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Plug-In Partners Launch Press Conference - Selected Quotes

Following are what we think are the best quotes from speakers at the Plug-In Partners Press Conference held in Washington DC on January 24, 2006. We've heavily edited and compressed them. If you want an actual quotation for media or other uses, we suggest you go to the unofficial but full press conference transcript or to the 82-minute video stream.

Press Conference Participants:

Rogan Duncan, Deputy General Manager, Austin Energy
Will Wynn, Mayor, Austin, Texas
Charles Fox, Deputy Secretary for New York Governor George Pataki for Energy and Environment
James Woolsey, Former CIA Director and Founder, Set America Free
Frank Gaffney, President, Center for National Security Policy
Kateri Callahan, President, Alliance to Save Energy
Alan Richardson, President & CEO, American Public Power Association
Dr. Joseph Romm, Founder & Executive Director, Center for Energy and Climate Solutions
Dr. Andy Frank, University of California-Davis, Expert on Plug-in Hybrids
Orrin Hatch, Senator (R), Utah

Will Wynn, Mayor of Austin, Texas:
Today marks the beginning of an unprecedented national grassroots campaign called "Plug-In Partners," bringing together local governments, businesses, cities, organizations, and community groups to say to automakers, "Americans understand the problem, and Americans will deal with the problem. If you will build plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, Americans will buy them." And we will demonstrate that that market exists through this year-long campaign.

The Plug-In Partners Campaign consists of four key components. Number one, a pledge of support, through a letter or resolution, from a participating entity, like the City of Austin. [Two] A citizens petition drive -- signatures -- again, demonstrating that demand. [Three] Soft fleet orders, or expressions of interest, from businesses, governments, organizations, to in fact purchase these plug-in vehicles when they become available. And number four, incentives, at the community level, to help citizens and businesses purchase these plug-in hybrids. In Austin, Texas alone, we now have already collected eleven thousand signatures. We have compiled soft fleet orders for nearly 600 vehicles -- many of those from our private sector. And we have set aside $1,000,000 for rebates and incentives. Our goal is to replicate this effort in cities and local areas all across this country.

The campaign actually only starts today, but it's already been joined by major cities, such as San Francisco, Denver, Los Angeles, Seattle, and Baltimore. We've already been joined by over 100 local power utilities.

The following quotes are from the video shown at the press conference:

Professor Andrew A. Frank, Mechanical Engineering, University of California (video):
"The gasoline station behind me says 'Now selling gasoline for a minimum of $2.30/gallon, and premium at $2.50/gallon,' and it could be running on electricity an equivalent of 70 cents/gallon. So why are we all driving these cars?"

Mark Duvall, EPRI Senior Project Manager (video):
"With hybrid vehicle technologies, you can design a very powerful car that also gets very good fuel economy. And with plug-in hybrids, you can even take the most powerful car -- you can have a plug-in hybrid Corvette..."

Edward Kjaer, Director of Electric Transportation, Southern California Edison (video):
"In our fleet of electric vehicles -- we have about 200, 220 vehicles -- and we've done over two million EV miles with our fleet of vehicles. And we have not had any battery problems at all. In fact, we've had several vehicles that have gone over 100,000 miles on the original battery packs."

Kjaer (video):
"An internal combustion engine will go into a gas station about 50 times a year -- about once a week. But with a plug-in hybrid, you may go to a gas station only five or ten times a year. That's a heck of a lot better."

Felix Kramer, Founder, The California Cars Initiative (video):
"In 1942, after Pearl Harbor, this whole auto industry turned itself around in less than a year. They went from building cars and trucks to building tanks and planes -- in less than a year. And we can do that again. We may have to do that again if we have a disruption in our oil supply."

Narrator (video):
Plug-ins become even more attractive when you take into account that the batteries are charged at night, when most utility companies have excess capacity."

Kjaer (video):
"So you could connect millions of units of transportation to the grid across this country before you'd have to build one new power plant."

End of Video Clips

Charles Fox
With a few small improvements, particularly in battery technology, we have right around the corner the ability for drivers to drive past the gas station and say I'd rather purchase a renewable fuel, or I'd rather run my vehicle on electricity, or -- best of both worlds -- I'd rather do both.

Jim Woolsey
If I were to leave you with six words to remember, with respect to the importance of moving away from oil and so forth: "Forget Hydrogen. Forget Hydrogen. Forget Hydrogen." Massive changes in the energy infrastructure and in the transportation vehicle infrastructure would be necessary; whereas for a plug-in hybrid, we need a bigger battery and, yes, there is an infrastructure investment: an extension cord. Each family would need an extension cord.

I call this a coalition between the tree-huggers, the do-gooders, the sod-busters, the cheap hawks, and the evangelicals. Once you have a coalition of that diversity and that size, the politicians -- believe me -- will notice.

Frank Gaffney
It's transparently obvious that the way we've been doing business as a country is no longer tenable. It's not tenable from an economic point of view, and it most especially is no longer tenable from a national security point of view.

We're very pleased to be part of this coalition, and very excited about the leadership that is coming from below and very hopeful that politicians from the top will take notice.

I call on President Bush -- right here, right now -- to make this initiative part and parcel of this year's State of the Union Address and at the top of his agenda, and that of the Congress in 2006.

Kateri Callahan
I've worked with the auto industry for many years, and they have a mantra: We build what customers want. Well if they'd been listening over the last couple of years, they'd know that customers today want and are interested in hybrid electric vehicles. And with this partnership, the customers of tomorrow will be demanding very soon -- tomorrow -- plug-in hybrid electric vehicles.

Looking at PHEVs, what we see as an organization that promotes energy efficiency, is a very practical, very real, very here-today technology. It's immediate, it can help us reduce petroleum use, improve the environmental performance of our vehicles and importantly, it represents at a minimum, a bridge technology and perhaps even the final technology of a sustainable transportation of the future.

Alan Richardson
The case for plug-in hybrid electric vehicles can be boiled down into short-hand: energy security, vulnerability to foreign sources of oil, greenhouse gas emissions, the environment, economic security. People understand those arguments almost intuitively, and when you say there is one answer that addresses each of these issues and it's plug-in hybrid electric vehicles... they get it.

Joseph Romm
People are always asking me what is the green car of the future. I did run the Department of Energy program responsible for all clean car research, development, demonstration and deployment, and I can safely say that the flexible-fuel, plug-in hybrid electric vehicle is the most environmentally desirable and practical alternative fuel vehicle yet conceived.

I think that the issue of the century is global warming, and the good news is that plug-ins will also sharply reduce greenhouse gas emissions compared to existing cars. This is already true for the current U.S. electric grid, which is half-coal, and the cleaner the grid gets in the future, the better plug-ins will do.

Once you have a cap on utility emissions, then you shift emissions from a difficult-to-regulate sector -- 250 million cars -- to an easy-to-regulate sector -- a few hundred power plants. And at that point, plug-ins go from being a good idea to being the single best way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from cars.

And the good news is that even running a plug-in hybrid on 100% renewable electricity, the fueling cost per mile is still substantially lower than running a regular car on gasoline at current gasoline prices, let alone what gasoline prices are going to be in the next ten to twenty years.

Dr. Andy Frank
Well, I don't know if I'm the inventor but I've probably been working on it longer than anybody, anyone that's still alive.

The car companies have always said that it can't be done, batteries are going to cost too much and so forth. We've done very careful analysis and studies and we show that's not true. Fundamentally plug-in hybrids are equivalent to a sunroof and your navigation system, maybe your leather seats. So, it's doable now. It's not infrastructure that requires massive investment and the average consumer is not going to pay that much more for his car.

If me and a bunch of students can build cars, the car companies can certainly do it and do a much better job.

Orrin Hatch
I believe the next big step forward in our nation's energy strategy will be to develop commercially viable plug-in hybrids. By combining the popularity of hybrid electric vehicles with the added environmental and energy benefits of the battery-electric technology, we may very well be able to produce a silver bullet for our nation's transportation and environmental needs.

I believe it is in our nation's interest to promote the accelerated development of commercially available plug-in hybrids.

In terms of the transportation-energy supply problem I believe that no solution holds more short term promise than plug-in hybrids. In my view it should be the policy of this nation to become the world leader in the development of this important technology.

The following quotes are from the question-and-answer session.

Question: "What do you attribute the reluctance or resistance of the auto companies to?"

WOOLSEY: I really hope that people in Detroit will put side by side these announcement of plant closings and lost American jobs, the opening of foreign owned plants, in the country, of companies that are making energy efficient vehicles. Look at some of the things we've been talking about here this morning and think, you know, I wonder if working together with the government, getting together the right incentives, loan guarantees and so forth, it might be possible to save the American automobile industry by doing and end run around gradual steps and moving smartly and sharply toward plug-in hybrids, flexible fuel vehicles, nothing I'd like to see more.

GAFFNEY: A more interesting question in a way is why are some of the car companies that are making hybrids today not making them plug-in hybrids? And as doubtless people in this room know better than I, some of the people that have been conversions have started with conversions from Prius I think based on the fact that that option has in fact been built into the car, it's just not marketed that way here. To the contrary it's marketed in this country as a car you don't have to plug in! So that tells you something, I think, that the car company sees it's in their interest not to make it a plug-in hybrid when they could. This coalition I hope will make it clear that's the wrong incentive, they need to turn this thing around.

WOOLSEY: Are we making energy policy a subsidiary of an advertising campaign?

Question: "Especially living here in an urban area, I think about those who live in high rise buildings that don't have easy access to a plug. I think that a lot of people do, however in densely populated areas, is there sort of a general strategic guideline for that type of environment?"

WOOLSEY: If you look at the website,, you are getting essentially 125 to 150 miles a gallon of petroleum, so you between double and triple your petroleum based mileage by substituting electricity that goes for well under a dollar a gallon equivalent. But if you are only driving it 50 miles a gallon because you don't have enough extension cord, you're still able to drive it 50 miles a gallon.

Question: "What I'm hearing here doesn't seem to make sense to me because what you're talking about is a technology that you say is almost ready and it sounds like the best thing since sliced bread."

ROMM: Let's not be unclear here. There is virtually nothing harder to do than to get people to drive alternative fuel vehicles. We have tried for three decades now and it's really hard to do.

The single biggest barrier to all alternative fuel vehicles has been the infrastructure issue. How do you get fuel providers that are already making plenty of money selling you gasoline to make a substantial investment in an infrastructure that at best will compete with the product the already make money on, and at worst they will lose all their money. And that's why they never do it. That's the chicken and egg problem. I doubt it ever will be solved.

The beauty of the plug-in hybrid is that your car is parked 23 hours a day within 10 feet of an electric outlet. And once plug-ins start to take off, you can ask the utilities at the table, I'm sure that they will provide that last ten feet to those that don't have it. So, one shouldn't underestimate how difficult this is to do, but this is the vehicle that's going to win and it would be nice if the federal government helped. But I'm not certain that it's critical that the federal government help more than it is... what this coalition is doing, showing that the demand is there.

WOOLSEY: The market for transportation in the United States is heavily incentivized in the direction of oil consumption. So, if the premise of your question were, could we have a level playing field and would something like this succeed in a level playing field I think the answer is yes. In a level playing field it would succeed pretty fast. But that is not what we have.

Question: "I was wondering if the panelists could comment on if they see this plug-in technology as a short term solution, a bridge to some longer term eventual solution or do they see this as the long term solution?"

FRANK: My personal feeling is that this is short term for the next fifty or sixty years. So if that's long enough for you in the short term that's fine.

ROMM: We have to get substantially off of oil in the next fifty years. The nice thing about this is that it's incremental. You don't have to simultaneously replace the entire vehicle infrastructure and fueling infrastructure at the same time. As the batteries get better you go from a plug in ten, to twenty mile to thirty, forty mile, you get more biofuels, you add them so that a plug in sixty that can run on Ethanol eighty five percent mixture is almost a thousand mile per gallon vehicle. So the answer is as the technology gets better this grows into being the long term solution, in my opinion.

Question: "Does the Coalition have some numbers for a goal of soft orders? And have you had any communications with the auto makers on what would impress them? I mean what you would have to show them to get their attention and to get them to develop the technology?"

DUNCAN: We have not set specific goals in terms of fleet orders or incentives. The basic premise that we're operating on is that the auto makers did not perceive that a market existed for this type of vehicle. We initially set some very modest goals in Austin when we kicked off the campaign in August and quickly exceeded them. I was hoping to get soft fleet orders of ten or twenty vehicles from Austin and we have over six hundred fleet orders now just within sixty days or so from the city of Austin.

We feel confident that we will be able to get thousands of fleet orders of different types of vehicles and we are just starting to talk about incentives with other cities in the utilities as we've done. So, we did not set an artificial goal. The Auto industry has not told us that they need 5000 of this type of vehicle or that type of vehicle. Instead our conversations with the auto makers have indicated that they basically need to see that there is a mass market and we feel that we can demonstrate that.

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