U.S. oil industry wants farmers to help it fight Biden’s electric vehicle agenda

NEW YORK — The U.S. oil industry is seeking to forge an alliance with the nation’s corn growers and biofuel producers to lobby against the Biden administration’s push for electric vehicles, but is so far meeting a cool reception, according to multiple sources familiar with the discussions.

The effort marks an unusual attempt by the petroleum industry to cozy up to its long-time rivals, reflecting the scale of its concern over President Joe Biden’s sweeping measures to combat climate change and tamp down fossil fuel use.

While the oil industry and biofuels producers are natural competitors for space in America’s gas tanks, they share a desire to ensure a future for internal combustion engines.

The effort also reflects the rapidly shifting political landscape in Washington: the oil industry’s once-mighty influence has waned since Biden replaced Donald Trump as president, but the farm belt remains a vital and powerful political constituency.

The American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers oil refining trade group confirmed it has been contacting state and national representatives of the corn and biofuel industries in recent weeks to seek support for a policy that would reduce the carbon-intensity of transport fuels and block efforts to provide federal subsidies for electric vehicles.

That proposal would be an alternative to Biden’s stated goal of electrifying the nation’s vehicle fleet and would ensure a continuing market for liquid fuels like gasoline and corn-based ethanol.

AFPM met in mid-January with some corn and biofuel industry lobbyists and some member refiners are hoping to host another meeting in February to discuss the future of liquid fuels.

“This whole idea was going to have to take a whole lot of time to gel, but we have made some progress,” said Derrick Morgan, senior vice president at AFPM.

The industry’s push to change the course of electric vehicle policy faces big headwinds: California has announced a ban on internal combustion engines by 2035, other states are considering similar measures, and General Motors on Thursday announced it will produce only electric vehicles by then.

Geoff Cooper, head of the Renewable Fuels Association, a leading biofuel industry trade group, confirmed RFA representatives were invited to participate in the February meeting, but said his organization had not yet decided whether to attend.

“We weren’t born yesterday and we’re not going to let the oil industry play us like a fiddle,” he said. “They have a long history of pushing surrogates and proxies to the microphone to do their dirty work and we’re not interested in that.”

The National Corn Growers Association is also considering whether to send staff the February discussion, according to two sources familiar with the matter.

NCGA CEO Jon Doggett told Reuters no such meeting had been scheduled, and distanced his group from the idea of an oil-corn alliance. “I have nothing to do with any refining groups. We haven’t talked,” he said.

Asked if any of its state-level member organizations were considering attending, Doggett replied, “We have dozens of groups. I can’t know what all of them are planning.”

Sources said the biofuel and corn industry is reluctant to join with the oil industry on this issue not just because of its longstanding rivalry with refiners, but also because it does not want to publicly oppose the energy policies of the new president.

Whiplash in Washington

The refining sector enjoyed a seat at the table under former President Donald Trump, who was keen to bolster the oil and gas industry.

Biden marks a complete reversal. He entered the White House promising measures to restrain the oil industry, from pausing new drilling leases on public lands to contemplating tougher limits on emissions.

Biden this week pledged to buy 645,000 electric cars for the government vehicle fleet as part of a broader plan to advance EVs through vehicle procurement, infrastructure development and subsidies, threatening the multi-billion dollar gasoline market.

AFPM’s Morgan said refiners are not scared of electric vehicles but dislike rigid government mandates. “What we have a problem with are heavy-handed mandates that take away consumer choice, either altogether or in large part. We don’t think that’s the right way forward,” Morgan said.

The oil industry believes carbon emissions from fuel can be reduced by requiring increased octane content, which makes gasoline burn cleaner. Ethanol is a popular octane booster.

The U.S. Renewable Fuel Standard currently requires refiners to blend biofuels like ethanol into fuels. As a result, most gasoline sold in the United States has about 10 percent ethanol in it. The biofuel industry has been pushing hard to ensure those mandates continue.

“It’s no surprise the oil industry all of a sudden wants to give us a bear hug. We produce lower carbon fuels. They don’t,” said Emily Skor, head of the biofuel group Growth Energy.

Reporting by Jarrett Renshaw and Stephanie Kelly; Editing by Richard Valdmanis and Dan Grebler

Source: AutoBlog.com

Learn to code with this LEGO toy

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Coding may be the way of the future, but let’s be honest, it can be pretty boring. LEGO, however, is out to make it fun with the Mindstorms Robot Inventor kit, which lets builders develop their coding skills while building LEGO toys. The kit comes with 949 pieces and 5 models to build from. It also comes with a free app download which lets you drag-and-drop coding language making your little LEGO creation move and perform tasks.

Transcript: Learn to code with LEGO. LEGO Mindstorms Robot Inventor kit will grow your building skills. Inside the kit are 949 pieces and 5 models to build. A free app features a drag-and-drop coding language that brings your LEGO creations to life with movement and the ability to do simple tasks. LEGO Mindstorms Robot Inventor kit is currently $354.55 on Amazon. 

LEGO Mindstorms Robot Inventor Kit – $354.55 on Amazon

Source: AutoBlog.com

Gaming Roundup | Ford presents the ‘Rocket League’ winter tournament

This week brings us more awesome “Rocket League” news, a tease that you’ll soon be able to play “The Witcher 3” in your new Tesla, and some news about the Autoblog livestream.

RLCSX Winter Major ‘Rocket League’ tournament, sponsored by Ford

In another big recent announcement from Psyonix, the creators of “Rocket League,” it seems that Ford has signed on to be the main sponsor of the game’s big winter tournament. According to the official “Rocket League” website, “The ‘Rocket League’ Championship Series (RLCS) X Winter Split has been defined by the best ‘Rocket League’ players in the world pushing their skills and abilities to the next level. We wanted a sponsor that reflected that same amount of drive in their own work and products. That’s why we’re proud to announce Ford as the presenting sponsor for all RLCS X Winter Majors! Ford is a sponsor that’s built tough and committed to helping us make sure the Regional Majors have something for everyone. We also have some surprises coming in-game as well, so stay tuned for more information.”

The tournament begins on February 5, so make sure to tune into the “Rocket League” twitch channel to keep up with all the latest. 

Tesla Model S, Model X refreshes have built-in, beefed-up gaming

Tesla announced this week that the latest Model S and Model X will have gaming hardware included that’s so capable it could potentially run huge, resource-heavy games like “The Witcher 3.” The big headline-grabber is that it will have “up to 10 teraflops of processing power,” making it just about on par with the Playstation 5, which features 10.28 teraflops of power. Of course, gaming in your Tesla isn’t new. In fact, we’ve tried it ourselves, but this latest upgrade represents a huge leap forward for the feature. You’ll still be able to play on your infotainment display, but now you’ll be able to connect a wireless controller and play huge open-world games like “The Witcher 3,” which, if Tesla’s own marketing photos are any indication, is definitely coming to the vehicle soon. If you don’t feel like spending $70,000 on a gaming rig you can drive, though, you can still play the RPG-adventure on Playstation, Xbox, or PC.

Autoblog Livestream will be moving to just one day a week

The last piece of game news we have for you today is that starting next week, the Autoblog livestream will move to just one day a week: on Tuesdays, from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Eastern time. We’ll still be bringing you the same exciting racing game action and car nerd talk as always, we’re just making some changes for the new year to make sure we can keep our content the best it can be. If you’re interested in checking out the stream, you can do that right here, every Tuesday.

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Source: AutoBlog.com

Geely says it will make EVs for Faraday Future with Foxconn

SHANGHAI/TAIPEI — China’s Zhejiang Geely Holding Group says that it and Foxconn are in talks to provide contract manufacturing services to electric vehicle maker Faraday Future.

Geely said in a statement that it had signed a framework agreement to offer technology and engineering support to Faraday Future, and had become a minority investor in Faraday Future’s listing.

Foxconn declined to comment on the manufacturing partnership.

Reuters reported on Monday that Faraday Future plans to set up a new base in China and enlist Geely for contract manufacturing services, citing people familiar with the matter.

Faraday Future will go public through a merger with Property Solutions Acquisition Corp in a deal valuing the combined entity at $3.4 billion.

With the global EV business, dominated by the likes of Tesla Inc, growing at an explosive pace, a flurry of EV makers are rushing to tap the red-hot initial public offering (IPO) market.

Source: AutoBlog.com

Florida man builds very Florida Jeep

The Jeep Gladiator is a very capable vehicle. As such, it can be considered cool, even if its overall aesthetic and design, strewn with knowing, winky easter eggs, falls just short of self-parody. Pole-vaulting way into the realm beyond parody is a custom Jeep Gladiator 6×6 built by an outfit called So Flo Jeeps.

As you may have deduced, the company is located in Florida, probably the south. We found the car on a site called James Edition, which bills itself as “The World’s Luxury Marketplace” and holds a slightly greater than 50 percent chance of being real.

The vehicle is referred to as the So Flo Jeeps SF 6x6G. Apparently, it’s powered by a 500-horsepower Chevy LS3 engine and custom axles and driveshafts that put power to all six wheels. The ad also states that it was built by cutting in half a 2020 Gladiator, as if that was a selling point. The words “unapologetic,” “aggressive” and “one-of-a-king” are also adjectives that appear in the copy. That’s sic without the k, bro.

The engine “propels the street-legal monster truck with 12,000ft/lbs. of tow capacity.” We hope the company’s building capabilities are better than its spelling, grammar and understanding of units of measurement. An aftermarket suspension adds a 5-inch lift, which helps give the truck a claimed 14 inches of suspension travel.

The gray coating that covers the exterior is described as a three-part scratch-resistant epoxy mixed with Kevlar fiber and is 1/16 of an inch thick. The preferred method of upkeep is power-washing. It sports custom fenders, grille, a Predator hood and, of course, de rigueur color-changing halo headlights.

So what’s it like to drive? Well, according to the listing it can take on any off-road challenges and “effortlessly hit 90 mph on the highway and not be all over three lanes.” That sounds like a winner to us, so if you’ve got $175,000 in fraudulent PPP loans burning a hole through your tactical wallet, maybe this is the vehicle for you.

Disclaimer: We know not all cars from Florida are bad.

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Source: AutoBlog.com

Top drivers come together for the weekend’s Rolex 24 at Daytona

The No. 60 Meyer Shank Racing w/ Curb-Agajanian Acura DPi of Juan Pablo Montoya, Dane Cameron, Olivier Pla, and AJ Allmendinger during a practice session for the Rolex 24 at Daytona. (Getty Images)

The Rolex 24 at Daytona is once again stacked with superstars — Kevin Magnussen fresh out of Formula One, reigning IndyCar champion Scott Dixon and Chase Elliott, two months removed from his first NASCAR title — all part of a robust field of 50 entries just a year removed from a record-low car count.

Even in a pandemic, the Rolex 24 is the place to be for racers.

The prestigious international sports car race began in 1962 as the three-hour Daytona Continental before Bill France Sr. expanded it four years later into a twice-around-the-clock endurance event. France wanted the top road racers in the world at his Florida facility and created the stage for them to come.

“He had the vision of best drivers, best cars, best teams and this year in particular really shines,” said John Doonan, president of IMSA, the sports car series owned by the France family. “This event is a place where drivers can compete against the best of the best. It’s the greatest gathering of champions around the world from every discipline under the sun.”

Jimmie Johnson, the seven-time NASCAR champion headed to IndyCar this year as a rookie, will be behind the wheel of an Action Express Cadillac when the race begins Saturday. It will be Johnson’s eighth Rolex, first in a decade, and he’s part of an all-star lineup seeking history.

The No. 48 — running in partnership with Hendrick Motorsports of NASCAR — includes Indianapolis 500 winner Simon Pagenaud, former Rolex and Le Mans winner Mike Rockenfeller and Kamui Kobayashi, who is trying to become the first driver to win three straight Rolex watches in race history.

Kobayashi must contend with Renger van der Zande, his teammate on the winning Wayne Taylor Racing entry the last two season. WTR split by moving from Cadillac to an Acura factory program this season and Kobayashi and van der Zande went their separate ways.

Both return to Daytona in Cadillacs, van der Zande as the full-time driver alongside Magnussen in Chip Ganassi Racing’s return to the IMSA series after a one-year hiatus.

WTR is still stacked, though, with a lineup featuring reigning IMSA champions Ricky Taylor and Helio Castroneves, as well as Indy 500 winner Alexander Rossi. Michael Shank Racing fields the second Acura entry with two-time Indy 500 winner Juan Pablo Montoya, AJ Allmendinger and 2019 IMSA champion Dane Cameron.

Elliott makes his debut in the Action Express entry that starts from the pole Saturday. His Cadillac team includes full-time IMSA drivers Felipe Nasr and Pipo Derani, as well as veteran Mike Conway, and the trio has been patient in teaching Elliott about sports cars.

Elliott has won four consecutive NASCAR road course races over the last two seasons but insisted it gives him no leverage at the Rolex.

“It’s just a new ball game, something fresh and different and I understand the challenges are great and there’s a lot for me to learn,” Elliott said. “When you show up to somebody else’s playground it is going to be tough — some of the best road course racers in the world are here.”

The top DPi class has seven entries — four Cadillacs, two Acuras and a Mazda — among the field of 50 cars. Last year’s race was a Rolex-low 38 entries. Of note:

— Katherine Legge will compete for the first time since breaking both her legs in a crash last summer. She said she’s 99% healed after six months of rehabilitation and is teamed for the third consecutive year with Christina Nielsen. They are part of a Porsche 911 GT3R lineup in the loaded 20-car GT Daytona class.

— Zach Veach makes his sports car debut after seven seasons racing Indy cars. He lost his seat at Andretti Autosport late last year and has made the career shift to IMSA, where he’s landed a full-time ride with VasserSullivan Racing. Veach will run for the GTD championship in a Lexus RC F GT3 with strong competition from a second VasserSullivan entry piloted by Jack Hawksworth and Aaron Tellitz.

— Wayne Taylor Racing is the two-time defending race winning team and has three overall victories in the last four Rolex races. The team will adjust to its new Acura DPi with Ricky Taylor, Cameron and Rossi, who all drove the car the last three seasons for Team Penske.

— Magnussen has hit a reset on his career after seven winless seasons in F1. He lost his seat with Haas at the end of last season and made the switch to sports cars. Magnussen and van der Zande are the full-time drivers for Ganassi, who has eight Rolex victories — six overall wins and two class wins.

“I think it’s great to be with an organization that is all about winning,” Magnussen said. “The business model of Chip Ganassi Racing is winning — that’s what drives this team and keeps it going and its what keeps this team in existence.”

___

More AP sports

Source: AutoBlog.com

This 1988 Pontiac Grand Prix Daytona 500 pace car could be yours

Hopefully, the fans of GM’s W-body ’80s/’90s intermediates can forgive us, but we had pretty much forgotten — or had never really known — that one of the ways that era’s Pontiac Grand Prix bathed itself in glory was by serving as the pace car for the Daytona 500. In fact, the Grand Prix paced NASCAR’s marquee race every year from 1988 to 1992, and again in 1997, 1998, 2000 and 2003.

That first year, 1988, the Grand Prix was all-new, making its debut on the W-body platform. It was also Motor Trend‘s car of the year. The 1988 Daytona 500 marked the 17th year in a row that a Pontiac was chosen to set the pace but the first time a front-wheel-drive car was so honored. The ’88 Grand Prix followed a spate of Pontiac Trans Ams.

This ’88 Grand Prix, for sale right now on eBay Motors, is presented as an actual pace car, although fans could order a complete set of pace car decals for their very own GP. The pace car is based on that year’s top-spec Grand Prix, the SE. In place of the standard car’s 2.8-liter V6, however, the pace car uses a modified 3.1-liter V6, which is hooked to a five-speed manual transmission. This Grand Prix is otherwise largely standard fare excepting the roof-mounted light bar, the switches for which are located next to the radio. The mechanical odometer tucked into the digital instrument cluster shows just over 5,000 miles, and presumably, not all of them were acquired on the high-banked oval.

With four days to go in the auction, bidding sits at $4,000 with the reserve unmet. Although the reserve is unknown, one clue is that this Grand Prix had been listed by a classic-car dealership in Pennsylvania for $18,500.

Besides the debut of the W-body Grand Prix pace car, the 1988 race is also notable for its final lap: Bobby Allison held off his son, Davey Allison, to take the checkered flag, with the father-son duo enjoying a 1-2 finish.

Now, who wants to re-live those Grand Prix glory days? Get on your Pontiac and ride!

Source: AutoBlog.com

2022 Acura MDX and a trio of lovely sedans | Autoblog Podcast #662

In this week’s Autoblog Podcast, Editor-in-Chief Greg Migliore is joined by Road Test Editor Zac Palmer. This week, they talk about the cars they’ve been driving, including the 2021 Volkswagen Arteon, 2021 Kia K5 GT, 2022 Acura MDX and long-term 2021 Acura TLX. In this week’s news, they talk about the possibility of a Nissan Xterra return and break down what’s going on over at Lotus — the British sports car company is axing its current lineup and replacing the Elise, Exige and Evora with a new car called the Type 131.

Autoblog Podcast #662

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Rundown

  • What we’re driving:
    • 2021 Volkswagen Arteon
    • 2021 Kia K5 GT
    • 2022 Acura MDX
    • 2021 Acura TLX A-Spec
  • News
    • Return of the Nissan Xterra nameplate?
    • Lotus Type 131 replacing the entire Lotus lineup

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Dodge warns that regulations are killing the V8 engine

Dodge carved out a lucrative niche by democratizing high-horsepower V8s during the 2010s, but it predicts engines like the 392 and the Hellcat face a grim future. Although it will need to adopt electrification sooner rather than later, the firm stressed that its looming shift away from the V8 won’t come at the expense of performance.

“The days of an iron block supercharged 6.2-liter V8 are numbered. They’re absolutely numbered because of all the compliance costs. But the performance that those vehicles generate is not numbered,” asserted division chief Tim Kuniskis in an interview with CNBC. Regulations are currently looser in the United States than in Europe, where emissions-related penalties place the Jeep Wrangler deep into luxury car territory, but CNBC pointed out the Biden administration is widely expected to announce stricter emissions regulations in the near future.

Kuniskis clarified that demand for horsepower remains healthy; Dodge has built over 50,000 Hellcat-powered cars since 2014, and it easily filled the 2,000 available Durango SRT Hellcat build slots. Sister division Ram made 702 units of the 1500 TRX Launch Edition and sold them all in 10 minutes in spite of a $90,265 base price. The 6.2-liter supercharged Hellcat V8 deserves the Nobel Prize in Performance for bringing jaw-dropping horsepower figures to non-exotic cars and ushering in what Kuniskis described as the new golden age of muscle cars.

We’ve been here before, though. The muscle car’s first golden age ended abruptly in similar circumstances.

“1972 was the beginning of the end of the golden age of muscle cars. They went away for fuel economy, for the oil crisis. They went away for safety. They went away for insurance, and they went away for increasing emission standards. It’s kind of crazy to think about we’re getting close to a similar list of things right now,” he explained.

Electrification can help ensure enthusiasts don’t suddenly pivot from a golden age to a dark age. Kuniskis told CNBC that he views electric technology as performance 2.0, and that we’ll start seeing battery-powered drivetrains with Hellcat-rivaling horsepower figures as soon as the cost of the components comes down.

Kuniskis confirmed Dodge will begin adding electric and plug-in hybrid models to its range in the coming years. He stopped short of revealing the type of technology it will roll out across its line-up, or which cars will get it, but the Durango, the Charger, and the Challenger are all due to be replaced in the early 2020s. And, some of the hardware that sister company Jeep uses to build its 4xe powertrain, like an electric motor integrated into an eight-speed automatic transmission and a lithium-ion battery pack, could relatively easily end up in Dodge models.

Put another way, the Dodge range will likely look a lot different in, say, 2025, than it does in 2021. Its cars will be quieter, but they’ll still be able to roast their tires, and they’ll continue to be exceptionally quick.

“I’m super excited about the future of electric because I think it’s what’s going to allow us not to fall off the cliff. Without that technology, without electrification, this is 1972 right now, and this thing is going to end,” he said.

Source: AutoBlog.com

2022 Nissan Pathfinder teased, and it looks way better

The next-generation Nissan Pathfinder is coming on February 4, and Nissan just dropped a teaser for the model today.

Nissan’s video above depicts the new Pathfinder pounding down some dirt tracks, making loud engine noises and getting pelted with the elements. Dirt, rain, mud, snow and ice all make an appearance. As for the car itself, Nissan is keeping most of it close to its chest.

It’s clearly going to say “Pathfinder” across the rear hatch in much larger lettering than it does today, The frontal shot depicts a generic, big SUV with bright running lights peeking through the dirt. We can pick out black mirror caps contrasting against red paint, some tall-looking roof rails and small (but noticeable) fender flares in front and back.

The final shot of Nissan’s quick video is the most revealing of all, as it shows much of the rear design. We can see some new, thin LED taillights wrapping around the edge. “Pathfinder” is spelled out in all caps and spread out across the entire rear end. Above that sits the new Nissan logo. The SUV’s basic design is the most striking of all, though. All the rounded softness of the current Pathfinder looks to be replaced with blocky, straight cut lines everywhere. It’s upright and far more chiseled than before. In general, the new aesthetic looks far superior to the outgoing car’s anonymous blob theme.

We’ll have to wait until late next week to see it fully revealed, but this first glance is a promising one. 

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Source: AutoBlog.com