According to wire reports, the US Senate is considering a bill that would sell 1.2 billion dollars worth of oil from the US Strategic Petroleum Reserve and use the money to fund green automobile projects across the United States. The funding would provide loans for the manufacture of alternative-fueled vehicles, the construction of alternative vehicle infrastructure within states, and provide job training programs for autoworkers transitioning to the manufacture of alternative fuel vehicles.
The new legislation would cost about $200 million per year and would extend the Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing (ATVM) loan program. Over the past few years, the ATVM provided funding for a number of electric vehicles and hybrid electric vehicles including the Chevy Volt and the all-electric Nissan Leaf which are both manufactured in the United States. Overall, under the new legislation, additional loans totaling $25 billion dollars would be provided by the 2012-2016 extension of the ATVM.
Since the beginning of the year, 2167 Nissan Leafs and 2184 Chevy Volts have been sold within the United States. In all, Chevy expects to sell 15,000 Volts in the US this year alone and intense competition and demand have set up a selling war between it and the Leaf. The Volt has nearly a 40 mile all-electric range before it switches over to gas power. The Leaf, which uses no gasoline, has nearly a 100 mile all-electric range.
Viable electric vehicles have long been a goal of environmentalists and those seeking to enhance energy security in the US. The Senate’s bill would go a long way to supporting that goal and continuing the revolution in alternative fuel for vehicles in the US and around the world. These new technologies will not only be sold on US soil, the Volt, for example, will sell in Europe under the name Ampera and Ford’s own plug-in hybrid, the ATVM-funded CMAX will be sold both in the US and Canada next year.
With such an impact resulting from even modest government funding, one wonders how rapidly we could hasten the transition if even ten percent of oil company profits were added to that investment. A one-time ten percent tax transferred to alternative energy investment would multiply ATVM funding by ten. A similar tax could be applied every five years to help develop wind and solar energy resources. Given the example set by the proposed sale of depleting petroleum reserves to fund sustainable future energy sources, it would seem wise to tap a portion of the current, but temporary, fossil fuel wealth to develop the energy sources we will need to both sustain the world economy and mitigate the threat of climate change.