Archive for the ‘Electric Cars’ Category

Vermont’s Plan for 90% Renewable Energy

Photo by Andrew Curtis. Some rights reserved.

While Irene proved little more than a light rain shower where I waited it out in New Hampshire, Tropical Storm Irene launched a surprise assault across the Connecticut River in Vermont. The resulting damage shocked the state and people across the country, but Vermonters now see the potential to rebuild infrastructure in a smarter way. The state government is hoping to align local, regional, and state energy policies to support “resilient growth,” foster economic stability, and safeguard the environment.  New Governor Peter Shumlin led the effort to develop a Comprehensive Energy Plan, Vermont’s first in more than a decade, setting their sights on obtaining 90% of their total energy from renewable sources by 2050.

Vermonters have a history of thinking progressively about their energy. In 2011, they got 23% of their energy from renewable sources, compared to 14% across the U.S. (though Knowledge Mosaic’s home state of Washington’s number stands close to 80%).  Even before Irene, the state had set a goal of reducing energy usage in state government by 5%. And while proud of their efforts to increase efficiency and keep demand for electricity down, the CEP goes further.

Identifying oil and fossil fuels, which remain the backbone of heating and transportation, as particular areas of focus, the CEP emphasizes four drivers of progress: finance and funding, innovation, outreach and education, and regulatory policy and structures. Their goal is to consider all four areas in every energy policy.

A first priority of the plan is to promote efficiency and make progress metrics, while continuing to improve the structure for allocation and pricing of energy. It supports reducing household heating cost through building codes and biofuels, and recommends a plan to move transportation infrastructure towards supporting electric vehicles.

It is a bold vision. But even the state’s own overview of the program recognizes that they are a “state leading by example.” Vermont’s economy is the smallest in the U.S. But they hope to make progress they could not consider if not facing significant infrastructure repairs across the state, and maybe have an outsized impact on other states’ future decisions.

IKEA to Install More Solar Panels and EV Charging Stations, Help Save More Than Just College Dorm Rooms

Photo by mathowie. Some rights reserved.

Swedish D.I.Y. furniture mogul IKEA (home of the Hagalund and the Malm!) announced last week that it would be expanding its coverage of stores run partially by solar electricity to the Southern United States, having already installed solar panels on stores across California and the East Coast (and in addition to 39,000 panels being installed across 10 stores in the U.K.). Once this round of installations is complete, Treehugger reports that 75% of the country’s IKEAs will be solar-equipped. The incentive to expand their efforts to install solar panels came after the first round of installations in the U.K. helped reduce energy consumption by 19%. Bra!

In addition to their solar-friendly efforts, Ubergizmo reports that IKEA’s Costa Mesa location recently became the fourth store (after San Diego, Carson, and Portland, OR) to feature electric vehicle charging stations, so shoppers can charge while they shop. IKEA’s corporate website on climate change boasts a handful of other green initiatives, including the use of energy-saving lightbulbs in stores and incentives for customers to use public transportation to get to and from the stores. And hey, with any luck these sweeping changes may even spread as far as the IKEA cafeteria! All due respect, but their lingonberry pancakes could use some alternative energy as well.

In Which Obama Takes the Government Out for a Round of Electric Cars

Photo by complexify. Some rights reserved.

In the immaculate words of the boys (or were they men?) of pioneering new jack swing group Boyz II Men, “little things mean a lot / appreciate what you got /if you give all that you have / it’s forever we’ll last.” Now watch me try to shoehorn those lyrics into a larger patchwork regarding the burgeoning sustainability movement and foreign oil dependence in the contemporary United States, because President Obama announced in a memorandum today the government’s plan to fill out their vehicle fleet with 116 new electric cars, led by 101 Chevrolet Volts, along with Nissan Leafs and Oslo-based Think City cars.

This small purchase (“little things,” remember?) arrives as part of a larger gesture on the U.S. government’s part to lead by example and reduce our country’s reliance on fossil fuels. The ultimate goal for government transportation is that all government vehicles will be run on alternative energy sources by 2015 (a goal Obama had originally set in March), be it electric, natural gas, clean diesel or flex-fuel.

Obama’s involvement in promoting hybrid vehicles can be traced back as far as November of 2006, when he co-authored with Jay Inslee (D-Wa.) the Healthcare for Hybrids Act, a bill that provided federal assistance for health care in the auto industry in exchange for the funds to be used on hybrid technologies.  In 2009, the Obama Administration authorized the purchase of 3,100 hybrid-electric cars for government use with money from the federal stimulus, and in late March of this year, he issued announced the “Clean Fleet Partnership,” in which government rebate money is set aside for companies able to lower their vehicle fleet’s oil usage.

Obama is steering us towards two ultimate goals, both laid out in the first paragraph of today’s memorandum. One, that by 2025, the U.S. will have reduced its dependence on foreign oil by 1/3, a hope that he has stressed before in his addresses on energy, and two, that there will be one million electric vehicles in the U.S. by 2015. These bring us back to that closing line of the Boyz II Men couplet above (oh boy am I regretting using that song as a structural device now – it seemed like such a good idea at the time!) “if you give all that you have it’s forever we’ll last” – the U.S., and the rest of the world along with it, is fast approaching a breaking point in its attitudes towards transportation and the sustainability movement that surrounds it. It’s not even just about environmental damage or ticking oil clocks in the Middle East anymore; as Energy Secretary Steven Chu pointed out, “we are in a global race to capture the growing market for alternative vehicle technologies” – and we’re trying our damnedest to win.

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