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ACT So Electricity Isn't KO'd by Fossil Fuels

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  • Felix Kramer
    We were encouraged last week by the bipartisan 19-4 vote in the Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee for S.3495, The Promoting Electric Vehicles Act of
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 26 4:16 PM
      We were encouraged last week by the bipartisan 19-4 vote in the Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee for S.3495, The Promoting Electric Vehicles Act of 2010, an evolution of the Electric Vehicle Deployment Act legislation developed by http://www.electrificationcoalition.org . But as of now its provisions have been KO'd (knocked out) of the developing "small energy package" that is replacing any broad action on climate change. Advocates are mobilizing to encourage messages to the Senate Leadership, especially Majority Leader Harry Reid, not to drop these provisions. Making this leadership strategy more questionable is the inclusion of a major push for natural gas for transportation, which we talk about below, followed with pointers for what you can do.

      (Shortly after it goes out on email, this posting will also be viewable at http://www.calcars.org/news-archive.html -- there you can add CalCars-News to your RSS feed.)

      SENATOR REID'S CHALLENGE: The Majority Leader's actions effectively leave it up to those who support PHEVs and EVs to see if the broader EV community can muster political support to add the plug-in vehicle tax credits and other provisions to add to the natural gas vehicle tax credits that made their way into the draft bill. These include:

      * Support for S.3495 to promote broad deployment of plug-in vehicles;
      * National tax incentives for vehicles and infrastructure, including reinstatement of credits for medium and heavy-duty vehicles (included in S.2854, the Kohl-Hatch bill amending the IRS code);
      * Making tax credits available to tax-exempt entities such as organizations and municipalities.

      As we post this, the leadership's bill has not yet been made public. There's still time to have your voices heard.

      As advocates of "cleaner, cheaper, domestic electricity," we've been focusing on oil as the main alternative. But if natural gas as a primary solution for an energy transportation policy, we won't have gotten very far. Below we explain some of that. We follow that with the statement by the Electrification Coalition and how you can contact Senator Reid.

      THE REAL STORY ABOUT NATURAL GAS: The most important thing to understand about NG is that it is A NON-RENEWABLE FOSSIL FUEL. Nowadays, the campaign to promote NG is increasingly misleading. Uninformed people hear that the fuel is called "natural." They see TV ads and buses on city streets powered by "America's Clean Energy." It sounds like a benign fuel with substantial domestic supplies. In Washington, the natural gas companies are spending money, while the electricity industry sleeps. Every policy junkie in Washington who read's Politico's Morning Energy report gets two ads from America's Natural Gas Alliance.

      In the days when the main concern was "air pollution," NG was an obvious improvement. The chart at an industry website, http://www.naturalgas.org/environment/naturalgas.asp shows NG is 12x better than gasoline on particulates, and almost 400x better than coal. It's 5x better than gasoline or coal on nitrogen oxides (smog precursor).

      GREENHOUSE GASES: But these days we're most worried about CO2. There the benefits are far smaller. NG is only 20-30% lower than gasoline! At the same NaturalGas.org page, citing the U.S. Energy Information Agency, NG has 71.3% as much CO2 as oil. At another U.S. Government energy source, the benefit is even lower: NG at the pipeline has 74.8% the carbon content of motor gasoline. (Source: http://cta.ornl.gov/data/tedb29/Spreadsheets/TableB_16.xls from the Department of Energy's Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Transportation Energy Data Book.These numbers don't include the GHGs used to bring the fuel from the well to the wheels (pipelines and trucks vs. pipelines and compression/liquifaction.) And the State of California's Low Carbon Fuel Standard analyses uses numbers closer to 20%.

      For large vehicles, if we had no other option, we would chose natural gas over gasoline. But we see as the best long-term strategy to electrify as many gasoline/diesel miles as possible then use the cleanest liquid fuel possible for the range extension, evolving that as soon as possible to renewable low-carbon biofuels. The best use of NG would be in large power plants to displace coal rather than in inefficient internal combustion engines.

      AS A "FUEL FROM HELL," NATURAL GAS COMES FROM DRILLING. With all the promotion of NG, we're only now beginning to hear about the dark downside of hydraulic fracturing or "fracking"-- using millions of gallons of water mixed with undisclosed chemicals and sand to release natural gas. This is the subject of an acclaimed new documentary, Gasland, still airing on HBO. And last week saw signs of the growing controversy as communities across dozens of states located on top of the cast Marcellus Shale Formation, an "unconventional natural gas reserve" across 10 states face gold-rush style leasing pressures and are reporting to the Environmental Protection Agency groundwater contamination and other consequences. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/24/business/energy-environment/24gas.html

      This provides the context in which oil billionaire T. Boone Pickens spent $50 million pushing his Pickens Plan. (Pickens also likes wind energy, another of his businesses, and has spoken well of plug-in vehicles, but they're sidelines.) Washington observers are crediting his efforts with making natural gas the winner and plug-in vehicles the loser in the Senate.

      CORPORATIONS ADOPTING NATURAL GAS: While we've been working to gain credibility and support for the companies that are converting vehicles to electricity, we're seeing announcements for often more expensive conversions to natural gas. Verizon has bought 501 Ford E-250 cargo vans to convert to run on compressed natural gas. http://blogs.edmunds.com/greencaradvisor/2010/06/aiming-to-lower-its-co2-footprint-verizon-buys-501-ford-vans-to-convert-to-cng.html . That report says Ford has shipped 3,000 vans "equipped for natural gas conversions" in the past seven months. And Chrysler, following Fiat's lead, is now looking at natural gas as an alternative to electrification http://blogs.edmunds.com/greencaradvisor/2010/06/chrysler-eyeing-natural-gas-as-interim-green-stragegy.html


      An Energy Bill That Does Not Include Electrification With Not Improve Energy Security

      WASHINGTON – July 22, 2010 Robbie Diamond, president of the Electrification Coalition, released the following statement today in response to news reports outlining the energy bill expected to reach the Senate floor next week:

      "The Senate is making a dramatic mistake if the energy bill that is debated next week does not include the bipartisan electrification provisions that only yesterday were overwhelmingly voted out of committee. After the last three months of watching oil spill into the Gulf, it would be stunning if the energy bill does not include electrification, which represents the only way to fundamentally affect our oil consumption. Republicans and Democrats alike support electrification, and they should have the opportunity to vote on it. An oil bill that does not include electrification cannot truly be said to improve our energy security."

      On May 27, Republicans and Democrats in both the House and the Senate introduced legislation designed to advance the wide-scale deployment of electric vehicles and to develop the infrastructure needed to support them. The Senate bill, entitled the "Electric Vehicle Deployment Act of 2010" was introduced by Senators Byron Dorgan (D-ND), Lamar Alexander (R-TN), and Jeff Merkley (D-OR). The House legislation, entitled the "Electric Drive Vehicle Deployment Act of 2010," was cosponsored by House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming Chairman Ed Markey (D-MA), Rep. Judy Biggert (R-IL), Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA), and Rep. Jerry McNerney (D-CA). A version of the legislation was approved by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on an overwhelming bipartisan 19-4 vote on July 21.

      The legislation echoes recommendations put forward by the Electrification Coalition, a nonpartisan, not-for-profit group of business leaders committed to promoting policies and actions that facilitate the deployment of electric vehicles on a mass scale in order to combat the economic, environmental, and national security dangers caused by our nation's dependence on petroleum. The EC's Electrification Roadmap, released in November 2009, proposed a set of policies in which geographic areas would compete to be selected as electrification deployment communities: specific areas in which targeted, temporary financial incentives are employed so that all of the elements of an electrified transportation system are deployed simultaneously.

      You can send a short message along the lines of "include S.3495, The Promoting Electric Vehicles Act of 2010 in the energy package so we can get off fossil fuels sooner" by email to Senator Reid at

      You can also use voice your support through the Electrification Coalition's website to contact your elected officials

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      Felix Kramer fkramer@...
      Founder California Cars Initiative
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