Washington: Media Reports; Senate Testimony; Dept of Energy's Karsner Press Conference
- Today's Washington roundup
1. Comments about and links to yesterday's Senate testimony.
2/3. An Energy Washington Week "insider"
newsletter and a Detroit News report on trends in
Washington for automakers and PHEVs.
4. A Washington Post story where Assistant
Secretary of Energy Andy Karsner announces a $14M
research grant program for PHEVs and says, "I
also want to point out that concepts, prototypes
and limited production vehicles are not enough to
address the problems we have....We need millions of cars on the road,"
The US Senate Committee on Energy and Resources
held a Full Committee Hearing on "Transportation
Sector Fuel Efficiency" on Tuesday, January 30,
2007. "The purpose of this hearing is to receive
testimony on transportation sector fuel
efficiency, including challenges to and
incentives for increased oil savings through
technological innovation including plug-in hybrids."
Speakers are listed below; links to their
The first three are most relevant. But the three
speakers, while very frankly acknowledging the
growing public pressure to move quicker on PHEVs,
emphasized how far away PHEVs are. Menahem
Anderman's review of battery technology
concluded, "In the longer termperhaps in about
10 yearsaccelerated progress may gradually close
the gap between the targeted battery requirements
for plug-in HEV and the state and cost of battery
technology, thus facilitating the introduction of
plug-in hybrid vehicles." It was unfortunate that
PHEV experts and advocates were not included in
this hearing (we're spread too thin and don't
have enough people in Washington DC!).
Elizabeth Lowery - Vice President, Public Policy
for Energy and The Environment: General Motors Corporation
John German - Manager, Environmental and Energy
Analyses: Product Regulatory Office: American Honda Motor Company, Inc.
Dr. Menahem Anderman - President, Advanced Automotive Batteries
William Logue - Executive Vice President, FedEx Express
Dr. Walter McManus - President: Automotive
Analysis Division, University of Michigan, Transportation Research Institute
Dr. David Greene, National Transportation
Research Center, Oakridge National Laboratory
Energy Washington Week
January 30, 2007
Funding Hurdles May Stifle White House Plug-In Hybrid Push
by John Siciliano
President Bush may be hinting at a recast of the
hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle program with a new
push for advanced hybrid-electric vehicles with
plug-in capabilities, based on public remarks
made following his Jan. 23 State of the Union
address. But congressional sources point out his
rhetoric falls short of funding such a move, even
as some lawmakers call for a sizable uptick in
funding geared to advance the development of the
more interim vehicle technology.
The president's Jan. 23 State of the Union speech
presented a reinvigorated look at biofuels to
displace America's use of petroleum-based fuels
over the next decade, but did not mention plug-in
hybrid-electric vehicles (PHEVs). In subsequent
remarks he later touted plug-in hybrids as the
near-term solution to developing hydrogen-powered cars.
On Capitol Hill, a coalition of 17 senators have
called upon DOE to increase funding to boost the
novel PHEV platform's development and lend
government support of the technology. PHEVs are
attracting considerable widespread attention,
including from the electric utility sector, with
FERC Commissioner Jon Wellinghoff attending an
event before the president's address marking the
year anniversary of a grassroots initiative to
press for the development and commercialization
of the novel vehicle technology.
Although increased attention is being paid to the
technology, it is not sure how much support the
president will lend PHEV in the 2008 budget. The
White House says hybrid funding will be higher
than last year's budget request but would not
elaborate. Hydrogen and fuel-cell vehicle R&D
still comprise the lion's share of the current
2006 budget, an allocation that critics said was
to the detriment of other vehicle programs,
including advanced battery development. The
earmarks attached to the hydrogen initiative,
alone, were enough to place other DOE programs in
jeopardy, these critics warned. This has given
lawmakers increased impetus to lobby DOE to
secure the necessary funding for PHEVs.
Sen. Evan Bayh (D-IN) sent a letter to DOE
Secretary Samuel Bodman in December to ask for a
minimum of $90 million in funding increases for
PHEVs to be included in the department's FY-08
budget request. DOE's FY-07 budget for its
advanced battery program was supposed to receive
a near 30-percent increase to help move ahead the
promise of PHEVs, according to DOE's
Undersecretary David Garman in past testimony
before Congress. But with a majority of budget
bills not making it to conference, and a proposed
continued resolution keeping funding levels
stagnant, proponents of federal advanced energy
programs are concerned that hard-sought budget increases could be in jeopardy.
The 2006 budget request from DOE's Energy
Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) division
neared $49 million for hybrid vehicle
technologies, but was appropriated only $43
million. The fuel cell development funding
requests, alone -- not including the hydrogen
technologies program -- were well over double
that amount. The FY-07 budget request attempted a
boost the hybrid development program to $50
million, while hydrogen climbed to nearly $200
million, not including earmarks, according to
EERE. If DOE takes Sen. Bayh's request seriously,
the monies slated for hybrids would near almost
the entire FY-06 budget request for EERE's
Vehicle Technologies program, which includes
hybrid development as well as the FreedomCar
program, according to budget documents. Still,
when compared to the funds slated for hydrogen
and biofuels research and biomass, the competition may be too steep.
President Bush, nevertheless, seemed to admonish
his once-hailed hydrogen initiative in favor of a
push for advanced battery technology and plug-in
hybrid-electric vehicles (PHEVs) on Jan. 24 -- in
his first public remarks following his State of
the Union speech the night before -- according to
a speech on energy policy given at chemical giant
DuPont's Wilmington, DE headquarters.
Bush referred to the prospect of hydrogen fuel
cell vehicles as "still a dream," calling for an
interim solution favoring hybrid-electric
technology and PHEVs. "Your children may very
well likely be driving in automobiles powered by
hydrogen, ... but something has got to happen in the interim," he said.
The president continued by injecting an almost
unheard of level of critical appraisal coming
from the White House on hydrogen -- a revered
fixture of past energy initiatives. He cast the
hydrogen initiative as mainly a research endeavor
to determine "whether or not we can power
automobiles by hydrogen," rather than a push to
develop the next generation of clean-burning fuel
cell vehicles, as it is usually described.
"We can't wait, for economic reasons or national
security reasons, for hydrogen to kick in. In
other words, it's still a dream," Bush said. "And
so we're pushing . . . interesting technologies,"
he stated. "One of these days you're going to
plug your car into your garage, and you're going
to be able to drive the first 20 miles on
electricity, and your car is not going to have to
look like a golf cart," he said in remarks. He
hailed the technology as imminent, near-term, and
gaining wider acceptance than ever by consumers."
American automobile companies, as well as foreign
automobile companies competing for market share
here in the United States, understand that's
where the consumer mentality is evolving," he
said. The technology is coming, he said, "and
we're spending money to encourage that kind of technology."
A White House fact sheet provided after the
speech said the president's FY-08 budget request
for the Advanced Energy Initiative would rise by
53 percent over FY-07 levels. The initiative
would slate funds for PHEVs and advanced
batteries, but alongside other big ticket items
in support of global nuclear initiatives and
biofuels. The White House said the total budget
request amount would be $2.7 billion. The
president also called for federal vehicle fleets
to incorporate PHEVs when commercially available,
according to the fact sheet. [CalCars Note: This
may refer to
Big 3's call for U.S. aid gets cool reception
Carmakers want cash for alternative fuel research, not efficiency mandates.
Detroit News Wednesday, January 31, 2007
CAPTION: GM showed off the plug-in Chevrolet Volt
concept, being unveiled here by Vice Chairman Bob
Lutz at the 2007 auto show, in a heated tent
outside a Senate hearing room Tuesday. Inside, GM
exec Beth Lowery called on the government to help pay for such technology.
WASHINGTON -- The opening round of congressional
hearings this year on global warming and
alternative fuels showed one fact is clear: The
climate for automakers on Capitol Hill is becoming increasingly unforgiving.
While General Motors Corp. asked Congress on
Tuesday to dramatically increase federal support
for the development of advanced powertrain
technologies, it faced skepticism from lawmakers
clamoring for tougher fuel economy mandates.
Momentum is building in Washington to force
automakers to markedly improve the fuel
efficiency of their vehicles -- a requirement
that could cost them billions of dollars by
forcing them to produce smaller cars and more
hybrids, or even drop out of some market segments.
President Bush proposed in his State of the Union
address that automakers improve the efficiency of
vehicles an average of 4 percent per year
beginning in 2009 for passenger cars and 2011 for
light trucks. Bush wants to cut gas consumption 20 percent by 2017.
The costs involved would be huge considering that
modest light truck standards issued in March
requiring fuel efficiency improvements of just
1.2 percent per year will cost the Big Three
automakers an estimated $6.2 billion. Nearly all
the foreign and domestic automakers have called
the Bush proposal very aggressive.
Several proposals in Congress would go even
further, mandating a specific yearly increase,
while the Bush proposal leaves the final increase
to the National Highway Traffic Safety
Administration, which would set the new figure with input from automakers.
Rough road expected
A Senate hearing Tuesday on fuel economy
standards and another on climate change
underscored the rough road Detroit automakers
face in trying to beat back tough new mandates.
At the center of the debate is the growing
consensus that global warming is not only a real
threat, but also is poised to become a major issue in upcoming elections.
Environmentalists and many others want the Big
Three to take a greater role in reducing tailpipe
emissions linked to global warming. U.S. vehicles
consume one of every nine gallons of gas used on
the planet and account for 6 percent of greenhouse gas emissions.
U.S. Sen. Gordon Smith, R-Ore., wondered whether
Detroit's automakers would be slashing jobs and
losing market share had Congress forced them to
improve fuel efficiency standards years ago.
Passenger cars' fuel efficiency rules haven't changed since 1985.
"Are there autoworkers in Detroit who would be
employed today if we had done this?" he asked at
a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee
hearing. "Maybe we need to help you help
yourselves. It surely seems to me that we're not
helping you by backing off from pushing you."
Beth Lowery, GM vice president for energy and
environment, told the panel that research into
new technology is the answer. She argued the
government should fund a major effort to boost
research and development in battery technology
and support manufacturing of advanced batteries.
She also said government should expand funding of
hydrogen and fuel cells, purchase more government
vehicles that can run on alternative fuels and
expand infrastructure of alternative fuels.
"Well-crafted tax incentives can accelerate
adoption of new technologies and strengthen domestic manufacturing," she said.
Advances in battery technology are critical to
making plug-in hybrid concepts like the Chevy
Volt a reality. She said it will take several
years "to see if the battery technology will
occur that will let us bring to market a plug-in hybrid."
U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., suggested if
GM wants help, it should do its part by improving
fuel efficiency. "I think this is a shared responsibility," he said.
Several panelists expressed worry that the U.S.
auto industry was falling behind on battery
research. Japan provides 60 percent of the
world's lithium-ion batteries, and South Korea
and China share most of the rest, said Menahem
Anderman, president of California-based Advanced Automotive Batteries.
Also on Capitol Hill on Tuesday, the Senate
Environment and Public Works Committee held a
hearing on global climate change to gauge
senators' positions. Several called for automakers to do more.
U.S. Rep. Joe Knollenberg, R-Bloomfield Township,
spoke out for Detroit's automakers.
"There are many smart ways to reduce our
dependence on foreign oil and curb the emissions
of greenhouse gases. We don't have to kill auto
jobs to save the polar bears or wean ourselves
from Saudi oil," Knollenberg said.
U.S. Sens. Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow -- both
Michigan Democrats -- in testimony at the Senate
hearings opposed new fuel economy mandates.
"There is a faster way to achieve our goal,"
Stabenow said, embracing the tax proposals
suggested by GM. Said Levin: "We can make leaps
in hydrogen use, in hybrid use, including plug-in
hybrids, and biofuels, if we focus on the
leap-ahead technologies, and give the incentives
to manufacturers to move to those technologies."
New fuel economy mandates are "a peanut in the
scheme of things" and "highly discriminatory
against American vehicles and American workers," Levin said.
U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., who chairs the
Environment and Public Works Committee, noted
dryly to Levin that "you could have stayed away
(from the hearing). This is not a happy issue for you back home, I know that."
At the Energy and Natural Resources Committee
hearing, the senators praised Honda Motor Co.
John German, manager of environmental and energy
analysis for Honda, said "we have a culture of being the technology leader."
GM, Ford Motor Co. and DaimlerChrysler AG were
disappointed their request for $500 million in
federal funds over five years for research into
advanced batteries was not mentioned during the
State of the Union. It is not likely to be part
of the president's budget request set to be unveiled Monday.
Ford used federal grants
Energy Department grants -- to the tune of about
$44 million -- funded just over half of Ford's
plug-in hydrogen fuel cell vehicle unveiled last week in Washington.
Next week, U.S. Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman is
to testify in front of the House Energy and
Commerce Committee on the president's proposal to
dramatically increase fuel standards.
Scheduled to testify next month is former Vice
President Al Gore, a leading advocate of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
You can reach David Shepardson at (202) 662-8735 or dshepardson@....
Beth Lowery, GM's vice president for energy and
environment, is set to testify today before the
Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.
According to a draft of her remarks obtained by
The Detroit News, Lowery was to propose that:
# The federal government fund a major effort to
increase research and development of battery
technology. Similar efforts and funding should be
expanded for the development of hydrogen power and fuel cells.
# Biofuels production and infrastructure should
be expanded. Government should continue
incentives for the manufacture of biofuel-capable
flex fuel vehicles; increases in biofuels
production; increases for R&D into cellulosic
ethanol; and increased support for broad-based infrastructure conversion.
# Federal government purchasing should set the
example. The government should continue to
purchase flex fuel vehicles; demand maximum
utilization of E-85 in the government flex fuel
fleets; use federal fueling to stimulate publicly
accessible pumps; provide funding to permit
purchase of electric, plug-in and fuel cell
vehicles into federal fleets as soon as technology is available.
# There should be further incentives for advanced
automotive technology to be adopted by large
numbers of consumers. Income tax credits should
be focused on technologies that have the greatest
potential to actually reduce petroleum
consumption and provide support for
manufacturers/suppliers to build/convert
facilities that provide advanced technologies.
Source: General Motors Corp.
Energy Dept. Grants $17M for Hybrid Vehicle Technology
By Sholnn Freeman, Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, January 23, 2007; 4:06 PM
The U.S. Department of Energy announced today $17
million in grants to support the development of
battery technology for plug-in hybrid vehicles
and ethanol, two areas in the energy debate where
officials in Washington and Detroit are closely aligned.
The money will be offered as two separate
solicitation grants, one for $14 million for the
plug-in technology and another $3 million for
ethanol. The money for battery development aims
to improve the technology's performance. The $3
million grants will support engineering advances
to improve the E85 flex-fuel blend.
Alexander Karsner, the Energy department's
assistant secretary for energy efficiency and
renewable energy, made the announcement at the
press preview day of the Washington Auto Show. He
used high-tech cars from General Motors Corp.,
Ford Motor Co. and DaimlerChrysler AG as his backdrop.
Detroit auto makers have asked the Bush
administration for hundreds of millions of
dollars to help kick off hybrid cars. They say
they need government support to complete research
and development into lithium-ion battery
technology, a crucial component in bringing the
cars to the market. Detroit auto executives, who
are building millions of ethanol capable
vehicles, have also pressed the government to
encourage a significant expansion of ethanol
fueling stations. President Bush will call for
mandatory increases in the supply of renewable
fuels during his State of the Union address tonight.
Officials from foreign automakers are stepping up
complaints that U.S. government policy is
unfairly backing ethanol and plug-ins at the
expense of diesels and traditional gas-electric
hybrids, such as the Prius from Toyota Motor
Corp. Toyota is pushing for the continuation of
federal incentives for the cars. Diesel-engine
makers and the European automakers such as BWM AG
and DaimlerChrysler AG are asking for more
federal support for diesel technology.
Dieter Zetsche, chairman of DaimlerChrysler, said
vehicles powered by diesel engines get 20 percent
to 30 percent greater fuel economy over
gas-powered cars and cut emissions of the global
warming gas carbon dioxide by 20 percent. In
Europe, where diesels make up about half of the
market in many countries, the fuel economy
average is 36 miles per gallon, compared with 24 in the United States.
"Why is there such a disparity? Aren't we the
same companies in Europe that we are in the U.S.,
with access to similar technologies?" Zetsche said in remarks at the show.
Zetsche said the difference was the European
approach to energy policy, which has involved
some "tough choices," including highly taxed
gasoline and incentives for diesel fuel.
Like a lot of other automakers, Zetsche stopped
short of endorsing a "European level of taxes" or
any huge government mandates in the area of
energy efficiency or global warming. "We are a
free market in the U.S.," he said. "The consumer should rule."
Karsner of the Energy Department said in his
remarks that major automakers will have to push
much harder into new technology to reduce
dependence on foreign sources of fuel.
After acknowledging the vehicles parked around
him, Karsner said, "I also want to point out that
concepts, prototypes and limited production
vehicles are not enough to address the problems we have."
He said that advanced technology should be sold
to mainstream consumers, rather than to those who
buy only luxury vehicles. "We need millions of cars on the road," he said.
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Felix Kramer fkramer@...
Founder California Cars Initiative
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