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Senator Lieberman Calls for US-China Cooperation on Energy; Touts Plug-in Hybrids

In remarks to the Council on Foreign Relations on 1 December, Senator Joe Lieberman (D-CT) called for the US and China to cooperate on energy policies and technologies to help avoid potential conflict in the future.

The senator urged the expansion of the U.S.-China Energy Policy Dialogue established in 2004 to encourage the development of alternative fuels and vehicles that are powered by energy sources other than gasoline, with particular emphasis on plug-in hybrids.

It is time the US and China not only recognize the similarity of our oil dependency status, and the direction that competition may take us, but begin to talk more directly about this growing global competition for oil so that we can each develop national policies and cooperative international policies—even joint research and development projects—to cut our dependency on oil before the competition becomes truly hostile.

The U.S.-China energy engagement that I foresee could be, in one sense, the 21st Century version of what arms control negotiations with the Soviet Union were in the last century.

But we’ve got to start those discussions before the race for oil becomes as hot and dangerous as the nuclear arms race between the US and the Soviet Union did in the last century.

I’d point out what I think is a fortuitous difference in these two races, if you will. With arms control, we were focused on reducing dangers by destroying weapons systems.

Here, we have a chance to reduce dangers by separately and jointly building new energy and transportation systems based on alternative fuels and new technologies to power our vehicles.

The US can and should make concrete proposals for joint projects with China which would break both nations’ dependence on foreign oil, or would help break both nations’ dependence on foreign oil. And as the world’s two biggest consumers of oil, again it makes sense that we work together on this.

But in the meantime, the US has a responsibility to take our own steps to get our own appetite for oil under control. Because our national security—not to mention our economic well being and environmental health—require that we do that.

—Sen. Joe Lieberman

Lieberman recently co-sponsored with nine other senators a bill—“Vehicle and Fuel Choices for American Security Act of 2005” (S. 2025)—that mandates a reduction in America’s oil consumption by 10 million barrels per day within 25 years and require that 10 percent of all vehicles sold in the United States be hybrid, hybrid-electric plug-in, alternative fuel or biofuel vehicles by 2012. (Earlier post.) He used the China speech to underscore once again the potential for plug-in hybrids.

Let me talk about the new technologies which are out there—they’re not exotic—including not just the hybrids, for which there are waiting lines at most car dealerships today, but for alternative fuels and hybrid electric plug-ins.

Electricity, a sector that relies on oil to fuel just two percent of its output, could further lower our oil dependence if we use it to power our cars.

When I first heard about this it sounded impractical—I was about to use the un-Senatorial term “flaky”—but we’re all plugging in our cell phones and our blackberries every night. And we can get to the point where we are plugging in our cars as well at a time of day when the demand on the electricity grid is lower and again, most of that electric power is not produced by oil.

This can lead to some really exciting options that are practical. Plug-in hybrid vehicles that I’ve talked about would be able to use their batteries exclusively for the first 30 miles of a trip.

While Americans drive about 2.2 trillion miles a year, the vast majority of those trips are less than 10 miles. That means a plug-in hybrid would use zero gallons of gasoline—or any other combustible fuel—for the vast majority of car trips that are made.

Lieberman called specifically for sharing US work on biofuels and alternative vehicles—such as plug-ins—with China.

We should expand the U.S.-China Policy Dialogue, established last year with a Memorandum of Understanding between our two nations last year, to specifically create joint programs for the kinds of new vehicles and new fuels that I’ve talked about.

For instance, as we work to turn our idle cropland into new fuels, why not share that knowledge and capability with the Chinese, and why not ask that they do the same for some of the steps that they are beginning to take for energy diversity and independence.

Let’s also specifically work with them on alternative automobile technologies, while we have this window of time, before millions and millions of new Chinese drivers hit the roads in gas-guzzling, gas-only vehicles.



Great speech, good ideas, but get Europe and India in that boat too. US 296 mio., EU 457 mio., India 1080 mio. and China 1306 mio. citizens and potential gas burner.


Lieberman in '08!


ya for the republican party


Well I'll be damned! Lieberman no longer clueless about Plug-in Hybrid potential, or is he? No, he's still clueless if he hasn't also learned how transportation systems must incorporate walking, bicycling and mass transit, and how the specific infrastructure these means of travel require alter current urban/suburban development patterns.

I hear China is building Americanized suburbs, fenced, wage-slave workers' quarters, 2-car garages with attached houses set in cul-de-sacs on what was once farmland.

Unless our vested Liebermans learn how the Plug-in Hybrid best ALTERS the last Century's assumptions about urban growth and development, even the marvelous Plug-in Hybrid will fail to pull our asses out of the fire.


The other caveat -- China will convert from consuming oil for transport to burning coal for transport. China sits on huge coal deposits, and you can be sure thats what they'll use for electricity generation.

It's really solving one problem by creating (extending) another, until green energy production steps up.


It would be nicer if more energy was spent 'touting' current technologies. We could go much faster, just by encouraging the import of high-efficiency models from other countries.

James White

Way to go Joe! While much of the electricity to power plug-in vehicles in China would come from coal (as it would in the US), unlike the U.S., China is taking serious steps to develop alternative energy resources. China's recent energy bill incorporates key aspects of Germany's very successful solar program. Germany's "feed-in tariff" as it is called created over 300MW of solar last year compared to 35MW in California. China's energy bill calls for $186 billion in production incentives (feed-in tariff, not rebates) to promote wind and solar power over the next 15 years. The production incentives are $0.49 per kWh for solar generated electricity and $0.06 per kWh for wind generated electricity.


Although Joe lacks charisma, he has some good ideas. I think trying to address the next global conflict over diminishing resources before it becomes a conflict is tremendous.
Developing technologies (algae scrubbers) will help transform burning coal from an environmental problem to an asset.
Now if he can get China to join Kyoto to show their enviromental commitment regarding global warming.

Harvey D auspicious and pungent manifest by a senator with superior perception. He should be in the white house.

tom deplume

If looked at from a per capita basis California is way ahead of China in new solar installations.


Lieberman a good guy? What a joke. He's a CFR robot just like Bush and all the other criminals in Washington. The CFR is in bed with oil and nothing good can come of it. Hydrogen on demand exists and has for 10+ years but CFR and affiliates keep it under wraps. CBS just reported on how dangerous hybrids are in accidents, see news story link at my site.


"While much of the electricity to power plug-in vehicles in China would come from coal (as it would in the US),"

It doesn't have to ... we could convert our coal-based electricity generation to nuclear-power based.

See: The
World Goes Nuclear

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