Toyota Pressured to “Dial Back” Its Defense of Hybrids as a Practical Bridge to EVs

(p. B2) Mr. Toyoda, Toyota’s chief, has been one of the industry’s most prominent voices of caution about EVs. He has questioned whether the vehicles are as environmentally friendly as advertised and expressed doubt that consumers want them.

Toyota has said it believes hybrids can reduce carbon emissions while the battery supply chains and charging networks necessary to support big fleets of EVs are built globally over the coming decades. Hybrid cars—which made up nearly 30% of Toyota and Lexus global shipments for the most recent quarter—are helping the auto maker meet tightening emissions rules in markets like Europe.

Demand for hybrids also helped Toyota reach a record operating profit of ¥3 trillion, equivalent to $21 billion, for the fiscal year ended in March. Its stock price on the Tokyo Stock Exchange has held up reasonably well, down 9% this year, while other auto makers have suffered steeper declines.

Mr. Toyoda has been trying to understand why some investors and environmental groups remain unconvinced about the company’s electrification strategy.

. . .

People at Toyota said company executives have been advised by public-relations specialists and others in the company to dial back negative comments about EVs and instead highlight their benefits as well as Toyota’s extensive investments in the technology.

Sage Advisory Services, an investment management firm in Austin, Texas, that holds Toyota bonds, said it has sensed a shift in rhetoric.

Sage Advisory had approached the car maker last year with concerns about its EV stance, to which Toyota responded with its usual arguments, including about hybrid cars, said Sage Vice President Emma Harper. She said the points made sense to her but were hard for the general public to grasp.

More recently, she said, Toyota has “flipped over and they’ve felt the change in the tide and how consumers and politicians and other stakeholders are feeling about the transition away from fossil-fuel cars.”

For the full story, see:

River Davis. “Toyota Aims to Face Critics of Its EV Policies.” The Wall Street Journal (Monday, Sept. 26, 2022): B1-B2.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date September 25, 2022, and has the title “Toyota Softens Toward Critics of Its EV Push.” Where the versions differ, the quotes above follow the more detailed online version.)

Entrepreneurs Harvest Useful Protein Collagens From “Precision Fermentation” Rather Than From Slaughter of Animals

(p. B4) The multibillion-dollar push to make animals obsolete in the food industry has already produced pea-protein “bratwurst,” fungus molded into “ham” and “leather,” and “meat” cultured from chicken cells. Geltor, a seven-year-old company based in the Bay Area, is taking a different tack: bioengineering bacteria cells to produce animal proteins you’ll likely never taste.

Geltor is producing forms of collagen they say are identical to the proteins extracted from skin and bones. For now, those vegan collagens can be found in high-end skin care creams. But as the company grows, it’s eyeing other ingredients few Americans associate with animal farming, such as the elastin in your shampoo, the collagen peptides in your smoothie, and even the gelatin (which is hydrolyzed, or slightly broken-down, collagen) in your marshmallows. Alex Lorestani, co-founder and chief executive of Geltor, likes to talk about how the company’s proteins impose a lighter burden on the environment than the meat industry. The challenge, however, is how the company gets to the scale necessary to exert that kind of impact.

In 2012, Dr. Lorestani and co-founder Nick Ouzounov, both 35, were both pursuing doctorates in molecular biology at Princeton University when the invention of Crispr turbocharged the field of bio-design. “We can bio-design medicine,” Dr. Lorestani recalled discussing with his labmates that summer. “Why can’t we bio-design everything?”

Dr. Ouzounov eventually came up with a method — which he and Dr. Lorestani, in typical Bay Area techspeak, call “a platform” — for genetically modifying bacteria cells to reproduce a wide variety of animal proteins, a process that biotech firms are calling “precision fermentation.” In 2015, the two scientists formed Geltor.

For the full story, see:

Jonathan Kauffman. “Going Beyond Vegan ‘Meat’ to Bio-Designed Collagen.” The New York Times (Wednesday, August 3, 2022): B4.

(Note: the online version of the story has the date August 2, 2022, and has the title “Is Bio-Designed Collagen the Next Step in Animal Protein Replacement?”)

Chargers for Electric Vehicles “Are Often Broken”

(p. B1) The electric vehicle revolution is nearly here, but its arrival is being slowed by a fundamental problem: The chargers where people refuel these cars are often broken. One recent study found that about a quarter of the public charging outlets in the San Francisco Bay Area, where electric cars are commonplace, were not working.

. . .

Many sit in parking lots or in (p. B3) front of retail stores where there is often no one to turn to for help when something goes wrong. Problems include broken screens and buggy software. Some stop working midcharge, while others never start in the first place.

Some frustrated drivers say the problems have them second-guessing whether they can fully abandon gas vehicles, especially for longer trips.

“Often, those fast chargers have real maintenance issues,” said Ethan Zuckerman, a professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst who has owned a Chevrolet Bolt for several years. “When they do, you very quickly find yourself in pretty dire straits.”

In the winter of 2020, Mr. Zuckerman was commuting about 150 miles each way to a job at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The cold winter weather can reduce the driving range of electric cars, and Mr. Zuckerman found himself needing a charge on the way home.

He checked online and found a station, but when he pulled up to it, the machine was broken. Another across the street was out, too, he said. In desperation, Mr. Zuckerman went to a nearby gas station and persuaded a worker there to run an extension cord to his car.

“I sat there for two and a half hours in the freezing cold, getting enough charge so that I could limp to the town of Lee, Mass., and then use another charger,” he said. “It was not a great night.”

The availability and reliability of public chargers remains a problem even now, he said.

. . .

There are few rigorous studies of charging stations, but one conducted this year by Cool the Earth, an environmental nonprofit in California, and David Rempel, a retired professor of bioengineering at the University of California, Berkeley, found that 23 percent of 657 public charging stations in the Bay Area were broken. The most common problems were that testers could not get chargers to accept payment or initiate a charge. In other cases, screens went blank, were not responsive or displayed error messages.

“Here we have actual field data, and the results, frankly, were very concerning,” said Carleen Cullen, executive director of Cool the Earth.

. . .

At most gas stations, a clerk is usually on duty and can see when some problems arise. With chargers, vandalism or other damage can be more difficult to track.

“Where there’s a screen, there’s a baseball bat,” said Jonathan Levy, EVgo’s chief commercial officer.

For the full story, see:

Niraj Chokshi. “E.V. Hassle: Locating A Charger That Works.” The New York Times (Tuesday, August 16, 2022): B1 & B3.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the same date as the print version, and has the title “A Frustrating Hassle Holding Electric Cars Back: Broken Chargers.”)

Israel’s “Bold’ Creativity Yields Wine from Negev Desert

(p. A4) As growers in more established wine-producing areas of Europe and elsewhere in the world battle unpredictable, extreme weather, including scorching heat waves, Israelis have found themselves at the vanguard of dry-weather wine production, testing approaches that might soon find more global application.

And the work is being done in the Negev, home to hundreds of technology start-ups and a futuristic solar tower — and long a laboratory for experimentation in Israel.

“It is in the Negev that the creativity and pioneering vigor of Israel shall be tested,” read an inscription on the cafe’s wall — an iconic quote from David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s founding prime minister, who lived out his last years about 50 yards away, in an austere wooden cabin.

. . .

“To succeed in the Negev, you have to be bold and experiment,” said David Pinto, a vintner who planted his family plot with vines about three years ago.

. . .

With some 325 days of sunshine and little annual rainfall, the desert vines depend on drip irrigation, an innovation developed by another Negev collective in the 1960s that allows the farmer to tightly control the amount of water.

Desert vineyards also come with some natural advantages.

At night the temperatures drop steeply, even in midsummer, benefiting the vines. With low humidity, the Negev vines are exposed to few pests and fungi and require little pesticide spraying, making much of the wine production close to organic.

While artificial irrigation is frowned upon in traditional winegrowing regions in Europe, and is even banned in some locales, it may become more of a necessity.

And in a global wine industry that must adapt to climate change, Israel could be a role model, said Aaron Fait, an expert in desert research and agriculture at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.

For the full story, see:

Isabel Kershner. “An Unexpected Vintage Grows in Israel’s Negev Desert.” The New York Times (Wednesday, September 7, 2022): A4.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the same date as the print version, and has the title “Desert Winemaking ‘Sounds Absurd,’ but Israeli Vineyards in Negev Show the Way.”)

Senate Cedes Sovereignty on Air Conditioning HFC Regulation

(p. A17) WASHINGTON — The Senate voted on Wednesday to approve an international climate treaty for the first time in 30 years, agreeing in a rare bipartisan deal to phase out of the use of planet-warming industrial chemicals commonly found in refrigerators and air-conditioners.

. . .

Many American manufacturers had a business incentive to support the amendment. Under the pact, nations that do not ratify the amendment will have restricted access to expanding international markets starting in 2033.

Some Republicans from states with many chemical manufacturers supported the Kigali deal.

. . .

Americans for Prosperity, a political action committee founded by the billionaire Koch brothers, sent a letter to lawmakers last week saying that ratifying the Kigali Amendment would be an “abdication of U.S. sovereignty over environmental regulation” to the United Nations. The group also argued it would raise the price of air-conditioning, refrigeration and industrial cooling for American consumers.

For the full story, see:

Lisa Friedman and Coral Davenport. “Senate Ratifies Global Pact to Curb HFCs, Used in Cooling.” The New York Times (Thursday, September 22, 2022): A17.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Sept. 21, 2022, and has the title “Senate Ratifies Pact to Curb a Broad Category of Potent Greenhouse Gases.” Where there is a minor difference between the online and print versions, the passages quoted above follow the online version.)

Netherlands Dairy Farmers “No Longer Allowed To Exist” Due to “Climate Tyranny”

(p. 6) WOUDENBERG, Netherlands — The dairy farmers of the Netherlands have had enough.

They have set fire to hay and manure along highways, dumped trash on roads to create traffic jams, and blockaded food distribution centers with their tractors, leading to empty shelves in supermarkets. Across the country, upside down flags wave from farmhouses in protest.

The anger of the farmers is directed at the government, which has announced plans for a national 50 percent reduction of nitrogen emissions by 2030, in line with European Union requirements to preserve protected nature reserves, that they believe unfairly targets them. Factories and cars also emit large amounts of nitrogen and have not been targeted, they say, although the government said that cuts associated with both polluters would be addressed in the future.

Agriculture is responsible for the largest share of nitrogen emissions in the Netherlands, much of it from the waste produced by the estimated 1.6 million cows that provide the milk used to make the country’s famed cheeses, like Gouda and Edam.

To realize those planned cuts, thousands of farmers will be required to significantly reduce livestock numbers and the size of their farming operations. If they cannot meet the cuts the government demands of them, they may be forced to close their operations altogether.

The Dutch government has set aside about 25 billion euros, about $26 billion, to carry out its plan, and some of that money will be used to help farmers build more sustainable operations — or buy them out, if possible.

“My livelihood and my network is being threatened,” said Ben Apeldoorn, whose farm in the province of Utrecht has about 120 cows producing milk for making cheese. “You’re just no longer allowed to exist,” said Mr. Apeldoorn, 52, who has been a farmer for 30 years.

. . .

Prime Minister Mark Rutte, who this month became the country’s longest-serving prime minister and has grappled with what is known in the Netherlands as “the nitrogen crisis,” has condemned the protests, calling them “unacceptable.”

. . .

Helma Breunissen, 47, a dairy farmer who with her husband also runs a veterinarian’s office, attended one of the meetings with Mr. Rutte to make her anger known.

“If half of the cattle needs to disappear, then my veterinary’s office will also end,” Ms. Breunissen said by telephone. “I don’t want a bag of money from the government, I just want to do my job.”

. . .

While many Dutch support the aims of a greener Netherlands, some right-wing groups have expressed support for the Dutch farmers as a way of opposing climate activism. The right-wing Forum for Democracy has declared that “there is no climate crisis” and opposes the government’s plans.

And the Dutch farmers have also received some support from abroad.

“Farmers in the Netherlands — of all places — are courageously opposing the climate tyranny of the Dutch government, can you believe it?” former President Donald J. Trump said at a rally last month.

For the full story, see:

Claire Moses. “Emission Cuts in the Netherlands Have Dairy Farmers Up in Arms.” The New York Times, First Section (Sunday, August 21, 2022): 6.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Aug. 20, 2022, and has the title “Dairy Farmers in the Netherlands Are Up in Arms Over Emission Cuts.” Where there is a minor difference between the online and print versions, the passages quoted above follow the online version.)

Climate-Driven “Inflation Reduction Act” Costs $369 Billion and Cuts Emissions by Only 8 Percent

(p. A17) Top administration officials are fanning out across the U.S. in a victory lap for the new Inflation Reduction Act, which President Biden calls “the most significant legislation in history to tackle the climate crisis.” America, we are told, is a global climate leader again. This narrative has serious problems.

The foremost issue is that the act will have a trivial impact on climate change. The Biden administration claims the law will enable the U.S. to reduce carbon emissions in 2030 by around 40% below 2005 levels. This is less than the 50% reduction Mr. Biden promised only last year, but it still sounds impressive. One major wrinkle: Most of that cut has nothing to do with the Inflation Reduction Act.

Unlike most other nations on the planet, the U.S. has substantially reduced its carbon emissions over the past 15 years. This is largely owing to the fracking revolution that replaced a lot of America’s coal with natural gas, which is cheaper and cleaner. Even without the new law, the U.S. was on track to cut emissions substantially by 2030, according to research by the Rhodium Group. Averaging their high and low emission predictions, the U.S. would drop emissions by almost 30% absent the new law. With the new law, emissions will decline instead by a little over 37%. The “most significant legislation in history” will actually cut emissions by less than eight percentage points.

. . .

Given the $369 billion price tag on the act’s climate policies, it’s hard to imagine the Inflation Reduction Act surviving a Republican majority. It might not even survive sustained Democratic rule.

. . .

The cost of the act also belies the oft-repeated claim that green technologies are already cheaper than fossil-fuel alternatives. If they were, they wouldn’t need enormous subsidies.

For the full commentary, see:

Bjorn Lomborg. “The Inflation Reduction Act Does Little to Reduce Climate Change.” The Wall Street Journal (Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2022): A17.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date August 23, 2022, and has the same title as the print version.)

“Little Evidence” That San Francisco Is Losing Its Cool Due to Global Warming

(p. 14) Longtime residents of San Francisco have grown weary of explaining to out-of-town visitors that July and August can be fairly cold in the city. Some San Franciscans live in dread of hearing, again, the apocryphal Mark Twain quotation about the coldest winter of the author’s life being a summer in San Francisco.

Now, though, in a time of punishing summer heat waves, when weather maps urgently flash red across the country, the city is reassessing what was once seen as a liability: its chilly Pacific breezes and fog.

. . .

San Francisco’s summer fog and cool breezes are created by a complex interaction between the atmosphere and ocean, a process that pumps cold water from the depths to the surface and acts as an air-conditioner, according to Patrick Brown, a Bay Area climate scientist at the Breakthrough Institute, a nonprofit organization.

The long-term effects of climate change on San Francisco’s cool summers are unclear, Mr. Brown said, but there is little evidence that the weather systems that keep the city cooler than inland areas will radically change any time soon. In other words, summers in San Francisco are likely to remain crisp and refreshing for many years to come.

For the full story, see:

Thomas Fuller and Holly Secon. “As Most Spots Swelter, San Francisco Is Chill(y).” The New York Times, First Section (Sunday, August 28, 2022): 14.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date August 27, 2022, and has the title ‘Come for the Golden Gate Bridge and Cable Cars. Stay for the Summer Shivers.”)

After Defending Nuclear Power, Green German Energy Minister Is Popular in Polls

(p. A8) BERLIN — Germany will keep two of its three remaining nuclear power plants operational as an emergency reserve for its electricity supply, its energy minister announced on Monday [Sept. 5, 2022], delaying the country’s plans to become the first industrial power to go nuclear-free for its energy.

. . .

. . . the decision to extend the life of it nuclear reactors is one of the most symbolic, if not consequential, the government has taken, breaking a political taboo as it tries to show that it is doing all it can to alleviate the crisis. The government said it made the decision based on a series of stress tests playing out worst-case energy scenarios.

. . .

. . . even as he has led his party into sacrificing nearly all of its sacred cows, Mr. Habeck has become one of the most popular politicians in Germany. In polls, he now regularly receives higher ratings than the chancellor.

“We are doing everything that is necessary,” said Mr. Habeck said.

For the full story, see:

Erika Solomon and Melissa Eddy. “As Energy Crisis Worsens, Germany Extends Life of Two Nuclear Reactors.” The New York Times (Tuesday, September 6, 2022): A8.

(Note: ellipses, and bracketed date, added.)

(Note: the online version has the date Sept. 5, 2022, and has the title “Breaking Taboo, Germany Extends Life of 2 Nuclear Reactors.” The online version of the article says that the print version of the article had the title “Germany Extends Life of Two Reactors” but my national print edition of the NYT had the longer title “As Energy Crisis Worsens, Germany Extends Life of Two Nuclear Reactors.”)

Before Ian, 2022 Was a “Quiet” Year for Hurricanes

Before hurricane Ian, the NYT was reporting that this was a quiet year for hurricanes. Now, after Ian, some environmentalists are saying that Ian is evidence that global warming is causing hurricanes to increase in number and severity. This in the name of “science”?

(p. A14) It has been a hurricane season without hurricanes.

. . .

Last month was the first August in 25 years without a named storm in the Atlantic Ocean. No hurricanes have made landfall this year in the United States.

For the full story, see:

Rick Rojas. “Quiet Year for Hurricanes Is Bringing Little Comfort Along Louisiana’s Coast.” The New York Times (Tuesday, September 6, 2022): A14.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version has the date Sept. 5, 2022, and has the title “On the Gulf Coast, a Quiet Hurricane Season (So Far!) Brings Little Relief.”)

Flexible Entrepreneurial Rancher Uses Beavers “As Furry Weapons of Climate Resilience” to Create Water Storage

(p. A1) As global warming intensifies droughts, floods and wildfires, Mr. Smith has become one of a growing number of ranchers, scientists and other “beaver believers” who see the creatures not only as helpers, but as furry weapons of climate resilience.

Last year, when Nevada suffered one of the worst droughts on record, beaver pools kept his cattle with enough water. When rains came strangely hard and fast, the vast network of dams slowed a torrent of water raging down the mountain, protecting his hay crop. And with the beavers’ help, creeks have widened into wetlands that run through the sagebrush desert, cleaning water, birthing new meadows and creating a buffer against wildfires.

. . .

(p. A15) . . . Mr. Smith decided to try a different approach to cattle management, moving them around his land and letting them spend less time around the creeks. That allowed shrubs and trees to grow in along the banks, making the whole area more stable. Eventually, if the beaver dams did give way, they would do so at the center, and the surge of water would stay in the channel.

. . .

Part of what has made the partnership successful is Mr. Smith’s flexibility. For example, beavers have completely rerouted one section of creek. But Mr. Smith doesn’t see the change as good or bad, “just different.” The most important thing, he said, is how much water they’re storing on the land.

Now more than ever, he said, “water is liquid gold.”

For the full story, see:

Catrin Einhorn and Niki Chan Wylie. “A Nevada Rancher Made a Truce With Beavers, and It Paid Off.” The New York Times (Tuesday, September 6, 2022): A1 & A15.

(Note: ellipses, and bracketed year, added.)

(Note: the online version was updated Sept. 14, 2022, and has the title “It Was War. Then, a Rancher’s Truce With Some Pesky Beavers Paid Off.”)