Tag Archives: Save

China and the Children Will Save Electric Cars From the EPA
March 31, 2018 6:00 am|Comments (0)

Efforts to put cleaner cars on American roads are being threatened. In a few days, The New York Times reports, the Environmental Protection Agency will move to weaken the regulations that demand automakers producer cleaner and more efficient vehicles.

The existing standards, which Barack Obama pushed for in 2012, demand each automaker nearly double the average fuel efficiency of its cars, to deliver 36 miles per gallon. But before President Donald Trump, EPA head Scott Pruitt, or anyone else can knock that number down, they must tangle with California. The state had rules to battle govern tailpipe emissions before a 1970 amendment to the Clean Air Act gave the EPA the authority to govern vehicle efficiency. Because of its early bird status, and especially grave pollution problem at the time, Congress gave California the unusual right to keep making its own regulations, even though federal rules should supersede state ones. No other state can do this, but they may opt to follow California’s rules, which tend to be more stringent than whatever Washington drums up. Today, 13 states and Washington DC do so.

Together, those states (which, unsurprisingly, cover most of the East and West Coasts) account for a third of the American car market. So automakers have long built vehicles that meet California’s tougher rules. It may sound like a pain, but it’s cheaper than building two versions of every car—the cleanish one for most of the country, and the cleaner one for the folks who like their air salty but clean. And so lowering the national standards is only effective if you can get California to lower its too.

Pruitt, a climate change skeptic, has signaled he’s ready—and right—to wrestle the grizzly bear. “California is not the arbiter of these issues,” he told Bloomberg this month. But four decades of legal precedent don’t vanish without a fight, certainly not quickly. “We’re prepared to do everything we need to defend the process,” the state’s attorney general, Xavier Becerra, told the Times.

Okay, but say Pruitt gets his way, California loses its special status, and automakers no longer have to meet such tough efficiency and emissions standards. First off, don’t expect coal rolling poor Prius drivers to become the new national sport. “We’re not gonna go sliding back to the gas guzzling 80s,” says Rebecca Lindland, an industry analyst with Kelley Blue Book. That’s because automakers plan years ahead. They have already spent the money developing the turbochargers, lightweight materials, low resistance tires, and other tech they need to meet the current rules. They’re not going to change their carefully laid plans now.

That’ll keep the fumes away for a few more years, at least. But there’s better news for anybody worried about driving the Earth into climatic disaster: The electric cars—the ones that make the entire notion of miles per gallon outdated, the emission zero heroes—are still coming, thanks to two parties: China, and the millennials.

Let’s start with China. The country is already the world’s largest car market, buying about 23 million vehicles a year, and its appetite is growing by about five percent year over year, according to a McKinsey report. For automakers who have already flooded American streets with their wares, fresh territory is a vital resource. “The US [luxury] market in my view is going to remain relatively stagnant. It won’t decline, but it won’t grow,” Cadillac head Johan de Nysschen said this week at the New York International Auto Show. “The Chinese market, in the next 10 years, is going to triple.”

And China—where pollution is a serious problem—insists that any automaker doing business within its borders sell lots and lots of electric cars. That’s a big part of the reason why General Motors plans to roll out 20 new fully electric cars by 2023 and Ford is putting $ 11 billion into building 16 new models by 2022. Volvo is making its entire fleet “electrified” (a term that includes hybrids), and even Jaguar Land Rover, which debuted its first all-electric car just last year, says that by 2020, it will offer electric or hybrid versions of every car it makes. In an increasingly globalized industry, you can expect to see those models hit US and European shores as well—the more of each they sell, the faster automakers can amortize heavy R&D costs.

And the youths will help the process along. Right now, Lindland says, “the push to develop and deploy electric vehicles has been driven by regulations…consumers are not demanding these products.” Forcing people to change their habits—where, when, and how they fuel their vehicles—is hard. But that could change with the generation just now learning to drive. “I think people born after 2003 are those who will demand electrification,” Lindland says. “Those who haven’t bought a car yet. It’s not even a conversion.” Indeed, she says, that may help along China’s push for battery-powered cars. “They have more first time buyers at their disposal.”

Automakers play a very long game, and they know this new generation is coming. “As we see more millennials coming into the marketplace, companies are looking to strike a more efficient picture,” says Carla Bailo, CEO of the Center for Automotive Research. That means more electric cars, fewer emissions, and cleaner air.

So millennials—the kids who kill everything—along with whatever generation comes next, just might save the planet.



Posted in: Cloud Computing|Tags: , , , , ,
Can Machines Save Us From the the Machines?
February 17, 2018 6:02 pm|Comments (0)

Is it just me or is the cyber landscape getting more scary? Even as companies and consumers get better at playing defense, a host of new cyber threats is at our doorsteps—and it’s unclear if anyone can keep them out.

My doom-and-gloom stems from the dire predictions of Aviv Ovadya, the technologist who predicted the fake news epidemic, and now fears an “information apocalypse” as the trolls turbo-charge their efforts with AI. He points to the impending arrival of “laser phishing” in which bots will perfectly impersonate people we know by scraping publicly available images and social media data. The result could be the complete demolition of an already-crumbling distinction between fact and fiction.

Meanwhile, the phenomenon of crypto-jacking—in which hackers hijack your computer to mine digital currency—has quickly morphed from a novelty to a big league threat. Last week, for instance, hackers used browser plug-ins to install malignant mining tools on a wide range of court and government websites, which in turn caused site visitors to become part of the mining effort.

The use of browser plug-ins to launch such attacks is part of a familiar strategy by hackers—treating third parties (in this case the plug-ins) as the weakest link in the security chain, and exploiting them. Recall, for instance, how hackers didn’t attack Target’s computer systems directly, but instead wormed their way in through a third party payment provider. The browser-based attacks feel more troubling, though, because they take place right on our home computers.

All of this raises the question of how we’re supposed to defend ourselves against this next generation of threats. One option is to cross our fingers that new technologies—perhaps Microsoft’s blockchain-based ID systems—will help defeat phishing and secure our browsers. But it’s also hard, in an age when our machines have run amok, to believe more machines are the answer.

For a different approach, I suggest putting down your screen for a day and picking up How to Fix the Future. It’s a new book by Andrew Keen, a deep thinker on Silicon Valley culture, that proposes reconstructing our whole approach to the Internet by putting humans back at the center of our technology. Featuring a lot of smart observations by Betaworks founder John Borthwick, the book could help us fight off Ovadya’s information apocalypse.

Have a great weekend.

Jeff John Roberts



Welcome to the Cyber Saturday edition of Data Sheet, Fortune’s daily tech newsletter. You may reach Robert Hackett via Twitter, Cryptocat, Jabber (see OTR fingerprint on my about.me), PGP encrypted email (see public key on my Keybase.io), Wickr, Signal, or however you (securely) prefer. Feedback welcome.


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Detroit’s New Streetcar Is OK, But It Can’t Save a City
August 16, 2017 11:25 am|Comments (0)

Detroit’s New Streetcar Is OK, But It Can’t Save a City

The limits of public transit in a city that needs much more. The post Detroit’s New Streetcar Is OK, But It Can’t Save a City appeared first on WIRED.

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How The U.S. Military’s Tech Is Going Green To Save Lives
March 8, 2017 10:30 am|Comments (0)

Refueling a destroyer or any other large piece of military hardware is incredibly dangerous because it leaves troops very vulnerable to attack, especially if it requires a huge convoy. U.S. troops have lost their lives trying refuel vessels that are ultra-dependent on oil. The Department of Defense knows this, and as…

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Sharks Can Sense Electricity, and That Might Save Them from Extinction
November 4, 2015 5:05 pm|Comments (0)

Anyone who has ever gone fishing knows that you don’t always catch what you’re trying to catch. In industrial fishing, that problem is called “bycatch,” and it can have grave consequences.

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