Cookeville and Jackson, Tennessee
“Instead of four-dollar gasoline, plug into the home wall socket for a dollar or two.” — Lamar Alexander
Sen. Lamar Alexander (R- Tenn.) told Tennessee Tech University and Jackson State Community College graduates today that within five years many of them would be driving to work in hybrid electric cars or pickups that plug into standard electric wall outlets at a fuel cost of a dollar or two.
“Your generation can change the way we live and the way the world lives,” said Alexander, at two college commencement addresses in Tennessee on Saturday. “Instead of polluting the air with four to five dollar gasoline, you can save money, clean the air, slow down climate change and stop sending so many dollars overseas to countries funding terrorists who are trying to kill us.”
“Sixty percent of Americans drive less than 30 miles each day,” Alexander said. “Those of us who do could drive a plug-in hybrid without using a drop of gasoline. If we plugged them in at night, there is so much idle electric capacity in existing power plants we could replace three-fourths of our light vehicles with plug-ins. That could cut in half the amount of oil we import—or reduce our overseas oil bill from $500 billion to $250 billion at today’s prices.”
The senator said Tennessee’s new status as an automotive center means “you can be at the center of this transformation.” He said Nissan, Toyota and General Motors all will introduce plug-in hybrids in 2010 and that Federal Express is using plug-in trucks in their delivery fleets.
Alexander predicted that the Tennessee Valley Authority would soon offer “smart meters” permitting its 8.7 million customers in seven states to plug vehicles in at night at a low cost in exchange for paying more for electricity during peak usage hours between 4 p.m. and 8 p.m.
“TVA has the equivalent of seven or eight idle nuclear plants of unused capacity every night that could be used for plug-in vehicles,” Alexander said. “Americans could drive 200 million plug-in vehicles—which would take several decades to happen—without building one new power plant.”
Alexander told the national academy of sciences in Washington this week that he will go to the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee on Friday to propose that the United States launch a new Manhattan Project: a five-year project to put America firmly on the path to clean energy independence.
Oak Ridge was one of three “secret cities” for the original World War II Manhattan Project to build the atomic bomb.
“Instead of ending a war, the goal of the new Manhattan Project will be clean energy independence—so that we can deal with rising gasoline prices, electricity prices, clean air, climate change and national security—for our country first, and because other countries have the same urgent needs and therefore will adopt our ideas – for the rest of the world, “Alexander said.
“By independence I do not mean that the United States would never buy oil from Mexico or Canada or Saudi Arabia. By independence I do mean that the United States could never be held hostage by any country for our energy supplies.
“In 1942, many were afraid that the first country to build an atomic bomb could blackmail the rest of the world. Today, countries that supply oil and natural gas can blackmail the rest of the world. Today’s need is to create clean energy independence to quickly guarantee victory over that kind of extortion.”
U.S. Rep. Bart Gordon, a Tennessee Democrat who is chairman of the House of Representatives Science Committee, is also scheduled to address the Oak Ridge gathering on May 9.
Alexander, Tennessee’s senior senator, is chairman of the U.S. Senate’s Republican Conference and co-chairman of the TVA congressional caucus.