The U.S. Department of Energy announced last week the 16 winning projects in 24 states that will receive funding for projects that support community planning for plug-in electric vehicles and charging infrastructure. The projects won funding as part of the Clean Cities initiative, a competitive program that weighs progress, preparedness and potential for lasting change before doling out money to a fraction of the public-private partnerships that apply for it.
The competitive grant model, which has been used for everything from school funding for states to community colleges looking to retool with the job training programs of the future, strays away from private risk and focuses more on proven track records in public-private cooperation.
"These one-year projects will help communities address their specific needs, which include updating permitting processes, revising codes, training municipal personnel, promoting public awareness, or developing incentives, and each will create a plan that will be publicly available so that other stakeholders can learn best practices."
Advanced vehicles such as electric cars and those powered by fuels like hydrogen and biodiesel face an uphill battle as the cards that make up the current fuel distribution infrastructure are stacked against them — a fact that is accepted by advanced vehicle supporters and detractors alike.
But where small government ideologues (like many of the Tea Party-favored Congressional representatives now in D.C.) and Keynesian demand-side government-investment types differ is that the former say emerging technologies should have to compete in the free market and that 'government shouldn't pick winners'. But the demand-side folks argue that our transportation system, dominated by the interests of well-entrenched oil and auto industries, does anything but create an even playing field for new technologies to compete. And it is with that guiding philosophy that the Obama administration has not only directed federal funding to electric vehicles and advanced fuel research, it has also been pumping money into clean energy and energy efficiency enterprises, not always with resounding success, however, as we saw last week with the folding of Solyndra, a solar company that received millions in loan guarantees from the U.S. Government.