Tuesday, November 28, 2006

July/August '06 - Activists Promote the Film, Ford Retreats on Hybrids

Who Killed the Electric Car opens across America
EAA chapters turn out for openings

Summer 2006 has been all about “Who Killed the Electric Car?” Reviews of the movie by the score have been fueled by $75 per barrel oil and the fear of $4 per gallon gas.

Chris Paine, the director, and Chelsea Sexton, ex-EV1 specialist and a central character in the film, tirelessly criss-crossed the country speaking to the press. Opening box office has been respectable, but certainly not gangbusters. Audiences across the country have remained in their seats slackjawed at the tragedy portrayed for Q & A sessions with the filmmakers and electric car activists. The audiences universally want to know what they can do, given the unavailablility of plug-in cars on the market.

Plug In America has put together a list of actions we can take. (see www.pluginamerica.com)
1. Use all means short of hostage-taking to get friends and family to see the movie in the theater. 
2. Tell your local dealer you’ll buy a hyrid with a plug. And not until then!
3. Sign the Plug-in Partners petition. (www.pluginpartners.org)
4. Tell CARB you want plug-in vehicles in the Zero Emission Vehicle mandate. 

Nothing engages viewers of the film like an interaction with an EV driver and an electric car. EAA chapters across the country continue to organize events at showings of the movie, including Q&A sessions after the film, leafletting with cards and flyers with information about electric cars, the Electric Auto Association, and Plug In America. (Material available from marc@pluginamerica.com)

In some locales, theaters have been extremely cooperative, at others less so. (Watch the story on the Raging Grannies in San Jose.)

Ford about-face on hybrids a slap in the face to Big Enviro

While consumers may be awakening to the need for plug-in cars and government conferences on the subject multiply, the automakers continue to send very mixed signals. A year ago Ford nabbed a significant endorsement from the Sierra Club for its limited edition Mercury Mariner hybrid (29/35 mpg - gasoline only) and a promise of 250,000 hybrids by 2010. Ford has now done an abrupt about face. Ethanol is the alternative fuels flavor of the month, and Ford jumped on GM’s yellow bandwagon. Anything, it would seem, to forestall the inevitable plug.

Stirring some confusion as to its intentions, Ford mentioned its “continued interest in plug-in hybrids” in its press announcement. At the same time, rumors swirl around GM and plug-in hybrids. And Toyota continues to dangle hybrid efficiency advances that would seem unattainable without the plug.

Ford’s reneging on its committment to hybrids ought to lead the major environmental organizations to do some serious soul searching on the question of automobiles and emissions. Their members and policy makers turn to them to understand what can and should be done. The quarter century old strategy of pursuing increased gasoline efficiency (higher CAFE standards) and ignoring the commercially viable alternatives to petroleum has failed. Cars have gotten cleaner, but there are more of them. And over time, even the cleanest hybrid gets dirtier. It’s time our environmental leadership face the facts.  If you are a member of the Sierra Club, the Natural Resources Defense Council, or the Union of Concerned Scientists, let them know you want them to support efforts to bring plug-in cars to market.  

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