Building the World

March 9, 2020
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ENERGY: Shaping the Future

Image: photographer Andrew MacMillan. wikimedia.

Electric vehicles are dependent upon batteries both for power and for design. That’s why General Motors’ recent announcement was a double break-through. A $20 billion investment in electric cars comes from a new kind of battery. Traditional EV batteries are a certain shape, determining the contours of a car. But GM’s new batteries can be stacked sideways, or even around curves, because the powerhouses are “soft, flat pouches.” (Valdes-Dapena, 2020). Tesla, by contrast, uses a hard cylinder. GM’s Ultium power cells may lead to curvy designs. Another advantage: Ultium uses far less cobalt that traditional EV batteries, significant because cobalt is becoming increasingly scarce. Finally, Ultium hits the desired metric: below $100 per kilowatt hour, the price point where electric cards are competitive with gasoline engines. According to estimates, electric vehicle sales in the USA will grow to 3 million units by 2030. Next-gen batteries enable driving ranges of 400  (and soon 600) miles. Longer range electric power means more highway trips, perhaps causing a redesign of the U.S. Federal Highway System, the Canada/USA Alaska Highway or the Pan-American Highway for a regional vision that could include a sportsway, maglev or hyper loop, in addition to vehicular paths. General Motors is partnering with LG Chem. With flexible batteries, look for different shapes to come.

Beresford, Colin. “GM Unveils Battery with Capacity Twice as Big as Tesla’s.” 4 March 2020. Car and Driver. https://www.caranddriver.com/news/a31226611/gm-ultium-electric-vehicle-battery-revealed/.

Beresford, Colin. “GM, LG Teaming Up to Build Batteries for GM’s Future EVs in Ohio.” 5 December 2019. Car and Driver. https://www.caranddriver.com/news/a30141005/gm-ev-battery-factory-ohio-lg/.

Valdes-Dapena, Peter. “GM’s new electric car battery tops Tesla’s.” 5 March 2020. CNN.Business. http://www.cnn.com/2020/03/04/business/gm-electric-car-battery-400-miles-of-range.html/ 

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G. Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unpo

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December 20, 2019
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TRANSPORT: Steering USMCA

“Chevy Corvette Stingray Z06 at Detroit Auto Show,” 2014 by Tuner Tom. Image: wikimedia

United States-Mexico-Canada-Agreement (USMCA), a sequel to Nafta, offers a unique opportunity to combine two goals: net zero energy and regional connection. Call it a vehicle for change or a road to the future, USMCA could build a transport system connected in more ways than one. Macro visions require large-scale cooperation on natural, financial, and human resources: a USMCA charging-ready highway, combined with shared manufacturing of electric vehicles, could transform the region. The new “Nafta” agreement demands cars and trucks be 75% built (increased from current 62.5%) in Canada, United States, and Mexico. Another increase: 30% (then 40% by 2023) of vehicle labor from workers making $16 per hour.  The United States House Ways and Means Committee issued a Summary.

Canada, United States, Mexico: building a connected region. Image: wikimedia

Will the United States Federal Highway System, with its network of gas stations, become a nexus of charging stations and special lanes, perhaps extending to Canada and Mexico? Ford Motor company is launching FordPass, a charging initiative like that pioneered by Ionity. Should the Alaska Highway, partner road of Canada and USA, be a cooperative network to power new transport?  The renewed Nafta, USMCA, signed by Canada, Mexico, and United States, offers an opportunity to meet net zero goals and build a regional connection unique in the world.

Will USMCA lead a new era of safer, cleaner transport? “Steward-Cassier Highway, Canada” Bruce McKay, 2008. Image: wikimedia.

Ford Motor Company. “FordPass Charging Network,” https://media.ford.com/content/fordmedia/fna/us/en/news/2019/10/17/ford-introduces-north-americas-largest-electric-vehicle-charting-network.html

Lobosco, Katie, Brian Fung, and Tami Luhby. “6 key differences between NAFTA and the USMCA deal that replaces it.” 17 December 2019 CNN.com. https://www.cnn.com/2019/12/10/politics/nafta-us-mexico-canada-trade-deal-differences/index.html

Long, Heather. “The USMCA is finally done. Here’s what is in it.” 10 December 2019, The Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2019/12/10/usmca-is-finally-done-deal-after-democrats-sign-off-heres-what-is-it/.

Ways and Means. United States House of Representatives. “Improvements to the USMCA.”December 2019. https://waysandmeans.house.gov/sites/democrats.waysandmeans.house.gov/files/documents/USMCA%20win%20factsheet%20.pdf.

United States of America, United Mexican States, Canada. “Agreement between the United States of America, the United Mexican States, and Canada 05/30/19 Text” https://ustr.gov/trade-agreements/free-trade-agreements/united-states-mexico-canada-agreement-between.

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G. Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unpor

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January 1, 2018
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2018: Celebrate the 8’s

“Green 8 in a Sea of Blue.” Earth Observatory Image: https://eoimages.gsfc.nasa.gov.

Seen from space, the Americas look a bit like a green 8 in a sea of blue. One glance reveals our planet is made of regions, not nations. Rivers do not stop at lines arbitrarily drawn on a map: transboundary waters are shared resources. Another interconnection: land use, including transport. Great rail systems of history such as the Trans-Siberian or Canadian Pacific railways redefined connection through rapidly advancing transit technologies. Now, electric highways, autonomous vehicles, and hyperloop transit could link continents in innovation.

In 2018, Canada, Mexico, and the United States debate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Negotiations should include transboundary water resources; legal precedent of the Colorado River Compact may help address current considerations. Nafta truckers could pioneer automated highways that might steer negotiations. But Nafta may be too small to address macro issues.

Is it now time to extend the north american discussion, to a broader regional scope? Afta Nafta. Decisions about water quality in one nation may impact another; transit links continents, not countries. Oceans may ultimately determine the fate of cities: from Natal to New York, many are coastal. What if everyone in the Americas learned at least one of the languages of their neighbors? Language-based education and cultural exchange might stir innovation in areas such as shared water resources, intelligent highways, public health, and rights. Could there be a regional tour of beauty, instead of a tour of duty? Xchange students and volunteers could form corps maintaining readiness for disaster response (by definition, regional) while practicing environmental service, in an updated CCC of the Americas. Potential logo? Green 8 in a Circle of Blue.

It might be noted that 8, viewed on the horizontal plane, is the infinity symbol. System scientists may suggest that two interconnecting loops could form a renewing system. The infinity symbol was the creation, in 1655, of John Wallis (he also served as chief cryptographer for Parliament). Whether it remains infinite or not, our shared environment depends upon our actions. Perhaps it is time to dedicate at least one year, per decade, to improvement of our shared resources: celebrate the 8’s by honoring interconnection.

“Infinity Symbol” Image: wikimedia commons

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License

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August 11, 2017
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Grid Luck

Denmark, state banner from 14th century, location of world’s first vehicle-to-grid (V2G) commercial charging station. Image: wikimedia commons.

Batteries in electric cars could help to balance the grid. In 2017 electric vehicles drew 6-terawatt-hours; by 2040, draw will expand to a predicted 1,800 terawatt hours. Tokyo-based automaker Nissan is conducting trials in Denmark where car fleet operators earn $1,530 (€1300 Euro) per year via two-way charge points. Vehicle-to-grid (V2G) infrastructure could be a sign of the future. Major highway systems take note.

It may be time for a systems view of electric vehicles, predicted to account for 54% of new car sales by 2040, Electric cars will transform highways like the U.S. Interstate Highway system – more than 45,000 miles, and even more dramatically the service areas nearby. Should the Pan-American Highway, 30,000 miles from Alaska to Argentina, be the first to offer a network of V2G? Canada and the United States could rebuild the Alaska Highway for a new era. On a local level, commuter rail stations are adding charging stations; shopping centers are dotted with ChargePoint and Tesla pods. Every one of these installations is an opportunity for rebuilding the automotive energy system.

If the Nissan/Enel/Nuvve commercial vehicle-to-grid hub of 10 stations proves successful, Ernesto Ciorra of Enel predicts: “With V2G we can enhance grid stability, further enabling the integration of renewables. V2G is one of the sustainable innovation areas that is taking us towards a low-carbon society for the benefit of present and future generations.” As the number of electric vehicles increases is the future of gridlock, grid luck?

For more:

“Parked Electric Cars Earn $1,530 From Europe’s Power Grids.” By Jessica Shankleman, 11 August 2017, Bloomberg.https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-08-11/parked-electric-cars-earn-1-530-feeding-power-grids-in-europe

“Nissan, Enel and Nuvve operate world’s first fully commercial vehicle-to-grid hub in Denmark.” Nissan Newsroom Europe, 29 August 2016/ID: 149186. http://newsroom.nissan-europe.com/eu-gb/media/pressreleases/149186

“Electric Cars Will Total More Than 50% Of All New Car Sales By 2040,BNEF Forecasts.” By Steve Hanley.  CleanTechnica, 6 July 2017.https://cleantechnica.com/2017/07/06/electric-cars-will-total-half-new-car-sales-2040-bnef/

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License

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December 24, 2016
by buildingtheworld
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Protective Freeze on Melting Seas

Ursus Maritimus: a family of polar bears. Image: wikimedia commons.

20 December 2016: Canada and the United States moved to protect designated areas of the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans, making the waters off limits to leasing and oil drilling. In 1989, the Exxon Valdez tanker ran aground in Alaska, emptying quantities of crude oil into the waters and damaging 1,300 miles of coastal land. Animals in the area are still struggling to recover. More recently, Shell’s drilling ship Kulluk ran into Arctic trouble: the accident halted any further exploration for oil. The December 20, 2016 agreement, signed cooperatively between Canada and the United States, regards the Arctic Chukchi and Beaufort Seas, and the Atlantic Ocean from Virginia to New England. Canada and the United States also cooperated in the face of danger when building the Alaska Highway. Recently, the Antarctic Marine Sanctuary in the Ross Sea created the first marine protected area in international waters, during the meeting of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR). In shared waters, cooperative agreements can place a protective freeze on melting seas.

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

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December 12, 2016
by buildingtheworld
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Antarctica Drops Sea Ice the Size of India

India’s size is 1,269 million square miles. That’s how much sea ice Antartica lost. Image: www.lib.utexas.edu.

Antarctica lost 1.48 million square miles (3.84 million square kilometers): about the size of India, or two Alaskas.  Earth’s polar regions are different: the Arctic is an ocean surrounded by land, but the Antarctic is land surrounded by water. That’s why Antarctica’s glaciers could disappear more quickly. Satellite observations, reported in a new long-term study, confirm Antarctic glaciers are losing 7m per year.  What actions should the Antarctic Treaty take to respond?

Comparing North and South Polar areas, http://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/rngs/CLIMATECHANGE-ICE/010030W31X1/CLIMATECHANGE-ICE.jpg

Amos, Jonathan. “Ice loss spreads up Antarctic glaciers,” BBC Science & Environment, 12 December 2016. http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-38256932

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

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April 14, 2016
by buildingtheworld
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On thin ice

“Oldest Arctic Sea Ice is Disappearing 1980 (bottom) and 2012 (top),” by J. Comiso, NASA.

Artic sea ice is at near-record lows. Melting ice may cause a rise in ocean levels. When Canada and the United States cooperated to build the Alaska Highway, one of the challenges was permafrost, also a factor in the Trans-Alaska Pipeline. But recent warming of permafrost is a far more serious problem, threatening the release of methane. Global warming, and resultant ice melt, could accelerate sea level rise by as much as 2 meters or 6.5 feet. A recent assessment indicates that if Antarctic ice continues to melt, by 2500, sea levels will rise to 50 feet, as predicted by Robert DeConto of University of Massachusetts Amherst and David Pollard of Pennsylvania State University, in a study published in Nature. What should be done to mitigate sea level rise? NASA’s Carlos Del Castillo of the Ocean Ecology Laboratory, as well as Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, known as the “Ocean State,” may lead initiatives that help to build a better world.

For more:

To watch 25 years of sea ice disappear in one time-lapse minute:http://ecowatch.com/2015/12/27/arctic-sea-ice-melt/

Thanks to Evan T. Litwin for suggesting the video.

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License

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October 27, 2014
by buildingtheworld
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Interconnectivity: Americas

 

Simon Bolivar. Image: wikimedia commons.

Should the Americas be interconnected; if so, in which ways? Simon Bolivar raised the issue in 1826; Bill Clinton continued the debate at 1994’s Summit of the Americas, as Nafta took a further step. In 2015, is it time to consider the Pan-American Highway , perhaps inspired by its original vision? Pan-American Railway reconnaissance surveys were completed in 1897, but in 1923, the 29, 800 mile route instead became a highway. Now, with magnetic levitation and tube train technology, envisioned by Frankel and Davidson, and recently by Tesla/SpaceX-founder Elon Musk, there is an opportunity. The most difficult part of large-scale infrastructure may be the securing of rights-of-way: in this case, already agreed. The route has never been completed, respecting the Darien Gap’s precious environment. But might an elevated tube train serve as flyover? On the ground, “La Carreterra Panamericana” could thus be preserved, and even enhanced by addition of a Sportsway inspired by Benton MacKaye’s Appalachian Trail. Summit of the Americas 2015 convenes in Panama; might Juan Carlos Varela propose a new vision? Will Bolivia, named after Simon Bolivar, lead the way to an environment of greater connectivity with Law 071, “Ley de Derechos de la Madre Tierra?”

Bolivia: http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2011/apr/10/bolivia-enshrines-natural-worlds-rights

Musk’s Hyperloop: http://edition.cnn.com/2013/08/12/tech/innovation/hyperloop-fastest-trains/

Pan-AmericanRail:http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/69842/warren-kelchner/the-pan-american-highway

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

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June 25, 2013
by buildingtheworld
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Alaska Highway – Environment

Alaska — Image from Wikimedia Commons

A cooperative endeavor undertaken by Canada and the United States, the Alaska Highway was dreamt of from the days of the Yukon gold rush, sketched a half century later, and finally built during a military emergency. It was one of the earliest attempts at homeland security. The arduous road, likened in difficulty to building the Panama Canal, challenged 16,000 workers for 1400 miles through frost, mud, and bogs in the 1940s. For the fascinating story of how the road was actually built, see (www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/features/introduction/alaska/). Today, together with the Alaska Pipeline, the northern territory faces another emergency, climate change. The polar bear has become a symbol of the environment of Alaska and the northern treasures of our world. How should we protect and preserve Alaska in the midst of environmental change?

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

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October 16, 2012
by zoequinn001
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Road Trip!

Map of the “Pan-American highway.”

The Alaska Highway is the northern part of the unofficial Pan-American Highway, a drivable series of roads that begin at the top of Alaska and end at the southern tip of South America. The distance is nearly 30,000 continuous miles of roads, although there is a small break in the Colombian rainforest. Needless to say, it dwarfs most cross-country road trips.

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