Attendees at a recent alternative fuels gathering in Washington are reporting that US Secretary of Energy Steven Chu remarked, “If it were up to me, I would put every cent into electric cars,” when referring to the way stimulus dollars should be distributed. With a focus on alternative and renewable fuels, the group was obviously shocked at the concept.
If this statement is being represented accurately, it would not only put Chu directly at odds with Obama administration policy, it would mean that he doesn’t really believe in how his department is distributing their $36.7 billion dollar slice of stimulus funds. The statement would also contradict Chu’s previous stances on biofuels development. Comment from DOE was not immediately available, but I’ve got a request in to confirm or deny the statement as accurate. I’ll update as soon as I hear word.
Update 8:00 PM Pacific Time 10/13/2009: DOE’s Director of Public Affairs, Dan Leistikow, responded to my request from earlier today in an email, saying “I can’t verify the quote the blogger is using from an undisclosed source at an undisclosed meeting, which is at best wildly out of context.” He also added, “Anyone who has spent five minutes listening to Secretary Chu also knows he is one of the country’s staunchest advocates for pursuing a broad portfolio of clean energy research, and has warned against investing all our resources in a single technology to the exclusion of all others.”
Considering that, as of today, the Department of Energy has provided stimulus loans of about half a billion dollars each to both Tesla and Fisker to develop and produce next generation electric cars, while at the same time Biofuels Digest claims that only about $20,000 of stimulus funds have so far made their way to biofuels developers, you might start to see the reason why alternative fuels folks are starting to feel a bit, well, shafted—even if the quote from Secretary Chu is inaccurate.
But you know, to be honest, I don’t think the claim that only $20,000 of stimulus funds have been distributed to biofuels developers truly reflects how many stimulus dollars have gone to next generation biofuels development—I mean just look at how.many.different.programs there are for this type of stimulus funding. I’m certain when you look at funds for research and car development that it would be more than $20,000. But still, the perception remains that more funds have been distributed for on-the-ground development of electric cars than for biofuels.
Although I’m a strong proponent of encouraging a shift to an electric vehicle-based transportation system (you can see my reasons at the end of this article), I still think we need to bridge the gap between now and then with a shift away from fossil fuels as fast as possible. What are you going to do with all the hundreds of millions of gas/diesel-fueled vehicles on the road right now. It could take 20 years or more to fully cycle through and get them off the roads.
Regardless of the fact that switching to electric cars as fast as possible should be our long-term strategy, funding biofuels development now is the key to solving energy security and environmental issues that threaten us in the present day. I’m happy to hear that DOE feels the same way.
Source: Biofuels Digest