On Electric Cars, the U.S. Is Stuck in the Slow Lane

electric-car

(Photo: Noya Fields / Flickr)

The French government recently announced a plan to ban sales of new gas-powered cars by 2040. Not to be outdone, the UK government is now rolling out a similar plan of its own.

These plans sound shockingly radical, but in fact many analysts think those transitions will happen anyway.

For instance, the Dutch bank ING recently predicted that all the cars sold in Europe will be electric by 2030. More conservative estimates put it at 2050. Either way, most experts now see this change on the horizon.

Electric vehicles — or EVs — are already more efficient than their gas-powered counterparts, and could soon become cheaper too. High-end models already outperform conventional engines for speed and acceleration.

Yet potential buyers will continue to be wary as long as the range of batteries remains small, and the network of charging points — think gas stations for electric cars — remains patchy.

Rapidly developing technologies could help overcome this “range anxiety,” as the distance between charges could rise from around 100 miles to over 400 in the next decade. But it’s public policy, rather than technology, that’s the real driver of the EV revolution.

Take Norway, where EVs already account for more than 40 percent of new cars sold.

There, a publicly funded network of free charging stations is driving the surge. The government also offered a range of other perks and incentives: scrapping sales and registration taxes for EVs, exempting them from parking charges and road tolls, and allowing them to dodge heavy traffic by using bus and taxi lanes.

As sales of EVs come to overtake gas-powered cars, the subsidies are being phased out. Yet the benefits continue: A growing fleet of clean vehicles will massively reduce air and climate pollution, and Norway is now well placed to develop and export technologies in a fast growing new industry.

As other European governments get more serious about supporting EVs, some conventional automakers are already embracing an electric future. The Swedish company Volvo recently announced that all of its new cars will be electric or hybrids from 2019 onwards.

U.S. manufacturers, on the other hand, could scarcely be more different.

Oil companies and automakers have successfully lobbied the Trump administration to consider reversing Obama-era fuel-economy standards, which could have supported a shift to hybrids and EVs, as well as cutting pollution that leads to thousands of premature deaths every year.

No wonder the big three U.S. automakers — Ford, GM, and Chrysler — lag way behind their global competitors in developing new EVs. Even stock markets are questioning the wisdom of that bet, as Tesla’s value starts to rival its Detroit competitors.

Fortunately, states and cities can still lead where the federal government is failing.

California is sticking with its fuel-economy standards — the nation’s toughest — and mandating automakers to sell “zero emission vehicles” alongside conventional cars.

California’s cities are also leading the way with public charging points, but they’re not alone. Cities from Seattle to Atlanta are embracing EVs through incentives ranging from tax incentives to carpool lane access.

Of course, promoting EVs alone won’t solve our air pollution problem, or help the U.S. meet its share of global action on climate change — especially where electricity is still produced from coal and other fossil fuels.

We’ll also need better public transportation and changes in how cities are planned, to bring homes closer to shops and workplaces. But electric vehicles will be an important part of getting air pollution and climate change under control.

Local politicians need to step up where the Trump administration is failing, or we risk getting left in the slow lane.

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Progress on development, reconciliation, and justice too slow in Mali as two-year anniversary of coup approaches

Mali is in danger of frittering away the opportunity to tackle corruption and stamp out the abuse of power by officials as democracy returns to the country, two years on from the 2012 coup.

(BAMAKO, February 5, 2014) Mali is in danger of frittering away the opportunity to tackle corruption and stamp out the abuse of power by officials as democracy returns to the country, two years on from the 2012 coup.

Malian people need to see significant changes in the way the country is governed, including the fairer distribution of development aid, according to a new report today. The Mali government and donors meet in Brussels on the 5th of February to discuss the country’s future.

Transparency and accountability

Worldwide development organization Oxfam and its Malian civil society partners have co-authored the paper, What next for Mali? Four priorities for better governance. They say donors also must do more to ensure that the relationship between the Malian government and its citizens is strengthened and made more transparent, fair, inclusive and accountable.

Mohamed L. Coulibaly, Country Director for Oxfam in Mali said: “Mali stands at a cross-roads. Officials meeting in Brussels this Wednesday 5th of February must place justice, reconciliation, citizen participation, and equitable development at the heart of their discussions. Civil society has been working on these issues for a long time and we are ready to work with the government too.”  

Funding democratic order

At the 2013 Brussels summit donors committed €3.2 bn to the development and reconstruction of Mali.  However, exactly how much of that actually made it into Mali remains difficult to assess, due to the complexity of the commitments. Funds that were received have helped to support elections and some reconstruction efforts, but much more is needed to ensure the restoration of a democratic order, good governance and to put an end to corruption.  

Malian civil society organizations and Oxfam want all pledges properly tracked, as recommended by the International Initiative on Aid Transparency (IIATA).

Peace requires justice, reconciliation

Ibrahima Koreissi, national coordinator for Deme So Association said, “Peace and stability require justice and reconciliation. Even before the conflict, there was very little access to justice for women and men living in poverty outside the capital of Bamako. Donors and the government of Mali are responsible for the transition to peace providing justice for all, including victims of abuse.”

Mali only has around 270 lawyers among a population of 15 million, and just four women in a cabinet of 34 ministers. Its Commission for Truth, Justice and Reconciliation is not yet fully functioning. Donors and the Malian government must commit to making justice more effective and increase women’s participation in political processes.

Women’s representation

Bintou Samaké, Wildaf president said: “Malian women should be equally represented in decision-making positions, starting within the government. Only 1 per cent of Mali’s mayors are women. The EU generously supported the presidential and legislative elections, so it’s important that during the April municipal elections the EU and other donors specifically support women to be candidates.”

Coulibaly said: “The situation in northern Mali remains fragile. Donors must not forget that more than 800,000 people need immediate food assistance due to the impact of conflict, weak harvests, and poor rains. Mali needs a comprehensive response to the many challenges it faces.”

Officials meeting in Brussels today must place justice, reconciliation, citizen participation, and equitable development at the heart of their discussions.

Mohamed L. Coulibaly

Country Director for Oxfam in Mali

Notes to Editors

  • Association Conseil pour le Développement (ACOD) was founded in 1995 and has a mandate to support economic and social rights in rural communities. The group focuses on local development and strengthening decentralization processes to be more effective for communities.
  • Association Deme So was founded in 1992 to promote human rights, with special attention to women and children. In recent years it has developed legal clinics and supported the training and deployment of paralegals to rural areas in Mali. It works in the district of Bamako and in 38 communities in the regions of Koulikoro, Segou, Kangaba, Mopti and Tenekou. It also co-operates with national umbrella organisations, and with the ministries of justice and decentralisation. 
  • Groupe Suivi Budgetaire focuses on monitoring and analysis the allocations and expenditures in the national budget.  They have advocated with the government for great transparency in the budget process and for citizen and civil society participation.  GSBM works in 6 urban and 33 rural municipalities or communes.
  • Femmes et Droits Humains is a relatively new organization focusing on promoting the civil and political rights of women.  They are currently working on trying to increase women’s representation on electoral lists ahead of the municipal elections in Mali. 
  • Women in Law and Development Africa (WiLDAF) is a pan-African network bringing together 500 organizations and 1200 individuals in order to promote the rights of women in Africa. WILDAF-Mali works on issues of women’s access to justice, access to land and land rights, and national reconciliation.

Contact Information

General media inquiries – Vincent Tremeau: +223 66 75 47 46 / vtremeau@oxfam.org.uk
On governance, justice, reconciliation, development issues – Surendrini Wijeyaratne Surendrini.wijeyaratne@oxfamnovib.nl

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