For a nation that can’t stop bragging about how great and powerful it is, we’ve become shockingly helpless in the face of the many challenges confronting us. Our can-do spirit was put on hold many moons ago, and here we are now unable to defeat the Taliban, or rein in the likes of BP and the biggest banks, or stop the oil gushing furiously from the bowels of earth like a warning from Hades about the hubris and ignorance that is threatening to destroy us.
Bob Herbert had a good rant going in the NY Times today, and his remedies included conservation, a carbon tax, and “making vehicles more fuel-efficient,” among other things. Stuff we’ve heard before.
What he didn’t mention is that—finally—the Gulf oil spill has caused Congress to seriously consider the country’s addiction to oil. Last week, both Houses passed bipartisan bills to spend up to $11 billion to electrify half the cars and trucks on U.S. roads by 2030. Doing that would “cut U.S. demand for oil by about one-third.”
With this worthy—and probably unreachable—goal, the Electric Vehicle Deployment Act of 2010 still represents the first thoughtful attempt to get serious about weaning ourselves off oil and building out the necessary infrastructure for EVs.
Both House and Senate bills (they are similar) have proposed incentives to spur EV development and create the charging infrastructure to keep them powered. Some $1.5 billion for battery research is part of the Senate version.
Basically, the Department of Energy would fund a competitive program of 5-15 “deployment communities” to which it will funnel buyer subsidies ($2,000 each) to encourage EV purchases and install home and commercial chargers. That money would be in addition to the present $7,500 federal tax credit for cars like the Leaf and Volt. Details are here and here.
The notion is to create EV-centric deployment hubs in areas that are amenable so that they can seed and disseminate the gospel beyond their borders. The danger, says the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, is that this would make electric cars “boutique vehicles” for those communities, when the goal should be national diffusion.
But isn’t that the essence of the idea? Establish EVs as workable and desirable alternatives, and their appeal to people in other regions will grow.
You’ll hear a lot more skepticism about the legislation in weeks to come, from the usual sources. Still, it’s a sign that Congress, if not the country, may at last be waking up to one of its greatest challenges.
Making consumers aware of the benefits of electric cars and giving people incentives to buy them are the best ways to encourage adoption. Would you agree?