With gas prices rising above four dollars per gallon, families and businesses are feeling the effects. And once again elected officials are clamoring for action to instantly reverse that trend. But we know that you can't bring down energy prices overnight.
Fortunately, since 2009, the Department of Transportation has been investing in transportation options that free Americans from the high cost of refilling their gas-powered cars.
Whether it's high-speed rail, transit, or walkable, bikeable streets, we are working to foster alternatives so people can choose to quit feeding their local gas pumps and continue feeding their families, their college savings accounts, and their retirement funds.
One approach that is already reducing fuel costs for drivers and creating jobs is the Obama Administration's support for electric and hybrid vehicles. Earlier today, I was happy to share that news at the Electric Drive Transportation Association’s 2011 Conference. And, for those who didn’t realize the maturity of this industry, today’s “Innovation Motorcade” of electric vehicles parading through Washington, DC, was a real eye-opener.
A few years ago, US businesses made just 2 percent of batteries for emerging cars like the Chevy Volt and the electric Ford Focus. But a few years from now, America will be home to 40 percent of the world's automotive battery manufacturing capacity. That means jobs. In fact, workers are on the job right now, pioneering advanced batteries at Compact Power in Michigan.
It also means the status quo on America's roadways is beginning to give way to a future--long overdue--in which electric and hybrid vehicles are the norm, not the exception.
Am I sad that my Buick Regal is about to become a classic? Not at all. I'm excited that we're finally on the verge of a 21st century transportation system that suits the energy and environmental realities we face.
We've arrived at this point because, in addition to its support of new battery technologies, DOT is expanding access to the charging stations that will give drivers the confidence to climb into electric vehicles. That includes a grant to an Oregon-based pilot program that will install charging stations every 50 miles along the busy I-5 corridor.
And we've arrived at this point by helping create a market for electric and hybrid vehicles so automakers have an incentive to build more of them. In a little over two years, the government has doubled its stock of hybrid cars and trucks. The President has also directed departments and agencies to make sure that, by 2015, 100 percent of the vehicles we buy are fuel-efficient or clean-energy.
America's businesses are also helping accelerate the transition. Shippers like FedEx and UPS--as well as other companies--are keenly aware of trends in gas prices and are already leading the way by purchasing advanced techonology vehicles.
All of this is good news for those seeking an alternative to refilling their family car with $4-per-gallon gasoline. But we haven't turned the corner yet. We still need the support of the enterprising folks at today's Electric Drive Conference. They have been terrific partners in helping us get this far, and we're counting on them to continue turning today's promise of America's electric vehicle industry into tomorrow's reality.