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News: Archive for March, 2012

General Motors Chairman Dan Akerson in San Francisco

Saturday, March 24th, 2012

March 7, 2012 San Francisco.

GM CEO Dan Akerson
General Motors Chairman Dan Akerson

General Motors CEO and Chairman Dan Akerson appeared at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco for an interview with Greg Dalton of Climate One.

This video excerpt features Akerson’s comments on many topics, including energy efficiency improvements in the GM line, lithium batteries, climate change, the Heartland Institute, and his personal views on military deployments.

“The first time I was interviewed by the press I was stunned with the following reaction, the guy says do you believe in global warming and I said ‘well ya I do’. Several GM executives says ‘you don’t say that in public’…I think it’s actually healthy to have different points of view and perspectives around the table”

Also see the full length Commonwealth Club version

Select excerpts:

00:48 “I remember President Obama, when I was in private equity, in I think in an unguarded statement of exasperation with the whole industry I guess and at the depth of the recession said “Why can’t they build a car like the Corolla?”, well we did. The best selling compact car in America today is the Cruise, Chevy Cruise,…. and it makes about forty miles per gallon.”

01:42 “We sold as many Volts in the first year as Toyota sold Priuses in their first year. I mean sometimes you have to be a pioneer to do the right thing and kinda shape and mold our own future, so we’ll make investments where we thing the long term future is in our interest.”

GM CEO Dan Akerson
“There are economic laws just like there are physical laws, and one of them is you don’t tax production – you tax consumption if you want to impact behavior” ~ Dan Akerson

07:46 “This is the new GM, and rather than sit in the corner and be obstreperous. We want to be part of the solution, we don’t not want to be part of the problem. We live in this country. I have grandchildren and children, and I want them to inherit a better earth than we did.”

Fuel Efficiency and Cleaner Energy
08:55 “We are pushing everything on cleaner energy, more fuel efficient. We have many cars now that are EPA rated at 40 and above, 42. The new Eco Cruise is at 42. We’re coming out with a clean diesel next year for the Cruise. The collator impact, positive impact of all our work on Volt. We’re putting in what we call e-assist on Trucks, we’re putting ‘em on midsized sedans and small cars. For example, the new next generation – if you really want a good car that’ll get good mileage – is the new Malibu that’s coming out. I mean this car has just gotten rave reviews. And we put a battery string in the back. In a congested city like San Francisco, or make any big city in America, we estimate that one in every five minutes your sitting still, or in traffic or a stoplight. Well, you go to, you’ve got your 12 volt battery that’ll run your radio and everything else, but we go to a string of lithium ion batteries in your trunk, and your mileage will jump from anywhere to 25 to 33%. Again, and it’s cleaner, and you’re in the city when you’re on the mode. So you’re seeing the evolution here, and you can see where it’s going over time, and the more creative we are, and the greater energy density that we can get into a cell battery, the better off we’re gonna be.”

GM CEO Dan Akerson
“I have grandchildren and children, and I want them to inherit a better earth than we did.” ~ Dan Akerson

Lithium Ion Car Battery Density:
10:57 Dan Akerson “..So here in California the Envia corporation ..that’s a very promising technology, we don’t know if it’s industrialized yet, be we’ve seeded the money…”
Greg Dalton: “We should clarify it’s a company that claims to have made a breakthrough in energy densisty in car batteries”
Dan Akerson ” Yes Lithium – so we’re excited about that because our battery in the Volt is a 400 pound battery, that’s a lot of weight, it gives us 16 kilowatt hours of energy, well, what happens if it’s so dense it’s four times as dense, well gee whiz, we got 64 kilowatts, well what’s that do, that means the battery can run a lot further, instead of 40 miles maybe it’ll run maybe 140 miles….I believe in my lifetime, technology, there’s an ever escalating improvement, and you gotta be optimistic about it that battery technology will improve over the next 5 10 15 20 years.”

War and Peace
11:50 “Unlike a lot of people in this country today, I believe in our political leadership, that they’ll come to the right decision. I actually think it’s a benefit to have served in the military, because I think those are the folks that are the last to want to go to war. And I and would think deeply and hard about committing our young men and women to combat whether it’s Iran, or Vietnam, or Iraq. That’s the citizen in me – I don’t want to speak as a – I want to restrict my commentary to my role as the CEO of General Motors, but I hold these young men and women in the highest regard. It breaks your heart when you hear, I mean they give so much to us”

“…. I share your concern, and pray for peace”.

Update 4/1/12: Dan Akerson followed through on his pledge to look into the Heartland Institute – and as a result GM has cut funding for the group.

‘Citing its corporate stance that climate change is real, General Motors announced Wednesday that its General Motors Foundation would no longer be funding the Heartland Institute, a free-market think tank that has attacked human-caused global warming as “junk science.”’

via GM pulls support for Heartland Institute –

report by James George

Keystone controversy continues as Obama visits Cushing – Political Hotsheet – CBS News

Thursday, March 22nd, 2012

‘The first leg of the Keystone XL oil pipeline is slated for construction, and President Obama on Thursday sought to remind voters he backs at least this portion of the controversial project.’

via Keystone controversy continues as Obama visits Cushing – Political Hotsheet – CBS News.

Chevron, Transocean charged over Brazil oil spill | Reuters

Wednesday, March 21st, 2012

‘(Reuters) – A Brazilian federal prosecutor filed criminal charges against U.S. oil company Chevron and drill-rig operator Transocean for a November oil spill off the coast of Rio de Janeiro, the prosecutor’s office said on Wednesday.’

via Chevron, Transocean charged over Brazil oil spill | Reuters.

Groundwater nitrate contamination grows in California farm areas –

Sunday, March 18th, 2012

‘Nitrate contamination of groundwater in some of the state’s most intensely farmed regions has grown worse in recent decades and will continue to spread, threatening the drinking water supplies of more than 250,000 people, according to a new study.’

via Groundwater nitrate contamination grows in California farm areas –

Iowa governor signs bill criminalizing undercover investigations –

Sunday, March 18th, 2012

‘On Friday, Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad signed into law a bill designed to thwart activists who go undercover to report animal abuse. This makes Iowa the first state in the country to pass such a law; Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New York and Utah are considering them.’

via Iowa governor signs bill criminalizing undercover investigations –

All red meat is bad for you, new study says –

Sunday, March 18th, 2012

‘Eating red meat — any amount and any type — appears to significantly increase the risk of premature death, according to a long-range study that examined the eating habits and health of more than 110,000 adults for more than 20 years.’

via All red meat is bad for you, new study says –

Rick Santorum: ‘The dangers of carbon dioxide? Tell that to a plant’ | The Ticket – Yahoo! News

Tuesday, March 13th, 2012

‘Rick Santorum told attendees at the Gulf Coast Energy Summit in Biloxi, Mississippi, on Monday to trust his judgment on the environment, highlighting his position on climate change—that is, that it’s a liberal myth.’

via Rick Santorum: ‘The dangers of carbon dioxide? Tell that to a plant’ | The Ticket – Yahoo! News.

Israel asks U.S. for arms that could aid Iran strike – Yahoo! News

Friday, March 9th, 2012

‘JERUSALEM Reuters – Israel has asked the United States for advanced “bunker-buster” bombs and refueling planes that could improve its ability to attack Iran’s underground nuclear sites, an Israeli official said on Thursday.’

via Israel asks U.S. for arms that could aid Iran strike – Yahoo! News.

Nuclear Chessboard. George Shultz, William Perry, & Sam Nunn’s Comments on Iran and Nuclear Weapons

Sunday, March 4th, 2012

Feb 23, 2012. San Francisco.

George Shultz, Sam Nunn, William Perry spoke at a San Francisco Commonwealth Club event, “The Nuclear Chessboard, 2012“. These excerpts focus on Iran’s suspected nuclear weapons development program.

Mark Hopkins Hotel
The panel before a packed auditorium at the Mark Hopkins Hotel

The three elder statesmen, featured in moderator Philip Taubman’s recent book “The Partnership: Five Cold Warriors and Their Quest to Ban the Bomb, made comments mostly consistent with recent statements coming from the Obama administration, which boil down to a good-cop bad-cop strategy where international economic sanctions against Iran are promoted as a means to both stop Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons program and also stave off a dangerous Israeli military attack.

A few complicating issues were not addressed in the short time available: 1) Does the legacy of false W.M.D. claims that were used to justify the Iraq war weaken the credibility of United State as a broker in the Iran situation, possibly impacting cooperation from China and Russia? 2) What would the environmental consequences and political precedent be of an Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear reactor and other nuclear facilities? Would radioactivity be released and how dangerous would this be to Iran and surrounding regions? 3) Does de facto acceptance of Israel’s nuclear arsenal weaken the U.S. case against Iranian nuclear weapons? 4) Could at attack on Iran bring about the very thing it would purport to avoid? Might nuclear weapons be used in an attempt to either destroy hardened targets, or as a punitive response if Iran responded unpredictably or against civilians outside of Iran?

William Perry
“Our best chance of doing that is through what I would call coercive diplomacy. Diplomacy, but with a very heavy threat behind it.” ~William Perry


William Perry, Former U.S Secretary of Defense: I believe that Iran has been moving seriously and energetically for the last ten to fifteen years to develop a nuclear weapon, I think that probably within a few years of achieving that goal. This in spite of the fact that they have consistently denied that they are doing that. I also believe that the government of Israel believes that a nuclear weapon in Iran poses an existential threat to their country, and is determined to prevent that from happening, possibly with a military strike. A military strike, even if successful, would have a whole host of unintended consequences, nearly all of them bad. So, I think our role in the United States is to try to provide reasons for Israel for not taking that strike, and the only reasons that hold up are that we are taking actions in concert with other nations in the world to stop Iran from getting a nuclear weapon.

Our best chance of doing that is through what I would call coercive diplomacy. Diplomacy, but with a very heavy threat behind it. I think the most effective threat against Iran is shutting down their financial transactions which indeed we are starting to doing in the last few months. I believe if we can continue that pressure and increase that pressure we could be successful in putting enough pressure on Iran to stop the program. The weakness of that today is that Russia is only partially cooperating and China not at all. And our diplomatic role that has to convince Russia and China that a military attack on Iran would have deleterious consequences not only for Iran and the United States and Israel, but for Russia and China also, and therefore to get behind this program to put real pressure on Iran.

George Shultz
“It seems to me we can’t allow Iran to sort of draw out a long diplomatic process which they simply use to gain time to develop their weapons” ~ George Shultz

George Shultz, Former U.S Secretary of State: I subscribe to what Bill said completely. However, if we have a situation where sanctions are beginning to really work in Iran, and it looks to me as though they probably are, the financial pressures are great that is the real pressure point. It seems to me we can’t allow Iran to sort of draw out a long diplomatic process which they simply use to gain time to develop their weapons. So I think we’d have to move energetically, and I would say to them something like this, look, you say you’re developing your enrichment capacity for peaceful purposes. The volume of the enrichment that you’re doing far exceeds any domestic use you may have in a nuclear power plant. You’ve only got one plant. The Russians are supplying the fuel for it as it is. So if you mean it that this is for civilian purposes, you must be wanting to sell your enriched uranium on the international market, so we’ll help you do it.
And that means that you have to be part of some international nuclear fuel cycle regime that includes having knowledgeable people and quite a few of them in your plant so that we know exactly what’ s going on, that you’re not enriching to weapons grade. But this would have to be done rapidly, because people uses negotiations just as a stall, to gain time.

I might say that Senator Nunn and his organization have really done yeomen work in developing the nuclear fuel cycle idea and have had a lot to do with creating a fuel bank that can be used by countries so they don’t have to enrich uranium themselves, and I think there is the making an international regime here.

But if you’re going to wait and see what sanctions do, then I think you need to have some sort of a proposal, and I wouldn’t just sit and namby pamby around. I’d say okay, you say it’s for civilian purposes, I’m calling that card.

Sam Nunn
“So this is not a raid like we’ve seen before on Iraq and Syria. It’s a big deal. It has a lot of consequences. We gotta think through it.” ~ Sam Nunn

Former U.S. Senator Sam Nunn:
In the case of Iran I might just say, it’s a difficult scenario.

If they do get nuclear weapons they’re going to be several other countries in that part of the world that will get, in my view that will have a very active quest for nuclear weapons. If we have a conflict it has all sorts of implications. It would not be an over and out type of conflict. You’d have to take out their defensive missiles. If you were serious about it, you’d have to take out their nuclear sites and there’s certainly not one or two there are a lot more than that. Sidney Drell, our physicist partner that’s portrayed in this book [The Partnership: Five Cold Warriors and Their Quest to Ban the Bomb] reminded us yesterday afternoon, you need to take out the electrical grid also, would have huge implications to their nuclear program. Since they have threatened to close the Persian Gulf, you’d would really need to take out their navy and probably a lot of their air force.

So this is not a raid like we’ve seen before on Iraq and Syria. It’s a big deal. It has a lot of consequences. We gotta think through it. But I do believe there is some hope because the Iranians are in a real economic squeeze now. First of all they’ve got a bad economic system, and second, the embargoes are having some effect. The evaluation of their currency has gone down about 30% in the last six months. So they are feeling the pain. Unfortunately, a lot of innocent people suffer, and that is something you always are concerned about, but the alternatives are pretty grim. And if of course we had a war there would be even more suffering. So the embargo has got to be tightened, we’ve got to do everything we can to persuade China and Russia to participate in it. The Europeans are beginning to be very assertive, talking about cutting off the import of Iranian oil – all that may have an effect.

The only other.. if there’s anything regarding Iran these days that’s a bright spot, is a dark bright spot. I would say the one dark bright spot here is that they contend over and over again – though we don’t believe them and shouldn’t believe them – that they don’t have a weapon program and they’re not going to have a weapon program, and their Ayatollah just said it would be a sin to develop weapons. Now do I believe that, no, but do I think that is important yes, because it is a face saving place to come down, if we can come up with a concept like George talked about, with some type of international enrichment centers, that are under 24 by 7 IAEA camera and control. So, that’s the dark bright spot in a very difficult situation.

Report by James George

Japan feared ‘demonic chain reaction’ at reactor, report says –

Sunday, March 4th, 2012

‘…At one point, advisors to then-Prime Minister Naoto Kan began referring to a worst-case scenario that would not only force the evacuation of tens of millions of Tokyo residents, but could also cause widespread environmental damage across Japan, the report says. At the same time, Kan’s staff continued to assure the Japanese public and the international community that the situation was under control.’

via Japan feared ‘demonic chain reaction’ at reactor, report says –