Why The Oil Industry’s $400 Billion Bet On Plastics Could Backfire

Oil companies are pouring billions into sprawling new petrochemical facilities in a bet that demand ... [+] for plastics -- which are derived from chemicals made at such plants -- will keep growing prodigiously.

Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Key takeaways:

Oil companies plan to invest $400 billion into new petrochemical plants, betting that demand for plastic will keep growing.Authors of a new report say the industry and other forecasters fail to consider that large majorities favor legislation to curb plastic use and waste and that governments are acting.Plastics impose a cost of $1000 per tonne — through CO2 emissions, air pollution, and collection costs. Calls to shift those costs onto producers through taxes are growing.Outside experts said the long-term outlook for plastics demand remains uncertain and will depend on consumer preferences and government actions.

The COVID-19 pandemic and accelerating green growth around the world have eviscerated many of the oil industry’s dogmas: that renewables would suffer from high costs, that governments would slow-walk environmental commitments, that investors would continue to reward long-term bets on oil with generous market values. 

But one nugget of wisdom has survived everything the market has thrown at it, and now oil companies like ExxonMobil and Shell are wagering billions on it: that the world’s demand for plastics is still growing, with no end in sight.

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Only around 9% of all the oil pumped from the ground is consumed in petrochemical plants to make plastic, making it a relatively small part of the oil industry’s bottom line. But the consistent and prodigious rate of demand growth for plastics has made it an appealing investment: between 1971 and 2015, plastics production grew more than twice as fast as global gross domestic product (GDP). 

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Boris Johnson accuses Extinction Rebellion of trying to limit public access to news

The prime minister, Boris Johnson, has accused Extinction Rebellion of seeking “to limit the public’s access to news” after the group blockaded two UK printworks, delaying the distribution of major national newspapers.

The activists, who staged the action to highlight the failure by the media to “report on the climate and ecological emergency”, were also condemned by the home secretary, Priti Patel, for “attacking democracy”.

More than 100 protesters used vehicles and bamboo structures to block roads outside the Newsprinters printing works at Broxbourne, in Hertfordshire, and Knowsley, near Liverpool, on Friday evening.

Hertfordshire police said delivery lorries had not left the Broxbourne site as of 6am on Saturday, and that 42 arrests had been made.

The presses print the Murdoch-owned News Corp’s titles, including the Sun, Times, Sun on Sunday and Sunday Times, as well as the Daily Telegraph and Sunday Telegraph, the Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday, and the London Evening Standard.

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How To Hide A Billion Dollars: Three Techniques The Ultrarich Use To Dodge Ex-Spouses, The Taxman And Disgruntled Business Partners

For more than a decade through 2015, Houston-based Quantlab was a money machine, generating more than $3 billion in cumulative profits from proprietary high-frequency trading that on some days accounted for 3% of NYSE volume. More than 70% of those profits went to founder Wilbur “Ed” Bosarge—or rather, to trusts he controls.

Quantlab cofounders Bruce Eames (with a 24% stake) and Andrey Omeltchenko (with 4%) are now suing the  81-year-old Bosarge for fraud. (He denies their claims.) Bosarge is also facing a fraud suit from the founder of a Bahamian stem cell clinic that he funded, took control of and at which he received multiple treatments—for, he said in a deposition, “bad ankles, bad knees from skiing, muscles that pulled out. When you reach 70, 75, various things start going wrong and you have to deal with them.”

Carefree: For years, Ed and Marie Bosarge traveled the world collecting homes and antiques.

Courtesy Marie Bosarge

But Bosarge’s most notable current legal battle—for what it shows about the way U.S. state trust laws increasingly protect the rich—is with his wife, Marie, a 66-year-old onetime Marilyn Monroe impersonator Ed married in 1989. In the summer of 2017, while Marie was in London putting the finishing touches on their newest pad, a $45 million Georgian mansion in billionaire haven Belgrave Square, Ed served her with divorce papers. Marie says she was shocked. Yes, she says, she knew about Ed’s twentysomething Russian mistress, but she assumed Ed would see it as too expensive to divorce her since the couple didn’t have a prenuptial property agreement and Texas is a community property state—meaning everything earned during their marriage, including those Quantlab profits, would be jointly owned.

Marie contends she’s owed a billion or more, although she tells Forbes she’d settle for less than $100 million. “I’d be happy with that. To just pay my bills and move on with my life.” 

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Big Oil Methane Emission Limits In Line With Paris Climate Pact Goals

As the United States government under President Trump turns away from measures to confront global climate change, many of the largest oil and gas companies operating in the country are working to get their emissions of methane and other greenhouse gases under control, in alignment of the 2015 Paris Climate accord.

International oil companies such as ExxonMobil XOM and Chevron CVX , with operations across the globe,  have a lot of incentives to adopt emission reduction standards aimed at “keeping a global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius.”

Governments outside of the U.S., particularly those in Europe, are increasingly turning to regulations and financial penalties to ensure that oil and gas operators adopt policies to reduce their carbon footprint. In addition, Big Oil, facing increasing pressure from environmentalist groups and activist shareholders, wants to be viewed as being on the right side of the climate debate.

In his latest book, The New Map: Energy, Climate, and the Clash of Nations, internationally renowned energy and economics expert Daniel Yergin notes that the European Union (EU) is leading the charge on climate change, and notes that international oil and gas companies are establishing the own carbon reduction strategies in large part to maintain their social license to operate across the globe.

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“Europe, more than anywhere else on the planet is seeking to build an ‘After Paris’ world,” writes Yergin, vice chairman of IHS Markit INFO and a member of the board of the Council on Foreign Relations.

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COVID-19 And Microgrids: Boon Or Bust?

By: Peter Asmus

View of solar farm in sunlight with blue sky, dirty solar cell array, green energy concept.

Getty

How has the coronavirus outbreak affected adoption rates, future growth potential, and the pace of development for microgrids in 2020 and beyond? Definitive answers to these big questions are not yet possible given the lack of available data. Microgrids are not a unified or monolithic market. Each region, market segment, and vendor may be affected differently by COVID-19. There will be short- and long-term ramifications, but discernable evidence points toward overall double-digit growth in microgrids despite a severe global recession. However, market forecasts for 2020 and 2021 have been adjusted downward in recent Guidehouse Insights reports from factors including delays, supply chain issues, and the effects of social distancing on regulatory approvals and commissioning.

Despite analysis supporting robust future long-term microgrid growth, growth will be characterized by uneven effects on different market segments and by the desirability of different distributed energy resources (DER) options. US and global recovery is anticipated to also be uneven given the surges of coronavirus infection in certain US states and countries. COVID-19-related impacts and the mix of DER assets being deployed within microgrids were addressed in two recent Guidehouse Insights reports.

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DER Deployments for Microgrids

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COVID-19 And Microgrids: Boon Or Bust?

By: Peter Asmus

View of solar farm in sunlight with blue sky, dirty solar cell array, green energy concept.

Getty

How has the coronavirus outbreak affected adoption rates, future growth potential, and the pace of development for microgrids in 2020 and beyond? Definitive answers to these big questions are not yet possible given the lack of available data. Microgrids are not a unified or monolithic market. Each region, market segment, and vendor may be affected differently by COVID-19. There will be short- and long-term ramifications, but discernable evidence points toward overall double-digit growth in microgrids despite a severe global recession. However, market forecasts for 2020 and 2021 have been adjusted downward in recent Guidehouse Insights reports from factors including delays, supply chain issues, and the effects of social distancing on regulatory approvals and commissioning.

Despite analysis supporting robust future long-term microgrid growth, growth will be characterized by uneven effects on different market segments and by the desirability of different distributed energy resources (DER) options. US and global recovery is anticipated to also be uneven given the surges of coronavirus infection in certain US states and countries. COVID-19-related impacts and the mix of DER assets being deployed within microgrids were addressed in two recent Guidehouse Insights reports.

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DER Deployments for Microgrids

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‘Elon Musk Of China’ Regains Billionaire Status With 472% Stock Surge

William Li, founder of Nio.

David Paul Morris/Bloomberg

William Li has rejoined the ranks of the world’s billionaires as shares of his electric-car startup NIO rallied 472% since late May this year. The gains mark a dramatic comeback for a company that had earlier been struggling to boost sales, causing Li’s wealth to drop precipitously. 

Dubbed the “Elon Musk of China,” Li has been waging a campaign of cutting costs and raising cash from investors for NIO, which still has yet to turn a profit. A capital injection of 5 billion yuan ($733 million) in June by investors including the local government of Hefei amounted to a much-needed lifeline.  

The turning point came in May when Li reported stronger than expected sales of 1.37 billion yuan ($194 million) in the first quarter, and then predicted that revenue and shipments would more than double in the following quarter. It turns out that NIO’s deliveries actually tripled to a record 10,331 vehicles in the second quarter compared to a year earlier, and revenue rose to 3.72 billion yuan, as China’s auto market was showing early signs of a post-pandemic recovery. Nio’s soaring share price on the Nasdaq lifted Li’s net worth from $572.4 million on May 22 to its current level of $2.9 billion.

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“The company is doing well this year. It found investment, accelerated new vehicle launches, and kept up good service quality,” said Yale Zhang, managing director of Shanghai-based consultancy Automotive Foresight.  

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GM, Honda Target Savings By Collaborating On EVs, Gas-Engine Models

Electric motor parts at General Motors Global Propulsion Systems Center in Pontiac, Michigan.

Photo by Jeffrey Sauger for General Motors

General Motors and Honda will expand their partnership to cooperate on developing future vehicles by sharing the underpinnings, or platforms, on both gas-fueled and electric vehicles.

Neither company said how much it planned to spend on the partnership.

The two automakers announced plans last April to collaborate on two new electric vehicles. Before that, they were combining resources on fuel cell technology and on a self-driving model called Cruise Origin, that originated with GM GM ’s Cruise Automation subsidiary.

Planning for the new partnership will start now, the two companies said, with engineering work beginning in early 2021, GM said.

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This Is What The Lexus ES Hybrid Premium Sedan Feels Like On Urban Roads

Lexus ES 300h F-Sport at the drive-in

Leigh Banks

The ES is my first pandemic-induced post-lockdown test drive. Confined to my immediate neighborhood – what effectively became a “15-minute city” reality – I have been eager to get back in a car other than my own and explore beyond our lockdown borders. As it turns out, the week the Lexus premium mid-size sedan arrives, construction work commences on our home and the great city escape is abandoned.

Instead I experience the ES in every conceivable London scenario running errands for our builders. This means navigating roads chocked with traffic - post lockdown traffic apparently compensating for lost street-time - and re-learning routes furtively altered during lockdown. It requires keeping a constant eye on roads now reserved for electric vehicles, as well as staying hyper-alert to what appears to be a tripling of amateur cyclists and electric scooters. It also involves my very first drive-in theatre experience.

Lexus ES F-Sport model range

Lexus
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The ES is a critical product for Lexus. Alongside the flagship LS, it globally launched Toyota’s premium brand in 1989. Today the car is the marque’s most popular sedan, having collected over 2.3 million cumulative global sales. This model is the seventh generation ES. When the new design was initially revealed three years ago, it forged an ambitious path for the marque with an all-new chassis that allows for more dynamic styling and improved driving performance. The car I have on test is the latest ES 300h F-Sport - on sale since 2019 and benefiting from the company’s advanced self-charging hybrid powertrain.

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Wildfires rage, Covid spreads: in California, life as we knew it has disappeared | Dana Frank

At 10am on 16 August, I drove east from Santa Cruz to Oakland to my mom’s nursing home, where I was being allowed in, in full PPE, to kiss her a last goodbye. As I curved north through San Jose, I could see a billowing steel-gray fire cloud among the hills to the east. Lightning flashed past Berkeley as I pulled into the parking lot. On the way home, I took the long route across the San Mateo Bridge, then over the top of the San Francisco Peninsula and south from Half Moon Bay. Halfway down the coast I saw a helicopter dropping bright red pillows of retardant on to a fire streaming its smoke in a flat horizontal panel out to the ocean. Ten minutes later I passed white smoke pouring down another canyon on my left. Before I pulled into my driveway at the edge of Santa Cruz, I could see a fourth, giant fire spewing far to the south beyond Salinas.

By afternoon it was clear that the fires I’d seen were just a few of the hundreds sparked all over northern California by freak thunderstorms that weekend, in which 10,800 lightning strikes ignited 367 fires. Soon, hundreds of the small fires converged into bigger and bigger ones, so fast and so vast that Cal Fire didn’t even give names to the largest ones as it usually does, resorting to acronyms like the SCU Lightning Complex, the LNU Lightning Complex, and my own fire to the north and east of Santa Cruz, the CZU Lightning Complex.

Two of those fires are now the second- and third-largest in California history. By 28 August, the largest, the LNU fire north-east of the Bay Area, had burned 371,000 acres. Together, the fires have burned over a million acres. We’re in “unprecedented” mode, here, as climate change, Covid-19, and other factors converge to wreak vast destruction.

By Monday the 17th we knew quite how serious the fires were. The first looming threat was to the 100,000-person city of Vacaville, between the Bay Area and Sacramento, where walls of flame moved in on tract houses in residential neighborhoods. The TV showed median barriers aflame at night alongside Interstate 80, eight lanes of cars sliding past them a foot or two away.

I sat in the backyard in the middle of that day amid 10ft-high sunflowers bathed in eerie diffuse golden light, waiting for the phone call that my mother had died. Two hours later after the call arrived, the nursing home texted that 20 residents and staffers had just tested positive for Covid-19; four had been hospitalized. I began the process of contacting relatives, banks, and the lawyer, and of counting the 14 days until I could de-quarantine myself and come remotely near any of my loved ones – although never less than 6ft, and always outside, as for the last five months.

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Wildfires rage, Covid spreads: in California, life as we knew it has disappeared | Dana Frank

At 10am on 16 August, I drove east from Santa Cruz to Oakland to my mom’s nursing home, where I was being allowed in, in full PPE, to kiss her a last goodbye. As I curved north through San Jose, I could see a billowing steel-gray fire cloud among the hills to the east. Lightning flashed past Berkeley as I pulled into the parking lot. On the way home, I took the long route across the San Mateo Bridge, then over the top of the San Francisco Peninsula and south from Half Moon Bay. Halfway down the coast I saw a helicopter dropping bright red pillows of retardant on to a fire streaming its smoke in a flat horizontal panel out to the ocean. Ten minutes later I passed white smoke pouring down another canyon on my left. Before I pulled into my driveway at the edge of Santa Cruz, I could see a fourth, giant fire spewing far to the south beyond Salinas.

By afternoon it was clear that the fires I’d seen were just a few of the hundreds sparked all over northern California by freak thunderstorms that weekend, in which 10,800 lightning strikes ignited 367 fires. Soon, hundreds of the small fires converged into bigger and bigger ones, so fast and so vast that Cal Fire didn’t even give names to the largest ones as it usually does, resorting to acronyms like the SCU Lightning Complex, the LNU Lightning Complex, and my own fire to the north and east of Santa Cruz, the CZU Lightning Complex.

Two of those fires are now the second- and third-largest in California history. By 28 August, the largest, the LNU fire north-east of the Bay Area, had burned 371,000 acres. Together, the fires have burned over a million acres. We’re in “unprecedented” mode, here, as climate change, Covid-19, and other factors converge to wreak vast destruction.

By Monday the 17th we knew quite how serious the fires were. The first looming threat was to the 100,000-person city of Vacaville, between the Bay Area and Sacramento, where walls of flame moved in on tract houses in residential neighborhoods. The TV showed median barriers aflame at night alongside Interstate 80, eight lanes of cars sliding past them a foot or two away.

I sat in the backyard in the middle of that day amid 10ft-high sunflowers bathed in eerie diffuse golden light, waiting for the phone call that my mother had died. Two hours later after the call arrived, the nursing home texted that 20 residents and staffers had just tested positive for Covid-19; four had been hospitalized. I began the process of contacting relatives, banks, and the lawyer, and of counting the 14 days until I could de-quarantine myself and come remotely near any of my loved ones – although never less than 6ft, and always outside, as for the last five months.

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Volta Truck’s Electric “Zero” Promises Increased Efficiency, Safety, Logistics Ability

Electric Volta Zero, with central driving position

Volta Trucks

Sweden’s Volta Trucks is launching what it called the world’s first purpose-built electric 16-tonne commercial vehicle, and one analyst expects it to be well-received in the market-place.

The Volta Zero will be launched later in 2020, start trials with logistics operators in the first half of 2021, and go into production in 2022.

Volta Trucks, a start-up which carries out most of its business in Britain, expects to sell 500 Zeros in 2022, rising to 5,000 in 2025.

The Zero has an operating range of between 95 and 125 miles (150 to 200 kilometres). The driver is located in the centre of the cab.

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Extinction Rebellion: rights experts say peaceful protest in UK under threat

Civil liberty experts have warned that peaceful protest is under threat in the UK after environmental campaigners were targeted with pre-emptive arrest and “unworkable restrictions” were placed on this week’s Extinction Rebellion (XR) demonstrations.

Thousands of people have taken to the streets this week to highlight the escalating climate emergency and demand urgent action from the government.

More than 200 campaigners have so far been arrested. The civil liberties group Liberty said legitimate protest was being hampered by forceful police tactics.

“Despite the fact the police have a duty to facilitate protest, recent weeks have seen unworkable restrictions, fines and arrests all used to deter us from exercising our rights,” said Gracie Bradley, the group’s interim director. “These restrictions are heavy-handed and go too far.”

The Metropolitan police has issued restrictions under section 14 of the Public Order Act stating the XR demonstration in Westminster must take place within the off-road area of Parliament Square between 8am and 7pm.

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Extinction Rebellion: rights experts say peaceful protest in UK under threat

Civil liberty experts have warned that peaceful protest is under threat in the UK after environmental campaigners were targeted with pre-emptive arrest and “unworkable restrictions” were placed on this week’s Extinction Rebellion (XR) demonstrations.

Thousands of people have taken to the streets this week to highlight the escalating climate emergency and demand urgent action from the government.

More than 200 campaigners have so far been arrested. The civil liberties group Liberty said legitimate protest was being hampered by forceful police tactics.

“Despite the fact the police have a duty to facilitate protest, recent weeks have seen unworkable restrictions, fines and arrests all used to deter us from exercising our rights,” said Gracie Bradley, the group’s interim director. “These restrictions are heavy-handed and go too far.”

The Metropolitan police has issued restrictions under section 14 of the Public Order Act stating the XR demonstration in Westminster must take place within the off-road area of Parliament Square between 8am and 7pm.

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Road closed or open? The signs revamping low-traffic neighbourhoods

An alternative road sign is being adopted by communities around England to promote the benefits of low-traffic neighbourhoods (LTN).

Finding that the official signs on the temporary barriers installed in her own LTN in Brixton, London, conveyed the wrong message, Sarah Berry and other local residentsdesigned a green sign reading “road open to” with icons showing pedestrians, a scooter user, a wheelchair user and a bicycle.

It has become a popular alternative to red “road closed” signs frequently used at entrances to LTNs.

Campaigners, residents, and councillors say red signs do not effectively communicate the point of LTNs, which are intended to deter drivers from cutting through residential streets between main roads, known as rat-running.

“The red signs are kind of the opposite of what these schemes are trying to suggest, which is that the use of this space is changing,” Berry said. “It’s no longer going to have cars streaming through, it’s going to be a place where the community can stop, have a conversation, let their kids play.”

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New Zealand experiences warmest winter on record

New Zealand has had its warmest winter since records began more than 100 years ago, according to official climate data.

The National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research’s (Niwa) Seven Station Temperature Series, which began in 1909, shows the 2020 winter was 1.14C above average.

Niwa forecaster Ben Noll said that seven of the 10 warmest winters on record in New Zealand have now occurred since 2000. “It just showcases the trajectory that we are on,” he said.

Noll said that, decades into the future, these present-day records might be more like average winters for the country and that would have impacts across many sectors of society.

Seventeen locations around the country had record breaking-mean winter temperatures, and 53 other locations ranked within their top four warmest winters.

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Changing Australian fashion's worst-kept secret could help struggling farmers | Lucianne Tonti

It may just be the worst-kept secret in Australian fashion. The country doesn’t process its own wool or cotton. Processing skills and infrastructure moved overseas in the 1990s, when tariff protections for textiles, clothing and footwear industries were significantly reduced, and China was able to undercut prices and offer more efficient ways to turn raw materials into marketable commodities.

Three decades on, and despite producing 90% of the world’s fine apparel wool, all but a handful of Australia’s wool processing plants have closed. More than 80% of Australia’s wool clip is sent to China and more than 90% of Australia’s cotton is exported – with the majority processed in Asia. Opportunities for innovation in the local fibre industry have stagnated.

This should be surprising. The Woolmark symbol is a source of national pride, sought after in Parisian ateliers and the knitting mills of Reggio Emilia. Australia has a near monopoly on fine apparel wool, which should make it a lucrative crop, yet the capacity to capitalise on this is limited.

The devastating bushfires of last summer were barely embers when coronavirus hit. In June, citing the pandemic’s impact on supply chains and concerns about Australian reliance on China, the National Farmers’ Federation called for the revival of food and fibre manufacturing, saying the return of value-adding processing would greatly benefit regional economies and protect Australian farmers. Victoria’s minister for agriculture, Jaclyn Symes, has also expressed an interest in local processing.

The pandemic has increased demand for local manufacturing, a welcome change for sustainable fashion advocates. Local production is not inherently more sustainable, but local manufacturers have to comply with Australian environment and employment laws.

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Gladys Berejiklian says reaching net zero emissions by 2050 is achievable and would be 'the stuff of dreams'

The New South Wales’ Liberal premier, Gladys Berejiklian, says it will not take much to reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, and it would be “the stuff of dreams” for an Australian Coalition government to legislate that target.

The comments came at a Wednesday night webinar conversation between Berejiklian and the former British prime minister Theresa May, hosted by the group Coalition for Conservation.

Drawing an implicit contrast between her administration and the Morrison government, Berejiklian said it was “music to her ears” to hear May describe Britain as “a modern progressive democracy with a centre-right government” that had world-leading emissions policy that promoted economic growth.

“I’m sure if I said this publicly … I don’t think there’s any media on this webinar … the assessment we’ve done is the targets for net zero by 2050, it doesn’t take much to get there,” she said, citing how quickly the world was being changed by clean technology and digitisation.

Berejiklian praised May on her performance as prime minister, describing it as “legacy-making”. “To have a conservative Tory government legislate 2050 emissions is the stuff of dreams in Australia, and we can only hope to emulate it,” she said.

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Classic Customizers To Produce Tesla-Powered Defender

Rendering of an electric version of the Land Rover Defender being built by classic vehicle ... [+] customizer ECD Automotive Design based in Kissimmee, Fla.

Will Cheaney

You might call it a Tesla TSLA in Land Rover’s clothing. A Florida-based company that specializes in customizing classic Land Rovers, and in particular, Defenders, is getting set to build the first electric Defender in the U.S. It will be powered by a Tesla drivetrain.

ECD Automotive Design, based in Kissimmee, Fla. is partnering with Electric Classic Cars (ECC)—a UK company with expertise in electric conversions of classic vehicles, to build the EVs. The first one is set to roll off ECD’s production line later this year. 

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It’s just another chapter in the short history of ECD, founded in 2013 by a trio of British auto enthusiasts who met at a party in their homeland, had a subsequent conversation over a case of beer, according to co-founder Scott Wallace and realized they also had a mutual affection for old Defenders. 

Scott Wallace, co-founder, ECD Automotive Design.

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'Culture of misinformation': artists protest against London thinktanks

A group of artists and writers including Zadie Smith and Sir Mark Rylance have spoken out against the thinktanks and lobbyists at the heart of Westminster, gathering with hundreds of protesters near their offices on Wednesday night.

Speakers from Writers Rebel, a group formed in support of the aims of Extinction Rebellion, blocked Tufton Street in London amid a noticeable police presence.

Offices on the street include that of the Global Warming Policy Foundation, which states on its website “while [it is] open-minded on the contested science of global warming, [it] is deeply concerned about the costs and other implications of many of the policies currently being advocated”.

Four people, including author and XR member Rupert Read and Writers Rebel co-founder Jessica Townsend, were later arrested after spraying stencils reading “Lies, Lies, Economics and Lies” on the entrances to 55 Tufton Street.

The group also occupied the street on large tripod constructions, and Read poured paint representing blood down the steps of the building.

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