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Sunday Morning Video (Kramer) + Op-Ed (Marshall/Agnew)

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  • Felix Kramer
    You can get your Sunday energy brunch, or your Independence Day Week call to action, from two updates on PHEVs: * Six-and-a-half minute video from
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 1, 2007
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      You can get your Sunday energy brunch, or your
      Independence Day Week call to action, from two updates on PHEVs:

      * Six-and-a-half minute video from
      HippyGourmet.com (their media on food and
      sustainability issues are seen on PBS stations
      and online). Filmed with Felix Kramer on June 26,
      it gives a current snapshot of our thinking and
      presentation. At
      link also available from <http://www.calcars.org/audio-video.html>

      * A guest column from the Seattle Times
      summarizes the main impulses driving PHEVs
      forward. Co-authors Steve Marshall and Bruce
      Agnew have written some of the most persuasive
      briefs for PHEVs (see CalCars-News Archive). At
      this Spring's Cascadia conference, Marshall was
      publicly praised as one of the key moving forces
      behind the Presidential Executive Order on PHEVs.
      Now he's working to make it effective, while also
      working on the legislative side in Washington, DC.

      (Feel free to forward them!)

      Guest columnists, Seattle Times, July 3, 2007
      Jump-start a secure, clean energy future with plug-in hybrid vehicles
      By Steve Marshall and Bruce Agnew

      It was a classic "American Graffiti" moment. A
      Corvette had stopped at the light next to Martin
      Eberhard's new Tesla Roadster. The Corvette
      driver wanted a race. Jim Woolsey, former CIA
      director in the Clinton administration, was at
      the wheel of the Tesla, taking a test drive. He
      asked Eberhard, Tesla Motors' CEO, what to do,
      and got the answer he wanted. "Take him," said Eberhard.

      When the light turned green, Woolsey floored it.
      With a near-silent whoosh, the all-electric
      Tesla, capable of going from zero to 60 in four
      seconds, left the Corvette driver with one
      question when he caught up at the next light:
      "What is that?" Woolsey, focused on the
      national-security risk from our increasing
      dependence on imported oil, sees the
      all-electric, rechargeable Tesla as part of a
      future that replaces oil with electricity and
      biofuels. Such a shift would also lead to
      dramatic reductions in greenhouse-gas emissions.

      That future also includes plug-in hybrid electric
      vehicles (PHEVs), which Toyota, General Motors,
      Ford and others say they will soon produce. A
      regular gas-electric hybrid, such as the Prius,
      can get up to 50 miles per gallon. A PHEV, with a
      larger battery that can be recharged at night,
      will get over 100 mpg. And if gasoline in a PHEV
      is supplemented with Northwest biodiesel, the
      miles per gasoline gallon jump even higher.

      Earlier this year, the Brookings Institution
      reported: "To reduce oil dependence, nothing
      would do more good more quickly than making cars
      that could connect to the electric grid." Add an
      extension cord and the infrastructure is already
      in place for PHEVs. In most states there is
      significant unused generating capacity to
      recharge cars overnight. Electric utilities could
      become the gas stations of the future.

      Overcoming technical and consumer barriers

      Three main reasons are given for why this future
      is not here now. The first is battery cost and
      performance. But, batteries have improved
      markedly, evolving from lead acid to nickel metal
      hydride used in the Prius, and now to advanced
      lithium-ion batteries. Two manufacturers just
      announced major improvements in lithium-ion
      technologies designed specifically for plug-in hybrid vehicles.

      The second factor is consumer acceptance. Will
      the car-buying public trade size and performance
      for energy independence and the environment?
      Although the Prius is the top-selling car in the
      Northwest, skeptics say families who need larger
      vehicles or drivers who want size for safety and
      horsepower for speed won't buy PHEVs.

      This is what makes the Tesla so interesting.
      According to Tesla's Eberhard, "It's about
      proving that plug-in technology can work, that
      electric cars do not have to be frumpy and dull."
      Americans may soon be able to have size and
      speed, and still be green. The Tesla costs over
      $90,000. But, as Eberhard told a U.S. Senate
      committee, "Almost any new technology has high
      cost before it can be optimized, and this is no
      less true for electric cars." Tesla plans a
      family car for $50,000 in 2009, followed by a
      third model that "will be more affordable still," according to Eberhard.

      Professor Andy Frank, the "father of plug-in
      vehicles," turned a GM Suburban into a plug-in
      hybrid that travels 60 miles on a charge and
      accelerates up hills like they are not even
      there. GM will make a hybrid Tahoe this year that
      improves gas mileage by 25 percent. A plug-in
      version could save families even more.

      Washington, D.C., inertia

      The third major reason the future is not here yet
      is inertia in Washington, D.C. There is strong
      bipartisan recognition that addiction to oil is
      undermining national security, increasing our
      trade deficit and adding greenhouse gases. Each
      week brings new reminders of the security risk
      from our reliance on oil — from civil unrest in
      oil-rich Nigeria to threats from Venezuela's Hugo
      Chávez and Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. And, as
      Woolsey points out, since most of the world's oil
      comes from the Middle East, we are financing both
      sides of the war on terror at the gas pump.

      World demand for oil is increasing, largely due
      to China, India and other emerging economies.
      With oil supplies lagging, the world price of oil
      has skyrocketed. Four years ago, oil was $25 a
      barrel; it is now over $60. If we're serious
      about reducing greenhouse gases, the single best
      place to start is to stop burning oil in our vehicles.

      During the 1973 Arab oil embargo, sharp discord
      characterized the debate over the Alaska pipeline
      construction between environmentalists and
      national-security conservatives like Sen. Henry
      "Scoop" Jackson. By contrast, today's "end our
      addiction to oil" coalition includes what Woolsey
      affectionately calls "tree huggers, do-gooders, sodbusters and cheap hawks."

      But, despite the broad consensus and statements
      of urgency, much needs to be done.

      We need immediate action in three areas to
      accelerate and integrate new transportation
      technology: federal and state agency fleet
      purchases to create a dependable market and to
      drive costs down; regional demonstration projects
      to work out how to make the power grid and our
      transportation system more efficient; and,
      legislation to remove roadblocks and create
      incentives. In short, we need to jump-start to a clean, secure energy future.

      Federal and state agency fleet purchases

      Federal and state governments are some of the
      biggest markets for vehicles, and their
      purchasing power can help jump-start PHEVs. King
      County Executive Ron Sims used Metro bus-buying
      power to start GM on a path to produce hybrid
      buses. Similarly, replacement vehicles for
      federal and state agency fleets could be the best
      way to kick off PHEV sales, providing a stable
      and reliable initial market that would start to drive costs down.

      On Jan. 24, President Bush issued an executive
      order that requires federal agencies to purchase
      plug-in vehicles "when commercially available"
      and with comparable life-cycle costs to standard
      vehicles. But, the best way to ensure these
      vehicles are commercially available in the first
      place is to start with federal fleet orders,
      which will drive down costs. The Boeing 707 was
      launched with the first order from the federal
      government. Commercial sales soon took off and
      Boeing went on to dominate the jet age.

      Another strategy is to define the life-cycle
      costs to include a concept that Jon Wellinghoff,
      a member of the Federal Energy Regulatory
      Commission, has called the "cash-back hybrid." By
      intelligently connecting federal fleet vehicles
      when parked, plug-in hybrids can supply backup
      services, including voltage support and peak
      power, to the power system. The "cash-back"
      payments could help make PHEVs less expensive overall than standard vehicles.

      Congress and the administration can put federal
      buying power into high gear to send the same
      signal as Metro bus hybrid orders sent to GM:
      Make these vehicles now; there are buyers for them.

      Regional demonstration projects

      Exactly how would plug-ins be recharged? How can
      utilities avoid new peak demands? Should drivers
      plug in at work or at park-and-rides? How would a
      "cash-back hybrid" really work? Can the existing
      transportation system be improved with the
      technology inherent in PHEVs? Could traffic
      congestion relief be part of a PHEV rollout?

      These questions and others need to be addressed
      sooner rather than later. Regional demonstration
      projects can provide answers and formulate
      standards to make the best of this new technology.

      The Northwest is well-suited for a regional pilot
      project. New state legislation provides some
      funds for a plug-in project that could help
      leverage federal funding from FERC and the U.S.
      Departments of Energy and Transportation. The
      Northwest has two Department of Energy national
      research laboratories and a history of
      cooperation on energy issues. Energy Northwest's
      board, representing over 20 utilities,
      unanimously supports a Northwest pilot project.
      There is strong regional political leadership.

      Creating incentives and removing barriers through legislation

      Some predict that Congress will do little more
      than protect the corn-ethanol lobby, the
      coal-fuel lobby and Detroit. Pending legislation
      to increase gas mileage has loopholes big enough
      for a diesel truck. Gal Luft, who spoke at the
      Cascadia Conference at Microsoft in May, recently
      said: "The only green that they are serious about
      in Congress right now is the one with Ben Franklin's picture on it."

      But there is a chance that effective legislation
      could pass this year. A broad bipartisan
      congressional coalition is pressing to add ideas
      from the DRIVE Act (Dependence Reduction through
      Innovations in Vehicles and Energy). Sen. Maria
      Cantwell, D-Wash., is working to include electric
      transportation and plug-in hybrid pilot projects
      and to identify and remove barriers. U.S. Reps.
      Jay Inlsee, D-Bainbridge Island, and Dave
      Reichert, R-Auburn, have joined on a bill that
      would provide for regional plug-in hybrid
      demonstration projects, intending one in the Northwest.

      At the Cascadia-Microsoft conference, Cantwell
      and Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said they're
      working with Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., on
      legislation with incentives for consumers,
      automakers and utilities to accelerate the day
      when plug-in hybrid vehicles would roll into auto
      showrooms. There are encouraging signs that the
      administration and Congress will make such
      legislation a bipartisan priority. It cannot happen soon enough.

      We need the acceleration now of a Tesla in
      Washington, D.C. We have the opportunity. As Eberhard would say: Take it.

      Steve Marshall is a senior fellow at Discovery
      Institute's Cascadia Center, which works on
      regional transportation solutions. Bruce Agnew is
      the center's director. Visit www.cascadiaproject.org

      -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- --
      Felix Kramer fkramer@...
      Founder California Cars Initiative
      -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- --
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