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The Wall Street Journal: Oil Prices, Climate Concerns May Spur the Electric Car

By MICHAEL CONNOLLY
October 24, 2007

With no end in sight to high oil prices and amid climate-change concerns, auto-industry leaders gathering for the Tokyo Motor Show this week are debating whether it’s time to skip past partial electrification of cars — represented by gasoline-electric hybrids such as the Toyota Prius — and to push instead to revive the ideal of all-electric cars that the industry largely abandoned earlier this decade.

As Joseph B. White and Norihiko Shirouzu report, Renault-Nissan Chief Executive Carlos Ghosn and Honda President and CEO Takeo Fukui argue, in separate interviews, that all-electric vehicles make more sense from environmental, political and economic points of view than hybrids — provided there are advances in making lithium-ion-battery technology safer and more reliable. Industry leaders are worried that U.S. and European regulators may force car makers to dramatically decrease the petroleum consumption of new vehicles, and more big cities are moving to institute curbs on automobile use in congested urban centers.

Meanwhile, oil-consuming nations shouldn’t expect quick relief from high oil prices from OPEC, the world’s only source for big, quick supplies, reports Neil King Jr. OPEC has neither the clear leverage nor the inclination to open the spigots and drive down the price of crude. While the cartel could make a modest move to increase output — either during a heads-of-state meeting in Saudi Arabia next month or at a ministerial gathering in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, in early December — OPEC officials insist that geopolitical jitters and speculative cash are driving this year’s price surge, not a crimp in supply.

Read our report on electric cars from Joseph B. White in Tokyo and Norihiko Shirouzu in Utsunomiya, Japan: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB119316295232868647.html

Read Neil King Jr.’s report on OPEC: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB119316714433868707.html

Read Yoshio Takahashi’s report on earnings at Toyota, Honda and Nissan Motor: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB119316483160568670.html

 

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