers, is the lithium-ion battery system. Making the batteries required for one million vehicles would mean doubling current manufacturing output.

There is another issue we need to consider. While there are many sources of the batteries’ raw materials—such as lithium and cobalt—battery manufacturing is almost exclusively based in China, Japan, and Korea. To avoid battery manufacturing becoming the next source of dependency, we have to build domestic technical and manufacturing capability.

Another important goal is to improve the cost and quality of battery technology.

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We are approaching the inevitable decline of oil availability which gives the United States the opportunity to move into a more desirable strategic position. Today, we compete with countries whose richer natural resources give them a strategic advantage. If we shift transportation towards electric miles, we gain an opportunity to employ our own resources: newly energized governmental leadership, a tradition of high-volume manufacturing, and a culture of technological innovation.

These capabilities and skills have served the United States well in the past, and the drive toward electric miles may help revitalize them. That result is every bit as important as the electric miles themselves.

Edit by DAF

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Full article:
http://www.mckinseyquarterly.com/Energy_Resources_Materials/Environment/An_electric_plan_for_energy_resilience_2276

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Finally GM "gets it" … an Obamamobile !

April 7, 2009

Part of GM’s viability plan, I guess …

Hitting the news today, GM is joint venturing with  Segway to develop a clean, all electric urban vehicle.  Reportedly, it can go 35 miles on each charge.

At last, a vehicle less safe than a Smart car.

Question: how long do you think it takes for a person to get feeling back in his / her butt after traveling a few miles in this joke machine ?

Just shoot me, please.

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http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123906731177395605.html#mod=testMod

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Cap & Trade … if it smells like a tax …

April 3, 2009

Excerpted from WSJ, “The Carbon Cap Dilemma”, March 28, 2009 

Ken’s Take: The Bushers were clever rebranding the estate tax as the more pejorative sounding “death tax”.  Team Obama is similarly clever calling their energy tax “cap and trade”.  Doesn’t change the essence — it’s a tax.

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On pure economic grounds, a straight carbon tax, would be simpler and more efficient than cap and trade.

But “the political will to go the tax route . . . is just not there. Nonexistent” — namely because the use of the word “tax.”

The cap & trade approach is to design a  program that will “simulate the same thing a tax would do.”

That is, to achieve the increased energy prices essential to the success of cap and trade.

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Full article:
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123819777143661833.html#articleTabs%3Darticle

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Cap & Trade … the Chinese dilemma

April 2, 2009

Excerpted from WSJ, “The Carbon Cap Dilemma”, March 28, 2009

With breakneck construction of conventional coal plants, China has already surpassed U.S. coal capacity and is on pace to double it sometime in the middle of the next decade.

The U.S.,could close down every single coal plant immediately … but that wouldn’t do much good in the scheme of things,” because atmospheric CO2 concentrations would continue to rise as China continues to expand.

“We go to zero emissions in this country, and if China doesn’t follow us, we’re nowhere. . . . We’ve just ruined our economy, and we’re nowhere,”

China’s not going to follow us because we’re the United States. . . . You say, ‘Shut down your plants’ — well, that’s going to be a short conversation. China has $2 trillion invested in their plants.” 

Full article:
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123819777143661833.html#articleTabs%3Darticle

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Cap & Trade … the Nuclear Dilemma

April 1, 2009

Factoid: 79% of France’s electricity is nuclear generated.

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Excerpted from WSJ, “The Carbon Cap Dilemma”, March 28, 2009

On the one hand, environmentalists claim that climate change is a “planetary emergency,” perhaps the greatest threat ever to face humanity. On the other, nuclear energy is still verboten in the green catechism — despite the fact that it provides roughly one-fifth of U.S. electricity, all of it free of carbon emissions. Without more nuclear power, it is nearly impossible to see even the glimmers of any low-emission future.

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A lot of companies stand to make a bundle off cap and trade.

Ironically, the nuclear industry stands to benefit as much as any “green” business from a carbon crackdown.

So, if Congress does create cap and trade, expect the next populist outcry to be for a windfall profits tax on nuclear.

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Ken’s Take: … and don’t expect any more nuclear power plants to be brought on line.

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Full article:
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123819777143661833.html#articleTabs%3Darticle

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“Value” is the New “Green”

March 30, 2009

Excerpted from Wall Street Journal, “Value is the New Green”, by Mark Penn, March 13, 2009

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Until recently, being green was the best way for companies to demonstrate a sense of social responsibility, and for consumers to feel good about their purchases. Healthy food, hybrid cars, energy efficiency — these were the attributes that burnished brands.

But now green is taking a back seat to a new core value — value. Green hasn’t gone away, but companies are having to consider their “value” equation to try to serve the millions of consumers who either can’t afford premium experiences, or just don’t want them anymore.

Companies need to evaluate everything they are offering consumers to see how they can infuse the value of good value into their brands.  

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Starbucks is a great example of one of the world’s greatest success stories being upended by the new times.  Its guiding idea was to give consumers not just a cup of coffee but an integrated experience filled with intoxicating aromas that made customers feel great about paying extra for a grande latte.  McDonald’s emerged as a competitor by saying skip the experience and savor just the coffee and save your cash. Two years ago, Starbucks was flying high. Today it is struggling against the value-based competition.

In the airline industry, those who have been able to make money have offered more for less, not the opposite.  Flagship airlines like United went through bankruptcy emerging in 2006, while value carriers like JetBlue and Southwest have been far more successful.  They not only offer the same basic transportation, but actually offer more up-to-date services like satellite TV in every seat, more organized boarding processes and better customer service.

But beware of being regarded as simply cheap.  Target, while holding up well, isn’t reaping the same rewards as Wal-Mart.  The trick in setting a “value” proposition is that brands need to avoid the trap of simply being less expensive without providing the right level of quality.

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This certainly spells trouble for a wide swath of experience and luxury brands for what could be an extended period, unless these brands figure out how to adapt.  History shows these trends go in cycles, and luxury always comes back.  But we are in a new age of continually declining costs of technology and manufacturing, which could mean the price of luxury will keep declining.

Edit by DAF

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Full article:
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123689912898512981.html?mod=djemMM

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The American craving for small cars …

March 23, 2009

Ken’s Take: How often do you hear: “the Detroit 3 just make gas guzzlers … not the small, fuel efficient cars that Americans want.”  Maybe some day …

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Excerpted from WSJ, “Industry’s Big Hope for Small Cars Fades”, March 23, 2009

Last summer, when gas cost $4 a gallon, buyers snapped up small cars so fast that dealers couldn’t keep them in stock. Ford decided to convert some truck plants to make small cars. GM added an extra shift at its Lordstown, Ohio, plant that makes the Chevy Cobalt, a diminutive sedan. Import brands also pumped up their production of small models.

Now, with gas prices half that level, almost 500,000 fuel-thrifty models are piled up unsold around the country. Practically every small car in the market is stacked up at dealerships.

The turnabout comes at a bad time for the struggling U.S. car industry, which has revamped factories and shifted product plans to produce more small cars in coming years.

“I don’t think Americans really like small cars,” said Beau Boeckmann, whose family’s Galpin Ford in southern California is the country’s largest Ford dealer. “They drive them when they think they have to, when gas prices are high. But we’re big people and we like big cars.”

AutoWay Honda in Clearwater, Fla.,  has a whole row of Civic hybrids that draw little interest.

Over the five months ended in February, industrywide sales of small cars totaled 718,000. That was down 28% over the same period in 2008, but small cars grew to 18.4% of total market, up 2.1 points from the year-earlier period.

Full article:
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123776430557508813.html#mod=testMod

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Who’ll pay the climate tax ? … Oops, I meant “Cap and Trade” ?

March 17, 2009

Hint: They were promised a tax cut during the Obama campaign.

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Excerpted from WSJ, “Who Pays for Cap and Trade?”, March 9,2009

Cap and trade is the tax that dare not speak its name, and Democrats are hoping in particular that no one notices who would pay for their climate ambitions.

Perhaps Americans would like to know the deeply unequal ways that climate costs would be distributed across regions and income groups.

Politicians love cap and trade because they can claim to be taxing “polluters,” not workers. Hardly.  the costs would inevitably be passed on to all consumers in the form of higher prices. Stating the obvious, Peter Orszag — now Mr. Obama’s budget director — told Congress last year that “Those price increases are essential to the success of a cap-and-trade program.”

The Congressional Budget Office — Mr. Orszag’s former roost — estimates that the price hikes from a 15% cut in emissions would cost the average household in the bottom-income quintile about 3.3% of its after-tax income every year. That’s about $680, not including the costs of reduced employment and output. The three middle quintiles would see their paychecks cut between $880 and $1,500, or 2.9% to 2.7% of income. The rich would pay 1.7%. Putting a price on carbon is regressive by definition because poor and middle-income households spend more of their paychecks on things like gas to drive to work, groceries or home heating.

Hit hardest would be the “95% of working families” Mr. Obama keeps mentioning, usually omitting that his no-new-taxes pledge comes with the caveat “unless you use energy.”

* * * *

But the greatest inequities are geographic and would be imposed on the parts of the U.S. that rely most on manufacturing or fossil fuels — particularly coal, which generates most power in the Midwest, Southern and Plains states. It’s no coincidence that the liberals most invested in cap and trade — Barbara Boxer, Henry Waxman, Ed Markey — come from California or the Northeast.

Coal provides more than half of U.S. electricity, and 25 states get more than 50% of their electricity from conventional coal-fired generation.

In Ohio, it totals 86%, according to the Energy Information Administration. Ratepayers in Indiana (94%), Missouri (85%), New Mexico (80%), Pennsylvania (56%), West Virginia (98%) and Wyoming (95%) are going to get soaked.

Cap and trade, in other words, is a scheme to redistribute income and wealth — but in a very curious way. It takes from the working class and gives to the affluent; takes from Miami, Ohio, and gives to Miami, Florida; and takes from an industrial America that is already struggling and gives to rich Silicon Valley and Wall Street “green tech” investors who know how to leverage the political class.

Full article:
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123655590609066021.html

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GM’s Reputation gets a jolt … oops, I mean Volt?

February 9, 2009

Ken’s Take: It will be interesting to see how the Detroiters position hybrids when they grovel back to Washington in a week or so with their economic viability plans.  Zero chance that they make any money from hybrids in the next couple of decades (if ever).  But, they’ll have to play “emporer’s new clothes” to get their government money

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Excerpted from Fortune, “Chevy Volt: Marketing meets technology” By Alex Taylor III, Jan 13, 2009

Whenever you ask General Motors CEO Rick Wagoner what he needs to do to revive the troubled automaker, he invariably replies, “Make great cars and trucks and achieve technology leadership.”

Despite GM’s financial troubles, he is arguably making progress … But one piece of a GM revival has consistently eluded Wagoner and frustrated its executives: restoring the tattered company’s good name. Until GM improves its reputation with potential customers, all the improvements it makes in its product line go for naught …

Indeed, GM’s determination to improve its standing with the public dictated the creation of the Chevy Volt as the company’s technology flagship. The Volt was chosen to be a leading-edge image booster rather than an immediate moneymaker for the cash-strapped automaker … And its capabilities were designed at least as much to grab attention as to make a big impact in the marketplace.

Due to reach the market in late 2010, the Volt is a vehicle unlike any other in the world. It consists of an elaborate battery pack and a small gasoline engine … GM calls it a “range-extended electric vehicle” and it may price around $40,000.

According to GM executives, the Volt was conceived in the spring of 2006 as a way for the automaker to leapfrog the technology edge that Toyota gained when it made a success of the hybrid gas-electric Prius …

GM decided it needed an electric car. But it faced another decision when it tried to figure out how capable it should be. The range and cost of an electric car are directly related to the size of the battery pack. Use a few batteries and you limit the electric diving to a few miles, but you also hold down the cost.

GM figured that it needed a lot of batteries – and hence a higher sticker price – to give its image the needed lift. “It was an engineering solution to a marketing problem,” says Burns. It settled on a 40-mile all-electric range because it would satisfy the commuting needs of a majority of the population. The Volt’s $40,000 price tag, which will sharply limit its sales volume, was given less weight, as was the fact that GM would lose money on the car. Pizzazz outranked practicality …

By comparison, Toyota is pursuing a sharply different strategy. It plans to introduce a plug-in version of the Prius that will only go 12 miles on a charge of electricity … As a result, the Prius will be significantly less expensive than the Volt, perhaps $10,000 or less, and it could be expected to sell in much larger numbers.

GM executives say that so far the Volt has been successful at raising the automaker’s profile and helping to refurbish its image. Whether it continues to do so once it arrives on the market with its high price tag and limited number of potential customers will be another question.

Edit by SAC

Full Article:
http://money.cnn.com/2009/01/13/autos/motor_world.fortune/index.htm

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A Greener, Leaner Detroit: Rebranding the Big 3

February 6, 2009

Excerpted from Washington Post, “Detroit Overhauls Its Image”, by Kendra Marr and Peter Whoriskey, January 10, 2009

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Ditching their usual glitz and glamour, U.S. carmakers used the nation’s biggest auto show for presenting green, fuel-efficient cars as the industry’s ride to the future.

Getting there will depend not just on salesmanship but on behind-the-scenes discussions the auto companies are holding with the United Auto Workers and the Obama administration.

With the industry dependent on government help, this year’s event took on a starkly muted character: “No fog machines, no laser light shows”  …   Smaller exhibits … Fewer product launches …  Fewer concept cars … no fashion shows (huh?) 

The automakers’ new posture is not just a reflection of the downturn but also of lessons learned since company executives descended on Washington two months ago, arriving in private jets but approaching Congress with hats in hand.

* * * * *

If the domestic industry survives, the show may have heralded a new era.

Hybrid technology stole the spotlight from old-school horsepower.

Although large sedans such as the new 2010 Ford Taurus and 2010 Buick LaCrosse stirred interest among industry watchers, fuel-efficiency drew the crowds.

Ford boasted that its Fusion hybrid beats the Toyota Camry by 8 miles per gallon in the city and 2 mpg on the highway …  An advanced hybrid propulsion system allows it to travel up to 47 mph in electric mode — faster than any other hybrid on the market. Its engineers also installed a smart gauge to teach drivers how to squeeze the miles out of each gallon of gas. The better you control that gas, the more green leaves pop up on the dashboard display. See a forest? You’re a pro.

Ford unveiled details of a plan to bring to market by 2012 a family of hybrids, plug-in hybrids and battery electric vehicles.

Even GM’s 2010 Cadillac CTS Sport Wagon, which will be marketed as a luxury SUV alternative, maximizes its fuel efficiency, boasting 28 mpg on the highway.

“It’s part of the rebranding of Michigan as the technological leader in environmental, green, zero-emissions vehicles.”

Edit by DAF

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Full article:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/01/09/AR2009010903639_pf.html

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Americans cooling to global warming …

January 27, 2009

Excerpted from IBD, “Warm At The Bottom”, January 23, 2009

In a new Pew Research poll , global warming is ranked dead last in a long list of issues that Americans believe are top priorities for the country.

When asked which issues they believed to be top priorities in 2009, Americans placed global warming 20th out of 20.  Only 30% feel President Obama should focus on it.

This is the third year that Pew has polled about priorities, and each year warming has slipped in the rankings.

Full article:
http://www.ibdeditorials.com/IBDArticles.aspx?id=317607435688171

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Riviving the auto industry by smashing gas guzzlers into a tiny cubes …. hmmm, might work

January 16, 2009

Ken’s Take: some good  ideas that I haven’t seen other places … the notion of Feds buying gas guzzlers and smashing them to into cubes certainly qualifies as ‘out of the box’ thinking

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Excerpted from IBD, “Revival Of U.S. Automaking Awaits If UAW Will Follow Toyota Model”, Morici, January 13, 2009

General Motors and Chrysler are on the anvil of history. United Auto Workers President Ron Gettelfinger holds the hammer and will determine whether they emerge more competitive or shattered in pieces and sold to foreign investors.  Eventually, Washington will tire of their begging, they will march through bankruptcy, and their factories will be sold off to Japanese, Korean, European and Chinese automakers.

* * * * *

At U.S.-based Toyota factories, workers receive about $25 dollars an hour and good health care benefits. But they don’t retire at 50 after 30 years or get as much time off and huge severance packages. Toyota does not endure the medieval work rules and job classifications imposed by UAW contracts.

Most other Americans would be happy to get Toyota pay, benefits and working conditions. 

* * * * *

Over the last two decades, Japan has kept the yen at least 30% undervalued against the dollar, and this provided Toyota with an average subsidy of at least $2,000 on every car it sold in the United States.

The Federal Reserve has dramatically reduced U.S. interest rates, and the yen has risen closer to its true market value against the dollar. Japanese officials appear poised to again intervene directly in currency markets to restore Toyota’s unfair advantage, and Washington should take whatever steps are necessary to head off such Japanese protectionism.

* * * * *

In addition, Washington should take assertive steps to encourage production of fuel-efficient vehicles in the U.S. and create a strong export industry.

Washington could offer incentives to car buyers to trade in gas guzzlers for more fuel-efficient vehicles — the newer and the bigger the clunker and the more fuel-efficient the replacement, the more dollars the car buyer would receive if the guzzler is destroyed.

Washington could provide substantial product development assistance to U.S.-based … battery makers and other suppliers to accelerate the production of innovative, high-mileage cars.

The condition for assistance would be that beneficiaries do their R&D and first large production runs in the United States, and share their patents at a reasonable cost with other companies manufacturing in the United States.

Finally, individual Americans should open their minds. Many are considering trading in trucks and SUVs for sedans and are naturally attracted to the Toyota Camry and similar import brands. Visit a Ford or Chevy showroom and test drive a Fusion or Malibu and be pleasantly surprised. Those are high-quality, affordable and reliable vehicles.

Washington is giving Detroit a second chance, and Americans should give its cars a second look.

Full article:
http://www.ibdeditorials.com/IBDArticles.aspx?id=316741420675724 

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Go green or go broke… your choice !

January 14, 2009

Excerpted from Brandweek, “Go Green Or Else!” By Elaine Wong, Dec 2, 2008

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Environmental legislation and climate changes could eat up as much as 47% of packaged goods companies’ profits by 2018 if they don’t adopt long-term sustainability measures  …

A report, Rattling Supply Chains … addresses long-term profitability of the packaged goods industry. The findings are based on “future analysis” of how much certain commodities will go up, including oil, cereal, soy and palm oil, and how they will fare under certain environmental, governmental policy and climate situations. The term used to describe these hypothetical scenarios is “ecoflation.”

Companies that can reduce their reliance on materials like plastic or paper, through sustainability initiatives, can cut costs when economic pressures cause price increases…Companies can expect a reduction of anywhere from 13 to 31 percent in earnings by 2013… if adequate sustainability measures are not taken….

Companies like P&G and Nestle have already implemented sustainability strategies. Nestle is placing more emphasis on sourcing materials locally to cut down on transportation. Meanwhile, P&G is cross-leveraging research and design teams across different brand categories…

These are just a few examples of the extent to which many companies have considered going green. Oftentimes, retooling a supply chain to be more sustainable involves “rethinking the product itself … It has as much to do with improving business practices as it does with improving environmental practices. In fact, the two go hand-in-hand.”

Edit by SAC

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Investing in sustainability reduces costs, but it can also have the added benefit of encouraging consumers to buy your product.  According to a recent IRI report, 50% of consumers consider sustainability efforts when purchasing consumer product goods.  Indicating that neither the product, nor the people (consumer) can be separated from the sustainability process.

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Full Article:
http://www.brandweek.com/bw/content_display/news-and-features/packaged-goods/e3i726f0f4961487c61bd28d01ac0630121?imw=Y

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But how "green" is it … really?

January 14, 2009

Excerpted from the New York Times, “Consumers Want, and Are Skeptical About, Eco-Electronics”, by Joe Hutsko, December 10, 2008

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Among other findings from a survey released today by the Consumer Electronics Association, an industry group representing computer and gadget manufacturers, 89 percent of consumers said that energy efficiency would be a factor in choosing their next television — even as less than half of thepeople surveyed said they’re generally able to make sense of the environmental attributes attached to electronics on the market.

“One of the greatest challenges certainly is consumer confusion about what ‘green’ means”. The lack of a universally recognized means to measure a product’s “greenness” makes it difficult for consumers to find information at the point of purchase.

* * * * *

– While 74 percent of consumers polled say companies should do more to protect the environment, only 17 percent feel familiar with the environmental reputation and philosophy of companies who make and sell electronics.

– More than 50 percent of consumers believe some companies overstate the environmental friendliness of their products in order to sell more–not always believing what they see or read about eco-friendly products.

38 percent said they were confused by the eco-friendly messages. Roughly 51 percent of respondents said they don’t 

Edit by DAF

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Full article:
http://greeninc.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/12/10/consumers-want-and-are-skeptical-about-eco-electronics/?pagemode=print

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Michigan wants $2 billion for batteries … makes sense

January 13, 2009

Excerpted from WSJ: “UAW, Bondholder Talks Slow GM’s Revamp”, Jan.Y 13, 2009

Michigan Gov. Granholm … is looking to offer big incentives to car-battery companies and other suppliers to that industry to locate in her state.

Ms. Granholm said that as much as $2 billion in aid to the battery industry could be included in a stimulus package from the Obama administration.

Batteries have been one of the biggest hurdles for U.S.-based electric and hybrid vehicle manufacturers. Lithium-ion car batteries are made in volume in Japan, Korea and China, and auto makers have been concerned that if battery supplies tighten, Asian car makers will dominate access to the technology.

Full article:
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123178365916774153.html

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Ken’s Take: Batteries are the key (and most costly) component in hybrid electric cars.  Currently, virtually no car-power batteries are made in the US.  It’s strategically critical that they are.  Otherwise, we trade one foreign dependency for another.

Reminder: Virtually no lithium is mined in the US.  Most comes from South America: Argentina, Chile, and Bolivia.

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Go green … or your employer may tax you.

January 9, 2009

Excerpted from Business Week,”Steering Workers Into the Green Lane”, Oct 27, 2008

Employers are getting more eco-car conscious. And not just new-guard and crunchy-granola companies like Google, Ben & Jerry’s, and Timberland.

Health-care company Abbott Laboratories, which provides its sales staff with some 6,000 vehicles, is revamping its mileage-­reimbursement rules as part of a bid to make its fleet more carbon neutral.

Now, all sales reps reimburse Abbott for personal use of company cars at 17.3¢ a mile. But starting in January 2009, those choosing SUVs instead of sedans will pay 72.3¢.

The new “tax” appears to be working. With 75% of orders in for about 2,000 new vehicles, 48% of reps are requesting sedans, vs. 25% for 2008. SUV orders are at 29%, down from 44%. Hybrids? At 18%, up from 6%.

Full article:
http://images.businessweek.com/ss/08/10/1016_btw/6.htm

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GM: 3 brands have targets on their backs …

January 6, 2009

Excerpted from BusinessWeek;, “Brand New Day”, November 28, 2008
* * * * *

General Motors is looking at killing off three brands—Pontiac, Saab and Hummer.

Everyone knows that GM is over-branded. The problem has long been that the company does not want to have to pay dealers to fold the brands it does not need as it did with Oldsmobile in 2001. State franchise laws prevent a car company from simply ending a brand. Closing down Oldsmobile cost the company around $2 billion.

Saab is not thought to have any hot buyers. According to past conversations with GM execs, Saab Cars has never turned an annual profit for GM. It has, at times, made money in Europe. But those gains have always been off-set by losses in the U.S.

Saab is one of two Swedish car companies with limited interest from both consumers and investors. Ford, too, tried to sell Volvo earlier this year, and found no takers willing to pay Ford’s asking price.

Both Saab and Volvo are premium brands that have long had followings of people who place safety above all other vehicle characteristics. Saab has also attracted some performance-oriented buyers as the company has long offered turbo chargers in some of its models.

[Note: As previously posted, green buyers typically sort performance and safety down the list of buying criteria]

Volvo is on track to sell about 82,000 vehicles this year. Sales through October were down 28%. Saab is on track to sell about 20,000 vehicles this year. Sales were down 32% through October.

Edit by DAF

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Full article:
http://www.businessweek.com/the_thread/brandnewday/

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Quick: The batteries that power hybrid electric cars — where are they made?

December 22, 2008

Answer: Mostly Japan.  By Panasonic and Sanyo — soon to be just Panasonic since it announced that it’s buying Sanyo. Some from China.

So, our national strategy to become energy independent requires sourcing the major auto component — a $5,000 battery — from a foreign supplier.

Anybody see a problem with that?

This ironic twist is widely known, seems to stay off most radar screens.  Fortunately, there’s a consortium of U.S. companies — called the National Alliance for Advanced Transportation Battery Cell Manufacture — trying to develop a U.S. based battery manufacturing capability.   The consortium is knocking on the government’s door for some development money.

This is one use of tax dollars that I’m in favor of …

* * * * *
Excerpted from WSJ, “U.S. Firms Join Forces to Build Car Batteries”,  December 12, 2008

Many experts believe battery technology and manufacturing capacity could become as strategically important as oil is today.

Fourteen U.S. technology companies are joining forces and seeking $1 billion in federal aid to build a plant to make advanced batteries for electric cars, in a bid to catch up to Asian rivals that are far ahead of the U.S.

Two decades ago, a similar helped the U.S. computer-chip industry restore its competitiveness.

Auto makers, including General Motors Corp. and Ford Motor Co., say they plan to roll out plug-in electric cars by 2010. But the U.S. has limited capacity to make the lithium-ion batteries those cars will need. Most of the batteries used in today’s hybrid vehicles, including Toyota Motor Corp.’s Prius and some of GM’s hybrid models, come from Asian makers.

Though much of the advanced battery technology was developed in the U.S., American companies “opted out” of battery production because of the low returns the business offered and the U.S. has lost the lead in battery manufacturing. Asian manufacturers picked up the business because of their proximity to makers of electronic devices, which need a steady supply of batteries.

The consortium intends to solicit as much as $1 billion in federal funds from the Obama administration by tapping loan guarantees contained in an energy-security act passed last year. The act pledges as much as $7 billion in loan guarantees for advanced-battery plants in the U.S. The first large-scale lithium-ion battery plant in the U.S. could cost $1 billion to $2 billion.

Full article:
 http://online.wsj.com/article/SB122957206516817419.html?mod=testMod

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Ken’s Take:

U.S. battery manufacturing must be a strategic national priority if we’re serious about becoming energy independent and carbon fuel light.

But, battery manufacturing is only part of the equation. 

The primary input to the next generation auto grade rechargeable battery is lithium.  Any idea where that element comes from? 

Hint: not the U.S.  I’ll give the answer in a subsequent post.

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For small car buyers, fuel economy & sticker price are important … not safety. Huh ?

December 22, 2008

Excerpted from WSJ, “Small Cars Improve in Crashes” by Jonathan Welsh, December 17, 2008

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The demand for smaller, more fuel-efficient cars has increased. Sales of compact cars like the Honda Fit, Toyota Yaris and Nissan Versa rose 24% though November, while sales of large utilities fell 36%.

Among small-car buyers, safety tends to take a back seat to fuel economy and a low sticker price. While 86% of basic compact-car buyers rated fuel economy as the feature about which they cared most, 29% rated safety as a top concern…

The good news: Small cars fare better in crashes than they used to … But, they still lag behind larger vehicles in protecting passengers. Their disadvantages are especially clear in side-impact crashes. Of the nine small cars recently tested…all received the group’s top rating of “good” in frontal crashes — but only two got good ratings when hit from the side. The test results highlight the difficulty for designers and engineers in developing cars that are small and light yet still strong enough to withstand collisions with large vehicles

Only the SX4 and Matrix, and its twin the Vibe, received good ratings for protection in side crashes. The Ford and Chevrolet were judged acceptable in side-impact protection, while the Hyundai and Saturn were marginal and the Chrysler was poor. Only the Ford Focus was top-rated in rear-impact crashes…The Chrysler PT Cruiser was the worst performer…Car makers have rapidly improved small-car design in the past few years by strengthening vehicles’ protective framework and adding side airbags…

The … side-impact tests are especially difficult for small cars because the barrier used to strike the test vehicle simulates the front end of a large SUV or pickup truck. The high bumper typically hits the test car at the same level as the heads of test dummies representing the driver and rear driver-side passenger. This makes head-protection side airbags critical.

Edit by SAC 

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Ken’s Take:  I wonder if small car drivers pick airlines based on the same criteria?

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But, the dogs have been eating the dog food …

December 17, 2008

The Detroit auto execs have been getting pillaged for not making the kind of vehicles that consumers want to buy.

That accusation doesn’t seem to to ring true when driving down an interstate highway or walking through shopping mall parking lots.  I see plenty of SUVs, min-vans, and pick-ups with American brand names.  Some look pretty new to a casual observer.  Seems like folks are buying them.

In fact, for the past several years, about half of the best selling vehicle models are U.S. brands.  The SUVs have fallen out of the top 10, but pick-ups still top the list and at least one American car (Impala) makes the list.  Detroit may not have the car of the future, but it seems to have had some cars for the recent past.

Where are hybrids are the list?  Nowhere.  

CNBC’s Maria Bartiromo  raised that point with Congressman Barney Frank:

Does Congress realize how few hybrids have been sold, as it pushes, Detroit to make them, and will Congress give consumers greater incentives to buy these cars?

Frank’s reply was odd — even by Barney Frank standards:

“That’s a very fair point. And one of the things I’ve been saying is that some of my colleagues and the commentators who have been blaming the auto companies forget to blame somebody else—the consumers. In the recorded history of America, no one was ever forced at gunpoint to buy a Hummer. But we do believe that the combination of genuine concern about global warming and energy efficiency means people are now ready to buy these cars.”
http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/08_51/b4113000737793.htm 

Translation:   “If the dogs don’t eat the dog food, blame the dog.”  Not exactly the “marketing concept” at work.

Ken’s take: It looks like Detroit makes vehicles that many American consumers like, but that Washington  doesn’t like .  The congressional meddlers want Detroit to make cars that are guaranteed to lose money (lots of it).  If only the dogs would eat the right food.

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If the consumer craves "green", why is Toyota delaying its new Prius plant?

December 17, 2008

Toyota is delaying the opening of a new Prius plant in Mississippi.

The plant, near Tupelo, was originally going to make Highlander SUVs from late 2009. Then, as part of a big shakeup of the company’s U.S. production, Toyota decided it would begin making the new Prius at the site from 2010.

Now, Toyota will wait until the market starts picking up.

Excerpted from Business Week Online, Dec. 15, 2008:
http://www.businessweek.com/autos/autobeat/archives/2008/12/toyota_delays_n.html?chan=top+news_top+news+index+-+temp_news+%2B+analysis

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Ken’s Take: It is broadly reported that Toyota — the runaway market leader in hybrids — loses money on each Prius it sells.  So, if Toyota can’t make money on hybrids, how are they (hybrids) going to save Detroit?  As usual, I must be missing something.

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How green is your dry cleaner? … and, oh yeah, how clean are your clothes?

December 17, 2008

Excerpted from WSJ, “Finding an Eco-Friendly Dry Cleaner,” by Gwendolyn Bounds, December 4, 2008

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Recently we’ve spotted a growing number of dry cleaners hawking “organic” and “eco-friendly” services and wondered if they were up to par, or just engaging in green-washing of a different sort. 

Roughly 80% of the nation’s 30,000 dry cleaners still employ a cleaning method using the liquid solvent perchloroethylene — or “perc”…because it is known to remove stains and odors effectively without damaging or shrinking delicate garments.

However, perc has been listed as a hazardous air pollutant and a probable human carcinogen…long-term exposure could increase the cancer risk for consumers who wear a lot of dry-cleaned clothes…the EPA is requiring a phase-out of perc at dry cleaners located in residential buildings…

These moves, coupled with consumer appetite for eco-anything, are fueling the growth of professional cleaners who dub themselves as “greener.” They’re ditching perc for myriad alternatives, such as liquefied carbon dioxide, silicone and gentle, biodegradable detergents…

WSJ put a handful of cleaners through their sartorial-sanitizing paces to see how they stacked up…all the stores we tested generally cleaned as well as, if not better than, our regular outlets…however, there’s real debate over just how eco-friendly and safe some of these newer methods are.

We tested the four cleaning techniques frequently touted as greener alternatives to perc: “wet-cleaning”…CO2 cleaning, hydrocarbon cleaning and a silicone-based cleaner.  At least two of these methods don’t get endorsements among some eco-watchers. For instance, the hydrocarbon method uses a petroleum solvent that, while not considered hazardous like perc, contains volatile organic compounds that can contribute to smog…Likewise, there have been questions raised about the silicone method…

“It’s absolutely confusing…We are entering a new world here in terms of regulation of chemicals.” As a rule of thumb, “you are pretty darn safe with wet-cleaning” provided you go to a pro that has the proper equipment needed to reshape garments after they’re washed…For now, the Web is the best bet for consumers hunting for a non-perc cleaner in their neighborhood…

Edit by SAC

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With the myriad of businesses are claiming to be “green” today the Eco-cleaner’s claims do appear to have some merit.  In the article’s test the “green” cleaners not only stood up against the traditional method, but offered comparable prices and in some cases additional complementary services.  This indicates that consumers aren’t yet aware of the value in eco-cleaning and thus businesses aren’t able to charge a premium or that the cleaners themselves have yet to impose a pricing premium for their green services.  While the eco-jury is still out Eco Cleaners will continue to grow as the use of “perc” is phased out.

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Full Article:
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB122834783552077505.html?mod=wsjcrmain

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Re: SUVs … the proclamation of their death was a bit premature

December 12, 2008

Excerpted from Business Week, “The SUV Is Rising from the Dead”, November 26, 2008

* * * * * *

Americans are downsizing to the smallest vehicle they can tolerate. But in many cases, that’s just another kind of SUV—one that gets about 22 mpg

* * * * * *

When gasoline blew past $4 a gallon in July, pundits declared the era of the gas-guzzling sport-utility vehicle over.

Since then, of course, prices have dropped 50%, and …  more visitors to the Edmunds.comsite are researching SUVs … and appear to be ‘cycling back to our ‘bad’ car-buying habits.”

It’s more complicated than that. Americans are downsizing to the smallest vehicle they can tolerate.

But in many cases, that’s just another kind of SUV—one that gets about 22 mpg. That’s more eco-friendly than a Hummer, but this is hardly the era of conservation that some had predicted.

Gas-electric hybrids, which typically cost at least 15% more than conventional cars with similar mileage, are a tougher sell than they were just three months ago.

According to Edmunds, the number of people intending to buy a hybrid has been declining along with the fall in fuel prices. When gasoline prices peaked in July, 700,000 visitors to Edmunds.com checked out hybrid cars. But in October, only about 150,000 did so.

Meanwhile, J.D. Power & Associates (MHP) says that 36% of people who traded in large SUVs in November turned right around and bought another one.

“Consumers tell us they don’t want a small car.They want something roomy (to haul kids and cargo) and more fuel-efficient.”

Full article:
http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/08_49/b4111063900772.htm 

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To stimulate the economy, break a few windows … huh ?

December 5, 2008

158 years ago, the  pioneering French economist Frederic Bastiat, wrote about the “broken window fallacy.”

It goes like this: Most people agree that when someone breaks a store window, it’s a tragedy for the shopkeeper. But many also believe the overall economy actually benefits, because the shopkeeper now must buy a new window, a kind of “stimulus.”

This logic, of course, makes no sense.

Yet it’s the basic idea behind all government stimulus plans. The money for the window comes out of the shopkeeper’s pocket. Instead of carrying more stock in his store, or hiring a clerk, he must spend his money instead on a window. So the “stimulus” is really zero — or negative.

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Excerpted from IBD, “The Cost Of Green”, December 03, 2008
http://www.ibdeditorials.com/IBDArticles.aspx?id=313199997499579

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Ken’s Take: Also keep in mind that the government is playing with OTM — “other people’s money” — your’s, if you’re one of the dwindling number of taxpayers.

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Smart Cars Get Big But Still Get Stares

December 3, 2008

Excerpted from Marketing Daily, “U.S. Now 3rd-Best Market For Smart ForTwo Car” by Karl Greenberg, December 1, 2008

* * * * *

The ultra-diminutive Smart car still draws stares, but it isn’t as rare a bird as it used to be.

The Smart ForTwo car has been on sale in the U.S. for 10 months now…the U.S. is now the third-highest sales market for the 10-year-old ForTwo, behind Germany and Italy…since it began selling them in February, it has sold over 20,000 ForTwos through October.

Smart has eschewed advertising, relying instead on grassroots efforts, word-of-mouth and PR events…And the company still funnels prospects for the $11,990-$16,990 cars to a Web site launched last year, where consumers can reserve a car for $99…the company now has 73 “Smart Center” retail outlets in 35 states…about two-thirds are partnered with Mercedes-Benz dealers…

“We have always said our demographics are based on attitude and lifestyle, not income…the company is aiming to appeal to four demographic targets: baby boomers wanting a second or third car; empty nesters; people in large urban areas, “whose age could range from 18 to 80,” and first-time buyers.

“We are seeing a pretty even split across these groups in terms of who is buying the vehicles”…Smart will adhere to a no-advertising policy, focusing instead on online reservations, social networking, and discovery marketing…Next year, Smart will engage dealers to run promotions, and will begin to do owner events…

The car is selling strongly in New York, Los Angeles, the Pacific Northwest, South Florida and even Texas, as well as in large Midwestern cities.

Edit by SAC

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The Smart car has come to the US at the right time as more Americans seek smaller, fuel efficient vehicles. It isn’t surprising that Smart appeals to a range of targets and with the very low hurdle rate of a $99 reservation fee nearly anyone can go online to customize and reserve their very own Smart car.  Especially when the fee is refundable at anytime. 

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Full Article:
http://www.mediapost.com/publications/?fa=Articles.showArticle&art_aid=95741

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Detroit 3 says "smaller more efficient cars" … even if they’re unprofitable ?

December 2, 2008

Excerpted from WSJ, Ford Plans Shift to Small Fuel-Efficient Cars, Dec 2, 2008

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Ford plans to tell Congress it is retooling itself to build small fuel-efficient cars and break from the past strategy of focusing mainly on large pick up trucks and sport-utility vehicles.

Ford’s plan would likely emphasize its new fuel-efficient gasoline turbocharged direct-injection engines across its lineup and plans to bring popular, high-mileage cars from its European operations to the U.S

GM’s plan includes cutting brands and focusing on new fuel-efficient vehicles …  to meet new stringent federal mileage rules. GM hopes to have an electric plug-in car, the Chevrolet Volt, on the road sometime in 2010.

Ford, like GM, will likely express a willingness to seek further cost-cuts and concessions from the United Auto Workers union

Ford has concerns about the payments it’s already made to a new health care trust for retiree union workers. GM owes the fund $7.5 billion by 2010 – an amount many suspect the auto maker cannot afford – while Ford just paid more than $4 billion in its similar obligation earlier this year.

With regard to possible concessions by the UAW. UAW President Ron Gettelfinger is open to eliminating the jobs bank, the program that pays workers most of their wages even when they are laid off and no longer work in plants.

[Ken’s Note: the job bank — laid-off workers getting near full-pay to play cards or do crossword puzzles in a congregating hall — costs the Detroit 3 over $1.5 billion annually — about over $600 per car sold — making their total labor cost disadvantage (vs. ‘transplant’ carmakers in the South) over $1,500 per car]

But Mr. Gettelfinger wants to see management sacrifices in return, and some kind of future retraining program to help laid-off workers get high-tech jobs in areas such as battery development for electric vehicles.

* * * * *

Auto companies were also devising alternative travel plans after lawmakers excoriated Detroit’s CEOs for previously using expensive corporate jets to make their way to Capitol Hill. Mr. Wagoner is considering driving from Detroit to Washington in one of GM’s hybrid models.

Full article:
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB122817144031770385.html?mod=testMod

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High "Volt"-age? Can Their New Hybrid Jump Start GM?

December 2, 2008

Excerpted from the New York Times, “G.M.’s Latest Great Green Hope Is a Tall Order”, by Micheline Maynard, November 22, 2008

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The Chevrolet Volt, a plug-in hybrid, will not arrive in showrooms until late 2010. But it is already straining under the weight of an entire company.

Executives at GM are using the Volt as the centerpiece of their case to a skeptical Congress that their business plan for a turnaround is strong, and that a federal bailout would be a good investment in G.M.’s future.

But whether the Volt can live up to its billing is already a matter of debate. And some industry analysts note that GM has a poor track record of introducing green technology to the market.

* * * * *

The Volt is a big long-term bet. New vehicles typically cost $1 billion to develop, and the Volt requires new technology that probably inflated that price tag even more.

G.M. says the car, which is scheduled to arrive in showrooms two years from now, will be able to travel 40 miles on a charge, but it will also have a small gas engine to extend the range to as much as 640 miles using both the battery and gasoline. It is expected to cost about $40,000.

To some, the Volt will remain a niche vehicle until its cost drops sharply and its range rises dramatically.

“If you’re the affluent individual who wants to make a statement, it’s one thing.”  “If you’re Joe the Commuter, you’re not going to spend $40,000 on an electric car. It’s insane.”

* * * * *

Once it arrives, GM believes, customers will adjust more rapidly to the Volt than they did to the Prius, Toyota’s hybrid gas-electric car. “I don’t think that’s going to be that big a deal for most people to get their heads around.”

“We’ve turned into a plug-in society. We’ve got cellphones, PDAs, you name it, that are all plugged in. To a certain extent, it’s not much more complicated conceptually than coming in and plugging in your cellphone.”

* * * * *

The Volt is not General Motors’ first electric vehicle. In 1996, G.M. started leasing the EV1, an electric car, to customers in California. Although its few hundred owners loved it, the EV1 was discontinued just three years later.

G.M. reportedly spent about $1 billion in the 1990s to develop the EV1, which it dropped after saying it could not make money on the cars. The EV1, which was available only in lease deals, sold for the equivalent of up to $44,000 but cost G.M. about $80,000 apiece to make.

Other efforts to earn green bragging rights have missed the mark, too. Only two years ago, G.M. promoted flexible fuel cars that run on E85, a blend of ethanol and gasoline, as the way to wean Americans off gasoline. But interest in ethanol has waned amid concerns about the environmental impact of using corn for fuel rather than food.

The company is building its largest sport utility vehicles with hybrid gas-electric power trains as well, but they have sold poorly.

Edit by DAF

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Full article:
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/22/business/22volt.html?pagewanted=print

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From Business Week, a compendium of articles re: Hybrid Cars
http://bx.businessweek.com/hybrid-cars/

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In the new political economy, smart lobbyists will be arriving in hybrids …

December 1, 2008

Excerpted from IBD, “Job One: Wean The Economy Off Of Politics”,  Krauthammer,  November 28, 2008

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We have gone from a market economy to a political economy.

In the old days, if you wanted to get rich, you did it the Warren Buffett way: You learned to read income statements and balance sheets. Today you learn to read political tea leaves.

Today’s extreme stock market volatility is largely a reaction to meta-economic events: political decisions that have vast economic effects. You don’t anticipate Intel’s third-quarter earnings; instead, you guess what side of the bed Henry Paulson will wake up on tomorrow.

We may one day go back to a market economy. Meanwhile,  the two most important implications of our newly politicized economy are the vastly increased importance of lobbying and the massive market inefficiencies that political directives will introduce.

Lobbying used to be about advantages at the margin — a regulatory break here, a subsidy there. Now lobbying is about life and death.

You used to go to New York for capital. Now Wall Street, broke, is coming to Washington. With unimaginably large sums of money being given out, Washington will be subject to the most intense, most frenzied lobbying in American history.

The other kind of economic distortion will come from the political directives issued by newly empowered politicians.

For example, bank presidents are gravely warned by one senator after another about “hoarding” their bailout money. But hoarding is another word for recapitalizing to shore up your balance sheet to ensure solvency. Isn’t pushing money out the window with too little capital precisely the lending laxity that produced this crisis in the first place?

Even more egregious will be the directives to a nationalized Detroit. Sen. Schumer, the noted automotive engineer, has declared “a business model based on gas” to be completely unacceptable. He says,  “We need a business model based on cars of the future: the plug-in hybrid electric car.”

The Chevy Volt, for example? It has huge remaining technological hurdles, gets 40 miles on a charge and will sell for about $40,000, necessitating a $7,500 outright government subsidy. Who but the rich and politically correct will choose that over a $12,000 gas-powered Hyundai?

The new Detroit churning out Schumer-mobiles will make the steel mills of the Soviet Union look the model of efficiency.

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Full article:
http://www.ibdeditorials.com/IBDArticles.aspx?id=312760589983880 

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Auto Marketers See at Least One Shade of Green …

December 1, 2008

Excerpted from Brandweek, “Taking the Road Less Traveled” by Steve Miller, Superbrands 2008

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In April, a revolution went down. New vehicle sales dipped 8%, cars began to outsell trucks, and sales of compacts and hybrids leaped, gratifying greenies everywhere and giving the auto industry a headache…

The momentum in the market has clearly shifted. A Kelley Blue Book survey in April found that 60% of new-vehicle buyers say gas prices have changed or influenced their purchase decision. Now, better-made small cars and gas prices have turned consumers on to cars like Toyota’s Yaris and Nissan’s Versa…

Marketing has tried to follow the bouncing ball that is consumer preferences…Meanwhile, hybrids…continue to play an emerging role in sales of small cars. Hybrids now account for 3.2% of all new car sales, up from 2.6% at the end of 2007…

But while environmentalists have embraced the vehicles, the price point difference (they are up to $5,000 more) and the fact that other gas-powered cars are now approaching hybrid-like fuel economy are challenging the technology. “The wallet always dominates in the car-buying decision…If [hybrid marketers] can conveniently make that case and make the economic equations easier, that will seal the deal”..

With all of the fuss about hybrids, alternative power trains and controversial fuels such as ethanol, most every automaker is now including something to draw attention to their own “enviromerits.”…Any campaign now has to, at least, give a nod to the green…But while green (as in environmentally conscious) is good, green (as in dough) is even better when it comes to marketing message…

Edit by SAC

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While auto marketers focus their message on the green ($) is great theme consumers are beginning to realize that purchasing a hybrid may not be the smartest financial decision.  As the hybrid market evolves its consumers are also evolving, which means marketers must do even more to understand their preferences and likely, communicate to a new shade of green. 

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Full Article:
http://www.brandweek.com/bw/superbrands/article_autos.html

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Vespanomics: Touting Green Exhilaration & Practicality

November 28, 2008

Excerpted from Adweek, “Vespa Touts Scooters for Americans” by Eleftheria Parpis, Nov 24, 2008

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Convincing Americans to ditch their SUVs for scooters seems an impossible marketing task, but what about getting consumers to augment their gas-guzzlers with a snazzy new Vespa for short trips? That is a much more realistic goal for Vespa USA, which recently launched a Web site that positions the iconic brand as fun and functional.

The site…offers product info, reviews and tools to post and plot favorite routes and calculate fuel savings. The objective is to convince more Americans to consider scooters as alternative transportation.

So far, Americans have heard few stories about ways to cut down on carbon emissions: either downsizing vehicles or switching to electric hybrids…”If you combine the usage of a car or SUV with a motor scooter–which millions of Europeans do every day–then you can achieve the same results.”

The venue offers a “Vespa vs. Auto MPG” tool where consumers can compare the scooters’ mileage to the performance of cars. Users can then determine how many miles per gallon they would save by combining Vespa travel with trips in vehicles they already own…

While Vespa…has seen an increase in sales since gas prices began rising, the challenge is to convince consumers that Vespas offer serious riding options, not just trips around the neighborhood…the site’s Google map-based “Community Rides” tool allows scooter owners to share, rate and comment on riding routes.

“Hopefully, over time, people will…realize these are not toys and that people really do use this as a transportation vehicle”…

Edit by SAC

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The new Vespa website introduces the term “Vespanomics”, which refers to the ecological and economic benefits that Vespa provides riders with the additional promise of “total exhilaration” that comes from riding a “stylish, high performance Vespa.” In the past Vespa has emphasized the brand’s the style and lifestyle more than its practicality and efficiency.  Online and at dealerships, Vespa sells everything a rider needs to live the brand from scooter accessories, to clothing and beach towels to mini-notepads and lanyards.  Vespanomics is the tool Vespa needs to bring new users to the brand and to extend the brand lifestyle to include eco-concern.

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Full Article:
http://www.brandweek.com/bw/content_display/esearch/e3i550533f2636cdbd1a765ce9cdcca1936

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$2 gas dampens enthusiasm for hybrids … no kidding.

November 27, 2008

Excerpted from:WSJ,”Americans Drive Less, Creating a Problem”, NOVEMBER 24, 2008

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When gasoline prices shot over $4 a gallon this summer, Americans … took action on their own by driving less and switching to more fuel-efficient cars.

The good news is that gasoline consumption has fallen … vehicle miles traveled — the wonky term for how much we drive — have dropped for 11 straight months, and fell 4.4% in September, according to the Department of Transportation.
http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/ohim/tvtw/08septvt/08septvt.pdf

In short, many Americans, by choice or by default, did what the people who worry about the climate and U.S. dependence on petroleum wanted them to do. They burned about 5% less gasoline than a year ago.

By jamming the brakes on driving, rediscovering mass transit and walking past Hummers to buy compact cars like the Honda Fit, American consumers caused big trouble for powerful interests.

The oil industry and oil-producing nations have an acute problem, because the combination of conservation and the worst world-wide economic slump in decades has once again made a mockery of recent projections that oil would remain expensive and scarce forever.

The short term looks like a re-run of the late 1970s and early 1980s, when … oil prices soared, interest in electric cars, windmills, solar heating panels and other petroleum alternatives accelerated. When conservation and new oil discoveries caused oil prices to collapse, the economic justification for expensive, immature oil replacement technology collapsed as well, and it was a skip and a jump to the age of the SUV.

The federal government is conflicted, too. Yes, policy makers want us to conserve oil. But now that we have, the funds that pay for roads, bridges, rail transit and other transportation infrastructure are falling right along with gasoline tax receipts … gasoline taxes paid into the highway trust fund fell by $3 billion in the 2008 fiscal year.

One approach (for funding infrastructure) would be to raise the federal gasoline tax from its current 18.4 cents a gallon. By comparison, the tax rate in the U.K. is about $2.85 a gallon. Higher gas taxes could finance improvements to roads and mass transit, encourage further conservation or offset the costs of the various federal bailouts.

The collapse of gasoline prices since the summer — a drop of more than $2 a gallon — is an economic stimulus worth more than $200 billion a year.

* * * * *

All of this puts the people who seized on the recent gas price shocks as the moment to push green vehicle strategies in a bind.

At current gasoline prices, however, consumers who buy expensive electric or plug-in hybrid cars would find it smarter financially to buy a reasonably efficient, conventional subcompact and work from home one day a week.

If gasoline prices stay low, demand for vehicles that use sophisticated technology to consume less gasoline per mile will depend on consumers making long-term decisions that aren’t in their short-term economic interests. Otherwise, these new high-mileage cars might not sell for high enough prices to cover their higher costs.

A lot depends on whether Americans keep doing what they’re doing, regardless of what the numbers are on the gas station signs.

General Motors Corp. has insisted that its plug-in hybrid Chevy Volt, due in 2010, will survive the cost-cutting as the auto giant struggles to survive.

Full article:
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB122728664289448183.html

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How much profit does Toyota makes on a Prius?

November 26, 2008

Excerpted from Washington Post, “The Car of the Future — but at What Cost?”, Steven Mufson, November 25, 2008

* * * * *

Hybrid Vehicles Are Popular, but Making Them Profitable Is a Challenge

Sen. Charles E. Schumer said last week. “We need a business model based on cars of the future, and we already know what that future is: the plug-in hybrid electric car.

“But the car company Schumer and other lawmakers envision for the future could turn out to be a money-losing operation, not part of a “sustainable U.S. auto industry.

“That’s because car manufacturers still haven’t figured out how to produce hybrid and plug-in vehicles cheaply enough to make money on them.

After a decade of relative success with its hybrid Prius, Toyota has sold about a million of the cars and is still widely believed by analysts to be losing money on each one sold.

U.S. lawmakers want the companies to produce automobiles of the future, using advanced technologies and featuring hybrid or plug-in vehicles.But there’s no guarantee that the new business model would be any more viable than the current one.

Automobile experts estimate that the battery in a plug-in vehicle could add at least $8,000 to the cost of a car, maybe considerably more.

Most Americans will be unwilling to pay the extra price, especially if gasoline prices languish around $2 a gallon.

One of the mysteries about GM’s plans to introduce the Volt in 2010 is how much it will cost to buy one.

“What’s the Volt going to cost? I would be happy to answer that if you can tell me the price of oil in 2010,” said Robert A. Kruse, GM’s executive director of global vehicle engineering for hybrids, electric vehicles and batteries.

“I can tell you to the penny what it will cost GM, but pricing is much more related to market conditions.”

“In 10 years are they [at GM] going to solve the technological problems with respect to the Volt? Sure,”

“But are they going to be able to stake their survival on it? I’d say they can’t. They have to stake their future on Malibus, the Chevy Cruze, and much more conventional technologies.”

“Do you bet on lighter, smaller, more fuel efficient but ultimately less profitable cars or do you hold back a little on technology development and look at new versions of existing cars.”

Many experts say that gas guzzlers will not fade away as long as Congress fails to impose higher taxes on gasoline to steer people toward fuel-efficient cars.

“I can easily imagine three years from now when public is focused on a new set of priorities . . . that this whole hubrid thing would go poof.”

Obama proposed a $7,500-a-vehicle tax credit for plug-in vehicles during his presidential campaign.

Roughly half of Americans don’t earn enough to take advantage of such a big tax credit.

Many others don’t have the cash to purchase an expensive vehicle then wait for a federal refund.

So,  GM and other car companies, while preparing plug-in vehicles, are more likely to live or die based on the sales of conventional cars that get better fuel efficiency through improved transmissions, reduced weight or hybrid technology.

GM says it will offer nine hybrids for sale by the middle of next year.

Reinert says that Toyota will eventually offer hybrid versions of all its car models.Auto industry experts say that the basic problem is that the U.S. industry geared up to make 18 million cars and light trucks a year and that it will be lucky to sell 11 million this year.

“There’s fluff and there’s reality,” Keller said.

 “The fluff is the Chevy Volt . . . That’s not going to save GM in the next five years. What will save GM is more small sedans and more crossovers. That’s what people are going to be buying.”Full article:

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Re: Energy … consumers in denial, blame government (and everybody else)

November 25, 2008

Excerpted from PR NewsWire, “Obama White House to Face Long-Held Consumer Denial and Awareness Hurdles in Realizing New Energy Solutions”, November 19,2008

* * * * *
Consumers Blame Government, Assume Little Self-Responsibility

There is  long-held U.S. consumer denial about personal responsibility in driving energy demand and resulting prices; consumers have a’ “tailpipe-driven” understanding of energy use and environmental impact.

Despite government reports documenting that consumers now use more electricity than five years ago, 61 percent of consumers deny using more.

But, 62 percent of Americans indicating they have experienced home utility cost increases of 10-30 percent or more. So, “For the first time in four years, we increasingly see economic concerns driving consumer interest in conserving energy.”

“However, most Americans don’t view their own consumption behaviors or energy-use demand as having much to do with energy costs,” less than one-fourth of consumers mention U.S. consumer demand as most to blame for rising energy prices.

While more consumers are becoming knowledgeable about renewable energy, one-third erroneously think cars and trucks are the No. 1 cause of global warming, while only four percent cite the actual primary culprit of greenhouse emissions: coal-fired electric plants, today’s most prominent source to heat, cool and power buildings – largely homes.

Also of note: most consumers either blamed kids in the home for increased electricity usage.

Oil companies were thought to be the primary culprits for rising gasoline costs (27 percent) — the U.S. government was the second most common answer, at 24 percent.

“What should the government be doing?” The top answers were “should invest more in research to find alternatives” (29 percent), “should be more proactive and develop a plan” (16 percent), and “should allow drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and / or off the U.S. coast” (13 percent).

The primary reason to participate in energy conservation activities or purchases:

1.) To save money (ranked No. 3 in 2007)

2.) To protect our environment and save natural resources (remained No. 2 from 2007)

3.) To preserve the quality of life for future generations (ranked No. 1 in 2007)

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Full article
http://www.tickertech.com/cgi/?a=news&ticker=a&w=&story=200811200811190800PR_NEWS_USPR_____CLW024 

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Chain Stores Going Green

November 25, 2008

Excerpted from New York Times, “Green Plans in Blueprints of Retailers”, by Andrew Martin, November 8, 2008

* * * * *

Across the country, a race is under way among stores and fast-food restaurants to build environmentally friendly outlets, as a way to curry favor with consumers and to lower operating costs. Most chains are focusing on prototypes at the moment, but the trend could eventually change the look and function of thousands of stores.

The green building boom is partly being driven by retailers’ desire to capture the attention of consumers who have become fascinated by hybrid cars, energy-saving light bulbs and wind turbines.

But more important for the companies, it is a way to shave long-term operating costs at stores and restaurants, which consume copious amounts of energy and water for ovens and fryers, heaters and air conditioners, sinks and toilets.

* * * * *

While the “green” moniker is ill-defined and vulnerable to exaggeration, many of the chains, including McDonald’s, are seeking LEED certification from the United States Green Building Council, a nonprofit agency in Washington whose rating system is a widely accepted standard.

Marion Nestle, a professor of nutrition at New York University and a frequent critic of fast-food chains, said the green buildings were laudable but were ultimately intended to make people feel better about eating unhealthful food.

“Takes your mind off the calories, doesn’t it?” she wrote in an e-mail message. Ms. Nestle added in an interview, “I think it’s fabulous that they are doing it, and McDonald’s always has a tremendous impact. But it’s still making junk food.”

* * * * *

Retailers say building LEED-certified buildings make economic sense, particularly with energy prices becoming so unpredictable.

At Wal-Mart, for instance, all new stores have highly efficient lights, skylights and improved heating, cooling and refrigeration systems. The floors of the stores are not covered but instead are exposed concrete slabs made with recycled steel and fly ash, a waste product. The high-efficiency prototype stores are equipped with even more efficient heating and cooling systems; a store in Las Vegas, for instance, is expected to save 45 percent in energy costs over traditional stores. 

Peter DiPasqua, a Subway franchisee with 89 stores in central Florida, said he originally thought his green store in Kissimmee was largely a “feel-good thing.” But he said as construction progressed, he became more impressed with the benefits of LEED-certified construction.

The store cost about 20 percent more to build, Mr. DiPasqua said. But he said he was saving 20 percent a month on electricity even though the store, in a prime location, is selling 43 percent more than a store down the street.

Edit by DAF

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Full article:
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/08/business/08build.html?ref=business&pagewanted=print

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Green Jobs: What's the Real Number? What's the Real Cost?

November 24, 2008

Excerpted from the Wall Street Journal, “Does Green Energy Add 5 Million Jobs? Potent Pitch, but Numbers Are Squishy”, by Jeffery Ball, November 7, 2008

* * * * *

Calls for a clean-energy system in the U.S. have long met with sticker shock. Now, the cost of making the transition–hundreds of billions of dollars–is being touted as a selling point.

Barack Obama and his energy advisers have been making the case that a multibillion-dollar government investment in everything from wind turbines to a “smart” electrical grid is just what’s needed to help revive the economy.

The lure is millions of government-subsidized “green jobs”, as Obama argued that spending $150 billion over the next decade to boost energy efficiency would help create five million jobs.

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The green-jobs argument rests on the notion that big capital investments in new-energy technology today will be more than offset by savings in reduced fossil-fuel costs.

The added allure of clean-energy spending as economic stimulus is that the industry is relatively young and growing fast. It is just starting to build its basic infrastructure — wind turbines, solar panels and a more-sophisticated electric-transmission grid. Several studies estimate that $1 invested in renewable energy or energy efficiency would yield up to four times as many jobs as $1 invested in oil and gas, whose basic infrastructure has been around for years.

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Critics say analyzing only new green jobs misses half the story.

“It’s not looking at the other side of the coin: You are spending more money for your energy,” says Anne Smith, a vice president at CRA International. The consulting firm wrote a report for the coal-mining industry in April that concluded that, under a bill to cap global-warming emissions, gains in green jobs would be “more than offset” by job losses elsewhere in the economy. That bill failed, but Obama has said he supports capping emissions.

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The job creation number cited by Obama has its roots in several green-jobs studies. Each projected different numbers, because each made different assumptions. Robert Pollin, a professor at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, who co-wrote another study, questions the job target touted by the Obama campaign, saying it would cost much more. Pollin’s study said that $100 billion spent over two years could produce two million green jobs.

Even Mr. Pollin’s study assessed only the number of jobs that might be added if the government spent more money on clean energy. It didn’t count jobs that might be lost elsewhere in the economy if the country shifted to costlier sources of energy.

The Apollo Alliance, a San Francisco coalition of environmental and labor groups, also released a study in September. It concluded that five million green jobs could be had with an investment of $500 billion–more than three times Mr. Obama’s number.

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http://online.wsj.com/article/SB122601449992806743.html

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The End of Green?

November 19, 2008

Excerpted from the New York Times, “Bailout (and Buildup)”, by Thomas L. Friedman, October 22, 2008 

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Last week, U.S. retail gasoline prices fell below $3 a gallon — to an average of $2.91 — the lowest level in almost a year. Why does this news leave me with mixed feelings?

Because in the middle of this wrenching economic crisis, it would be a real source of relief for many Americans to get a break at the pump. Today’s declining gasoline prices act like a tax cut for consumers and can save $15 to $20 a tank-full for an S.U.V.-driving family, compared with when gasoline was $4.11 a gallon in July.

Yet, it is impossible for me to ignore the fact that when gasoline hit $4.11 a gallon we changed — a lot. Americans drove less, polluted less, exercised more, rode more public transportation and, most importantly, overwhelmed Detroit with demands for smaller, more fuel-efficient, hybrid and electric cars. The clean energy and efficiency industries saw record growth — one of our few remaining engines of real quality job creation.

But with little credit available today for new energy start-ups, and lower oil prices making it harder for existing renewables like wind and solar to scale, and a weak economy making it nearly impossible for Congress to pass a carbon tax or gasoline tax that would make clean energy more competitive, what will become of our budding clean-tech revolution?

“Is the economic crisis going to be the end of green?” asks David Rothkopf, energy consultant and author of “Superclass.” “Or, could green be the way to end the economic crisis?”

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It has to be the latter. We can’t afford a financial bailout that also isn’t a green buildup — a buildup of a new clean energy industry that strengthens America and helps the planet.

First, Washington could impose a national renewable energy standard that would require every utility in the country to produce 20 percent of its power from clean, non-CO2-emitting, energy sources — wind, solar, hydro, nuclear, biomass — by 2025. About half the states already have these in place, but they are all different. It would create a huge domestic pull for renewable energy if we had a uniform national mandate.

Second, Washington could impose a national requirement that every state move its utilities to a system of “decoupling-plus”–shifting them from getting paid for how much electricity or gas they get you to consume to getting paid for how much electricity or gas they get you to save. Several states have already moved down this path.

Third would be to modify the tax code so that any company that invests in new domestic manufacturing capacity for clean energy technology — or procures any clean energy system or energy savings device that is made by an American manufacturer — can write down the entire cost of the investment via a tax credit and/or accelerated depreciation in the first year.

Finally, if Congress passes another stimulus package, it can’t just be another round of $600 checks to go buy flat-screen TVs made in China. It has to also include targeted investments in scientific research, mass transit, domestic clean-tech manufacturing and energy efficiency that will make us a more productive and innovative society, one with more skills, more competitiveness, more productivity and better infrastructure to lead the next great industrial revolution: E.T. — energy technology.

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Full article:
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/22/opinion/22friedman.html?ref=opinion

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Gas is $4 per gallon … car buyers are going 'green' … coincidence ?

October 29, 2008

Excerpted from BrandWeek: “Car Buyers Motivated By ‘Green'”, Sept 23, 2008

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Toyota, Honda and Chevrolet are perceived by consumers as selling the most environmentally friendly and fuel-efficient models, according to a new Eco Watch study from Kelley Blue Book Marketing Research.

The top 10 “green” cars of 2008 are (in order):  Toyota Prius, Honda Civic Hybrid, Smart Fortwo, Nissan Altima Hybrid, Mini Cooper, Ford Escape Hybrid, Honda Fit, Mercedes E320 BlueTec, Toyota Highlander Hybrid and the Chevy Tahoe Hybrid.

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60% of respondents reported they were “extremely concerned” or “very concerned” about the environment, citing water and air pollution, global warming and energy shortages as their primary issues.

58% were considering a more fuel-efficient vehicle for their next purchase. On average, they said they would be willing to spend up to $2,600 more on an environmentally friendly vehicle.

57% said they had changed their driving habits.

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58% who have already changed the type of vehicle they are planning to buy said they would not go back to their former vehicle of choice even if gas prices were to drop to $1 a gallon.

The alternative-fuel technologies they most favored were hybrid engines, hydrogen fuel cells and natural gas vehicles.

They were most skeptical of biofuel, diesel and battery-electric vehicles.

75% said they wished there were more alternative fuel vehicles in the marketplace to choose from.

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A lot of Chevy’s perceptions are based on the Volt, which is being heavily advertised, but  isn’t available in the market.

Hybrids, the alternative fuel technology that has receives the most attention, represent only 1.6% of new car sales

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Full article:
http://www.brandweek.com/bw/content_display/news-and-features/automotive-travel/e3i0e4fd2428ec797838e295ef4fcbc08fe

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Green bubble bursting ?

October 16, 2008

Excerpted from LA Times: “The green bubble bursts”, Nordhaus and Shellenberger, September 30, 2008

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Amid the energy crisis, Democrats are losing the high ground on the environment to a GOP that is pushing oil drilling.

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As the election enters its endgame, Democrats and their environmental allies face a political challenge they could hardly have imagined just a few months ago. America’s growing dependence on fossil fuels, once viewed as a Democratic trump card held alongside the Iraq war and the deflating economy, has become a lodestone instead.

Republicans stole the energy issue from Democrats by proposing expanded drilling — particularly lifting bans on offshore oil drilling — to bring down gasoline prices.

Whereas Barack Obama told Americans to properly inflate their tires, Republicans at their convention gleefully chanted “Drill, baby, drill!” Obama’s point on conservation and efficiency was lost on an electorate eager for a solution to what they perceive as a supply crisis.

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Democrats and greens ended up in this predicament because they believed their own press clippings — or, perhaps more accurately, Al Gore’s. After the release of the documentary film and book “An Inconvenient Truth,” greens convinced themselves that U.S. public opinion on climate change had shifted dramatically, despite having no empirical evidence that was the case.

Global warming remains a low-priority issue, hovering near the bottom of the Pew Center for People and the Press’ top 20 priorities.

By contrast, public concern about gasoline and energy prices has shifted dramatically. While liberals and environmentalists were congratulating themselves on the triumph of climate science over fossil-fuel-funded ignorance, planning inauguration parties and writing legislation for the next Democratic president and Congress, gas prices became the second-highest concern after the economy, according to Gallup.

* * * * *

This summer, elite opinion ran headlong into American popular opinion. The train wreck happened in the Senate and went by the name of the Climate Security Act. That bill to cap U.S. greenhouse gas emissions would have, by all accounts (even the authors’), increased gasoline and energy prices. Despite clear evidence that energy-price anxiety was rising, Democrats brought the bill to the Senate floor in June when gas prices were well over $4 a gallon in most of the country. Republicans were all too happy to join that fight.

Republicans have been bludgeoning Democrats with it ever since.  Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich quickly announced a book, “Drill Here, Drill Now, Pay Less,” a movie and a petition drive.

Seeing the writing on the wall, Obama reversed his opposition to drilling in August, and congressional Democrats quickly followed suit.

But the damage has largely been done. In following greens, Democrats allowed McCain and Republicans to cast them as the party out of touch with the pocketbook concerns of middle-class Americans and captive to special interests that prioritize remote wilderness over economic prosperity.

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In a tacit acknowledgment of their defeat, some green leaders, such as the Sierra Club’s Carl Pope, have endorsed the Democrats’ pro-drilling strategy. But few of them seem to realize the political implications.

With an economic recession likely, and energy prices sure to remain high for years to come thanks to expanding demand in China and other developing countries, any strategy predicated centrally on making fossil fuels more expensive is doomed to failure.

A better approach is to make clean energy cheap through technology innovation funded directly by the federal government. In contrast to raising energy prices, investing somewhere between $30 billion and $50 billion annually in technology R&D, infrastructure and transmission lines to bring power from windy and sunny places to cities is overwhelmingly popular with voters. Instead of embracing this big investment, greens and Democrats push instead for tiny tax credits for renewable energy — nothing approaching the national commitment that’s needed.

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Environmental groups, perpetually certain that a new ecological age is about to dawn in America, have serially overestimated their strength and misread public opinion. Democrats must break once and for all from green orthodoxy that focuses primarily on making dirty energy more expensive and instead embrace a strategy to make clean energy cheap.

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Full article:
http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/la-oe-shellenberger30-2008sep30,0,5840948.story

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Reducing Carbon Footprint Confusion for CPG’s

October 16, 2008

Excerpted from The Wall Street Journal “Six Products, Six Carbon Footprints” by Jeffrey Ball, October 6, 2008

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A new concept is entering the consumer lexicon: the carbon footprint.

First came organic. Then came fair trade. Now makers of everything from milk to jackets to cars are starting to tally up the carbon footprints of their products. That’s the amount of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that get coughed into the air when the goods are made, shipped and stored, and then used by consumers…

So far, these efforts raise as many questions as they answer. Different companies are counting their products’ carbon footprints differently, making it all but impossible for shoppers to compare goods. And even if consumers come to understand the numbers, they might not like what they find out.

For instance, many products’ global-warming impact depends less on how they’re made than on how they’re used. That means the easiest way to cut carbon emissions may be to buy less of a product or use it in a way that’s less convenient.

So, what are the carbon footprints of some of the common products we use? How are they calculated? And what surprises do they hold? What follows is a look at six everyday items — cars, shoes, laundry detergent, clothing, milk and beer — and the numbers that go with them.

…The U.S. emits the equivalent of about 118 pounds of carbon dioxide per resident every day, a figure that includes emissions from industry. Annually, that’s nearly 20 metric tons per American — about five times the number per citizen of the world at large, according to the International Energy Agency.

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CARS

The simplest statistic in the carbon-footprinting game may be this: For every mile it travels, the average car in the U.S. emits about one pound of carbon dioxide. Given typical driving distances and fuel-economy numbers, that translates into about five tons of carbon dioxide per car per year.

…an American-made midsize sedan emits the equivalent of about 63 tons of carbon dioxide. That number includes all emissions, from the making of the car’s raw materials, such as steel and plastic, through the shredding of the car once it’s junked.

The vast majority of those emissions — 86% — came from the car’s fuel use, the study found. Just 4% of emissions came from making and assembling the car. That means consumers can lower their footprint by buying a car with better fuel economy.  Sometimes, the differences between models can be substantial….

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SHOES

You may think you’re at one with nature going for a walk in the woods in your sturdy hiking boots. But those boots pack a lot of carbon. The big reason: the leather.

Timberland Co., a Stratham, N.H., shoe company with an outdoorsy image, has assessed the carbon footprint of about 40 of the shoe models it currently sells. The results range from about 22 pounds to 220 pounds per pair. Each of the shoes that has been carbon-footprinted comes with a label assessing its greenhouse-gas score on a scale of zero, which is best, to 10, which is worst.

Flip-flops tend to have footprints of 22 pounds to 44 pounds…Shoes typically range from 66 pounds to 132 pounds. Hiking boots typically pack between 154 and 198 pounds, Mr. Girard says.

…transportation typically accounts for less than 5% of the carbon footprint. By far the biggest contributor is the shoe’s raw material…The average dairy cow produces, every year, an amount of greenhouse gas equivalent to four tons of carbon dioxide, according to U.S. government figures. Most of that comes not from carbon dioxide, in fact, but from a more-potent greenhouse gas: methane…

Timberland officials concede shortcomings with their method…the calculations fail to recognize that some shoes require more electricity to assemble in the factory than do others. And Timberland’s calculations omit the carbon impact of the leather and other materials that fall to the cutting-room floor.

“No question, it’s crude in some ways,” Mr. Girard says. “But it’s a step more information than our designers were making a decision on before.”

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LAUNDRY DETERGENT

The recipe for a low-carbon load of laundry: Use liquid detergent instead of powder, wash your clothes in cool water and hang them out to dry…

The carbon footprint of a load of laundry done with Tesco detergent varies from 1.3 pounds to 1.9 pounds, depending on what form of detergent is used…According to P&G, the average American family does about 300 loads of laundry per year, or about six loads per week. That suggests a per-family carbon footprint from doing laundry of about 480 pounds per year, or about 10 pounds per week. And that doesn’t include running the dryer.

Solid capsules of detergent have the highest carbon footprint, according to Tesco. Powder has a slightly lower footprint; liquid has a lower one still; and concentrated liquid has the lowest of all. That’s because making solid detergent uses more energy than making the liquid variety.

But consumers who care about their carbon emissions should do more than switch detergent forms, the labels advise. Doing the wash in cooler water — 86 degrees Fahrenheit instead of 104 degrees — will shave the carbon footprint of each load by 0.3 pounds. That’s as much of a reduction as you get from switching to liquid from powder.

The biggest way to cut the environmental impact of cleaning clothes, however, is to stop using a clothes dryer. Drying laundry outside on a line, Tesco says, will cut the carbon footprint of every load by a whopping 4.4 pounds…

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JACKETS

Patagonia Inc.’s Talus jacket looks like a naturalist’s dream. In fact, its carbon footprint is 66 pounds. That, Patagonia notes on its Web site, is 48 times the weight of the jacket itself.

Over the past year, the Ventura, Calif., outdoor-equipment maker has computed and posted on its Web site the carbon footprints of 15 of its products. Because most of Patagonia’s products are made in Asia or Latin America and sold in the U.S., the company expected that a big chunk of the carbon footprints came from transportation. It was wrong.

The fabric for the Talus is made in China, the zippers come from Japan, and the jacket is sewn in Vietnam. Yet all that transportation adds up to less than 1% of the product’s total carbon footprint, Patagonia says. The majority of the footprint — 71%, or about 47 pounds — comes in producing the polyester, which originates with oil…

“Consumers are starting to put environmental values into their purchasing decisions, but it doesn’t always translate into their being willing to pay a higher price,” Patagonia’s Ms. Dumain says…Patagonia lays out this conundrum on its Web site, saying it “reflects the complexities involved” in balancing concern for the environment with the need for performance.

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MILK

A recent study by National Dairy Holdings found that the carbon footprint of a gallon of its milk in a plastic jug is either 6.19 pounds or 7.59 pounds. The difference rests in what kind of cases the jugs are placed in during transport from the milk-processing plant to the distribution center. Plastic cases, because they take more energy to produce, yield more carbon-dioxide emissions than do cardboard ones.

But National Dairy Holdings’ study doesn’t count all the emissions created by a gallon of milk. It includes those from the cows themselves (more than half of the total), from the processing of the milk and from the transport of the milk to a distribution center. It doesn’t count the emissions earlier in the process: growing the cows’ feed. Nor does it count the emissions later in the process: transporting the milk from the distribution center to the store and refrigerating it there…

National Dairy Holdings measured only its piece in the supply chain, explains Howard Depoy, the dairy’s director…That’s “the CO2 that we can control and manage,” Mr. Depoy says…the single biggest chunk of emissions from milk production comes from all that action in the cow’s gut…

The dairy industry doesn’t plan to put carbon-footprint labels on milk cartons, says Rick Naczi, an executive vice president for Dairy Management. “It’s something that would be very, very difficult to make understandable to consumers,” he says.

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BEER

When New Belgium Brewing Co. set out last year to compute the carbon footprint of a six-pack of its Fat Tire Amber Ale, it figured it would find transportation was the biggest problem…The microbrewer, based in Fort Collins, Colo., has been expanding into more states, necessitating more trucking of its beer.

When the numbers came in this summer, they showed that a six-pack’s carbon footprint was about seven pounds. The real surprise was where the bulk of that number came from: the refrigeration of the beer at stores. Transportation came in fourth, behind manufacturing the glass bottles and producing the barley and malt….

Now, New Belgium is considering switching to bottles with more recycled glass, because making them consumes less fuel. It’s also considering buying barley and malt produced organically, rather than with chemical fertilizers, which are big emitters.

Refrigeration poses a tougher problem. Stores selling Fat Tire aren’t owned by New Belgium, so even if the brewer wanted them to stop refrigerating the beer, they might not do so…

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Full article:
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB122304950601802565.html

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Pepsi Targets Eco-Centric Consumers Online

October 14, 2008

Excerpted from Brandweek “Pepsi Ups its Online Eco Efforts” by Kenneth Hein, September 30, 2008  

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Pepsi, today, is launching not one, but two Web sites trumpeting its eco-friendly efforts. PepsiEcoChallenge.com and Pepsirecycling.com both spotlight Pepsi-Cola North America’s slew of sustainability programs.

The more promotional site, Pepsirecycling.com, offers consumers 100 Pepsi Stuff points for taking a quiz about recycling. Points can be redeemed for prizes, like shirts made from recycled materials, and entrance into a sweepstakes for a Smart car. Pepsirecycling.com  offers a myriad of information about recycling as well as origami instructions for used 12-pack cartons.

“We’re putting recycling front and center and giving our customers an incentive to do their part for the environment,” said Victor Melendez, vp-marketing, sustainability for PCNA, Purchase, N.Y., in a statement. “Pepsi has always stood for fun and now we’re channeling that Pepsi spirit into raising environmental awareness.”

PepsiEcoChallenge.com reads more like an interactive brochure that explains how the company is working to save energy and water as well as working to create sustainable packaging… It points out Pepsi is working to reduce its U.S. plants’ water consumption by 20%, electricity usage by 25% and fuel consumption by 25% by 2015.

Because a segment of consumers demand eco-accountability from their favorite brands, such efforts are of increasing importance, said John Sicher, editor of Beverage Digest, Bedford Hills, N.Y. “There is certainly growing interest among consumers in buying products from socially responsible companies,” he said. “It’s important that big companies like Pepsi reach out and show decision makers and decision influencers that they are taking a lead in this.”

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Full article:
http://www.brandweek.com/bw/content_display/news-and-features/digital/e3i5452d1396a606a4187805864881b8d0d

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