Whatever your political leanings, the election of Joe Biden as President of the United States increases the odds of bringing America back into the community of nations addressing the climate crisis.
“Increases the odds” is the key phrase in the above sentence. There’s a lot of work to do, and not just by our elected representatives, to regain our footing on this issue — and to regain our standing on the global stage.
Now, the hard work begins. There is public policy to enact and implement. There are new commitments to be made. There are fractured alliances to mend. But more important, there is leadership to project. Not just by the new president or Congress, but by us all.
The new administration will need to know that we have their backs.
If America is to be seen as the climate leader so many of us desperately want it to be, we’ll need to stand with Joe Biden and Kamala Harris on climate (and environmental protection in general). We’ll need our voices to be loud and clear. We’ll need to push and prod them toward increasingly more ambitious action.
The new administration will need to know that we have their backs.
This is easier said than done. Most companies have been woefully silent on climate policy. Despite the explosion of net-zero commitments across the economy, there’s been relatively little hue and cry by business for national leadership on climate issues. Quite the opposite: Most companies have stood by as the current administration dismantled existing climate policies, which must now be pieced back together. It won’t be easy or quick, but nothing less will do. And getting back to where we were in 2016 is only the beginning.
Elections are easy; governing is hard, particularly in this fractured age. But it’s heartening that the president-elect’s campaign website has a page dedicated to “a clean energy revolution and environmental justice.” It speaks to how addressing the climate crisis will lead to “a stronger, more resilient nation” as we take on “this grave threat.” It promises that “the development of solutions is an inclusive, community-driven process.”
These are words, not deeds, but they nonetheless represent a welcome turnaround from current policy. All of us will need to hold the new administration to account on those lofty aspirations. There will be lots of obstacles overcome, by all of us.
More to come on this. For now, it’s time to exhale, relax, savor the moment.
But only for a moment. It’s a new day. This is when the hard work actually begins.
NSW Sees Diminishing Role For Coal As Canada Plans To Phase Out Thermal Coal By 2030
5 years ago, the New South Wales treasury released an intergenerational report that projected the demand for coal would increase at about 1.6% a year pretty much forever. This year, the Treasury’s intergenerational report is completely different.
In a technical paper prepared for this year’s report, the NSW treasury says “global demand for coal is expected to weaken considerably. Declining global demand for coal will reduce New South Wales’ economic growth over the projection period and will have impacts both on employment and the fiscal outlook.”
“This does not necessarily mean that no coal will be used in the future — new coal generators continue to be built and net zero policies allow for offsets. Nonetheless, future coal production is now expected to be considerably weaker than was forecast for the 2016 intergenerational report”, the NSW treasury says.
drying up rapidly. Demand in those countries is down 80% since 2015. “We believe this is set to accelerate as the capital subsidies from export credit agency underwritings of new coal proposals have now largely been withdrawn,” the IEEFA says.
It adds the accelerating pace of the energy technology transition calls into question the wisdom of adding more coal supply by opening new mines or extending existing ones because new mining capacity steals market share from existing operations, which puts existing mining jobs at risk.
The price of Australian coal is up, but even that may not be good news. High coal prices will kill long term demand because they will make electricity from coal-fired generating stations more expensive compared to renewable energy, which is getting cheaper all the time.
Canada To End Thermal Coal By 2030
The government of Canada has reiterated its pledge to end the mining and use of thermal coal by 2030, a policy first announced in 2018. Environment minister Jonathan Wilkinson said last week that Canada will not approve new thermal coal mining projects or plans to expand existing mines because of the potential for environmental damage, according to a report by Reuters.
“The government considers that these projects are likely to cause unacceptable environmental effects within federal jurisdiction and are not aligned with Canada’s domestic and international climate change commitments,” Wilkinson said. “The continued mining and use of thermal coal for energy production in the world runs counter to what is needed to effectively combat climate change.”
The new policy will apply to the plans by Coalspur, a privately owned coal mining company, to expand an existing thermal coal mine in the western province of Alberta, a province that has staked its entire financial future on destroying the planet with emission from its tar sands oil, the dirtiest oil found anywhere on Earth.
In a press release, the Canadian government said, “The evidence is clear: the continued mining and use of thermal coal for energy production in the world runs counter to what is needed to effectively combat climate change and seize the economic opportunities that it presents. It is in this context that the Government has announced this policy today and will continue to work with Canadians to deliver strong climate action.”
“New thermal coal mining projects or expansions are not in line with the ambition Canadians want to see on climate, or with Canada’s domestic and international climate commitments. Eliminating coal-fired power and replacing it with cleaner sources is an essential part of the transition to a low carbon economy, and as a result, building new thermal coal mines for energy production is not sustainable,” Wilkinson added.
G7 Backs Away From Coal Statement
Meanwhile, at this year’s G7 economic summit in Brussels, the United States backed down from a pledge to push the world’s nations to end the use of thermal coal within the next decade, a commitment many nations were prepared to make before the conference began.
The softening of the US stance appears to be an attempt to appease Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, a state where coal had played a dominant role in politics for generations. Manchin is one of those “all of the above” people who sees a role for all fossil fuels for the foreseeable future, the climate crisis be damned.
“It’s very disappointing,” Jennifer Morgan, executive director of Greenpeace International, told the New York Times. “This was a moment when the G7 could have shown historic leadership, and instead they left a massive void.” The final conmuniqué from Brussels only mentioned a call to “rapidly scale up technologies and policies that further accelerate the transition away” from coal without the resort to carbon capture technology, which has failed to perform adequately at any coal fired generating station anywhere in the world as of yet.
“The G7 announcement on climate finance is really peanuts in the face of an existential catastrophe,” said Malik Amin Aslam, Pakistan’s climate minister. He called it a “huge disappointment” for his country and others that have been burdened with the cost of coping with extreme weather, displacement and other impacts of global warming attributable to economic policies of the world’s industrialized nations. “At the least, countries responsible for this inescapable crisis need to live up to their stated commitments, otherwise the climate negotiations could well end in futility,” he warned.
Talk about the tail wagging the dog. One US senator has used his influence to favor his campaign contributors among the fossil fuel industry and the whole world has to suffer as a result. It may be that the world somehow avoids making the Earth uninhabitable for humans but the foot dragging and platitudes from fossil fuel apologists are making that outcome less and less likely.
The only saving grace is that renewables become so cheap they drive all other sources of energy out of the marketplace. The question is whether that will happen in time to avert disaster. Will humanity save itself from its own destructive tendencies? “We’ll see,” said the Zen master.
Radio Flyer Is Growing Up With Its First Line Of Products Aimed At Adults
The Radio Flyer Little Red Wagon was a huge part of millions of American childhoods over the last 104 years, and it continues to be, today. That doesn’t mean the company is a one-trick pony, though — in recent years, folding cargo haulers, strollers, trikes, and kid-friendly kick-scooters have become a growing part of the company’s product line. Now, as the Gen Z kids who grew up riding Little Red Trikes enter adulthood, Chicago-based Radio Flyer is taking the next logical step with a line of e-bikes and electrified kick scooters aimed specifically at adult riders.
“We’ve inspired creative play for generations of families, so launching a line that offers adults a fun way to explore their world is a natural fit,” said Robert Pasin, Chief Wagon Officer at Radio Flyer. “This is a huge milestone for us, and truly demonstrates our determination to never stop innovating, even at a legacy brand like Radio Flyer.”
Radio Flyer e-Bikes
The new, fat-tired Radio Flyer e-bikes are available in two lengths — a standard “mid-frame” length, and a long-tail “cargo length” that’s suitable for carrying a pair of child seats. The bikes launch with a series of “thoughtfully designed accessories” ranging from child carriers to storage solutions.
Radio Flyer’s e-bikes feature a 500-watt rear hub motor and Flight Speed™ Lithium-Ion Battery with five levels of pedal assist, as well as a “throttle-only” (read: no-pedal) option. Not bad for a bike with a relatively low $1699 starting price tag!
Radio Flyer e-Scooters
The electric kick-scooters, or e-scooters, from Radio Flyer offer a similar sort of value. The scooters start at “just” $599, and have a “slim” design available in 3 colors — one of which is the classic Little Red, which is the one you want (obviously). The scooters’ batteries are good for over 15 miles per charge and a top speed of 16 MPH.
So, they’ve got an iconic name, a loyal fanbase, and a strong feature-per-dollar value proposition. What else could Radio Flyer possibly throw at this launch? How about a little Chicago star power? Radio Flyer teamed up with actress, producer, and mom, Tia Mowry. Mowry, best known for her role in Sister Sister, is active, playful, and a genuine fan of the brand. “There are very few products from my own childhood that my kids still enjoy today,” said Mowry, a mom of two. “Flyer is the perfect alternative to piling my family into the car, and I can’t wait to expand our own fleet of Radio Flyer products with new e-bikes.”
Tia Mowry on the Radio Flyer e-Bike
What do you guys think? Is this a great step forward for Radio Flyer, or should it be building electrified wheelbarrows or something to stay closer to the whole “wagon” thing? And, more importantly, are you a soulless, joyless monster if you don’t buy one of these in red? Scroll on down to the comments section and let us know!
Source | Images: Radio Flyer.
Waymo & J.B. Hunt Team Up To Bring Autonomous Freight Trucks To Texas
Autonomous driving technology company Waymo has teamed up with Arkansas-based transportation logistics company J.B. Hunt for a pilot project designed to test the use of Waymo’s autonomous driving in moving freight.
Texas has been selected as the state to trial the collaboration in. Waymo will use its Class 8 autonomous trucks to transport goods between Houston and Fort Worth via the Interstate 45 for one of J.B. Hunt’s customers. The Waymo Driver autonomous platform will be used to operate the truck, but the vehicle will not be totally unmanned – a commercially licensed truck driver, a Waymo software technician, and a Waymo autonomous driving specialist will be on board to oversee and monitor the operation.
The Waymo Driver platform is actually Level 4, meaning it can operate without needing a human safety driver – although only when the weather is good and only on certain routes. Of course, the ultimate goal is for Waymo to have driverless autonomous trucks zipping around the whole US, but this is some time away.
We first reported on Waymo’s intention to bring self-driving trucks to Texas last year, and it seems this is that intention coming to fruition. This pilot project is seen as the first major step in making the Waymo Driver platform commercially viable. In a statement, Charlie Jatt, Waymo’s Head of Commercialization for Trucking, said: “We’re thrilled to collaborate with J.B. Hunt as we advance and commercialize the Waymo Driver. Our teams share an innovative and safety-first mindset as well as a deep appreciation for the potential benefits of autonomous driving technology in trucking. It’s companies and relationships like these that will make this technology a commercial reality in the coming years.”
Waymo already has an autonomous taxi service in operation. It had a successful launch in Phoenix, Arizona last year, although there was some controversy due to one of its self-driving taxis going rogue in Chandler, Arizona last month. It seems there are still some kinks to be ironed out – the road to fully autonomous vehicles becoming commonplace is very long and quite bumpy.
Looking ahead to the potential expansion of the new collaboration in Texas with J.B. Hunt, it’s clear that there will be advantages of this technology for freight companies. Unlike human drivers, autonomous vehicles do not suffer from fatigue and can drive non-stop. Autonomous vehicles will also arguably be safer in the long-term due to the elimination of human error.
This could be bad news for truck drivers – but not just yet. Craig Harper, Chief Sustainability Officer at J.B. Hunt, said: “While we believe there will be a need for highly skilled, professional drivers for many years to come, it is important for J.B. Hunt as an industry leader to be involved early in the development of advanced autonomous technologies and driving systems to ensure that their implementation will improve efficiency while enhancing safety.”
Oh, So They Do Make Electric Trucks After All
The boo birds were on the attack earlier this spring, when the US Postal Service announced plans to convert most of its crumbling, fire-prone fleet of more than 230,000 old gasmobiles to new gasmobiles, with just a small fraction reserved for electric trucks. Adding insult to injury, the new fleet contract was awarded to the firm Oshkosh Defense, which critics have charged has less EV experience than other contenders. Well, the contract is still a target for critics, but suddenly the prospects for an all-electric Postal Service fleet are looking brighter.
What Happened To All The Electric Trucks?
Postmaster General Louis DeJoy was only in office for a few months before accusations of financial conflicts and elections interference landed him in the doghouse last year. The heat turned up this spring when he announced plans to not electrify the Postal Service fleet.
On February 23, DeJoy outlined an initial installment of $482 million on a $6 billion contract for Oshkosh “to manufacture a new generation of U.S.-built postal delivery vehicles that will drive the most dramatic modernization of the USPS fleet in three decades.” The contract called for 50,000 to 165,000 vehicles to be delivered over a 10-year span beginning in 2023, which will be equipped “with either fuel-efficient internal combustion engines or battery electric powertrains and can be retrofitted to keep pace with advances in electric vehicle technologies.”
Despite the wiggle room for ICE technology, that actually seemed fairly promising in terms of ushering in a smooth transition to electric trucks, until DeJoy explained that the initial projection was for only 10% electric vehicles.
On the heels of a tsunami of criticism, on March 23 DeJoy unveiled a service-wide modernization plan that stipulated 100% fleet electrification by 2035. That pace is still less than optimal, and some members of Congress are pushing to accelerate the EV timeline by providing more money for purchasing more electric trucks more quickly.
They Make EV Batteries, After All
Part of the initial of the Oshkosh contract criticism stemmed from a report in Bloomberg on March 10, which indicated that Oshkosh Corp. raised concerns about the company’s EV expertise in a securities filing last November. The report also noted that Oshkosh executives downplayed those concerns in a January 2021 earnings call, telling investors that their plans for the Postal Service fleet covered both ICE and electric trucks, along with retrofit potential.
It seems that Oshkosh had a good reason to be more confident this year than last year.
On June 9, Oshkosh Corp. announced the delivery of its first electric fire truck and unveiled its new Volterra™ electric platform, which was developed by its subsidiary Pierce Manufacturing.
“The first Pierce® Volterra zero-emissions pumper has been placed on duty with the City of Madison Fire Department in Wisconsin, making this the first electric fire truck in service in North America. The Volterra pumper is serving front line duty at Station 8, the City of Madison’s busiest fire station, supporting a population of over 250,000,” Oshkosh enthused.
In the announcement, Oshkosh emphasized that the new electric trucks build on the company’s decades-long experience in electrification, beginning with an electric boom lift in the 1990s through its JLG Industries branch.
Oshkosh plans to use the Volterra platform across its Fire & Emergency division. Next up is the Volterra hybrid Striker® aircraft rescue and firefighting vehicle, which will be touring airports around the country this summer.
More Electric Trucks For The US Postal Service
Oshkosh also appeared to leverage the new announcement to allay concerns about its ability to design specialized electric vehicles for any customer, including the US Postal Service.
“Category leading innovations, developed with direct input from our customers, is a hallmark of our Company,” said Oshkosh EVP and President for Fire & Emergency, Jim Johnson.
“Our electric vehicles designed around Oshkosh Corporation’s proprietary and patented technologies will provide the environmental benefits fire departments request, without compromising on the leading-edge operational performance, functionality, safety attributes, customization, or the traditional configurations and styling customers expect from our fire apparatus,” he added.
As applied to fire trucks, the meat of the Pierce Volterra platform is an “Oshkosh patented parallel-electric drivetrain featuring an electro-mechanical infinitely variable transmission allows zero-emissions operation when powered by the integrated onboard batteries.”
The electric trucks are designed to operate on on 100% electric power under normal conditions. If an extended emergency kicks in, ICE technology will take over. After all, better safe than sorry.
Electric Trucks By Any Other Name Are Still Electric
Some day in the sparkling green future, battery technology will improve to the point where an ICE backup is not necessary for specialty vehicles. Until then, fuel efficiency and biofuels can help cut emissions for heavy duty vehicles over the near term. That’s another area in which some interesting developments may be on the horizon for the US Postal Service, considering its reliance on long haul trucks.
Oshkosh Defense already has a hybrid system called ProPulse under its belt, which consists of a fuel efficient diesel engine that powers an all-axle electric drive. The Energy Department’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory helped to finance a starter version of the hybrid electric technology back in 2003, with the aim of cutting emissions from garbage trucks. Oshkosh has demonstrated the system on its 35,000 pound Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Truck for the US Army, claiming a 20%-35% fuel savings over conventional technology depending on speed.
The truck also features on-board energy storage, which can be deployed to power stationary facilities like airfields and hospitals. Back in 2010 Oshkosh demonstrated the energy storage system on the Phalanx truck-mounted missile interceptor system, so there’s that. The US Postal Service might not ever need a Phalanx truck-mounted missile system, but mobile sorting equipment and other devices might come in handy.
Another other option is fuel cell technology. Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles have been struggling in the passenger car market, but the heavy duty usage field has picked up the torch. A growing number of manufacturers are dipping into the technology for buses and long haul trucks as well as aircraft, watercraft, and locomotives.
The Postal Service has a history in electric mobility that dates back to 1899. No, really! The attention shifted massively over to compressed natural gas after the Energy Policy Act of 1992, but it looks like interest in fuel cell technology picked up around 2005.
In 2018 the Postal Service piloted a fuel cell conversion system for electric trucks. The project was supported by the US Department of Energy and yielded promising results in terms of reducing emissions, though one of the lessons learned appears to be that fuel cell electric trucks should be designed from scratch rather than trying to retrofit fuel cells onto existing vehicles.
Also, in 2017, our friends over at Plug Power revved up a five-year fuel cell truck contract with the US Postal Service, so it appears the Post Office may already have a few other tricks up its zero emission sleeve in addition to battery-powered vehicles.
The big question now is how fast the Postal Service can cut emissions, considering that catastrophic global warming is looming right around the corner and impacts are already occurred in parts of the world.
That’s up to members of Congress, who control the purse strings and enact the policies. President Biden is sticking to his climate action guns along with almost every Democrat, but almost every Republican member of Congress is aligned with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has vowed to put the freeze on Biden’s plans for, well, just about everything. Game on!
Follow me on Twitter @TinaMCasey.
Photo: Electric fire truck (cropped) courtesy of Oshkosh Corp.
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