What a difference a weekend makes.
Late last week, John McCain supported Al Gore’s call for a nationwide commitment to a ten-year clean energy revolution by declaring, “If the vice president says it’s doable, I believe it’s doable.” In the hopes for a grand, bipartisan climate and energy deal in Congress, one might thought this was a breakthrough.
Don’t be fooled. By Monday, McCain launched a new attack ad that makes it perfectly clear the presumptive Republican nominee has something entirely different in mind.
The new 30-second spot, airing on national cable and in 11 battleground states, argues that the real reason gas prices are rising is because, “some in Washington are still saying no to drilling in America, no to independence from foreign oil.”
But don’t fret – John McCain will rescue us! “One man knows we must now drill more in America and rescue our family budgets,” the announcer intones. “Don’t hope for more energy, vote for it.”
Can we please get real here? Oil companies aren’t interested in lowering gas prices. That’s why they’ve spent more of their profits buying back stock or giving cash to shareholders than they have exploring for more oil, according to Rice University.
And even the Bush Administration’s own U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) admits that expanded drilling won’t affect the current crisis. As Climate Progress’ Joe Romm first pointed out, an EIA analysis says “that access to the Pacific, Atlantic, and eastern Gulf regions would not have a significant impact on domestic crude oil and natural gas production or prices before 2030.”
Our choice here is to either repeat the same mistakes that got us into this mess in the first place, or to invest now in a clean energy future. Rather than scour the world for oil that is increasingly expensive and difficult to get, we can jumpstart automakers to build a fleet of plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles that get in excess of 100 mpg.
Think this is unrealistic? Check out CNN’s profile of electric car visionary Marc Geller, who shows how electric vehicles are ready for prime time today.
Kicking our oil habit can be fun. In my new book, Coming Clean: Breaking our Addiction to Oil and Coal, I describe the experience of riding in the new Tesla Roadster.
…the Tesla Roadster is an electric vehicle that can travel about 220 miles on a single charge. It beats the Lamborghini Murcielago and is quicker than any Porsche currently in production, traveling from zero to sixty in under four seconds–without a drop of gas. The price is a cool $92,000, yet the company’s first edition of one hundred Roadsters sold out in weeks.
I went for a test ride at the company’s headquarters in San Carlos one bright February morning. As we cruised through the hills above Silicon Valley, the company’s strategy became perfectly clear: Tesla wanted to help “retool” the auto industry by getting people excited about cars again. Because this car was fast. I felt like a pilot on Battlestar Galactica as the car accelerated, pushing me back in my seat. Tesla employees have a favorite trick to pull on passengers taking their first rides: he or she is asked to turn on the radio–and simultaneously the driver hits the accelerator. The passenger can’t sit forward enough to reach the dials.
Tesla plans to hit the family car market in 2010 or 2011. “We’ve always envisioned the company to be more than a high-end niche sports-car manufacturer,” says Straubel. “It’s a great way to change the worlds perceptions of EVs and to show what electric cars can do, but we want to make affordable vehicles in much greater quantities.” Adds Musk, Tesla’s chairman, “climate change is the biggest challenge that mankind has ever faced. If we can’t change such a simple thing as the cars we drive, were going to be in trouble.”
Gore describes the challenge of our oil addiction like this, “we’re borrowing money from China to buy oil from the Persian Gulf to burn it in ways that destroy the planet. Every bit of that’s got to change.”
Every bit of it CAN change. We already have the technological solutions we need to solve our addiction to fossil fuels. Just as we don’t need to blow up mountains for more coal, we also don’t need to plunder our most fragile ecosystems for the last drops of oil we can find. Rather than dump our resources into the fossil fuel economy of last century, let’s invest in the clean energy economy of today.