by Dylan Voorhees, NRCM energy project director
Congratulations to Maine Electric Vehicles and welcome to Maine.
NRCM is a non-profit with over 10,000 supporters across the state, dedicated to protecting, restoring and conserving Maine’s environment—for today and future generations.
Many of us have worked tirelessly to keep Maine’s environment and quality of life strong. As you all know, we face an emerging threat unlike anything we have seen before—global warming. Just last week, a major new report was released, called the Northeast Climate Impact Assessment. For the first time, a diverse team of scientists and economists provided us with a detailed look at what global warming would mean for Maine—for our forests, the recreation industries, for our coastal communities and our fisheries. But their most important conclusion was that we still have a choice. The choices we make today about global warming emissions will affect the very character of Maine.
NRCM has been an advocate for cleaner cars for Maine for a long time. Over the years it has included promoting hybrids, fighting for federal fuel economy standards (which haven’t been raised in 35 years!) and helping to win passage of the California standards for global warming emissions. Now I’m here to say that electric vehicles have arrived, and they too are a needed part of the solution.
Transportation emissions account for about 35% of Maine’s global warming pollution. No real strategy to reduce the state’s emissions can be effective without an emphasis on transportation. (I should note that, especially under the leadership of Governor Baldacci, Maine has done some really impressive things in other areas, such as RGGI, funding for energy efficiency and promoting wind power.) Fortunately we have the technological ability today to make our cars and trucks far, far cleaner and more efficient. We simply need business people and Maine citizens to seize this opportunity, and we need public officials who can help create the right incentives. A study by the National Academy of Scientists and the Union of Concerned Scientists showed that existing technologies could increase total fleet economy to 33 mpg in 10 years. They did not even include hybrid or electric technology. That would mean a 25% reduction in fuel usage.
Here in Maine we use 30% of our total energy consumption for personal cars and trucks. Almost all of the oil we import is used for this one purpose. A study last month by the Natural Resources Defense Council found that Maine was one of the states most vulnerable to high gasoline prices.
Our energy security and our economic prosperity depend on reducing our dependence. What better way to begin than with cars that don’t use a drop of the stuff? No one technology can meet the challenge we face today. But electric cars are among the cleanest ways to get around. And as we go further to clean up our power plants and increase clean energy supplies, like wind power, electric cars will get cleaner. And most importantly, these two cars are ready today. New, better models will always be around the corner. We will look forward to them, but we don’t have to wait—we can’t afford to.
I’d like to say a few words about Governor Baldacci’s leadership on these issues. Governor Baldacci understands that global warming is the biggest threat to Maine’s environment, and it also threatens our economy, our health and our communities. Perhaps more importantly he understands that rising to this challenge is an economic opportunity for Maine and thus he has demonstrated bold leadership. I can’t take time to enumerate all of his successes, but I will highlight two.
First, he has directed state government to dramatically increase its fleet of hybrid vehicles. At last count, it had grown from 15 in 2003 to over 50 in 2006. I hope we’ll see an electric car or two in the stable soon. Second, his administration has reduced miles traveled and gasoline consumption by state employees through a variety of means, from vanpooling to hybrid parking, saving over 280,000 gallons of gas. The Governor knows we’re not done, but he is passionate about the issue and ready to take on the next challenge. That’s why he’s here today.
So here we are at Maine’s first electric car dealership. It’s an exciting turning point, but not entirely unexpected. The coming together of technological innovation, environmental awareness and entrepreneurship is exactly the kind of synergy that NRCM and others—including the Governor—have been calling for. Not just an example of a new green business, but a group of business leaders who are positioning themselves to take advantage of the new world we live in. Whether we are saving money from increasing energy efficiency, or trading in new carbon markets, or creating a new product or service, Maine has an enormous opportunity to foster economic growth while reducing our impact on global warming. Today we see that promise being fulfilled.
Many of you have seen or heard of the popular movie “Who killed the electric car?” (A title that refers to the powerful corporate interests that seem to oppose any step in this direction.) Well, I’m happy to report that rumors of its death have been greatly exaggerated. Thank you very much.