Ten Ways to Reduce U.S. Dependency on Oil

Ten Ways to Reduce U.S. Dependency on Oil

US Navy Strait HormuzBy John Addison (2/22/12)

Iran stopped shipping oil to the United Kingdom and to France. Global oil prices shot-up and we pay more at the pump. With the threat of oil shipment disruption in the Strait of Hormuz, prices are likely to stay high.

In the USA, over 96 percent of our transportation fuel comes from oil refined into gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel. To protect our security and national leadership, Americans are taking 10 actions that are reducing our need for oil, not increasing the demand.

In the United States, we embarrassingly have more vehicles than people with driver’s licenses. We have 246 million vehicles. AAA estimates that it costs $8,000 per year for each car owned, which creates a financial burden on cash-strapped Americans. The picture is changing for the better.

Toyota Prius1. Fuel Efficiency.  Automakers have made an impressive comeback from the Great Recession by building cars that save thousands over their lives with better design, efficient engines, and hybrid drive systems. New cars are averaging 33.8 mpg, up from 24.3 in 1980. Light trucks average 24.5, up from 18.5. DOT Statistics. Automakers are targeting 54.5 mpg for 2025.

2. Electric Cars. In 2011, 18,000 Americans bought electric cars. This year, 60,000 to 100,000 will buy EVs. Instead of using foreign oil, these cars use domestic energy from renewables, natural gas and nuclear power plants. A big surprise is that most of these cars use no coal power.  Five to 10 million electric cars will be on U.S. roads before oil flows from new U.S. offshore drilling platforms.

3. Eliminate Subsidies. U.S. taxpayers watch hundreds of billions disappear in subsidies and tax breaks for oil companies. Does Exxon need to keep paying zero income tax while average Americans struggle to pay their mortgages? The Green Scissors report has common sense fixes that would save us $380 billion.

4.  Urban Density. For the first time, most Americans live in urban areas where they need fewer cars, have better public transit, use car sharing, and walk more (with added health benefits). Households are going from 3 to 2 cars and from 2 to 1.

5.   Public Transit. Americans make about 11 billion trips on U.S. transit in 2008, a 50-year record. Watch out, there is a bill in Congress to cut transportation funding. The result would force us to spend more on fuel, widening highways, and make us more dependent on oil than ever.

6.  Employer Commute and Flexwork Programs. Major employers are saving employees billions in travel costs. Employers sponsor ride sharing, last mile shuttles from transit, and guaranteed ride homes. Some employers have web sites and lunch-and-learns to help employees in the same zip codes match-up for car-pooling. 57 million Americans work at home, at least part-time, with the help of flexwork programs. Employer programs have helped with reduced car ownership.

7.  Cash for Clunkers removed 700,000 vehicles from the U.S. roads. Our need for foreign oil was reduced as gas guzzlers were replaced with cars needing less gasoline. It’s an election year and people want a tax break. How about a bi-partisan bill which gives people a break when they trade-in a car getting 18 mpg or less for one with double that – 36 mpg or better?

8.  Smart Apps. Internet savvy people now use Google Maps, car share apps, and smart phone apps to compare car directions and time with public transit directions and time. With a few clicks on a social network a shared ride is arranged, or a shared car reserved. In the old millennium we got everywhere by solo driving in gridlock. In the new millennium we plan and use a mix of car driving, transit, and other modes to save time and money.

9.  Smart Growth. Community and regional planners are making cities vibrant, with work, services, and play close at hand. Portland, Oregon, is a role model in creating urban density and great public transportation. California with SB375 is requiring regional plans that integrate development, transportation, and greenhouse gas reduction. Video of my workshop at the American Planning Association “More Smiles, Less Miles.” http://www.planning.org/tuesdaysatapa/2010/may.htm

10. States’ Rights. States currently have the right to protect their water, citizens’ health, agricultural land, shores, earthquake and tsunami zones, and wildlife refuges. Congressional Republicans are trying to pass legislation that would require offshore oil drilling from California to Florida and from New York to the Carolinas, whether allowed or prohibited by state law. From Nebraska to Texas, eminent domain would force the XL pipeline over the Ogallala Aquifer that provides water to tens of millions and is critical to our nation’s food supply. We must preserve state’s rights to protect water, health, and a livable future.

Making us more dependent on oil will not make us less dependent. We must end the subsidies and mandates that make us 96 percent dependent on oil and allow our individuals, cities, and states to keep moving us forward with better transit, fuel-efficient cars, and a brighter future.

Coal Powered Electric Cars – Fact and Fiction

Coal Powered Electric Cars – Fact and Fiction

Coal Power Plant EmissionsBy John Addison (2/14/12)

“The electric car doesn’t do any good because it’s just powered by coal” gets repeated by the oil industry, by news pundits who ignore fact checking, and even by some environmentalists.

In the past three years of writing about electric cars, I have yet to meet an electric car driver or fleet manager who only uses coal power. If you own an electric car and only use coal power, please leave a comment at the end of the article that mentions what you drive and the state in which you live. In the United States, 36 states have utility scale wind power, so the comment will not be from one of them.

In 2011, over half of the 18,000 electric cars were delivered to states that have zero coal-power plants. In 2012, 60,000 to 100,000 electric cars will be primarily be delivered in zero-coal states. My Nissan LEAF is powered by my utility PG&E with a typical California energy mix of 47% natural gas, 20% nuclear, 16% large hydro, and 15% other renewables. Yes, during peak summer afternoon demand, PG&E does import 2% coal power from other states, but I charge my electric car off-peak after 10 p.m. Many electric car drivers participate in utility programs that offer lower prices for charging off-peak.

By 2020, California utilities plan to have 33% of delivered power from renewables including wind, solar, geothermal, biomethane and waste. By 2050, SMUD, a leading utility, plans to be 90 percent renewable as it implements energy storage that enables renewables to be used 24/7 and as it implements smart grid and smart pricing to make demand more level.

Electric Cars Ride on Sunlight

Many early adopters of electric vehicles are also early adopters of solar power. Jackson Browne rides on sunlight, powering his Chevrolet Volt with the solar on his roof. At Camp Pendleton, the Marine Corp showed me their solar carport with charge units for their 291 electric vehicles used daily.

The Renault-Nissan Alliance is leading the volume manufacturing of electric cars. The Nissan LEAF has a growing presence in the United States and Japan, the Renault Fluence in Europe and Israel. Renault is installing 55 MW of solar parking structures at its manufacturing sites. Solar parking structures increasingly include electric car charging.

With plans for 250 more charging stations on its campus, and a goal to make 5 percent of its campus parking EV-ready, Google’s installation is the largest workplace charging installation for electric vehicles in the country. Much of the charging is done with renewable energy, including Google’s solar covered parking. No coal power is used in charging vehicles. Google has invested over one billion dollars in renewable energy, accelerating development of 1.7 GW of RE.

There are valid concerns about coal powered electric cars. Coal is used for about 45 percent of U.S. electricity generation. Legacy plants will continue to run for decades. An electric car is over 5 times as efficient as a typical gasoline car, so even when coal-power is used lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions are less from the electric car. A typical electric car, however, is only 2.5 times as efficient as the best hybrids such as the Toyota Prius. If your utility bill shows that 90 percent of your electricity comes from coal, you might do as much good with a hybrid that gets over 40 mpg as with an electric car.

The coal concern is greater in China, although current plans call for China to implement more wind and solar power than now exists in all other countries.

By the time that we have millions of electric vehicles on the road, coal will play a smaller role in our energy mix. Coal mining operations and coal-power plants will be asked to capture emissions or pay a percentage of the health damage and climate damage that they cause. When the EPA publishes new rules there will be a coal and electricity utility outcry to shutdown the EPA and save our economy. Yet, playing buy the rules will create new opportunities for energy efficiency technology, energy management, renewable energy, and efficient natural gas plants that will boost the economy.

What would you do if you were an electric utility CEO deciding on a billion dollar plant to run 40 years or more? Coal keeps getting more expensive. Natural gas, wind, solar, and energy storage and demand response keep getting less expensive.

Who Will Try to Kill the Electric Car?

Congressman Edward J. Markey, a senior member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, stated, “The fossil-fuel industry and its allies in Congress see the solar and wind industries as a threat and will try to kill these industries as they have for the preceding two generations,” Markey says. (From Juliet Eilperin’s article in Wired)

The electric car and renewable energy are a long-term threat to the oil industry who will lobby fiercely to eliminate tax breaks for solar, wind and EVs, while fighting to protect the billions of tax breaks that allowed Exxon to pay zero income tax last year while earning tens of billions. We are a vulnerable nation with 98 percent of our transportation being fueled by oil refined gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel.

You can turn on Fox News and watch Chevrolet be attacked because in a crash test on Chevy Volt caught fire 5-days after the test. You won’t hear much about the 180,000 gasoline cars that caught fire after crashes in 2011. Solar bankruptcies such as Solyndra, Evergreen, and Solar Millennium will be replayed over and over. Less airplay will be given to the intense competitive progress that has made solar power 100 times less expensive than 40 years ago and fueled an industry growth of over 30 percent annually for decades.

A few years ago when a delegation of senior Chinese officials was visiting Silicon Valley, I was asked to give a talk about marketing strategy. I was asked, “What is the secret of Silicon Valley.” I answered that great innovation is possible when you’re not afraid of failure.

American innovators are working day and night from California to New York and from Michigan to Tennessee. Breakthroughs are being nurtured to commercial success in IT cloud services, RE financial services, energy efficient motors and buildings, electric batteries and electric cars. Yes, there will be more failure than success, duds will get more news time than dynamos, but the innovations that transform our lives for the better will triumph.

In the future, we will increasingly ride in electric vehicles smart charged with renewable energy.

Top 10 Electric Cars