David Sandalow, former assistant secretary of state and member of the National Security Council under President Bill Clinton, says the next president can succeed where others have failed. The trifecta of mounting concern about petroleum’s impact on national security, the environment and the economy provides an unprecedented opportunity to radically reshape national energy policy, says Sandalow, who is now a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.
Wired News: What you propose will require a Manhattan Project or Apollo program level of commitment.
Sandalow: I call it the Reynolds Project. I got the name from the town of Reynolds, Indiana. It’s a town of 574 people, and they have decided they will use only renewable energy, nothing else. The president of the town council, Charles van Voorst, told me, “It’s hard to get someone to believe in something that’s never happened before,” and I think that’s the basic problem with this challenge. We all grew up with cars that relied on oil, so we think it’s the way of the world. It doesn’t have to be that way.
WN: You place tremendous emphasis on converting our transportation fleet to electric plug-in hybrids. Why?
Sandalow: I believe electric plug-in hybrids are the most important part of the solution, but they’re only one part of the solution. Oil provides 96 percent of the energy for our vehicles but only 3 percent of the energy for electric power generation. If we could connect our cars and trucks to this infrastructure, the potential for reducing oil dependence dramatically, and in a short period of time, would be incredible.
WN: What about the argument that cars fueled by electricity from a coal-fired power plant ultimately are as polluting as cars using fossil fuels?
Sandalow: If you plug a first-generation into a coal-fired plant, you would still be producing fewer heat-trapping gases than you would driving the average car powered by oil. But the real win is to plug these cars into renewable energy sources like wind and solar.
WN: Why not call for electric vehicles?
Sandalow: We should experiment with both. My opinion is we’ll start with plug-in electric hybrids and work our way to full electric vehicles. The leading example of the full electric car is the Tesla. They have a great product. But it’s a $98,000 car.