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Driving to Zero

This op-ed originally appeared in the Fresno Bee on January 26, 2012.

Electric vehicle in Fresno, CaliforniaEvery day I get in my car and drive to work, I’m saving money. That’s because last summer I bought an all-electric Nissan Leaf, and my gas station stops are a thing of the past.

I figure I’m saving about $3,300 in annual gas and oil change bills compared with the average Ford Expedition driver.

The average electricity cost to power my Leaf cuts about $870 off what my Prius-driving friends spend at the pump. That’s hard-earned money I can use to take my wife and three kids out to dinner once in a while.

I’m glad I no longer depend on oil to drive, but I didn’t make this decision lightly. As a former evangelical minister, I realized that I had a biblical and moral responsibility to lead people to take better care of God’s creation.

It was especially heartbreaking to learn that much of the pollution in our air and other natural resources have severe consequences that are impacting the poor in California the hardest.

As I learned about the challenges and real opportunities for improvement, I was motivated to begin making some changes, including my family’s energy and transportation choices.

The good news is we can make the right choices by changing how we use energy. Driving an electric car is one of the most efficient ways to reduce energy use and decrease pollution.

Here in California, the Air Resources Board will soon vote on proposed zero-emission vehicle standards that will put 1.4 million new electric vehicles on the road from 2018 to 2025.

Along with 10 other states that have adopted the same standards that could boost electric drive cars to four million nationally on the road, or 5% of new sales. That would put us on a path of reduced air pollution to achieve a healthier future.

But that doesn’t mean sacrificing our lifestyles. Switching to clean transportation like electric cars can be surprisingly fun. In fact, driving my Leaf is sort of a “Zen” experience, quiet and full of push-you-back-in-your-seat torque. Almost everyone I meet wants to drive it.

Just ask my kids. You give them a choice between my Leaf and my wife’s alternative fuel VW Jetta and there’s not much competition; it’s daddy’s car every time.

What’s great about electric cars is they are only getting better and more efficient. There are more and more charging stations cropping up in town. My car’s 70- to 110-mile range between charges is plenty for our needs. I can charge at home when I’m sleeping or even at the office.

I am a firm believer in moving aggressively to available and realistic clean energy sources. I’ve seen it work again and again both in my job at Real Goods Solar and first hand at my own solar-powered home in Clovis.

For me, driving a clean car is about two kinds of green: the greening of the planet and of my wallet. Once I looked at the numbers and benefits of driving electric, not even counting solar, it was a no-brainer.

I know more and more Californians will be joining me in this all-electric car revolution. And with the right zero-emission standards in place, our state will continue to lead the nation forward into a cleaner, healthier future.

So when I wake up in the morning, I look out in my driveway and smile. I am doing my part to help the San Joaquin Valley region with its air quality problems and making life better for my family by protecting our bank account.

Now that’s a clean energy future I can support.

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