Friday, October 15, 2010

From Protest to Plug-Ins: Plug In America celebrates 5 years of activism

Five years ago, this motley crew known as "", fresh from protests to stop the crushing of the Ford Think, Ford Ranger, GM EV1 and the Toyota RAV4 EV, met for a celebratory weekend retreat at the Mariposa County ranch of Dave Raboy and Heather Bernikoff. We needed to relaunch what had been a grassroots protest group, grown from the burning desire to prevent thousands of great electric cars from being destroyed by the very companies that built them, into an advocacy group that could help rebirth the modern EV. We really didn't know how we were going to do it, but we knew it had to be done. With the addition of a few key board members with very good strategic skills, we earned some serious clout within the federal and state legislative process, created a very effective outreach and education program, and to some degree, we convinced the car makers themselves that plug-in cars were part of their future.

Shown here are Ron Freund, Linda Nicholes, David Lane, Heather Bernikoff, Jennifer Krill, Sherry Boschert, Paul Scott, Ted Flittner, Lisa Rosen, Dave Raboy, Paul West, Mike Kane, Marc Geller, and Kevin Lyons. Not shown is Chelsea Sexton who unfortunately could not attend that weekend, but was Plug In America's first Executive Director.

We endured many frustrations along the way, but eventually, there were successes.

Of singular importance was the premiere screening at Sundance of "Who Killed the Electric Car?". Exiting the hot crowded theater into the freezing Park City night, the realization that we had such an amazing tool to use in getting the word out about electric cars gave me shivers above and beyond the cold air.

(This picture was taken minutes before we saw WKTEC? for the first time. Shown Left to right: Sherry Boschert, Marc Geller, David Lane, Howard Stein, Dave Raboy, Heather Bernikoff, Paul Scott, Zan Dubin Scott, Mike Kane, Ted Flittner, Jennifer Krill, Linda Nicholes, Colette Divine, J. Karen Thomas, Alexandra Paul, Dave Freeman, (?? Please help??), Butch Pash, Chelsea Sexton, Lynda Pash, and Earl Cox)

We knew this film would change things, but we didn't imagine it would become one of the most popular documentaries of all time. The EV movement owes Chris a lot for creating such a fine film, and we'll no doubt go deeper in debt when "Revenge of the Electric Car" releases in the spring.

Through Chelsea Sexton, we found a donor from the east coast who paid for hundreds of WKTEC? DVDs to be sent to all 50 Governors and all of the members of the House and Senate, including the staff of George Bush's White House. This was a significant donation that no doubt contributed to some key Representatives and Senators supporting plug-in vehicle legislation once Obama got elected. Jay Friedland's strategic legislative work helped seal the deal on $14.1 billion dollars in federal support for plug-in vehicles.

This is some of what Plug In America has done for the movement.

We continue to focus our efforts on dispelling myths about plug-ins and educating the public on the importance of this technology.

Virtually all of the reasons we need to make the transition to electricity and away from oil fall into three areas.

The Economy.

From the point you get your EV, unless you drive a lot of long distances, you will never give the oil companies another dime of your money.

Let that sink in.

Consider that you spend between $2,000 - $4000 every year for gas. Sixty percent of that money leaves the U.S., and 90% leaves our respective communities. We spend a billion dollars every day for foreign oil. This constitutes 45% of our national foreign deficit. A thousand million dollars every day, leaving our country instead of staying here, creating jobs and wealth for us.

When you get your EV, your part in that ends.

Think what good your money will do when it is instead spent on local goods and services, creating jobs for your friends and family instead of helping some freaking Saudi Prince buy a freaking palace.

When you get your EV, your part in that begins.

Health and the Environment.

Now, I know there's a lot of "controversy" over climate change, but the science is very clear that our atmosphere is warming, and energy (heat) added to the atmosphere causes more frequent and more intense storms. The only "scientists" in opposition to this position are paid by those who are heavily invested in maintaining the status quo - staying dependent on dirty carbon-based energy.

The costs of Katrina-type events, combined with record heat waves and snowfalls, will only increase.

With global population increasing by 85 million each day, the pollution problem grows right along with it. India and China are rapidly industrializing, building millions of cars and hundreds of coal plants. Peak oil is pretty much here, and its effects will likely be felt within two to three years. You can argue those time lines, but you'd be a fool to not plan for the worst.

According to the National Academy of Sciences, for every gallon of gas burned, there are 28 cents in health and pollution costs generated. University of Southern California Cancer Center published a report that documented thousands of cancer cases along the freeways and downwind of the refineries in Southern California.

None of these costs are paid by those who buy the gas.

National Security.

According to a recent RAND study, we annually spend about $75-$80 billion to protect and gain access to foreign oil. This figure is exclusive of the war in Iraq.

When you buy a gallon of gas, you pay nothing for that.

We have never fought a war over electricity and we never will.

Broadly speaking, these are the reasons we have to transition from oil to electricity, the sooner the better. Making this happen is Plug In America's central focus. All of our efforts are geared toward expediting this transition.

This is why you need to support us by coming to our party and helping us celebrate the historic moment when the transition begins. We want to share this moment in history with our friends and supporters who have been there to help us when we needed you.

We have a great evening planned with several examples of the first wave of new electrics, including the Volt and LEAF situated next to the pool, the Ford Focus EV, Think EV and Chris' Tesla in front as guests walk in, and fresh from winning its category at the Automotive X-Prize is the super efficient, and super fast 200 mph E-Tracer. We'll have it in the interior courtyard where Stefano Paris will be keeping a close eye on this one-of-kind world's best electric motorcycle.

For tickets, go here.

And best of all, the long awaited debut of the seven mysterious Plug In America PSAs. Based on the popular Mac vs. PC ads from Apple, our "Gas Vs. Electric" spots are the ultimate in "edutainment" for the EV world. You don't want to miss these.

Our creative team of director, Eric Swenson, editor, Jeff U'ren, along with producer Alexandra Paul will be showing these slick and funny public service announcements for the first time anywhere. Our entire board is anxious to see them as even we have been kept in the dark. We're told to expect greatness:~)

Sorry for the length of this post, but today was a rainy Sunday in Santa Monica, and so I couldn't go to the rings. It was a perfect day to plop down on the sofa and crank this out while playing with the kittens.




  1. Dear Paul and all the others at Plug In America,

    Congratulations with your Anniversary. Like I stated in the report for my government last year: Plug in America and those involved "are a true inspiration to NGO's anywhere in the world".

    I wish I could attend the Anniversary event however I am flying back to The Netherlands on Saturday. Have a great party!

    We will remain in contact as both the US/California and the EU/The Netherlands are making the transition to EV's. I wish you all the very best and as Kelly O'Brien mentioned in her weekly radio show yesterday: HUG IN AMERICA!

    Kind regards,

    Dr. Peter van Deventer MPA
    The Netherlands

  2. Paul,

    My father (94 this week) tells the story of when his family bought the first 55-gallon drum of gasoline to put on the porch of their general store in Fallington, PA. Someone in the town had bought the first gas engine car, which was a curiosity where everything had always been done with horses before. It was a historic event for that community (probably complete with "range anxiety" for the owner of the new-fangled car with only one drum of gas available).

    I couldn't help but think about this when I saw my first Leaf this weekend, and got to drive it (3x!). This is a remarkably similar historic event for our community, and you have our thanks and congratulations to PIA for being the catalyst.

    David Neagley

  3. David, Great story about your father and the "range anxiety" of the early gas cars. Can't wait till you're driving your shiny new LEAF and charging it from your brand new solar system!

    Peter, sorry we'll miss at the party, but look forward to your next trip over to the U.S. I hope to be able to visit you some day in The Netherlands.

  4. Paul:
    Thank you for the detailed overview. I remember when I was a kid living in L.A. in the early sixties. Most cars back then had V-8's, burned fully leaded fuel and not a single car had catalytic converters or any other type of pollution controls for that matter. When I went outside to play, especially during the summer months, by 10:00am I would come into the house with tears running down my cheeks, not from crying but from the thick brown smog stinging my eyes. I remember vividly how painful it was just to breathe, most times so painful I could not catch my breath or breath deeply. Being forced to only take shallow breathes can really frighten a child, even cause panic on occasion. By 1965 my Dad had enough and moved us to Thousand Oaks. Thousand Oaks back then was a tiny little town of 13,000. The air was so clear, the sky so blue that it seemed like heaven on earth. I could run for hours in the hills of T.O. My lungs worked again! It was like being physically reborn and the age of 10! Even back then, the smog to cars correlation occurred to me. I always dreamt of a better, more John Muir friendly way. Forty five years later we are finally going to realize our dreams of driving emissions free when we take delivery of our Nissan LEAF in December. Words cannot describe the overwhelming feelings joy and gratitude we have for all the pioneers at Don't Crush and Plug In America who have blazed the trail to a clean transportation future. I can't wait to tell our story to our grandkids so they can understand the profound battles waged on their behalf. I never want them to have to go to war for anything, especially because of oil!
    Ken Muir

  5. My, my I look real good in that picture even though the photographer caught me passing gas (as usual for me). Nevermind the oily shirt. It will come out with some turpentine.

    I look forward to meeting everyone at the party this Saturday. To arrive in style I'm currently shopping around for something bigger than one of my Hummers.

  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

  7. This will be a fun event. I want to meet with every one of you. Tell me what you like about driving a clean and quiet vehicle or if you are looking to make the switch soon, what will be your car of the future.

    Power on,


  8. Back in the mid-sixties I remember pumping gas, swiping windshields with a squeegee and checking oil at one of my Dad's gas stations. I also remember getting stinky, leaded gasoline on my clothes, on my hands, oil under my fingernails and just generally reeking of the toxic, smelly stuff by the end of my shift. I recall thinking -- even way back then as an unjaded teenage girl -- that there had to be a better way. Over three decades later I found what I'd always hoped might actually exist the first time my friend, Lisa Rosen, took me for a spin in her EV1. DontCrush and Plug In America have given my electric dreams a voice and a venue in which to express what I've somehow always known to be true. That, there really IS a better way. Thank you Plug In America and thank you Paul for writing this great historical blog. See you all at the party!

  9. Paul -- thanks to you and all for coming so far. Inspired by your posting, we'e responded with a greeting to the event:

    " joins Plug In America in celebrating all the people and the creative strategies that have brought us to this moment. It's been a long road -- and for many of us, it's what we're most proud of having done in our lives. PIA has been about the end of business as usual -- focusing on solutions critical for our security, economy, environment, and quality of life. PIA has refused to take no for an answer, has never pulled its punches, and has responded to every slow-down warning by stepping harder on the accelerator.

    "Last October, CalCars declared victory when we were finally certain mass-produced plug-in hybrids were in sight. Some saw that as premature -- but we thought it was important to celebrate. And now we join with those at the party, saluting all those who joined together to spark the transformation of a giant global industry.

    "Next week PIA, CalCars, and the broad coalition around us will return to ensuring that THIS commercialization is successful. Now we get to replace theoretical pitches about benefits with the reality of mass-produced cars. We get to help customers figure out what models will work for them, and what to expect at showrooms. We get to encourage plug-in buyers to become evangelists. And we get to both applaud and criticize version 1.0 products so automakers can improve and refine them. It's going to be a great ride!

    The full message, "A Party for Plug In America, and How We're Winning with Great Cars" at
    -- Felix Kramer, Founder, The California Cars Initiative

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