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  • Getting to Green

    An administrator pushes, on a shoestring budget, to move his university and the world toward a more sustainable equilibrium.

Omaha stakes
January 13, 2009 - 2:00pm

Warren Buffett has seen the future of personal transportation, and it isn't spelled "GM". The Oracle of Omaha (or, more specifically, Buffett-controlled Berkshire Hathaway) has taken a ten percent stake in a Chinese firm called BYD Company Ltd. A subsidiary, BYD Auto, has announced that they will enter the US market in 2011, bringing us the world's first mass-produced plug-in hybrid and a five-passenger electric-only crossover vehicle which gets 250 miles between charges. (It also does 0-to-60 in about 10 seconds.)

How is a still-emerging Chinese company able to beat out the world's largest automaker? Well, electric vehicles are inherently simpler to engineer and manufacture than internal-combustion ones, and BYD doesn't have to free itself from a century of now-outmoded thinking. Maybe experience and cunning really does beat youth and enthusiasm, but GM's experience may be largely inapplicable, and "cunning" isn't a term that's been applied to them in recent memory. Take the youth and the points.

So, what does this mean to Greenback U? Well, for starts, as part of any capital project which gets within about 50 feet of a prime parking space, I'm going to start lobbying for ability to access 220V electrical service. Not the cabling right away, but at least the necessary conduit to ease future installation. I can't think of anything the university could do which would get faculty (and maybe even public) attention more than creating electric-only parking spots in prime locations on campus. No need to fight the political battle until the first electric commuter car shows up on campus, but at that point I think it will be an easy win -- especially if the key infrastructure is in place.

After all, 2011's only two years away. And it's hard to make money by betting against Warren Buffett.


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