Someday, When Oil Is An 'Alternative Fuel'
By EV World
There is no disputing the fact that Terry Tamminen is articulate, passionate and persuasive. He also seems personable and always ready with a joke to soften up the audience.
During this luncheon address to the Alternative Fuels and Vehicles Institute conference and expo, he cracked a joke about Larry "J.R. Ewing" Hagman -- who had appeared earlier in the program -- and Gov. Schwarzenegger during which Arnold is alleged to have asked the star of the hit series "Dallas" if, being an Austrian body builder, he had a future in Hollywood as an action hero. Hagman is supposed to have replied, "Arnold, you've as much chance of that happening as become governor of California."
Tamminen also does a pretty good imitation of Schwarzenegger.
But it wasn't good natured jabs at his former boss that Tamminen, the author of Lives Per Gallon wanted the audience to remember. Instead, he wanted them to make this day memorable by agreeing that over the next twelve months, each person present will encourage twelve other people to find ways to reduce their carbon footprint, from using less electricity to switching to using alternative fuels.
Perhaps his most memorable line was his prediction that someday, in the not too distant future, oil will be considered an "alternative" fuel and that what we consider today "alternatives" will be mainstream.
Tamminen used the example of argon gas, a mere one percent of which makes up the atmosphere we all breathe. He explained that as an inert gas, it isn't metabolized when we breathe it in and out; and that the amount of argon has remained largely the same over the history of the planet. This means that each of us has breathed in and out, by the time we turn 20, the same atoms aspirated by dinosaurs 65 million years ago, a Jewish carpenter two thousand years ago, Shakespeare five hundred years ago and Ghandi in the last century.
"Air is that one thing we all share in common," he said. "So what do we do with this arguably sacred resource? One hundred percent of the air we breath in this country is polluted with man-made toxins... A hundred thousand people died in this country last year prematurely to exposure to petroleum-related air pollution. Six and half million more suffered by asthma and other respiratory diseases from completely preventable petroleum-related air pollution; and many of these who die or are taken ill were our children, our elders, the most vulnerable among us."
Quoting the line from Shakespeare about the" tide of the affairs of men," he said "we have run out of time to think about pollution, to guess about pollution, to do pilot programs about pollution. It's time we take action."
He argued that in addition to the environmental and public health reasons for taking action -- including concerns over climate change and global warming -- the case can be made that there are powerful economic reasons to act.
"In California alone, companies spent $15 billion... in lost productivity related to air pollution, traffic congestion and our dependence on fossil fuels. 80 percent of the residents in California... the richest state in the richest country in the history of the world... 80 percent of our residents live in parts of the state that have air that is designated by federal and state regulators as unhealthy; and the economic impact of that are about to hit us here in the next couple years here in California. We're going to run out of time, because by 2010, 2012 certain deadlines have to be met for cleaning up our air. If we miss those, there will be penalties from the federal government in terms of our transportation funding and many other things.
"We also know that climate change has not just an impact for the environment and the species and the public health but to our pocket books," Tamminen noted, adding that the governors of both Maryland and Florida told him that insurance companies like Allstate are pulling out of their states altogether because of the financial risks posed by global warming-intensified storms.
"This raises the rate on all of our insurance," he stated. "And it's only going to get worse... Imagine what that does to the economy in those states."
He contended that the United States is largely to blame for much of the problem of global warming because not only do we emit more carbon dioxide per capita than nearly every other nation on the planet but our consumer culture is helping drive the construction of new coal-fired power plants in China to produce "pink flamingoes and Nike shoes" for Walmart and other U.S. retailers.
"And [the Chinese] are changing their lifestyle because they see us, maybe on television watching reruns of 'Dallas' and they all want to live like that... Ten years ago the most popular car in China was a 45 mpg, 2-door sedan. Today, it's an SUV.
"We are exporting our sprawl culture. We are exporting our wasteful-use-of-energy culture... I argue that we are only five percent of the world's population and about half of the world's greenhouse gases. So, when we come back and talk about the impact of climate change, including to our coastal states, to our economy, and to our insurance industry... agriculture and so many others, I will tell you that we are the cause of at least half of that. And make no mistake that the only way we are going to solve this is by the United States taking action."
Tamminen told the gathering in Anaheim that British Prime Minister Tony Blair stressed to him and Governor Schwarzenegger how important California -- and other states who are following its lead -- are to helping convince other nations like China, like India, that even while the U.S. federal government is dragging its heals on fighting global warming, action is taking place at the state level. But Blair also urged Schwarzenegger to get out and convince other governors to mobilize their states as well, because it's not enough to point to just California and a handful of northeast states like New York or Pennsylvania.
"I am pleased to report to you that we are now, in fact, making traction in creating a solution to climate change nationally."
Turning momentarily to the "true" cost of oil, he estimates that if all of the externalities, from healthcare to crop damage to oil company subsidies, are included in the price at the pump, a gallon of gasoline in the United States would cost the consumer $10 a gallon. He pointed out that in California's agriculturally-rich Central Valley, that petroleum combustion in all its forms destroys an estimate one-third of all the crops grown there.
"It not only damages our lungs, it damages other living things."
Returning to the urgent need to move beyond petroleum and tackle global warming, he urged the audience to make this the "defining issue of our generation," citing the oft-repeated example of America's swift shift to a wartime economy in World War II, where everyone was wiling to engage and make sacrifices to win the war.
In answering naysayers who point out that there isn't enough renewable energy to enable us to end our oil addiction, Tamminen replied that more solar energy falls on the earth in one hour than all the energy mankind uses in an entire year.
"Consider that there is enough hydrogen in sewage water that is being dumped into the Pacific Ocean every day a few miles from here to power the entire United States transportation fleet. Consider the abundance of biomass... geothermal.. wind... and it seems to me that there are more than enough renewable resources if only we create the technology and deploy it fast enough to use it.
"And it is also about efficiency," he continued, observing that whereas the average electric power consumption in America has steady risen by fifty percent over the last three decades, in California it has remained level. "We know energy efficiency works."
Tamminen pointed to the example of companies in Southern California that have installed large solar arrays on their buildings, but because they can't sell their surplus into the grid, they have only built enough capacity to meet their own needs, despite having room for additional PV capacity. He explained that some of these companies are now investigating installing hydrogen electrolyzers to convert their surplus solar power into hydrogen that they can use to run forklifts and in their industrial processes.
"When you put these renewable fuels into the context of energy efficiency and the bigger picture of one hundred percent displacement of our fossil fuels, and we should have a goal of nothing less, then it is clear that we've got a lot of work to do," which he continued includes convincing our fellow citizens that "this is the issue that defines our time."
He enumerated the many programs -- both policy and technology -- that California is "experimenting" with in trying to pave the way including:
- An aggressive climate action plan
- A renewable portfolio standard (RPS)
- Low carbon fuel standard
- Million solar roof plan
- Hydrogen Highway
- California state fleet (70,000 vehicles) is now largest user of alternative fuel and hybrid vehicles
- Aggressive green building standards
"I don't think the barrier to a fossil fuel-free future is in the supply of renewable or alternative fuel energy or in the technologies to deploy them or in the government policies... I don't think the barriers are in any of those three things. I think the barriers are the ones that are in our mind."
He urged the audience to pledge that they will, over the next twelve months, convince twelve other people that this is the most important issue of our time.
"They [need] to measure political candidates when they step into the voter booth based on that candidate's plan for energy independence. That they ought to make a decision about how to use less fossil fuels no matter what they drive; there are lots of ways to do it starting with inflating your tires properly, driving the speed limit... avoiding jackrabbit starts. You can use less no matter what you drive today; and convincing those people that when they do trade in for another vehicle that they ought to be an early adopter and think about what we today call an alternative fuel vehicle..."
Citing the Jewish Passover tradition of "writing on washed paper", which symbolizes re-evaluating and re-thinking what we believe and cherish, Tamminen said that we too need to re-evaluate what we think we know about our own personal energy consumption and carbon footprint on the planet.
"I think when people know the true cost of our oil addiction, the impact on our children, on our elders, on our public health, on our economy, on the world's security... I believe people will make informed choices and be willing to go that extra mile, to be a little bit inconvenienced in the beginning, if that's what it takes.
"And that's the true question. Who among us will say that I can do with a little less so that my children will have a little more. Who among us will be the first to say that my life will not only be measured by the number on the bottom of a balance sheet, but by the balance of clean air, clean water, and healthy landscapes that I bequeath to my children.
He concluded his remarks by encouraging the audience to "become disciples of this issue and to go out and teach it to others", in an obvious allusion to the Passover and Easter season.
"We understand that within a generation, within the next twenty years, we must completely and totally fix our oil addiction and in doing so, we will fix global warming and all the benefits that will accrue to that."
He stressed that we must convince our co-workers, colleagues, friends, families, political officials that everyone's contribution matters... "or everyone's lack of contribution matters."
blog comments powered by Disqus