Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Sierra Club, Partners Celebrate 200 Million Oil-Free Miles

Sunday September 23rd was National Plug In Day, a public education event on the many benefits that now come with widespread availability of new electric vehicles and public charging stations. Sierra Club's Florida Healthy Air Campaign's volunteer teams organized two of the nation's most successful events, both on Florida's gulf coast.

In Sarasota the day began with a press conference and awards ceremony attended by more than 75 people.  National Plug In Day City Captain, Ken Stokes, opened with his welcoming remarks.  He then introduced Frank Jackalone, Florida Organizing Manager, who spoke on the many benefits of driving an electric vehicle (he knows what he is talking about, he drives a Chevy Volt himself!). Sarasota County Commissioner Nora Patterson spoke about what the County has done to prepare for EVs on the road in regards to charging infrastructure and planning.  A big moment was when the Mayor of the City of Sarasota delivered the City's National Plug In Day Proclamation, naming Sierra Club as a stakeholder and partner in the planning process. Sierra Club presented Certificate of Recognition to both the City and County, thanking them for their valuable contributions to Electric Vehicle Community Readiness.

The fun really started when 60 electric cars participated in a "silent EV parade," led by a police escort, from downtown Sarasota over a scenic bridge to one of our beautiful barrier islands, all donning special "National Plug In Day" flags attached to their vehicles. It was a sight to see (but not hear)!

After the parade, the vehicles assumed their position inside our expo venue and displayed their vehicles, answered questions, and let the general public get up close and personal with the next generation of oil-free automobiles.  Also on display inside the expo were dozens of green exhibitors, from producers of solar powered charging units, to electric bicycles, and non-profits advocating for the oil-free cause. Additionally, the public was encouraged to participate in the free EV Ride-and-Drive, provided by licensed auto dealers.  Six different EV models were available for the Ride-and-Drive, including the Nissan LEAF, Chevy Volt, Mitsubishi Mi-EV, Fisker Karma, Wheego, Tesla Model S (only one in Florida), and the Pedego E-Bike. About 50 people were able to get in the drivers seat and experience the joy of EV driving for themselves! 

In Tampa Bay, Sierra Club celebrated National Plug In Day with the City of Temple Terrace, a city of 24,000 near Tampa and the University of South Florida (USF). Hundreds of area residents got to learn more about EVs and green transportation firsthand through test drives, a press conference, exhibits, and live radio broadcast.  
This was the first public event held at the city’s new urban redevelopment site. The first stage of what city leaders envision will be a walkable residential and retail area, the site is carved out of a typical suburban asphalt parking lot. Temple Terrace Mayor Joe Affronti  proclaimed the day National Plug In Day and expressed his excitement that Sierra Club’s Florida Healthy Air Campaign team chose this site, as it demonstrated how his city’s urban oasis, with a pavilion and trellis-covered courtyard, is a better way to build than typical sprawl housing and retail development.
Co-sponsors providing green transportation information included the USF Patel School for Global Sustainability, USF Student Environmental Association (USF SEA), national EV charging station company NovaCharge, Hillsborough County Environmental Protection Commission’s (HCEPC) Air Quality Division, and the Sierra Club's Florida Healthy Air Campaign. Volunteers collected signatures on Sierra Club’s petition asking Florida’s governor to support policies to help jumpstart the new EV alternative.
EVs from TECO (Tampa Electric Co.), HCEPC and privately owned cars like the Tesla roadster lined Temple Terrace’s new town square, while local dealers Daniels Chevrolet and Ferman Nissan were busy all afternoon providing test drives around the property. Hundreds told Sierra Club’s team they were amazed at how well the Volt and Leaf handled, how quietly they operate and how affordable they really are when one considers fuel only costs the equivalent of $.75/gallon.
As local community-sponsored radio station WMNF provided sound for the press conference and broadcast its “Shakedown Sunday” show for 2 hours during the event, a tai chi demonstration added to the fun of what National Plug In Day City Captain Tom Krumreich called "a great day for the City of Temple Terrace and for the future of air quality in Tampa Bay".
All in all, both events were enormous successes, serving as launching points for the Florida Healthy Air Campaign's EV Initiatives and also helping build important bridges between our local City and County leaders and elected officials. We can't wait for next year's National Plug In Day! 

Sarasota Herald Tribune "A Day to Celebrate Electric Cars"

Video: SNN Local News/Herald Tribune


Monday, September 17, 2012

Join Us for National Plug In Day Sept. 23

Written by Ann Mesnikoff and Gina Coplon-Newfield

For the last few weeks, we have been celebrating the new vehicle fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas emissions standards that mark President Obama's biggest climate accomplishment yet. Tens of thousands of Americans have sent letters to the White House thanking the president for new policies that will ensure that automakers produce much more efficient vehicles as well as cars that run on little or no oil at all. Now there's another way to celebrate.

Sunday, September 23rd, is National Plug In Day, a nationwide celebration of electric vehicles (EVs). By turning their back on the pump, oil spills, and tailpipe emissions, these vehicles are a huge step toward moving America beyond oil. They are also a lot of fun to drive. On the 23rd, EV drivers and the EV-curious in over 60 cities across the country will be taking part in free events to test drive EVs, kick the tires, and check out solar-powered EV charging stations. Ten lucky people who register for and attend Plug In Day events will even win a new iPad.

You can see if there is an event near you and register today.

A switch to EVs is an important part of a future with greener transportation choices, domestic clean energy manufacturing jobs, and a healthier planet. Every year, we burn roughly 121 billion gallons of oil in our passenger cars and trucks -- and even after taking into account the electricity used to charge EVs, these are almost always the cleanest cars around and will only get cleaner as we shift to more renewable sources of power. You can't say that about a gasoline-powered vehicle!

Electricvehicle-plugThe Plug In Day events feature electric cars, trucks, and motorcycles in electric car parades, "tailpipe-free" tailgate parties, awards to leaders promoting EV-readiness, the launch of new public EV charging stations, and other educational events.
  • Event-goers in the Los Angeles area will be taking EV test-drives and checking out more than a dozen models of electric cars of the past and present at the Automobile Driving Museum.
  • In New York City, there will be electric delivery trucks on display from companies like Fed Ex, Coca Cola, and Duane Reade.
  • The mayor of Sarasota, FL, will be issuing a Plug In Day proclamation where participants in that city will enjoy test-rides, musical entertainment, and a silent and emission-free EV parade.
Whether or not you can make it to a Plug In Day event, you can take a moment to sign a petition showing your governor that you support EV-readiness programs in your state, such as more consumer education, public charging stations, and utility programs that provide off-peak electricity rates and improve infrastructure.

Sierra Club has teamed up with Plug In AmericaElectric Auto Association, and dozens of local groups to organize this second annual National Plug In Day. With double the number of events this year than last, the momentum is electric.

-- Ann Mesnikoff is the Sierra Club's Director of Green Transportation, and Gina Coplon-Newfield is the Sierra Club's Director of Green Fleets & Electric Vehicles Initiative

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Who's Got the Power?

By Marcia Biggs
Chair, Tampa Bay Sierra Club

I recently attended a public forum by Adam Putnam  on "Florida's Energy Future: Increasing Diversity in Florida's Energy Portfolio." Putnam is commissioner for the Florida Dept. of Agriculture and Consumer Services and has inherited the Office of Energy under his domain. The program was presented by the Institute for Strategic Policy Solutions at  St. Petersburg College.  Putnam made it clear from the start that he sees "diversity" in the state's energy future summed up  in two words: "natural gas."  He said the Solar Energy Rebate Program of 2010 was a "disaster" because TOO MANY PEOPLE SIGNED UP (12,000 plus) ... and that $200 million in grant money to fund solar energy research was a waste, because, when the recipients were audited they found 2 companies had gone bankrupt and there was over $2 million attributed to fraud. Not bad odds in my book when you're talking $200 million.
Putnam sees the future, and it's gas ... lots of gas. Coal burning plants mean jobs so not ready to pull the plug yet. Nuclear energy? Still on the ouija board but let's not talk about the millions of dollars homeowners will be forced to pay in advance. Not when there are 2 pipelines now from Louisiana delivering natural gas right to Florida! It's abundant and affordable, says Putnam,  not like solar energy that relies on the sun, and, well, you know how rare that resource is here in the Sunshine State.
A few in the audience got a chance to speak, including St. Petersburg City Councilman Karl Nurse who urged Putnam to consider a requirement converting street lights across the state to LED for both financial and energy savings.  Also Steven Smith for Southern Energy Alliance spoke eloquently about the importance of using scientific study data to determine our energy future like other southern states do, but Putnam seemed none too interested in that. The lecture video is  posted on http://spcollege.edu/solutions/forums.html (YouTube) along with several other Energy lectures held at the Institute in the past year.
It was disheartening to see Putnam so adament in his conviction that one form of energy is "the way" while basically waving away solar, wind and other cleaner forms of energy as "too expensive" or "too unknown".  President Obama supports a truly diversified energy portfolio that includes natural gas, but also  other forms of alternative power. If one thing was clear at this forum, there is a groundswell of Florida residents, academics and public officials  who support and will continue to push for a move to clean, alternative fuels such as solar.  Shine on!