The paper, which the authors had hoped would influence some of the Senate debate on the Energy bill, succinctly outlines the economic and political dangers of overdependence on oil, and then suggests three major policy initiatives the authors believe the government needs to take as soon as possible. (A hint from the paper: “It’s the Batteries, Stupid.”)
According to the authors, policies with respect to vehicular transportation should proceed along the following three paths:
- Encourage improved vehicle mileage, using technology now in production: Diesels and hybrids for powertrains, with lightweight carbon construction to reduce vehicular weight.
- Encourage the commercialization of cellulosic (biomass) ethanol, biodiesel and synthetic fuels that can be available soon, are compatible with existing infrastructure, and can be derived from waste or otherwise produced cheaply.
- Focus with high priority on plug-in hybrids and battery development.
Such development [plug-in hybrids and the battery technology to support them] should have the highest research and development priority because it promises to revolutionize transportation economics and to have a dramatic effect on the problems caused by oil dependence.
With a plug-in hybrid vehicle one has the advantage of an electric car, but not the disadvantage. Electric cars cannot be recharged if their batteries run down at some spot away from electric power. But since hybrids have tanks containing liquid fuel (gasoline and/or ethanol, diesel and/or biodiesel) plug-in hybrids have no such disadvantage.
Moreover the attractiveness to the consumer of being able to use electricity from overnight charging for a substantial share of the day’s driving is stunning...Given the burdensome cost imposed by current fuel prices on commuters and others who need to drive substantial distances, the possibility of powering one’s family vehicle with fuel that can cost as little as one-twentieth of today’s gasoline (in the U.S. market) should solve rapidly the question whether there would be public interest in and acceptability of plug-in hybrids.
The effects of these policies are multiplicative. All should be pursued since it is impossible to predict which will be fully successful or at what pace, even though all are today either beginning commercial production or are nearly to that point. The battery development for plug-in hybrids is of substantial importance and should for the time being replace the current R&D emphasis on automotive hydrogen fuel cells.
George Shultz is a former Secretary of State and is currently Distinguished Fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford. R. James Woolsey is a former Director of Central Intelligence and is currently Vice President of Booz/Allen Hamilton. The CPD itself has impeccable Reagan-era membership.
It was George Shultz who was one of the early major supporters of George Bush in his first run for the presidency.
So with advocates such as these—who presumably would have clout with the less demand-side focused members of Congress and the administration—behind fuel efficiency, plug-ins and a rational biofuel strategy, why can’t we get any traction?