How Green Cars Can Help America’s Presidents Keep Their Promises

Our Fellow Americans. Have you been paying attention? There appears to be a gap between what every president since the October 1973 Arab oil embargo has said would be done about energy alternatives and what’s actually been accomplished.

Now 40 years and a couple weeks past the day that shifted life for America, we thought we’d take a look at one plan proposed last year by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) to slash U.S. oil consumption by 50 percent in 20 years.

Perhaps it’s just as well the organization of 350,000 supporters from the sciences and other fields has a plan given there is no unified energy policy in the U.S. and what we have instead is a de facto policy known generally as “all of the above.”

gaslines

The discrepancy between rhetoric and reality offered by the last eight presidents since Richard Nixon coined the term “energy security” was noted in a brilliant parody by comedian Jon Stewart.

And, did you notice last week eight governors pledged to hold each other accountable toward implementing California’s Zero Emission Vehicle rules? This plan in the making aims for 3.3 million ZEVs on their roads by 2025.

Can eight governors accomplish a significant chunk of what eight presidents have not been able to?

Or will it matter in the minds of some?

In a Politico article documenting ways in which the Arab oil embargo “shaped energy policy,” quoted was James Schlesinger – former Nixon administration defense secretary and the first energy secretary for the Carter administration – who said America may now sigh with relief thanks to shale oil extraction.

61_mpg

This he said was “manna from heaven” that buys America time. And while others suggest “energy security” is nothing but a tired plot for political theater, Schlesinger said work can continue toward a national energy policy if there is ever to be one.

“We need to remain on the alert,” including researching and developing new energy technologies, “because someday this [production] bonanza will begin to peter out,” Schlesinger said. “But we don’t at this point need a national energy strategy, meaning major government interventions into the energy market, which is what most people mean when they say a national energy policy.”

20-Year Plan

While those in the nation’s capitol continue to do their thing, yesterday we spoke with Washington-based UCS Policy Analyst Josh Goldman about the advocacy’s “Half the Oil Plan.”

As for assertions passed along by Schlesinger and those who agree with him, the UCS offers another viewpoint.

Leaf

“The costs of oil, no matter where it is drilled, are on the rise—from persistently high and volatile gas prices to the devastating impacts of global warming,” it says.

And here is its plan’s underlying premise in a nutshell:

Using less is the real oil solution.

 
Heady stuff, isn’t it? Instead of mainlining the oil addict from a new junkie, UCS advocates cutting back, conserving.

And, the UCS posits, existing and around-the-corner technology can begin the weaning process now.

What’s in it for you – and as the case may be, for your kids, or your kids’ kids?

rosie_web

Things like saving trillions of dollars, reducing global warming emissions, helping this country become a global transportation innovator and diversifying the transportation fleet.

The comprehensive UCS plan – along the line of the federal Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) rules – includes the call for doubling automobile fuel efficiency and then it goes beyond CAFE, envisioning increased reliance on electric cars and plug-in hybrids that can run electrically in daily commutes.

Regarding plug-in hybrid, battery, and fuel-cell electric vehicles, UCS estimates as a percentage of the U.S. fleet: 3 percent by 2020, 10 percent by 2025, 25 percent by 2030, and 45 percent by 2035.

It also sees a place for biofuels – 38 billion gallons by 2035 of cellulosic ethanol and other biomass liquids – and beyond all forms of transportation, it is a multi-pronged solution touching on all sectors – homes, businesses and industry.

The UCS’ methodology is science-based. The project’s scope levers off of info gleaned from an early release version of the Energy Information Administration’s 2012 Annual Energy Outlook (AEO2012ER), which covers 2009 through 2035.

oil_saving_strategies

If nothing is done, UCS researchers estimated, America is on track to be burning 22 million barrels per day by 2035.

“We can cut this projected oil use in half by tapping into efficient technologies and putting innovative solutions to work—saving more than 11 million barrels every day by 2035,” says the UCS observing that other countries and industries are already doing the same things being proposed.

half-the-oil-savings-over-time-bar-graph

Actually the plan foresees 12 mbd but the UCS conservatively cut it to 11 as an attainable goal – potentially.

The thing is, the UCS started posting to its Web site tons of links and info last year, and the “20-year” plan actually covers 2015-2035.

“It’s all possible with technologies already available or just around the corner,” says the UCS. “Now we need bold action — from our leaders, from our communities, and from individuals like you to make real progress on cutting our oil use.”

Hmmm. Bold action. From leaders …

We asked Goldman how the UCS expects to gain traction for an ambitious plan that will require massive cooperation.

He said the move is already underway and UCS does not expect an overnight transformation and has set realistic goals based on organic progress toward a change of the collective mind.

As plug-in vehicle sales increase, consumer awareness will increase, Goldman said, as will peoples’ comfort level and familiarity with electrified cars.

Beyond that, UCS is actively campaigning to get the word out, has a Web page to send an e-mail to the president, and it has a page on what you can do.

The plan also projects over a million jobs being created as an outcome of the Half Oil Plan.

“[A] conservative estimate would be the creation of more than 1 million net new jobs from on-road vehicle fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas emissions standards by 2035,” says the UCS, and how this would break out is in the linked methodology page.

UCS’ goals are positive and if they were to come to pass, the promises of four-decades worth of presidents could largely be met by two decades of work initiated by an independent advocacy group.

We’ve linked several pages for you to look more deeply if you wish.