Friday, December 15, 2006

Wind Beneath his Wings: How Green Power and Plug-in Cars Can Save Bush's Legacy

Thomas Friedman of the NY Times has been on his geo-green kick for a while now, merging his eco-consciousness with his hawkish neo-liberalism. Going green is necessary, and it can get the US out of the pickle of the Mid East. Agreed. Ending our dependence on foreign oil is essential if we are to eliminate its perverting influence on our foreign policy.

Not content to offer an overarching theory to save America's environment and democratic internationalism, Friedman today ambitiously suggests a way to achieve the impossible - save George Bush's ass, I mean legacy. All I can say is "From your lips to God's, I mean Karl Rove's ear."

Given the stink of political corruption in Texas, one can be forgiven for thinking only foul winds blow. But whatever their source, the wind really blows in Texas. Thanks in part to Bush's support of a nascent wind industry during his tenure in Austin, much of that wind is being turned into electricity. Renewable energy is hot. Everyone save Dick Cheney thinks it's a darn good idea. Since Bush already seems to consider plugging in a car to be a no-brainer, plugging it in to renewable, nighttime Texas wind should be doubly appealing. If Bush grabs Friedman's concept, he's got a positive agenda to focus on during his final two years.

I can't say I expect Bush to be the leader to bring the good news of renewable electricity and plug-in cars to the masses. After all, what would his pals in the oil and gas industry say? But the politics of plug-ins makes strange bedfellows. Bring it on!

Congressional Letter for Plug-ins

Felix Kramer of CalCars reports that this week, in the first letter of its kind, 17 Senators and 21 Representatives from both sides of the aisle wrote to Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman and Office of Management and Budget Director Robert Portman, urging that the Fiscal Year 2008 budget request include at least $90M in funding for Plug-in Hybrid Vehicles (PHEVs). (See full text & signatories below.)

In the Senate, support extends from the far-right (Brownback) to the moderate-left Barack Obama. In the House, we see Southern Republican Conservatives, Democratic hawks and progressives lining up in an unusual alliance. As Sherry Boschert concludes in the final chapter of her new must-read book, plug-in cars have a role to play in "Bridging a Divided America."

Did your Congressional representatives sign the letter? If so, send them a letter of support for this action. If not, write to inform them about it and ask for their support for plug-in hybrids.

Dear Secretary Bodman and Director Portman

As you prepare the President's Fiscal Year 2008 budget request, we urge you to include adequate funding for Plug in Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEVs). Specifically we hope the President will request at least $90 million of funding for PHEVs including $45 million for advanced batteries, $20 million in PHEV analysis, system modeling and component study, $20 milliion in support of a pending executive order for demonstration vehicles (light- and medium-duty), and $5 million under the joint flex-fuel/hybrid vehicle commercialization initiative(section 706 of the Energy Policy Act of 2005).

As you know, PHEVs promise to significantly reduce our nation's dependence on oil while saving consumers hundreds of dollars at the pump each year and greatly reducing vehicular pollution and greenhouse gasses. The 2005 Energy Policy Act laid the framework for beginning to reduce oil dependence through a next generation of vehicles. A financial commitment from the federal government is vital if we are to see PEHVs on the road over the next few years.

Thanks for your consideration

Senators Evan Bayh, Sam Brownback, Joe Lieberman, Norm Coleman, Ken Salazar, Richard G. Lugar, Barack Obama, Orrin Hatch, Debbie Stabenow, Hillary Rodham Clinton, Maria Cantwell, Herb Kohl, Dianne Feinstein, Christopher Dodd, Carl Levin, Olympia Snowe

Representatives Eliot L. Engel, Jack Kingston, Bart Stupak, Lee Terry, Jay Inslee, Roscoe G. Bartlett, Bobby L. Rush, John Campbell, Tammy Baldwin, Judy Biggert, Tom Lantos, Mike Ross, Maurice D. Hinchey, Peter A. DeFazio, Howard L. Berman, Linda Sanchez, Lloyd Doggett, Rahm Emanuel, Sandy M. Levin, Allyson Y Schwartz, Doris O. Matsui