"The nation that leads the world on energy will be the nation that leads the world in the 21st century."
Shouted questions about bailout bonuses for AIG executives tended to overwhelm President Obama during his interactions with an aroused public on a visit to Southern California March 19. But he did get to make his points about energy and a new future for the auto industry during his stop at Southern California Edison's Electric Vehicle Technical Center.
Ford's plug-in hybrid test fleet is based on the Escape. (Jim Motavalli photo)
It was perhaps symbolic that Obama toured Edison's "Garage of the Future," because he's doing so much to upgrade its contents. He's pushing for a million plug-in hybrids by 2015, promising to green the White House fleet within a year (security permitting) and convert half the federal cars and trucks to plug-in hybrid or all-electric by 2012. It's clear that the plug-in revolution is getting a big federal push.
While at Edison, Obama peered up at a solar roof and kicked the tires on a Ford Escape hybrid (one of the few made in the U.S.A.). He visited a battery testing station and stopped to chat with technicians working on a neighborhood EV. "It's spotless," he said. "Where's the dirt?"
The Fords were there for a reason: Edison teamed up with Ford in 2007, and some of the cars in the "Garage of the Future" are the company's plug-in hybrids. Ford is a big believer in the plugged-in future, and is committed to a battery-operated transit van in 2010 and a Focus-sized electric car the following year. The company's plug-in hybrid will be in production by 2012.
"We are pleased that Ford's vision of the increasing importance of electrification in transportation is aligned with President Obama's direction," Ford said in a statment for The Daily Green. "It is encouraging to hear the President speak of government grants, research and development support for vehicles, batteries, production and infrastructure as well as consumer incentives that will be needed to bring these vehicles to the mass market."
As he injects billions into the auto industry, Obama knows it will never be restored to health until it starts rolling out affordable small cars, hybrids and full electric vehicles. He chooses to see that process as well underway. "Even as our American automakers are undergoing some painful adjustments, they are also retooling and remaking themselves into an industry that can compete and win," he said. "And millions of jobs depend on it."
Sounding more like the guy from Greenpeace than the President, Obama also pointed out, "[W]e import more oil than we did on 9/11. The 1908 Model T -- think about this -- the 1908 Model T earned better gas mileage than the typical SUV in 2008. [A] hundred years later and we're getting less gas mileage, not better, on SUVs."
By some estimates, Obama has already poured $12 billion or more in EV funding into the stimulus package, but in Pomona he added $2.4 billion more. "I am announcing that the Department of Energy is launching a $2 billion competitive grant program under the Recovery Act that will spark the manufacturing of the batteries and parts that run these cars, build or upgrade the factories that will produce them, and in the process, create thousands of jobs right here in America," he said. Another $400 million is to go to a "down payment" on electric car infrastructure.
Obama will appear on Jay Leno's show tonight. Leno's a big car buff and owns some EVs, so maybe they'll actually talk about green cars instead of AIG. You can read the full Obama speech from Pomona here.
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