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Followup Speech: Drive Star Can Cut Oil Use in Half by 2020
Jun 22, 2010 (From the CalCars-News archive)
This posting originally appeared at CalCars-News, our newsletter of breaking CalCars and plug-in hybrid news. View the original posting here.
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We've received very positive responses to our June 13 "President's 2nd Message: We Can Cut Oil Use in Half by 2020," where we predicted what the President might say on June 15 and proposed how he could follow that up. That posting was published at Climate Progress and reprinted at, EV and As part of our efforts to distribute it to print media and broadcast media, we've now produced the much shorter version found below. We're also distributing this broadly in advance of our quick visit to Washington, DC next Mon-Tues, June 28-29, as we continue to enlist allies. If you haven't done so already, please forward this to your networks. (The shorter version necessarily omits some of the detail from the first, so you can also point people to the longer version at­calcars-news/­1101.html .) Thank you!

President Obama's Followup Speech: Drive Star Can Cut Oil Use in Half by 2020

Today I announce Drive Star. It's a plan to cut our oil use in half by 2020. If we can match the efforts of our citizens and our industries after Pearl Harbor, in a decade, we'll have gotten a great deal: many new jobs, and safer, healthier, and better lives.

As long as we remain addicted to oil, we remain at risk for another oil catastrophe, on land or on sea. In the U.S. and around the world, no matter how careful we all are, deep- and shallow-water wells, giant tankers, aging pipelines and sprawling refineries may fail -- and remain in the cross-hairs of terrorists -- as long as they operate. The only way to guarantee our nation's safety -- the most realistic solution -- is to reduce national and global demand for petroleum. That's conservative: protecting everything we value from change we can't control.

Since our cars and trucks use almost two-thirds of the oil we buy, the quickest way to do that is to free transportation from its grip. Fortunately, the answer is under the hoods of the 250 million vehicles we drive today. Using existing technology, we can convert many into plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles.

We've about to enact "Home Star" and "Building Star" and put people to work on "Cash for Caulkers" retrofits to make buildings more comfortable and cut owners' fuel costs. With bipartisan support, we can add "Drive Star."

Our 100 million trucks, vans, and buses now gulp down one third of the oil we use. About half stay on the road a surprisingly long time: 15 to 35 years. That's long enough to merit a makeover. Retrofitting these gas guzzlers will pay off, for their owners, their communities, and our nation. We already upgrade our computers. We can upgrade our vehicles, too.

The U.S. can lead a new, profitable, global business. Pioneering companies can already turn gas- and diesel-powered vehicles into all-electrics or plug-in hybrids, depending on how they're built and the range their drivers need. As batteries get cheaper and smaller, and motors get light enough to fit inside wheels, we'll be able to upgrade smaller cars. We won't need new power plants; we have enough off-peak electricity to recharge as many retrofits as we can build. As more electricity comes from lower-carbon fuel sources, our cars will magically get cleaner as they get older!

Mass conversions will cost under $10-$15,000. That's still a lot for old car owners to pay up front. But retrofitters can partner with energy service companies to finance these costs, backed by federal loan guarantees. Since an electric mile is up to five times cheaper than a petroleum mile, retrofits will cost less to drive right away, benefitting public, military, and private fleets, and individual drivers.

We'll add targeted incentives to jump-start "Cash for Conversions", a successor to our popular $4,500 "Cash for Clunkers". Now, new plug-in car buyers get up to $7,500 in tax credits. We'll match that to retrofit the first five million gas-guzzlers that displace an equivalent amount of oil and can last 10 or more years. As high-volume production lowers the price, we can taper down the incentive over a second five million.

Every day, we hand over a billion dollars to foreign oil suppliers. With Drive Star, by loan guarantees and grants of less than we pay now for three months of foreign oil, we'll catalyze quick retrofits of over 50 million vehicles. When we do the math, let's remember that defending our nation is never cheap. If terrorists had poisoned 40% of our wetlands and 25% of our fisheries, we wouldn't ask, "How much will it cost to fight back?" We'd dispatch tens of thousands of soldiers and spend whatever it took.

By summer 2011, we'll be ready to create a powerful new U.S. conversion industry. Tens of thousands of Americans will have important, good jobs fixing vehicles in commercial garages and boarded-up auto plants. For the first time, carmakers and dealers will get a new revenue stream from upgrading vehicles they've already sold.

We Americans love to race. Since Charles Lindbergh won $25,000 for his first transatlantic flight, we've seen again and again how competition sparks innovation.

Let's start "Drive Star" with a $100 million challenge: Design a way to retrofit a popular vehicle. Make it affordable, safe, eligible for warranty and high volume installation. Deliver test vehicles in six months. Judges will come from the Departments of Energy and Transportation, the EPA, and groups like the Society of Automotive Engineers, the X Prize Foundation, Cleantech Open and the Specialty Equipment Manufacturers Association.

Early next year, we'll convene a kickoff summit in Michigan for conversion companies, car and component makers, lenders, fleet owners, and drivers to start a national rollout of conversion locations.

Drive Star is America's chance to lead the world in a new direction. U.S. companies will export and license our solutions and work with suppliers, manufacturers and installers to fix vehicles everywhere. Because oil is a global fuel and its accidents affect us all, our solution must be, too.

Every generation is called on to rise to a challenge. Ours is beating our addiction to oil. With Drive Star, we have the motive, the means, and the resources to cut our oil use in half in ten years! Together, we can.

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