Senate advances plug-in, natural gas legislation

The Senate has advanced legislation that would help automakers retool for efficiency, help develop plug-in vehicles, and develop natural gas.

Moving from niche to mainstream

50 percent by 2030

Legislation affecting automaker loans for retooling towards efficiency and advanced technologies such as plug-in vehicles, grants for plug-in vehicle deployment cities and research on the increased use of natural gas has been approved by the Senate Energy Committee.

Still, does America need a $10 million prize for a 500 mile per charge battery?

Without question, America needs a new energy paradigm and that will require many new energy bills, and the updated measures put forth have much merit behind them. Particularly interesting, however, instead of only focusing upon plug-in vehicles, the new measures also give a serious look to alternatives like natural gas, a fuel that could help build the bridge to oil independence, or at least significant amounts of foreign oil independence.

While many might pooh pooh the natural gas angle, it's time to get real.

50 percent EV by 2030

Much of the current legislation was put forth by Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D. Through deployment cities, Dorgan believes that 50 percent of the nation's cars and trucks could be battery-powered by 2030. Likewise, to achieve such a goal Dorgan likes the idea of a $10 million prize for a 500 mile per charge battery, in addition to deployment cities.

Seriously?

Wouldn't a 500 mile per charge battery be worth billions, minimally? Such a battery absolutely competes with gasoline and could therefore instantly completely revolutionize the auto industry by making the internal combustion engine instantly and grossly irrelevant. Researchers all over the world are already desperately striving for such a battery. Unfortunately, the research strongly indicates that such a battery is decades away from serious real world impact, even if a major breakthrough is achieved tomorrow.

So, is a $10 million prize a serious piece of legislation, or a tool for political sound bites?

More important, can America come close to 50 percent EV by 2030 without such a battery?

Outside of niche automakers, politicians and a few other self-interested parties, such as power utilities, there are very few scientists, analysts and other researchers that believe that the US could come even remotely close to being 50 percent EV by 2030. 50 percent hybrid and electric, with a hybrid majority is a stretch, but at least a feasible high end goal according to the bulk of the research.

Of course, perhaps one could make the argument that these scientists, analysts and researchers simply can't see outside of the box. However, powertrain analysts almost perfectly predicted today's hybrid adoption rates a decade ago, and they used real world data and science to make their predictions.

1/3 less oil consumption

Regardless, even if America did achieve such a goal, oil dependence would only be cut by 1/3 according to experts. So, even if this almost fairy tale-like prediction comes true, much more is still required, and that makes rewrites in this legislation – particularly the new focus on other alternatives like natural gas – a nice improvement. Hopefully, this is a sign of things to come.

Unfortunately, however, this new legislation might not even be included in the current energy package, and if included, there might not be enough time to pass any new energy bill before the August recess anyway.


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