Feb 10, 2009 (From the CalCars-News archive)
One day full of news: we've quickly packaged it all up into one posting. Below is a quick summary of the status of the plug-in provisions in the Senate; a proposal for a vastly expanded commitment to electric postal vehicles; President Obama's first endorsement of PHEVs as President; news from Ford; the new Co-Chairs of the plug-in industry's trade association, and a new Smart Grid nitiative at Google.
PLUG-IN PROVISIONS IN SENATE COMPROMISE: Thanks to Plug In America (which along with all the groups that it reached out to, generated over 30,000 messages to Congress), for making available the hard-to-find the 778-page "Senate Stim Compromise" document, representing the package credited to Senators Nelson and Collins. Thanks especially to Senators Cantwell and Hatch and their staff, who played a key role in making sure plug-in provisions survived! (And to the President's staff, who we are told were directly involved, and the other seven Senators credited by Sen. Cantwell in her speech before the 80-20 vote on SA274 last Friday -- you can see that now at http://www.pluginamerica.org and later at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ErVjLQPGHTQ .) This will be the basis for the Senate vote tomorrow, after which the Senate bill will go to a joint House-Senate Conference for negotiation of the final package. From Pages 473-480 , here's a very broad non-lawyer's summary of some key items:
- Number of vehicles eligible for up to $7,500 passenger vehicle, $15,000 larger vehicle credit doubled from 250,000 to 500,000.
- Credits for conversions up to 10% of the cost with a cap of $40,000 (i.e. a $10,000 conversion gets $1,000, a $40,000 conversion gets $4,000--important stake in the ground for what we hope will be a higher-credit program).
- Conversions must be "qualified," which includes approval by the National HIghways Transportation Safety Administration and conversion by mechanics meeting training standards established in cooperation with battery makers)
- Eligibility of vehicles that use batteries leased to the vehicle owner.
- Two- and three-wheeled highway capable vehicles eligible (with some complex provisions that may enable credits for some of Chrysler GEM neighborhood vehicles)
- Incentives start January 1, 2009 or upon the enactment date (unclear); termination date is end of 2012.
- "Scrappage" provisions dropped (we are making the case that in many cases it's better to use that $4,500/vehicle to convert clunkers to PHEV or EV).
POSTAL SERVICE OFFICIAL PROPOSES CONVERTING OVER 200,000 USPS VEHICLES AS PART OF OBAMA PROGRAM:
See http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/10/opinion/10goldway.html for the proposal by United States Postal Regulatory Commissionet Ruth Y. Goldway. (Seeing idling police cars and school buses, and stop-and-go postal vehicles was for many of us the "spark" that started us thinking about cars that didn't have to idle. And the USPS began an ill-fated EV experiment in the 1990s whose problems prevented innovation until now.)
PRESIDENT OBAMA ON PLUG-INS: At President's Obama's Town Hall today in Ekhart, Indiana, a city with an unemployment rate over 15% and center of the RV industry, President Obama evoked PHEVs in response to an audience question.
Here's how the Detroit Free Press reported the story at http://www.freep.com/article/20090209/NEWS15/
90209043/1285/NEWS15/Stimulus+should+spark+auto+retooling++Obama+says "Stimulus should spark auto retooling, Obama says" by Justin Hyde
WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama said today the economic stimulus should be used to help the auto industry retool to compete better against foreign firms, namely by building more efficient models such as plug-in hybrid electric vehicles.
At a town hall in Elkhart, Ind., that's part of a campaign-style push for the bill, Obama said the economic downturn and the stimulus was an opportunity to create new jobs in clean energy.
“The auto industry, RV industry, transportation industry is so important to us here in the Midwest,” Obama said. “If we don't use this crisis as an opportunity to start retooling, then we will never catch up and be able to compete effectively against Japanese automakers, Korean automakers.
“We will find ourselves continuing to slide. This should be an opportunity for us to retool.”
The stimulus compromise in the Senate bill includes $2 billion in direct grants for battery development and manufacturing, as well as expanded tax credits for buyers and manufacturers of plug-in hybrid vehicles. It also includes a tax break for new-car buyers and money for the federal government to buy plug-in hybrids and flex-fuel vehicles.
The bill does not include a proposal by Michigan lawmakers to double the $25 billion in loans for retooling plants to build more efficient models.
Obama has long maintained that Detroit automakers could not compete in the global economy unless they built more environmentally friendly models. As part of their cost-cutting plans due Feb. 17 under the $17.4-billion loan agreements, General Motors Corp. and Chrysler LLC have to explain how they will meet future fuel economy standards.
The Senate is expected to move ahead on its $827-billion stimulus bill tonight, but its version must be reconciled with a larger version that passed the House.
FULL TEXTS: At http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog_post/indiana/ here's the text of the two answers on green topics:
Q Thank you, President Obama. It's -- like everybody has said, it's an honor to be here. I'm -- my name is Jason Ward [phonetic] and I'm a local attorney here in town, but I've seen a lot of the effects that the manufacturing industry has had here. And there's been a lot of discussion with respect to green jobs and environmental issues --
THE PRESIDENT: Right.
Q -- and this area has been one of the areas that's been mentioned about maybe retooling to take advantage of the green revolution. And I guess the question is, with respect to the stimulus bill, are there provisions in there that address green job issues, improvement of environmental issues, and those type of matters?
THE PRESIDENT: Absolutely. It's a great question, and let me describe for you just some of the things that we have in there. Under this plan, we would double the production of alternative energy -- double it from where it is right now. So that's point number one. (Applause.)
Point number two -- point number two, there is money allocated in this plan to develop the new battery technologies that will allow not just cars but potentially RVs as well to be -- to move into the next generation of plug-in hybrids that get much better gas mileage, that will wean ourselves off dependence on Middle Eastern oil, and will improve our environment and lessen the potential effects of greenhouse gases and climate change.
We also have put in money that provide for the weatherization of millions of homes across the country. Now, this is an example of where you get a multiplier effect. If you allocate money to weatherize homes, the homeowner gets the benefit of lower energy bills. You right away put people back to work, many of whom in the construction industry and in the housing industry are out of work right now -- they are immediately put to work doing something. You can train young people as apprentices to start getting training at -- in home construction through weatherization. And you start reducing energy costs for the nation as a whole. So there are billions of dollars in this plan allocated for moving us towards a new energy future.
Now, I'll be honest with you, some of the critics of the plan have said that's pork. I don't understand their criticism. Their basic argument is, well, that's -- you're trying to make policy instead of just doing short-term stimulus. Well, my whole attitude is, if we're going to spend billions of dollars that creates jobs anyway, then why wouldn't we want to create jobs in things like clean energy that create a better economic future for us over the long term? That's just -- that's common sense to me. That's common sense to me. (Applause.)
And that is especially important for the Midwest, because if you think about it, the auto industry, RV industry, transportation industry is so important to us here in the Midwest. If we don't use this crisis as an opportunity to start retooling, then we will never catch up and be able to compete effectively against Japanese automakers, Korean automakers, and we will find ourselves continuing to slide. This should be an opportunity for us to retool.
And so I am going to make this a big priority over the next few days as we're trying to reconcile the House and the Senate bill, getting folks in Congress to understand that this is one of the best possible investments that we can make.
THE PRESIDENT [answering a long question]: Good. Well, let me -- three things that we can do, just very specific and we can do them quickly, and then there's a fourth thing that we can do that will take a little bit more time.
Number one is that we need to pass a renewable energy standard. (Applause.) And what that does is, just as for people who aren't sort of experts in the field, it's pretty simple. What it says is -- to the various utilities, it says, you need to get 15 percent or 20 percent of your energy from renewable sources. And once you set that benchmark, then what happens is, is that people who are producing renewable energy -- solar or wind or hydrothermal -- what they're able to do then is count on a pretty solid market that they're going to be able to sell their energy to. And that means investors, then, will say, you know what, this is actually a pretty good thing for us to invest in. And over time what that means is, is that more and more people invest in renewable energy, which means that technology gets better, the research and development improves, and you start growing that sector. So a renewable energy standard is very important. That's point number one.
Point number two is we should be providing tax credits and loan guarantees to renewable energy. There are some in place currently that have -- are on the verge of lapsing, and we have to act much more forcefully in terms of making sure that those are in place. That's the second thing.
The third thing that we should be doing is working with utilities all across America, including here in Indiana, to do what some utilities are already doing in California. And this is a really smart thing. What they do is, the utility is able to make money not just on how much energy it sells, but it's also able to make money on how much energy its customers save.
So you can structure how they charge your electricity bill so that if you started installing a solar panel, that you would actually, as you point out, be able to sell some of that energy back when you're not using it. You get to put some money in your pocket, and the utilities are rewarded for encouraging you to do that. Right now they don't have enough incentive to do it because they're making money the more energy you use, whereas what we want to do is make -- give them incentives so that they are constantly telling you how you can save energy.
The fourth thing -- and this is the thing that's going to take a little bit longer -- is we've got to improve basic science, research and development. When it comes to solar, when it comes to wind, the price has gone down, but generally speaking it's still a little more expensive than fossil fuels: coal, natural gas, and so forth. So we've got to improve the technology, and that's why I want to make sure that we're investing some money every year in the development of new energy technologies that will drive those costs down over the long term.
The country that figures out how to make cheaper energy that's also clean, that country is going to win the economic competition of the future. (Applause.) And I want that to be the United States of America. That's one of my commitments as President of the United States. (Applause.)
FORD COMMITS TO PHEV IN 2012: Ford has made official what it's stated as a goal in the past. While it has been slowly producing small numbers of Ford Escape PHEVs, it has been vague about its future plans. Today, at http://media.ford.com/article_display.cfm?article_id=29830 as part of its announcement that it will sell an all EV light commercial vehicle, the "Transit Connect," in 2010, in partnership with European company Smith Electric Vehicles, the company said it will "Introduce in North America:
- Next-generation hybrid vehicles in 2012
- Plug-in hybrid versions in 2012s
NEWS FROM EDTA: From the press release at http://www.electricdrive.org/index.php?ht=display/ReleaseDetails/i/11281 is the news that the Electric Drive Transportation Association, the trade association accelerating battery, hybrid, plug-in, and fuel cell electric drive technologies and infrastructure, has announced the election of General Motors’ Tony Posawatz, Vehicle Line Director for the Chevy Volt, as Co-Chairman of the Board. He replaces Edward B. Cohen, Vice President of Government and Industry Relations for American Honda Motor Company, who has served as Co-Chairman since early 2004. Mr. Cohen remains on the EDTA Board. Mr. Posawatz will serve alongside Co-Chairman John Bryson, Retired Chairman & CEO, Southern California Edison, and Senior Advisor for Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co.
In a year when it's critical to have the most able advocates for plug-in cars in operating in Washington, nationally and globally, this is welcome news. Posawatz has been very open to meetings and discussions with the broad range of plug-in advocates (see photo at http://www.calcars.org/photos-groups.html and discussion at http://www.calcars.org/calcars-news/984.html . And Bryson has a deep understanding of the potential of plug-in vehicles.
GOOGLE EXPANDS TO SMART HOME INFORMATION PROGRAM:
Here's news of a new iniative from Google: a free web service called PowerMeter enabling consumers to track their home and business energy use. The story at http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/10/technology/companies/10grid.html explains how it ties in with Smart Meter projects and PHEVs, and quotes Kirsten Olsen Cahill, who as former team leader for RechargeIT, helped launch that PHEV program (Google.org's first domestically-focused initiative). Watch for more news on this initaitive.