The Renewable Electric Agenda
The President clearly has an electrification strategy as part of his agenda to transform our energy policy. At the last minute he snuck $8 billion dollars for high speed rail into the stimulus package. And while he showed tough love toward the carmakers by denying them bailout money, he (and I'm assuming that he is speaking through the newly installed GM chairman) exempted the plug-in hybrid Chevy Volt from the otherwise stringent requirements of other vehicles in the fleet:
Rick Wagoner's replacement as GM CEO, Fritz Henderson, might have recently said that all of GM's car models will need to "pay the rent" (unlike the previous business model, which was to make huge margins on ginormous SUVs and trucks, and to build unprofitable small cars as an afterthought), but there was some fine print on that claim. This new rule won't apply to the GM Volt plug-in hybrid car, and that's probably a good thing.
GM needs some long-term vision. It put all its eggs into big SUVs, and now changing direction will take much effort (as is pretty obvious from recent headlines). I can't imagine how much inertia had to be fought to even get the Volt project started after the demise of the EV1.
In other words, with such a heavy lift to actually get the Volt to market, we cannot abandon this first forward-thinking effort by American car manufacturers in decades. And there's no question in my mind that Obama's behind that. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised to see whatever reconstructed GM coming out of any potential bankruptcy process have the Volt as its flagship vehicle, perhaps even with some backing (and I'd like to see the same for Tesla).
A broad shift to electric, as opposed to flex fuels and ethanol, makes lots of sense, because renewables can be rapidly scaled up to accommodate major carbon reductions in ways that alternative fuels can never reach. A new study shows that offshore wind turbines could meet current electricity demand TODAY.
Reporting from Arlington, Va. -- Wind turbines off U.S. coastlines could potentially supply more than enough electricity to meet the nation's current demand, the Interior Department reported Thursday.
Simply harnessing the wind in relatively shallow waters -- the most accessible and technically feasible sites for offshore turbines -- could produce at least 20% of the power demand for most coastal states, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said, unveiling a report by the Minerals Management Service that details the potential for oil, gas and renewable development on the outer continental shelf.
The biggest wind potential lies off the nation's Atlantic coast, which the Interior report estimates could produce 1,000 gigawatts of electricity -- enough to meet a quarter of the national demand.
We don't have to wonder about a world without coal - we have that ability now. The only resource that needs to be tapped is political will.