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VIDEO -- Rifkin: Transport central in third industrial revolution
Jeremy Rifkin lines out vision for sustainable energy and transport policies
According to economist Jeremy Rifkin, the world is at the brink of a new ‘third industrial revolution’ that will be driven by the combination of ICT and renewable energy production, with transport playing a central role both in terms of mobility as in light of future options for energy supply and storage.
Rifkin, advisor to a number of governments and President of the Foundation on Economic Trends, presented his elaborate vision on a sustainable future for energy and transport on 8 October 2009, during a conference in Brussels, organised by the publication EU Obsverver.
See extracts from his speech
Past economic revolutions became possible with the combination of coal powered steam technology and the print press (first revolution), and of electrical forms of communication—the telegraph, telephone, radio, television, electric typewriters, calculators, etc. – with oil and the internal combustion engine (second revolution).
Rifkin foresees that decentralised, renewable energy production in combination with smart networks will start taking over the role of fossil fuels. “Buildings will start producing energy; vehicles will become portable power plants.” Rifkin underlined that for the introduction of electric vehicles to the market on a large scale, changes in electricity generation and infrastructure will be needed in parallel.
As a second part of a future ‘third industrial revolution’, electricity distribution would need to use modern information and communications technology to become more efficient and ‘smart’. Finally, Rifkin pointed out that storage of energy would also need to be improved and de-centralised, for instance when using hydrogen.
See the full speech
The automobile industry and electric vehicles
The auto industry agrees that hybrid, plug-in and battery electric vehicles promise large benefits, producing very low or even zero tailpipe emissions. This perspective is particularly important for towns and cities.
However, significant investments by a variety of players will be necessary to ensure that barriers to market acceptance are tackled and to realise all-electric motoring’s potential.
- Vehicle manufacturers will continue to work with battery suppliers on issues like energy density, durability and recharge times. They will also contribute actively to discussions on technical regulations such as standardisation of in-vehicle recharging points.
- Consumers must be confident in the availability and convenience of recharging facilities. A comprehensive recharging infrastructure is needed and points must be standardised across Europe.
- Cleaner vehicles incentives should be technology neutral and based on clear environmental gains.
- CO2-based taxation systems benefit electric vehicle owners with lower taxes. Concessions like reduced parking charges are also available in some cities.
- Fact-based consumer campaigns should emphasise the financial and environmental benefits of all-electric motoring. However, they should also be clear on the technical and practical challenges ahead.
- While electric vehicles emit no emissions in-use, CO2 is generated at source. More renewable electricity generation will automatically improve the well-to-wheel advantages of electric vehicles.
Manufacturers are making high investments in a number of low-carbon technologies for the short-, mid- and long-term, including not only electric vehicles but also further improvements of combustion engines, and alternative fuels. They believe that all possible technological pathways to reduce CO2 should remain open, and that they should be part of an integrated approach to reduce CO2 emissions from transport.
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