Sep 24, 2008 (From the CalCars-News archive)
Here are two stories about policy trends: influential US constituencies are getting more specific about electrifying transportation; Iceland is moving toward plug-in cars and giving up its fuel-cell dreams, while US media continue to echo past hopes for a someday solution from hydrogen.
Securing America's Future Energy http://www.secureenergy.org has been focusing on the issue of energy security since its "Oil Shockwave" simulations in 2005-06, where former government officials role-played cabinet officers reacting to geopolitical catastrophes and energy disruptions. A transition to plug-in cars repeatedly emerged as an urgent priority. (Search for "shockwave" among the headlines at http://www.calcars.org/news-archive .)
The organization then formed a blue-ribbon Energy Security Leadership Council, co-chaired by Fred Smith, FedEx founder and chair, and General P.X. Kelly, former Marine Corps commandant and Joint Chiefs of Staff member. Its December 2006 64-page report, "Recommendations to the Nation on Reducing U.S. Oil Dependence" http://www.calcars.org/calcars-news/622.html , endorsed plug-in hybrids along with many other recommendations. The ESLC was deeply involved in the debate and negotiation over what eventually became the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, the bipartisan energy bill which despite limitations included the first improvements in CAFE standards since the 1970s.
Now ESLC has a new and even more hard-hitting report, "A National Strategy for Energy Security." You can download it at http://www.secureenergy.org/site/page.php?node=353&id=57 (8MB). Recommendations on pages 8-9 include an $8,000 tax credit for two million plug-in cars. Pages 34-44 are about plug-in cars and the smart grid. The very readable, well-researched and well-designed 140-page report includes many non-green technology, often, however, acknowledging their CO2 emissions.
PRESS RELEASE: "SAFE Launches Television, Print, Online Ads In Support of 9/24 Report Release" http://www.secureenergy.org/site/page.php?node=364&id=80
WASHINGTON - Securing America's Future Energy (SAFE) today announced the launch of a television, print, and online advertising campaign emphasizing the necessity for comprehensive solutions to the tremendous economic and national security vulnerabilities posed by oil dependence. The ads will run in support of the Wednesday release of a new, comprehensive plan to combat our nation's dependence on oil.
"Tomorrow, the business and military leaders of SAFE's Energy Security Leadership Council will lay out their comprehensive, detailed plan to end our destructive dependence on oil," SAFE President and CEO Robbie Diamond said. "It is important that policymakers and thought leaders understand the dangers that we face, and the necessity for a bold solution to take us off of our current dangerous path. We can change our future, through electrification of the transportation system, vehicle fuel economy standards, expanded domestic production of oil and natural gas, and greater support for R&D. We have a choice. The solution is there: now it is time to act."
The television ads will run on broadcast and cable stations in Washington, D.C. The print and online ads will appear in Washington and Capitol Hill publications.
THE ADS include images of battlefields and buildings, with ominous music.See them at http://www.secureenergy.org/site/page.php?node=343 . Here are the transcripts:
Warned (30 seconds): For almost three decades, America has been warned: Oil dependence threatens our economy and our security. Twenty-one business and national security leaders have proposed a bold plan to improve U.S. energy security. The approach: fuel economy standards; electrification of the transportation sector; increased domestic production; and enhanced government R&D. Oil dependence is the problem. Now, there’s an answer. A project of Securing America’s Future Energy.
Choices (30 seconds): America must choose between two energy security futures: In one future, our nation improves energy security through fuel economy standards; electrification of the transportation sector; expanded domestic production; and enhanced government R&D. In the other, America continues business as usual and risks a crippling oil crisis. Choose wisely. Oil dependence is the problem. Now there’s an answer. A project of Securing America’s Future Energy.
ICELAND GOES ELECTRIC: Last year we presented at Iceland's first Driving Sustainability conference and arranged for the nation's energy agency to get a PHEV Prius conversion. Most people have the impression that the country is well on its way to a future based on hydrogen fueled by its renewable hydro and geothermal power. At "Iceland's First Steps Toward Plug-In Cars -- with Global Implications" http://www.calcars.org/calcars-news/861.htmll , we reported, "The decision to hold this conference was the strongest sign yet that the votes aren't yet in. As elsewhere, Icelandic influencers looking for efficient solutions that can be implemented now, with today's technology and infrastructure, and that can become increasingly cost-effective, are choosing a path involving electrons and batteries, not hydrogen and fuel cells."
This year's conference confirmed that trend. Longtime environmental journalist Jim Motavalli reports that "Iceland’s Future Could Be Electric" http://wheels.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/09/19/icelands-future-could-be-electric/?hp September 19, 2008
“We see Iceland as the world’s laboratory for a decarbonized future,” Ingibjörg Sólrún Gisladóttir, Iceland’s foreign minister, said last year. Of course, she was talking about the country’s plan, announced in 1998, to become to the world’s first hydrogen-based energy economy. Iceland wants to be free of fossil fuels by 2050.
Could the hydrogen dream be dying? At a Reykjavik conference this week, “Driving Sustainability ’08,” Iceland announced plans to team up with Mitsubishi Motors to supply the country with a fleet of tiny i-MiEV electric cars (which have a range per charge of about 100 miles with lithium-ion batteries). Iceland is likely to be the first European country to have i-MiEVs, which are scheduled to go on sale in Japan in the summer of 2009.
Electric cars with strategically located charging stations make a lot of sense for Iceland, where 75 percent of the country’s residents live within 37 miles of the capital city.
“Hydrogen cars are not mass produced anywhere,” said Teitur Torkelsson, managing partner of FTO Sustainable Solutions. “But a majority of car makers are announcing electric cars to be produced in the next four or five years, so it becomes a big part of our energy solutions.” Even the country’s 840-mile-long ring road could theoretically be covered with just 14 fast-charging stations.
CONFERENCE PRESS RELEASE excerpts: "An Agreement on Electric Vehicles Fleet Testing and Service Network for Iceland Reached at 'Driving Sustainability 2008' International Energy Congress" http://www.prnewswire.co.uk/cgi/news/release?id=237410
"In the next five years or so we have to lay the fundamental groundwork of a comprehensive transformation of our traffic system, our transport, how we use the roads, how we move from one place to another, whether it is a household or a city or a country." said Olafur Ragnar Grímsson, President of Iceland, in his opening address at Driving Sustainability at Hilton Reykjavik Thursday....Referring to Iceland as a role model and meeting place on the subject on clean energy, [Grímsson] stated; "We have formulated the vision and the ambition to get rid of fossil fuel completely in a reasonably short time."
HYDROGEN JUXTAPOSITION: After reading the Iceland report in the online NY Timies, we see that today's print edition includes a new special section, "Buinsess of Green." The lead article and almost a full page inside feature "Pumping Hydrogen," by Jad Mouawad, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/24/business/businessspecial2/24hydro.html that reads like other optimistic stories of the past, with impatient and frustrated quotes from GM, Honda and Shell, "balanced" quotes from the Natural Resources Defense Council and the same caveats about decades-away promises and timetables. The journalist does not show any understanding that hydrogen comes either from natural gas, a fossil fuel, or from wind/solar with conversion losses in electrolysis that mean the green power should either go into batteries or be used to displace coal generation. The news in the story is Shell opening a hydrogen fueling station in Santa Monica. Hydrogen Hype never seems to go away, but the Chevy Volt prototype that will seen by more than 10,000 people in Santa Monica at AltCar Expo http://www.altcarexpo.com this Friday and Saturday will illustrate the chasm.