Thursday, November 30, 2006

Is GM's Plug-in Hybrid for Real? What Say Big Enviro?

Lots of ink on GM's plug-in hybrid announcement. With headlines like "GM Promises Plug-in Hybrid," Waggoner's statement in LA moves plug-in cars back into the public discussion of petroleum alternatives. "Environmentalists" generally were credited with pressuring GM toward green technologies, and Roland Hwang of NRDC rightly questions whether GM's plans are mere "smoke and mirrors." While espousing the "electrification of the automobile," Waggoner made no firm committment.

Unfortunately, our major environmental organizations have made no firm committment, either. The environmental Big Three - Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council, and the Union of Concerned Scientists - remain on the sidelines of the plug-in discussion. Jason Mark of UCS responded to Waggoner's speech in the LA Times and Scientific American by ignoring the challenge and benefits of plug-in cars. He derides automakers for not focusing on more efficient internal combution engines. "They should be combining existing technologies to give us 5- and 10-mile-per-gallon improvements." Could there be a more pathetic response?

These organizations continue to call for a focus on more efficient gasoline cars, a policy with two decades of failure and no hope of actually solving the problems of petroleum dependence and global warming.

Irony abounds. George Bush, oilman, seems to understand the commonsense benefits of plug-in hybrids. And now Rick Waggoner of GM, creator and killer of the EV1, has again breached the industry taboo on connecting to the cleaner, cheaper, ubiquitous electric grid. Speaking at an energy alternatives forum recently, Ex-CIA Director and neo-con "[James] Woolsey advocated moving away from cars that run on petroleum..... and [Sierra Club Global Warming Director Dan] Becker argued for making cars that go further on a tank of gas."

We'd be a lot further along if professional environmentalists heeded logic and science and advocated for plug-in cars. Roland: When will that long-promised plug-in study appear?