CERAWeek Diary: Pompeo pushes CV with hymn of praise to America’s ‘new age of discovery’

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said America’s system of free enterprise was a model for the rest of the world to follow. (Reuters)
Updated 14 March 2019

CERAWeek Diary: Pompeo pushes CV with hymn of praise to America’s ‘new age of discovery’

  • Pompeo’s address was a 20-minute hymn of praise to the US energy industry, which had launched a ‘new age of discovery’ in the world
  • His message was that the American system of free enterprise, good business conduct, transparency and accountability was the model for the rest of the world to follow

It was the biggest event so far at the CERAWeek by IHS Markit energy forum in Houston, Texas: A special address from Mike Pompeo, the US secretary of state. And they turned up in their droves to hear from America’s top diplomat, and a close associate of President Donald Trump.
The doors of the Ballroom of the Americas in the downtown Hilton were locked as Pompeo took the stage alongside Daniel Yergin, the energy expert and author who is the driving force behind the event. There were around 2,000 people in the room, I would say. Journalists had to use a special entrance for security reasons, though it was never explained exactly why.
Pompeo and Yergin — both Californians by origin — go back some way. The secretary reminded the audience of his days in the oil industry, after he graduated from the US military academy at West Point and before he became head of the Central Intelligence Agency. He read and learned a lot from Yergin’s Pulitzer-winning history of the oil industry, “The Prize.”
He is still learning from Yergin, he revealed. Just recently, Pompeo called the author into the State Department to get advice on US energy policy. He also took some recent counsel from one of his predecessors in the department, Henry Kissinger. You could hear the names drop in the hall.
Pompeo’s address was a 20-minute hymn of praise to the US energy industry, which had launched a “new age of discovery” in the world, he said. Like Spindletop — the Texan oil well that had inaugurated the age of US oil when it gushed in 1901 — the new techniques of shale oil production, such as fracking and horizontal drilling, had brought about a renaissance in US business life, and it was time to go out and tell the world, Pompeo said.
His message was that the American system of free enterprise, good business conduct, transparency and accountability was the model for the rest of the world to follow. He put it in stark contrast to the statist philosophies of China, Russia and Iran, which, he said, used business as a tool of their murky foreign policies.
There was much nodding in approval around the hall when he attacked China for its expansionist policies in Southeast Asia, which he
said were designed to stop regional governments exploiting the natural resources on the ocean floor.
There was a loud mutter of approval when Pompeo turned his guns on Russia. Moscow’s policies in Ukraine and Syria were all designed to give them a greater foothold in European and Middle East energy markets, he explained.
Iran had made Iraq into a vassal state for the same reason, and he reiterated US policy to teach Tehran a lesson by driving oil exports from the country to zero by the application of draconian sanctions.
Venezuela and Cuba were also listed in the cast of “bad actors” on the global stage, and Pompeo left the audience in no doubt that his ultimate aim was to force change in both countries by the application of energy-related sanctions. The US would also like to blunt Russian and Iranian meddling in the region, which Pompeo said was in dire need of stability and security, US-style.
All these are long-term strategic goals, Pompeo said, and achieving them will not be straightforward, or easy. But at the end of his talk, in a fireside chat with Yergin, he left open the intriguing possibility that he might not be the man who would see them through to fruition.
Harking back to his days in the energy industry, he said: “I’m the first secretary of state that can actually run a lathe, so if this whole diplomatic thing falls through, I’m ready to get back at it.”
Judging from the enthusiastic reception his speech received, Pompeo will not be short of a job in the energy business in the next few years.

  • Frank Kane is an award-winning business journalist based in Dubai. Twitter: @frankkanedubai


Electric luxury vehicles, SUVs ‘more likely to cause accidents’

Updated 23 August 2019

Electric luxury vehicles, SUVs ‘more likely to cause accidents’

  • As EV sales rise, French insurer AXA warns that drivers are struggling to adapt to cars’ rapid acceleration

LONDON: Electric luxury cars and sport utility vehicles (SUVs) may be 40 percent more likely to cause accidents than their standard engine counterparts, possibly because drivers are still getting used to their quick acceleration, French insurer AXA said.

The numbers, based on initial trends from claims data and not statistically significant, also suggest small and micro electric cars are slightly less likely to cause accidents than their combustion engine counterparts, AXA said at a crash test demonstration on Thursday.

AXA regularly carries out crash tests for vehicles. This year’s tests, which took place at a disused airport, focused on electric cars.

Overall accident rates for electric vehicles are about the same as for regular cars, according to liability insurance claims data for “7,000 year risks” — on 1,000 autos on the road for seven years — said Bettina Zahnd, head of accident research and prevention at AXA Switzerland.

“We saw that in the micro and small-car classes slightly fewer accidents are caused by electric autos. If you look at the luxury and SUV classes, however, we see 40 percent more accidents with electric vehicles,” Zahnd said.

“We, of course, have thought about what causes this and acceleration is certainly a topic.”

Electric cars accelerate not only quickly, but also equally strongly no matter how high the revolutions per minute, which means drivers can find themselves going faster than they intended.

FASTFACT

Accident rates among luxury and SUV electric vehicles are 40 percent higher than for their combustion engine counterparts.

Half of electric car drivers in a survey this year by AXA had to adjust their driving to reflect the new acceleration and braking characteristics.

“Maximum acceleration is available immediately, while it takes a moment for internal combustion engines with even strong horsepower to reach maximum acceleration. That places new demands on drivers,” Zahnd said.

Sales of electric cars are on the rise as charging infrastructure improves and prices come down.

Electric vehicles accounted for less than 1 percent of cars on the road in Switzerland and Germany last year, but made up 1.8 percent of Swiss new car sales, or 6.6 percent including hybrids, AXA said.

Accidents with electric cars are just about as dangerous for people inside as with standard vehicles, AXA said. The cars are subject to the same tests and have the same passive safety features such as airbags and seatbelts.

But another AXA survey showed most people do not know how to react if they come across an electric vehicle crash scene.

While most factors are the same — securing the scene, alerting rescue teams and providing first aid — it said helpers should also try to ensure the electric motor is turned off. This is particularly important because unlike an internal combustion engine the motor makes no noise. In serious crashes, electric autos’ high-voltage power plants automatically shut down, AXA noted, but damaged batteries can catch fire up to 48 hours after a crash, making it more difficult to deal with the aftermath of
an accident.

For one head-on crash test on Thursday, AXA teams removed an electric car’s batteries to reduce the risk of them catching fire, which could create intense heat and toxic fumes.

Zahnd said that studies in Europe had not replicated US findings that silent electric vehicles are as much as two-thirds more likely to cause accidents with pedestrians or cyclists.

She said the jury was still out on how crash data would affect the cost of insuring electric versus standard vehicles, noting this always reflected factors around both driver and car.

“If I look around Switzerland, there are lots of insurers that even give discounts for electric autos because one would like to promote electric cars,” she said.