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Bill Clinton: Cash for Clunkers Worked So Well, Let's Do It for Electric Vehicles

billclintonLasVegasWhile many of the speakers at the National Clean Energy Summit in Las Vegas on Monday advocated regulation that already has some sort of legs in Congress, like putting a price on carbon and a national renewable portfolio standard, former President Bill Clinton suggested several alternative ideas that he said could help push clean power and energy efficiency in the U.S. One of his ideas is to simply to take a cue from cash for clunkers to help boost sales of electric vehicles.

Cash for clunkers has worked so well at getting Americans to trade in their old cars for a significant rebate and a more fuel efficient car, why don’t we copy the idea for selling electric vehicles, said Clinton. He didn’t offer any specifics for what such a program would look like, but said the cash for clunkers program “proves that Americans will bite if you make it economical enough.” (At the same time he also acknowledged that the program’s miles per gallon limit for efficient cars might have been set too low.)

Clinton’s idea for an EV-focused cash for clunkers program was just one of several proposals, that, similar to his list from last year of the top 10 things governments can do for clean power, demonstrates some out-of-the-box thinking. Of course now that he doesn’t have re-election to worry about he can be a tad more controversial than politicians focused on clean energy that need to get elected.

Clinton also suggested national legislation for utility decoupling — disconnecting utility profits from the sale of electricity — which could help utilities finance weatherization and energy retrofits of residential buildings (most summit-goers failed to address this important issue). Clinton called decoupling and utility financing of energy retrofits, clearly “the best solution” for getting funding for energy efficiency. He made a similar statement last year when he said that the federal government should copy California, which has pushed state-wide utility decoupling.

In addition to presenting these two ideas, Clinton pushed hard on Monday for, what he called the “boring” side of energy: efficiency improvements for existing buildings. While it’s not that uncommon for this former President to undertake high-profile missions, like his latest North Korea rescue event (which he quipped today was he and Gore’s “last excellent adventure”), when it comes to implementing clean and renewable energy, he said “The least sexy topic is where the jobs are,” referring to energy retrofits for buildings. If we don’t do energy retrofits on a national scale, we’re still just “piddling around,” with this. Well, one thing is sure: Clinton himself is rarely boring.

(I took this photo of Clinton last year — it was better than my shots this year!)

33 Responses to “Bill Clinton: Cash for Clunkers Worked So Well, Let's Do It for Electric Vehicles”

  1. I think if they made a sub $5000us electric vehicle, similar to a go-cart with just the basics and a steering wheel, speedometer, air con and lights and made it look better than a shopping trolley then maybe people would just buy an electric plug in at home car, and use it to go from home to work, and it would only need a 200km range. It’s also not going to pollute or waste power while stuck in traffic as they only use power when moving along. It could easily have solar panels on the roof for air con and lights power to save all the battery power for the trip. With all LED Headlights and Tail Lights it would not need much power for these at all. This is your challenge. Build this and petrol will die a quick death instead of a slow and painful one for us all as we choke the planet in crap.


  2. Joan Thwaites

    EV and clunkers. Well the answer is yes and no. Yes new cars should be electric and you can convert older cars. I met a person at a Green Gathering who does it and with minor ajustments you can take it to another car. No because we should be making public transport so efficent that it will not be in anyone’s interest to own a car. I have a car and have done 600 miles in the last 8 months. I use public transport whenever possible and the only reason for the car, which I was going to try and not have, is to carry stuff around that is too heavy for me and as I live in a rural area and buses, what buses are non-existent for getting to the smaller places.

    Can I tell a story. My daughter was required (!) to attend a meeting with a traffic advisor to discuss her transport to work. He turned up in a top of the range something or other. Why can’t you catch a train? Well, I am sure if I stood on the railway lines and waved it down I could catch it. The railway lines are about 5 miles from where my daughter lives. He ackwnoledged that this was not a good idea. Why not catch a bus? Well to get to work by bus, about 15 miles, would involve two buses and an hour and half on good days at each end of the day. No, perhaps not. How about a bike!! The A49 is a deathtrap and the road to Rotherwas is an even bigger deathtrap and at the beginning of the working day at the end the traffic flow is horrendous. Sharing a car? who with? My daughter lives in a rural village. So he toddles off in his top of the range wotsit and left my very bemused daughter to catch up with her work. They have also been asked by thier company to sign a pledge that they will endevour to recycle all their waste at home. We are talking about my daughter!! We can see the funny side, but I think these badly thought out attempts to do something bring the ‘environmental’ movement into disrepute.

  3. Frances Chapman

    Can’t remember where I read this idea, but it seems that the clunkers could have been retrofitted as plug in electric vehicles for less than the government is paying to scrap them. The program is part of the quick fix mentality. (I know, the Germans did it first.)