THE BLOG
12/22/2008 05:12 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Recharge America with Electric Cars

Today, our country is facing a set of seemingly insurmountable problems:

• an economic meltdown of historic proportions
• a car industry crashing, because of a lack of innovation and growth
• oil dependence transferring our wealth abroad
• an extended military presence in the Middle East
• and climate change, which threatens the health of our planet

We are hearing daily of various proposed solutions -- industry bailouts and massive infrastructure projects -- geared primarily to avoid job losses and rising unemployment. These solutions promise to take us through this rough period, but take us where? What is the long term change?

When it comes to changes to the car industry itself we see only small steps after decades of resistance. Improving car mileage slightly over the next 4 years is not the transformative change that is needed. Converting the industry to hybrid cars 10 years after the Toyota Prius was delivered to market looks to the past, not the future.

Yesterday, joined by San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed and Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums I announced a nine-step policy plan for transforming the Bay Area into the "Electric Vehicle (EV) Capital of the U.S." In support of this initiative Better Place, a global electric transportation company announced that it would enter the U.S. market with California as its first state, beginning in the Bay Area.

Commercial availability of electric cars is targeted to begin in 2012, and Better Place estimates its network investment in the Bay Area will total $1 billion when the system is fully deployed. I welcomed Better Place's announcement and anticipate many other EV companies will focus on the Bay Area as a top-priority market.

Electric vehicles represent an overarching, game-changing solution that allows us to transform, and recharge the American transportation sector for the 21st century. By accelerating the conversion of the car industry from its oil dependent past, to a new electric century, we can jump start the car industry, eliminate our dependence on oil, reduce our required presence in the middle east, create millions of jobs, and eliminate a significant portion of our CO2 emissions.

This plan ties together a triangle of influence that can get our nation back on track: Detroit car makers who know how to scale production, working in concert with San Francisco's culture of innovation, aided by Sacramento and Washington DC policy-making. The goal is to create a sustainable strategic advantage for the US instead of a series of bailouts.

As California prepares to launch this electric recharge infrastructure project, it can also serve as a blueprint for a more widely integrated solution.

California can generate upwards of $2.5B in new investment in jobs and the economy for the infrastructure effort, with billions more in cars and battery sales to consumers. The nation as a whole can trigger tens of billions in infrastructure, manufacturing and innovation investment. At the same time, this conversion reduces the cost to the consumer and nation per mile we drive. California, followed by the western US states of Oregon and Washington are ready to drive this effort.

Listen to the Gavin Newsom Show this Saturday at 11AM PST on Green 960 AM. My guest this week is the director of "Milk" Gus Van Sant. Harvey Milk was the first openly gay man to be elected to public office in California. The movie opens nationwide on November 26th.