Obama electric-car research total stunning compared to past R&D efforts

president-you-know-whoTake a look at most of today's news stories about President Obama announcing that the government is awarding $2.4 billion to spur the manufacturing of electric-hybrid cars.

The headline on a New York Times piece is a good example: "Obama visits economically depressed region."

Well, do tell! That hed could've been on dozens of stories in the last year. The accounts of Obama's visit to Elkhart County, Indiana (unemployment rate: 16.8 percent) that we've found so far today are heavy on how this is supposed to be great for the economy. These accounts fall short on how this stacks up as an energy investment compared to past performance.

With the $2.4 billion in federal funds matched by the companies receiving it, we're looking at, according to the White House, "the single largest investment in advanced battery technology for hybrid and electric-drive vehicles ever made." This is huge.

To put this $2.4 billion government investment into context, consider that the Clinton and Bush administrations spent something like $1.5 billion over eight years on an ill-fated program called the Partnership for a New Generation Vehicle. Taxpayers and the Big Three automakers -- which kicked in $8 billion -- funded a research program.

They did find ways to make more fuel-efficient vehicles -- but at a cost of roughly $7,000 to $10,000 per car. Because of the high pricetag, the automakers never put their newfound knowledge into effect.

What did they get for their $1 billion a year?

Carol Smith's picture

New Mexico company to build first zero-emissions hydrogen power plant

Jetstream Wind Inc. of New Mexico plans to build what it believes will be the first utility-scale, zero-emissions power plant to use electricity from wind, solar and other renewable energy sources to separate water into hydrogen and oxygen. The hydrogen would be stored, then used to generate enough electricity to power 6,000 homes and businesses, while the oxygen would be sold to the medical field and other secondary markets, Susan Montoya Bryan of the Associated Press reports.

Whether such a plant would ultimately be cost-effective way to produce fuel remains to be seen. "You have to start somewhere with a lot of these technologies and over time these things decline in costs," Mike Taylor, director of research and education at the Solar Electric Power Association in Washington D.C. told the Associated Press.

The privately financed 10-megawatt plant is being built in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, and the company eventually hopes to build two more plants for American Indian pueblos and one in Hawaii.