U.S. Rep. Mike Honda cheers Coulomb, Better Place and risks GOP assault

If you’re looking for another sign that Silicon Valley is different from many parts of the country, consider U.S. Rep. Mike Honda, D-Silicon Valley (OK, D-Campbell, Calif.) taking to the National Journal to defend electric car technology at a time when clean tech has become a political punching bag.

Presidential candidate Mitt Romney and other Republicans have been feasting this election season on the failures of federal backing of companies like belly-up Solyndra and even taking on companies that have yet to fail — and might not.

Romney, during his first debate with President Barack Obama on Oct. 3, unleashed this memorable quote, which couldn’t have gone over well at Tesla’s Silicon Valley headquarters:

“But don’t forget, you put $90 billion, like 50 years’ worth of breaks, into—into solar and wind, to Solyndra and Fisker and Tesla and Ener1. I mean, I had a friend who said you don’t just pick the winners and losers, you pick the losers, all right?”

Ouch. Sure, Tesla has hit a few bumps in the road on its proposed path to redefine the driving experience, but it’s far from road kill at this point. And last week with much fanfare, OK with a little fanfare, the company opened its first Supercharging station in Silicon Valley.

Despite the GOP assault and the bankruptcy last week of electric car battery A123 Honda jumped in to say that the federal government should continue to provide financial incentives to consumers who buy electric cars and to companies that are building and deploying the charging stations to keep the cars running.

He also said something shockingly candid for a politician. Honda acknowledged that a previous shift in transportation policy was based in large part on horse manure. He wrote on the National Journal’s website:

“One of the reasons the automobile surpassed horse drawn vehicles in the early 20th century was that manure pollution had grown to the point that it was considered a public health hazard.”

Honda’s bigger point was that as citizens of the Earth realize that global warming is changing our weather patterns and threatening the environment, they will react in a way similar to their auto-adopting great, great-grandparents and turn in their gas guzzling cars for electric models.

OK, it should be noted that while Honda might have opened himself up to a beating from GOP politicians railing against the Obama Administration’s energy policies, he’s also scoring big points at home in Silicon Valley, where companies like Tesla, Coulomb Technologies and Better Place are working to build the electric car future. (Honda in his piece even gave a shout out to Coulomb and Better Place, which are producing charging technology.)

Beyond the shout outs, Honda’s main thrust was this: Big changes take time and this one will, too.

It’s a good point, but patience in politics seems as long gone as the horse-drawn buggies that so inspired the move to cars in the first place.


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  • james thurber

    A little arithmetic:

    We consume about 180 billion gallons of gasoline and diesel per year in the United States.

    If an individual were to drive an all electric vehicle rather than a high mileage ICE vehicle of comparable capacity (assuming 30mpg city and highway), this would displace the the consumption of about 400 gallons per year (assuming 12,000 miles per year); and 400 million gallons per year if 1 million electric vehicles were placed on the road.

    This translates into a net reduction in gasoline and diesel consumption of about 0.22%.

    Various studies have shown that an electric vehicle reduces CO2 emissions by about 20% versus an ICE on average, depending on how the electricity is generated. Furthermore, transportation accounts for about 20% of greenhouse gas emissions in the US.

    Combining these factors, placing 1 million electric vehicles on the road rather than 1 million high mileage ICE vehicles would reduce CO2 emissions by about 0.01%. Even if one were to assume that the electrical generation system were cleaned dramatically thus doubling the reduction in CO2 generation per electrical vehicle to 40%, the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions would be about 0.02% for 1 million EV’s, and 0.2% for 10 million EV’s.

    The point:

    There may be a lot of good reasons for dedicating national resources to the production, sale and operation of electrical vehicles, but reducing greenhouse gas emissions is not one of them.

    • mike

      thanks for the info perhaps the sheep will review the data