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What to Expect From the Copenhagen Climate Confab

Success or at least a perception of success may be critical, but how is success to be measured?

3 min read

Those exposed to some modern European history may recall the attempts made in the 1920s and early 1930 to resolve the intertwined issues of World War I reparations, war debt, and beggar-thy-neighbor protective tariffs. When international negotiations repeatedly failed, the sense was that the stage had been set for catastrophe—and, with World War II and the Holocaust, that instinct proved correct.

Something of the same feeling has attended the run-up to the United Nations Climate Change Conference, which takes place from 11 to 18 December in Copenhagen. To be sure, to those who consider climate science to be unsound or attempts to do anything about global warming to be a waste of time and money, the best outcome in Copenhagen would be no outcome. In fact, the conference may end with a mere declaration of intentions. But if that's what happens, it will be a sore disappointment to the diplomats who organized it, who say they consider a strong agreement essential.

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This photograph shows a car with the words “We Drive Solar” on the door, connected to a charging station. A windmill can be seen in the background.

The Dutch city of Utrecht is embracing vehicle-to-grid technology, an example of which is shown here—an EV connected to a bidirectional charger. The historic Rijn en Zon windmill provides a fitting background for this scene.

We Drive Solar

Hundreds of charging stations for electric vehicles dot Utrecht’s urban landscape in the Netherlands like little electric mushrooms. Unlike those you may have grown accustomed to seeing, many of these stations don’t just charge electric cars—they can also send power from vehicle batteries to the local utility grid for use by homes and businesses.

Debates over the feasibility and value of such vehicle-to-grid technology go back decades. Those arguments are not yet settled. But big automakers like Volkswagen, Nissan, and Hyundai have moved to produce the kinds of cars that can use such bidirectional chargers—alongside similar vehicle-to-home technology, whereby your car can power your house, say, during a blackout, as promoted by Ford with its new F-150 Lightning. Given the rapid uptake of electric vehicles, many people are thinking hard about how to make the best use of all that rolling battery power.

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