It’s always encouraging when a political leader mentions the right technology during a major speech. Four months ago George Bush, the mainstream environment movement’s arch-nemesis, touted plug-in hybrids during his state of the union speech. A few days ago, Ontario premier Dalton McGuinty, in announcing a $650 million green fund, said “GM is making their hydrogen fuel-cell cars here, but let’s make plug-in electrics here, let’s make the new [electric Chevrolet] Volt here.”
I hope the premier means what he says, and that the auto industry portion of that $650 million is enough to influence at least one major automaker to seriously pursue plug-ins. Plug-in hybrids, as I and others have said (see article), are by far the most viable way to dramatically cut auto emissions.
Will it have any influence? Automakers are more likely to respond to the tough new auto efficiency rules racing through the U.S. congress than to Ontario’s fund. But the end result is what counts. Right now it looks a bit iffy: Ford Canada sounds like it hasn’t decided whether to build hybrids in Ontario, GM is still wasting valuable time and money on the hydrogen red herring (see article). But that’s precisely why politicians like McGuinty and Bush talk about these things—give the automakers a public nudge in the right direction.
Notice McGuinty didn’t say anything about the grid electricity that will recharge his plug-ins. He’s still too intimidated by the loudmouth green lobby to say that it will be nuclear fission that generates most of this clean power. But that’s another story.