Electrified Transportation’s Big Week in Washington

While lawmakers were approving
billions of dollars to entice auto buyers into moderate fuel-efficiency
progress this week, the Obama administration was ramping up its push
for electrified transportation.

gm_chevy_volt_b001.jpgThe Chevy Volt (Photo: TreeHugger)

The president awarded
$2.4 billion in grants to electric battery companies on Wednesday, with
more than half of General Motors’ $241 million share going to the hyped
Chevy Volt.

Johnson Controls, which has worked on
battery packs for Ford’s "Transit Connect" hybrid van and other plug-in
vehicles, was the biggest grant winner at nearly $300 million. 

The
electrification elation continued yesterday in the Senate, where
Department of Energy (DoE) assistant secretary David Sandalow told
environment committee members that half the nation’s autos could be run
on electricity within 20 years without having to build a new power
plant.

Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC)
Chairman Jon Wellinghoff echoed the sentiment: "If we want to move off
of foreign oil, we have to electrify that
transportation system and ensure that we have the clean, reliable
electric energy to provide that energy for the transportation system,"
he testified.

Of
course, generating clean electricity free of new power plants would be
impossible without expanding the use of wind and solar, not to mention
achieving significant efficiency savings from the existing grid — a
goal that’s about to receive the next wave of economic stimulus money from the DoE.

The environmental merits of electric vehicles are the subject of
much debate among sustainability advocates, but the need for clean
power affects transit and inter-city passenger rail on a substantial
level, as Yonah Freemark has observed.

In addition, a Georgia Institute of Technology study
released earlier this year found that a comprehensive approach
integrating hybrid vehicles and local land-use reform has the potential
to maximize carbon-emissions reductions.

Could the Obama
administration’s focus on electrified transport ultimately become a
boon in the fight against climate change? Much depends on whether
emissions limits can actually win approval in the Senate this fall.

  • David Galvan

    Good stuff. I hope Obama and congress follow through with this on the emissions standards and green-electricity front, and that the car companies take the money and make some great plug-in hybrid cars.

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