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| Human World on Apr 12, 2009

James Woolsey: ‘Plug-in hybrids for U.S. security, climate’

A former CIA director says a switch to plug-in hybrid vehicles could strengthen national security and help forestall climate change.

James Woolsey: We have to reduce the amount of carbon that we’re putting into the atmosphere. We have to make sure that energy is as affordable as possible. And we have to make sure that it is as secure as possible.

That’s James Woolsey, who from 1993 to 1995 was director of the CIA. Woolsey spoke at the 2009 National Academy of Sciences summit on America’s Climate Choices, about the relationship between climate change, U.S. energy use, and national security.

James Woolsey: Let’s take as an example moving away from oil as our source for 97 percent of our transportation and moving toward electricity.

A switch to plug-in hybrid vehicles, he said, could strengthen national security.

James Woolsey: Not only do you obviously help reduce oil use and oil’s contribution to climate change, and our oil dependence problem that has created a situation where oil being in the hands of a lot of dictatorships and autocratic kingdoms that don’t like us very much.

Woolsey pointed to recent studies. They show that plug-in hybrid cars on today’s electric grid – powered by coal – still generate about 15 percent less CO2 than comparable internal combustion engines.

The challenge today with plug-in hybrids, said Woolsey, is that they rely on electricity from coal-fired power plants, which too emit CO2 and other pollution. According to Woolsey, recent studies – such as that from the Pacific Northwest National Laboratories, the Electric Power Research Institute, and the Natural Resources Defense Council – show that plug-in hybrid cars on today’s coal-based electric grid generate about 15 percent less CO2 than comparable combustion engines.

James Woolsey: And as the grid is cleaned up, by replacing coal, let’s say, with renewables and the like, that also cleans up the cars even further.

‘Clean grid’ modernization allows renewable energy, like solar and wind, to send electricity back into the grid and eventually out to homes and business that need it.

James Woolsey: So not only is one reducing the dependence on oil, by moving toward plug-in hybrids and toward renewables to produce electricity, one is also moving to help deal with the climate change problem.

Our thanks to:
Jim Woolsey
Venture Partner, Vantage Point
Clean Technology Investment Area
Fellow, Hoover Institution
Stanford University