Obama to Automakers: We’ll Count Electric Cars Double For Low Emissions Standards

To spur the switch to electric cars the Obama administration is proposing a “build one, get one free” rule for makers of electric cars. For each full electric vehicle they build, it could be used to count as two zero emissions vehicles towards the new low carbon emissions rules they have set.

In may, the Obama administration moved the deadline for low carbon cars closer to 2016. Under this proposed new rule each electric car would count two times when figuring the average fuel efficiency of a new-vehicle fleet, making the average easier to meet—if the automaker adds electric cars to its fleet.

But an environmental policy group in Washington would prefer to see regular old-fashioned gasoline vehicles built to be more fuel efficient.

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Rather than encouraging a switch to a completely new technology such as electric cars, Dan Becker, director of the Safe Climate Campaign in Washington prefers we just stick to making gas cars more efficient. The group claims that giving extra credit for switching to electric cars is a loophole, because they perceive the state of the nation’s electric grid as static and 100% coal powered. They conclude that electric cars are not as clean as claimed; raising the familiar objection that coal powers the grid—which isn’t really true.

However, looking at the big picture; despite fossil-funded deadlock in congress—more and more individual states have been able to move ahead in renewable legislation. Now a majority of states have adopted a Renewable Portfolio Standard whereby utilities in the state must meet a higher percent of their electricity needs from renewable power each year.

What counts as renewable varies widely with varying local resources (although every state counts electricity from landfill gas: we all make garbage), and deadlines and percentages vary too, but the result is that more states get more clean energy every year.

An electric car in Maine would run on 55% renewable power this year. An electric car in Iowa could soak up some of that wind power blowing at night; Iowa gets 15% of its electricity just from one renewable source: wind. (previous story)

If we look ahead a decade or two we could be driving on up to 100% green electricity (state by state potential), and starting down that road is better done sooner than later. The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers prefers having the ability to earn, trade and bank credits by producing electric (or hybrid) vehicles in order to meet the deadline. For now, at least.

But these electric cars could disappear again (the same way solar power was yanked off the White House roof with the switch back to a fossil-fueled administration).

Good policy creates markets. But this “build one sell one free” offer would sunset in 2016. Birthing such a radical move to electric cars needs a longer time period for incubation than 6 years, if we are to get anything other than just more vaporware and concept cars.

Image: Jurvetson

Source: WSJ

Susan Kraemer

writes at CleanTechnica, CSP-Today, PV-Insider , SmartGridUpdate, and GreenProphet. She has also been published at Ecoseed, NRDC OnEarth, MatterNetwork, Celsius, EnergyNow, and Scientific American. As a former serial entrepreneur in product design, Susan brings an innovator's perspective on inventing a carbon-constrained civilization: If necessity is the mother of invention, solving climate change is the mother of all necessities! As a lover of history and sci-fi, she enjoys chronicling the strange future we are creating in these interesting times.    Follow Susan on Twitter @dotcommodity.