I dug through some old files recently and found that I've been talking about the merits of plug-in hybrids for thirteen years
That's a fairly long time. It's three design cycles in the auto industry, maybe four. It's I don't know how many rounds at various boards and bureaus. Six and a half Congresses. However you measure it, it's plenty of time to get something done.
For at least thirteen years
(assuming that these folks hadn't figured it out themselves before that), Federal and state policy makers and auto companies have known - have to have known
- about the feasibility of partial grid power for vehicles and the substantial if not complete freedom from petroleum that they would allow. The auto companies had to know it, because their own engineers were talking about it. I was one of them.
Yet every time the opportunity came to them, they dropped the ball.
Thirteen years have passed. Yet nothing was done: the California Air Resources Board deliberately passed up the opportunity in favor of a ZEV mandate requiring
batteries which are still not available (and now that battery technology is just about to get there, fumbled the ball again just two years ago
); the Clinton administration promoted 80-MPG passenger sedans but didn't do anything about petroleum independence;
and Bush's hydrogen vehicle program has nothing now and may never yield
anything. (Update after concept but before completion: the administration knew it would not yield anything in time
; more on that later.)
Today the bill is coming due. Oil supplies are tight up against demand, and price spikes seem inevitable. Yet despite the decade-plus of time we've had to take action, and the nearly four years of notice we've had since 9/11 that something had to be done
.... our transportation network still runs almost entirely on petroleum. Even if there is never an interruption in supply, escalating prices can do untold damage to our economy and livelihoods (not to mention the hazard of financing religious radicals sworn to kill us).
One thing is certain: if we drop the ball this time, we are not likely to get another chance.
Wagers on whether I can prove it are welcome. Money, good liquor, whatever...
Or maybe 26 years. The 1979 Mother Earth News
article about the Opel conversion arguably counts, but policy makers can probably be forgiven for discounting the source.