Adventures in Driving: EV Does It

Our intrepid editor embarks upon a personal mission to "Think Globally, Cool Locally"

by Carolyn Chase


The Sign in Carolyn's EV-1

We noticed that about 20% of people walking past the EV-1 would peer intently inside the car. So we created this little primer that we placed in the back window.

Welcome to my General Motors Saturn EV-1!

YES! This is a totally cool &completely ELECTRIC car!

Some Frequently Asked Questions:

Why do I have this car?

I am experimenting with what one individual can do to reduce their household contribution to the problems of global warming, air pollution and energy consumption.

It turns out that the #1 thing that a household can do, is to replace their gasoline-powered cars with electric cars. The EV-1 is the #1 greenest car available today according to the 1999 Green Guide to Cars & Trucks. Though it's not yet suitable for all patterns of driving, it's the best choice for a household's second car.

I'm going to write about my "exploits" in the San Diego Earth Times ( and the San Diego Daily Transcript ( and for the Sierra Club Global Warming Program.

How's the performance?

Because electric motors have higher torque at low speeds than gasoline engines, it accelerates like a bat-out-of-hell! like the "Rocket Rods" at Disneyland.

How do you charge it?

The charger is the narrow slot at the front of the car. The car comes with a charging system that allows you to just plug it in.

How long does it take to charge?

1-2 hours from a station charger. 12 hours via the emergency charger. I'm learning to just plug-it-in when I park it, and I leave it on the charger overnight. So every morning you wake up with a full charge.

How far does it go on a charge?

The answer to this question varies greatly depending on how you drive it and where you drive it. This car is getting up to 40-41 miles from a full charge. The range will be less when you do a lot of hilly driving like I do around Pacific Beach and Clairemont.

How much does it cost?

You cannot buy a car outright, they are only available via a lease agreement. You pay a monthly fee of $400-500/month, depending on the model, and that includes 24-hour emergency service for those special occasions when you might miscalculate and run out of juice and you don't have a long enough extension cord!

Why is this a greener car?

When burned, the carbon in a gallon of gasoline combines with oxygen from the air to produce about 19 pounds of carbon dioxide (CO2). Counting the energy that went into making and distributing the gas, the total global warming impact equals 30 pounds of CO2 emissions per gallon. The emissions from an EV-1 are significantly lower.

CO2 is the most important "greenhouse gas," which are the emissions that trap heat in the atmosphere and contribute to global warming.

American vehicles account for more fossil fuel CO2 emission than the total nationwide emissions of all but three other COUNTRIES in the world. Pollution from gas-vehicle tailpipes, emitted at ground level, directly in city streets, exposes more people to higher concentrations of pollutants than do the power plants that charge this car.

You can now change your energy company to green power providers such as Commonwealth or Green Mountain and be part of the marketplace demanding and using greener power systems. An EV-1 can be powered by geothermal or solar power!


This is a COOL CAR! VERY FUN to drive and more than a little odd in some ways. For instance, it has the world biggest dashboard and no glove compartment!

There is no ignition system or exhaust of any kind. You push buttons to turn it on and go. It's so quiet, they have it make a sound when you shift into reverse so people can hear something coming. It's much more responsive than driving regular cars. You recharge the batteries every time you go downhill or use the brakes, so you get instant feedback about your energy use.

The car is designed to work without keys, i.e., the locks are electric. The only key with the car is a small "valet key" for when you want to let someone in to drive it without giving them the security codes. But if you run out of juice and you've forgotten your key - because you don't use valet parking anyway - and this car doesn't "need keys," you can't get into the car! Oh well. These are the types of design lessons you learn from anytime you are using new technologies.

Thank you for your interest. To receive stories of my exploits, send email to: or visit our website at www.sdearth

he old U-Haul slogan "Adventures in Moving" always made me think that the U-Haul folks at least had a sense of humor about their business. Adventure is about the last thing I like to cultivate when moving.

The same could be said about driving. Driving is an activity where you want to enjoy it as much as you can and get yourself from point A to point B with a minimum of hassle and expense.

But since I decided that my love affair with the car has to evolve there I was at the GM Saturn dealership, picking up the most environmentally-friendly car ever offered to American consumers. I was about to take the entirely electric EV-1 for an extended test drive. The EV-1 has a "Green Score" of 57 in the Green Guide to Cars and Trucks. For a point of comparison, the Green Score of the highest scoring conventional vehicle is the Chevy Metro with a 38. This is the best there is "almost in the marketplace" at this time.

What do I mean by "almost in the marketplace"? My husband and I had taken the regular test drive: you drive it around for a half an hour and see if you like it. We liked it enough to ask about leasing one. That's when we discovered there is a waiting list. How long? "Hundreds of folks." I wondered, what gives? I'm an American. I've got cash on the barrel head. Lease me a car! How can the green marketplace work if you can't even get what you want when you try and buy it with money? If I wanted a Lexus I could have it tomorrow or at least within a week.

According to Jaci, the regional sales representative, I "sounded REALLY disappointed" that I couldn't get a car. Wouldn't you be? It's not exactly a small decision or a small amount of money or commitment involved. Besides, this is a major component of my personal quest to reduce our household's contribution to global warming. I had identified it as the #1 thing that a person of my means could do. I had a dream: to get an electric car, switch to green power and break my extreme dependency on fossil fuels in this area of my life. Furthermore, I was looking forward to writing about it; I could tell from one short drive that there would be plenty of things to write about.

After thinking about this for about a week, I called Jaci back to whine. I guess I got her attention. A week later, I went into my dealer for an extended test drive and there it was: my new green car. And I'm not just talking about the fact that's it's a ZEV (zero-emissions vehicle). My new "green" car was also actually painted green.


Transportation affects the environment in many ways. Impacts begin with mineral extraction and refinement of the raw materials that go into the parts of the car. But due to exhaust pollution (plus the pollution associated with supplying the fuel in the first place), most of the impacts occur when vehicles are driven. Nearly two-thirds of America's overall global-warming contributions come from cars, trucks and sport utility vehicles. Half of the oil used in the United States is consumed by cars, trucks and buses. Cars also create an indisputable land use pressure. In the United States, automobile-dedicated land use consumes close to half of the land area of cities; in Los Angeles, the figure approaches two-thirds.

According to the Consumer's Guide to Effective Environmental Choices: Practical Advice from the Union of Concerned Scientists (Three Rivers Press, April 1999,, household uses of transportation, ranging from recreational boating to cars to passenger air travel, is responsible for 28 to 51 percent of air pollution and greenhouse gases and 23 percent of toxic water pollution. Our use of vehicles even poses a significant threat to wildlife through the fragmentation of habitat and use of land for roads and highways. "Urban sprawl" is development designed with cars in mind.

Speaking at UCSD in early July, Hal Harvey, Executive Director of The Energy Foundation, noted that, "The average car is only about 18 percent efficient. It's pathetic. It's an insult, not only to the environment, but also to human ingenuity. With a few intelligent things, we could come close to doubling the efficiency of existing motors. If you increase the efficiency of the whole package through other design changes to decrease drag and improve materials use, there's no reason we can't get further increases. Energy waste could be reduced by 80 percent in the transportation sector."

So, for those of us who are car-dependent, the biggest single thing we can do to reduce our contribution to air pollution, toxics pollution and global warming is to target and reduce our vehicle-related impacts. For many, this would mean replacing their second car with an electric or other alternative-fuel vehicle. Many can find ways to reduce trips altogether. (For more detailed info on the environmental and health impacts of cars and ratings, see Green Guide to Cars and Trucks published by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy,

I had already made a lot of progress on the trip reduction front. My husband and I both work at home and although we still own two vehicles, both are now driven less than 10,000 miles/year. So our next step was clear: get into an electric car.

Taking it to the streets

For the most part, the EV-1 looks like a lot like a regular car unless of course you pay attention to cars. To folks who care about cars, it's recognizable right away. For others, the only giveaway to it's special nature is the small and tasteful silver lettering on the back right-hand tail that says "ELECTRIC." The other major difference is it's low-profile teardrop design, where the top of the tear shape is at the tail (it's shaped kind of like a big bicycle helmet). For most people, it's too subtle to really stand out, but this is just one of many small differences that require getting used to. It's an odd combination of the familiar and the new. The first response from my husband was that it seemed a bit too "Buck Rogerish."

The owner's manual warns you about some of the important differences that you run into with an evolutionary design in a world full of habits in tune with older designs.

For example, it turns out that people have been trained to adjust their side mirrors by lining them up with the back corner of their cars, not by aligning them with the traffic lanes on either side. If you align the left and right side mirrors on a EV-1 with the back corners of the car, because of the car's extreme teardrop shape, you will not see oncoming cars in other lanes. As the car's manual so eloquently puts it, "You could hit another vehicle when changing lanes, and you or others could be injured."

Electric cars are also very quiet, so the EV-1 makes special sounds to let people know you are coming. In addition to a regular horn, it makes a "back-up noise" - like trucks do when they are backing up. When your punch into reverse, it bleats. There is also an intermediate chirping noise that you can make to get a pedestrian's attention when they don't hear you coming, in lieu of blasting them with the regular horn.

Completely computer-controlled, the EV-1 is also a different kind of car in another interesting way. It has a top speed of 80 m.p.h. Now, you don't really think about this initially because it's a strange concept when you're used to the freedom of being able to break the law at will. I didn't really "get it" until I tried it out. Turns out when you hit 80, it stops accelerating. That's it. No more juice can be applied. I can hear the libertarians screaming now. I would hasten to point out that this is not strictly a feature of electric cars. I was informed by a local expert that new truck engines on the market today can now be programmed with a top speed. My computer-engineering husband wryly observed that there will be a market for "fixer kits," allowing folks to reprogram around this little feature.

Deja new

You never really notice how trained you are by the specific design of the technology around you until it changes - and then watch out. More than once I caught myself pulling out my key ring to open or start the car - but this car is keyless. You punch in your security code, once to unlock it and again to start it. You don't have an ignition key. Like a big blender, you just push buttons to turn it on or off.

There were a dozen other subtle things to get used to, and not all the changes are related to its electric power source. Why would they design a car with no glove compartment? I felt they also "over-amped" on the use of electricity. I guess since its an electric car, they decided that everything merited the power treatment.

I didn't like the electrification of things I was used to doing manually, including the windows, locks and parking brake.

Just about everything that could be powered was. This could lead to some unpleasant side effects. When picking up the car, Andrew shared a "little tip" with me. Make sure to keep the "valet key" so you can get into the car if you run out of power. It turns out that if you run out of juice, you're out luck if you've forgotten your key. And you might not remember your key, because the car is "keyless." Okay I thought. Isn't new technology fun? The truth is, for most people evidently, it's not.

According to Andrew, my local sales rep, "Most people are afraid of new technology." Well, I thought, not me. I'm going to embrace it and cope with it and deal with it and master it. The EV-1 comes with 24-hour emergency service. So the worst thing that can happen is it costs you about an hour if you get stuck somewhere. And you do have to pay attention to not getting stuck somewhere. On the other hand, there is a kind of majestic freedom when cruising past gas stations. No more money to you! I'm going home to plug-in to geothermal power. Yikes! Could green cars be trip-inducing?


People pleasing


 Thinking Locally:
San Diego's Energy Profile

The San Diego region is heavily dependent upon a relatively small mix of resources, almost all of which are imported into the region. Refined petroleum and natural gas account for 75% of the supplies.

48% comes from California-refined oil

33% comes from Canadian/Rocky Mountain natural gas

10% come from uranium mined in the Southwest, used at San Onofre

6% is electricity imported across the grid from the southwest - most often hydropower

1% is electricity imported across the grid from California or the northwest - most often hydropower

1% is electricity imported across the grid from Mexico

1% is generated in the region from miscellaneous sources

The residential, commercial and industrial sectors consume about 40% of the region's energy and account for more than $1.5 billion in energy costs.

There is tremendous potential for improving energy efficiency in all sectors. Two-thirds of the region's annual energy consumption is lost through the distribution and conversion process. Almost $3 billion is spent annually toward only about $1 billion of productive end-use.

This equates to a weaker economy and degraded environment.

For more info see the San Diego Regional Energy Plan available at the Regional Energy Office website:


Thinking Nationally :
National Sources of Energy Consumed

53% from burning coal
18% nuclear fission
14% natural gas
10% hydroelectric
3% oil
2% renewables (wind*, geothermal, solar, biomass)

* Wind is the fastest growing segment of the energy market today and market prices are now competitive with coal and oil.

My very first trip in the car was to the recycling center at the Miramar Landfill. I had barely parked it when a guy driving a fork lift stopped traffic to ask me about it. A few minutes later, the weighmaster came over to peer inside. I was quickly learning the rap and what the most common questions are (see sidebar, page 3).

As I drove south on Convoy, I had the first of many driving encounters. This is where someone has noticed it's a electric car and they find a way to get your attention and ask about it.

This first encounter was with a group of guys in a late 70s van who can only be described as "rednecks." They drove up alongside me and the man on the passenger side - in a white t-shirts with a pack of cigarettes rolled up in the sleeve - asked me what kind of car it was. Was it really electric? We ran through the list of questions as we paralleled for two blocks. How does it run? How to you charge it? How much does it cost? "Cool" they said. They accelerated to pass me, belching clouds of filthy, black exhaust. Holy irony! I almost couldn't contain myself. Maybe there is hope.

Next were two teenage girls, looking barely sixteen. They honked and whistled off my right side. They were smiling and waving and giggling and shrieked at me, "Hey what a cool car! It's electric, right? Is it all electric?" "Yup." "Awesome! Does it run like a real car?" "Yup." "Cool, totally awesome. Right on!"

My two weeks was full of close encounters and test drives. The last one was a bit too close. One of the unrealized secrets of electric cars is their superior acceleration. An electric motor will toast a gasoline engine going from zero to 60. I discovered this little feature when I was able to easily beat out an SUV who attempted to cut me off while changing lanes. It's a waste of energy to lead-foot any car, but it's nice when you need it.

In two weeks of use, the only negative comment I got was the slightly wry observation about having scored "a $40,000 golf cart." I invited him to step up to the line and I would be happy to show him what my "golf cart" could do.

Car Tech

So the consensus about this car is that's it's cool. I've talked to more people about cars and global warming in the last few days than in the last six months! People want to do something and they love the concept of this car. The other fact about it is that it's not for everyone. Aside from the high price (leases are $395 to $495/month) and the waiting list, the driving range is limited. If you have more than a daily 40-mile commute, it probably wouldn't work for you (though employers are beginning to install chargers in their lots, which would effectively double the range).

This is a car with an "attitude." What I mean to say is that you need to have the right attitude to love it. But that being said, it doesn't take much. Like all new technology, there will be glitches and issues with things you wish they would have done differently. But as my husband pointed out, we swim in technology every day and have always worked with new computers, new software and been parts of teams working to improve the initial versions of new products. "Beta test" something? Not quite ready for prime time - let us see it. After a while, you develop both the coping and preventative skills to deal with the failures and discover fixes. You understand the role of pioneering and take it on. From this perspective, it's thrilling to drive this car. What could be a big pain in the patoot for many is simply what's needed to make progress so that someday it will reach the point of being a car for everyone.

One of the most amazing things about the EV-1 is that there isn't much to an electric car! I would guess the real parts costs are significantly below conventional vehicles: no exhaust system, no ignition, carburetor, transmission, etc. It's not much beyond a set of batteries and motor on a drive train with some amenities. And it drives great!

The EV-1 provides a little energy consumption consciousness raising as well. Driving in a regular car, you don't realize how insulated you are from the excesses of fuel consumption. The only feedback you have is an inaccurate gas gauge, estimating from full to empty. The EV-1, on the other hand, has instant and continuous feedback of how much energy you are using. Given that your total driving range may be only 40-50 miles, you find yourself paying close attention to the displays on the dash that tell you how much power you're using right now, and how many miles you can go before you need a recharge. It becomes a kind of interesting little game: how can I keep up with the traffic and use as little power as possible while traveling the most number of miles.

Another pleasing thing: when you're stopped in traffic, the display shows you how much energy you're using - zero, zip, none. An electric car doesn't "idle." Whenever you're just sitting, coasting on a level road or going downhill, your energy consumption is zero.

In fact, it even gets better than that. About the coolest thing about electric cars is your ability to recharge them when you drive. Whenever you use the brakes, the motor turns into a generator, slowing the car and putting energy back into the batteries. You don't recover all the energy from breaking, but it can be significant. We live at the top of a hill. If the battery capacity meter says 30 miles at the top of our hill, it might say 32 by the time we reach the bottom.

When you park it, you just plug it in. With the charger they install when you lease one, recharge time is less than one hour.


Thinking globally


In 1994, the United States emitted 5.32 tons of carbon dioxide per person into the atmosphere. With only 4 percent of the world's population, we alone account for a quarter of world carbon-dioxide emissions. Other developed countries, such as Japan and Germany, emit half as much carbon dioxide per capita as the United States. Developing countries contribute comparatively little to the problem. China emitted 0.7 tons per capita in 1994, and Bangladesh 0.04 tons per person.

The United States uses about 90 quadrillion BTU for 0.27 billion people. That's about 360 mmbtu/capita. In terms of gasoline equivalent, this is a bit less than 3,000 gallons a year each.

A gallon of gas weighs just over 6 pounds. When burned, the carbon in it combines with oxygen from the air to produce about 19 pounds of CO2. Counting the energy that went into making and distributing the fuel, the total global warming impact equals 30 pounds of CO2 emissions per gallon.

To truly address the climate crisis we need to embark now on large-scale energy efficiency and conservation programs. Ultimately, we need a global project to replace coal-burning power plants, oil-burning furnaces and gas-burning cars with low-carbon and renewable energy.

A meaningful regulatory response would remove barriers to free energy competition, especially protections for dirty, utility coal-burning plants. There are about 50-100 dirty plants in the United States that were built in the Eisenhower era. It is unconscionable that we are letting them continue to operate under pollution exemptions.

The United States spends $20 billion a year subsidizing fossil fuels; globally, the figure is about $300 billion. If those subsidies were diverted to renewable energy (with a portion set aside to retrain coal miners), it would create a big incentive for oil companies to develop solar, wind and hydrogen technologies and establish a progressively more stringent fossil fuel efficiency standard

It is surely a special strain of hubris to consider that individuals could really make an impact on global warming! Give me a break. We can barely explain the weather next week, much less impact changes in the global climate. I mean, global climate change is a natural phenomena, right? Scientists tell us that, in the past, the world has been much colder (ice ages) and a lot warmer (dinosaur world). And without some global warming (i.e., the greenhouse effect), there would be no life of earth, as least not as we know it.

The question at this moment in time is how the activities of humankind are contributing to the cycle and what kind of influence we really can have. Everyone agrees, at least, that the systems are complex, and just about all independent natural scientists agree that the earth is indeed warming. A key point here is that even if the changes are not significantly man-made, we had better figure out some kind of effective suite of responses. Even if it's natural, the impact of entering an era of warming will be immense.

The list of concerns now being noted include: melting glaciers/rising sea levels, warming seas, early spring, longer summers and worldwide coral bleaching. The list of consequential impacts is long. All of these also represent potential keystone changes for ecosystems. For instance, persistently warmer ocean waters devastate coral reefs and ice shelves that house species that include algae, plankton and crustaceans, cutting the food supply to larger animals, including whales, penguins and sea lions. If the seas continue to rise, Keys residents could be faced with elevating roads and further elevating homes - and deciding how to handle encroachments on coastlines at rates seldom seen before.

The New York Times reported in late June:

"In one study, Dr. Camille Parmesan, a biologist at the National Center for Ecological Analysis in Santa Barbara, Calif., and 12 colleagues analyzed distribution patterns of 35 species of European butterflies. They found that for two-thirds of the species, their range of habitat had shifted northward by 22 to 150 miles coincidentally with Europe's warming trend.

In another study, Humphrey Q. B. Crick of the British Trust for Ornithology and Timothy H. Sparks of the Institute of Terrestrial Ecology in Cambridgeshire, England, analyzed the nesting habits of 20 species of birds in Britain. They found that, again coincident with a recent warming trend, the birds were laying their eggs earlier in the spring.

This is the latest in a series of studies indicating that meteorological spring is coming earlier in the Northern Hemisphere. Some have also shown that fall is coming later.

A third study in Nature last month reported, on the basis of bubbles of atmospheric gas contained in ice cores extracted from the Antarctic ice sheet, that present-day atmospheric levels of heat-trapping carbon dioxide were higher than at any other time in the last 420,000 years. At 360 parts per million, they are 20 percent higher than in any previous warm period between ice ages, and double the typical concentrations during an ice age.

The United Nations scientific panel studying this issue has consistently said that if greenhouse gas emissions are not reduced, atmospheric concentrations will continue to rise and warm the earth further.

Atmospheric global warming may be new to the mass media (and thus to the general public), but the science and theory has a long history. Among the first references to carbon dioxide and atmosphere using a hothouse metaphor appeared in a French journal in 1827 in an article by physicist-mathematician Baron Jean-Baptiste Joseph Fourier. He maintained that the atmosphere acts like the glass of a greenhouse, letting through the "light" rays of the sun, but retaining the "dark" rays from the ground (Fourier, 1827). The claim was repeated in a book on the analytic theory of heat and led eventually to coining the name "greenhouse effect" as a metaphor for describing global warming.

One of the first contemporary scientists to study the impacts of man-made contributions to the carbon cycle was Dr. Roger Revelle, founder of the University of California at San Diego (UCSD), who observed in a paper in 1957, "Human beings are now carrying out a large-scale geophysical experiment of a kind that could not have happened in the past nor be reproduced in the future. Within a few centuries, we are returning to the air and oceans the concentrated organic carbon stored over hundreds of millions of years."

Dr. Mark Thiemens, the current Chair of the UCSD Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, noted this June that "I can sit here as someone who measures greenhouse gases and tell you that the smartest thing we can do is remove all man-made carbon dioxide. That would be nice. But is it economically feasible? Is it politically feasible? If a statement or an idea like that is going to be useful, you need to know what impact it is making and how it could be strategically incorporated."


Personal cooling


Ten Ways to help curb global warming

1. Reduce your home energy bill. You can save up to 40% by purchasing products that display the ENERGY STAR label.

2. Switch to "green power." With the deregulation of energy markets, several companies are offering options for green power where investments will be made in renewable energy sources.

3. Reduce, reuse, recycle. Buying products that feature reusable, recyclable and reduced packaging save the energy required to manufacture and consume new materials.

4. Buy or lease a fuel-smart car. Purchase the energy efficient vehicle and see if alternative fuel models fit your needs.

5. Reduce your driving. Consolidate trips. Telecommute, carpool, bicycle, walk and consider if public transportation is a viable alternative.

6. Home tune-up. Insulate using ENERGY STAR guidelines, caulk windows and doors and tune up your heaters and air-conditioners.

7. Plant trees appropriate to your area. Trees absorb carbon dioxide, reduce local "heat islands" and beautify any community.

8. Get involved at work. Your company can save money by investing in energy efficiency. With an average return-on-investment of 200%, many programs pay back in 6 months and become more profitable over time.

9. Encourage your city to do their parts. Cities can also change their power providers. With significant facilities, energy efficiency improvements save taxpayer dollars.

10. Educate others and endorse the Earth Day Clean Energy Agenda. Let friends and family know about the practical, energy-saving steps they can take to save money and help protect the environment.

For more info and tips visit

Which brings me to my little personal cooling project.

According to recent polls, "most Americans" support funding for renewable energy sources and efficiency measures. A large majority, 78 percent, want renewable sources to be mandated for electricity generation. Fifty-nine percent would support a surcharge on utility bills of less than three percent to fund various energy programs. Eight-three percent support tax incentives to spur the purchase of new homes that are at least 30 percent more energy efficient than the average new home, either strongly (51 percent) or at least somewhat (32 percent). An equal number of those polled believe tax incentives should be available to encourage the purchase of home heating and cooling systems that are at least 30 percent more energy-efficient than traditional equipment.

Under an international treaty forged in Kyoto, Japan, in 1997, the United States and other industrialized nations agreed to reducing their greenhouse-gas emissions by 6 percent no later than 2012.

Scientific research states unambiguously that to stabilize the climate requires cuts of 60 to 70 percent in emissions.

What is our federal government's response? Congress cut the renewable energy budget last month and a rider has recently been introduced to override President Clinton's recent executive order directing his own federal agencies to reduce their energy consumption by 35 percent from 1985 levels by 2010. Republicans, backed by the oil and coal industry, have blocked and ridiculed the basic premises of global warming. Some Democrats do as well.

So what if polls show people support mandates for good practices? It's simply not enough. Campaigns are only poll-driven to a certain extent. They first have to raise the money to pay for the polls. The Congress, and almost everyone else, is part of the fossil fuel civilization. When it comes to energy politics, the more things change, the more things stay the same. Entrenchment is almost always the response of the powerful and wealthy.

We are so addicted to fossil fuels and the political power they represent that no Congress can take action without a serious movement coming from the American people themselves. And it has to go beyond just polls and post cards.

What's the endgame for an age? For an oil company, it's making the transition to being an energy company. How we will get over our oil addiction and its lengthy hangover? At some point, the oil will run out and a transition will have to be made. The question becomes: is it difficult or easy, and on who and when?

Unfortunately, being a young country, part of our culture is a big commitment to drink until the keg is empty. Our cultural norm is still very much: full throttle ahead, hunt down and suck every last drop out of the earth - regardless of the consequences. Why? Because it's convenient to do so. It's the way we've always done things. It fulfills what each of us conceives of as part of our personal freedom. And while polls tell us that very high percentages of American support renewable energy, they also wisely support mandates because they know they never will be able to get it done without having someone else help enforce the discipline.

What will it take for real change? It's hokey, but it takes leadership. And this one's going to take more than individual action as well. It will require both personal and political changes.

Anyone who pays attention to politics for any length of time will appreciate the fact that politicians mostly do not lead, but follow their constituent pressures. If the people lead, the leaders will, eventually, have to follow. So, with this silly but historical little premise, I'm setting out to see what I can do. After all, as a wealthy first world consumer, there is no question that my actions are disproportionately contributing to global warming. So I'm going to see what I can do with the hope that, by confronting my own personal complicity in this process, I can inspire both myself and others. Movements begin with individuals and thousands of innovators and entrepreneurs experimenting and proving to others what can be done. Let it begin with me. I invite you and yours to join me.

  Carolyn Chase is Chair of the City of San Diego Waste Management Advisory Board, and a founder of San Diego Earth-Works and the Earth Day Network. She may be reached at .

Endorse the Earth Day Clean Energy Agenda


Earth Day 2000, observed in April, will be the largest global demonstration for a sustainable future ever. Groups in more than 150 countries are already planning to participate. You are invited to be a part of accelerating our change to a clean energy world. We can meet our energy needs without threatening our children's future.

The Earth Day Clean Energy Agenda outlines common-sense ways to mobilize American ingenuity and resources for a rapid transition to renewable energy sources. It will decrease energy waste, phase out fossil fuels and nuclear power, and help the United States lead the world into a sustainable energy future.

A rapid transition to energy efficiency and renewable energy sources will combat global warming, protect human health, create new jobs, and ensure a secure, affordable energy future. In contrast, our reliance on coal, oil, and nuclear power imperils the world's climate, fouls the environment, harms human health, and results in the proliferation of nuclear materials.

CLEAN POWER: In the next decade, increase four-fold the amount of energy obtained from non-hydro renewable sources such as the sun and wind. By 2020, produce at least one-third of the nation's energy from renewable sources, and double the efficiency of energy use in homes, buildings, transportation, and industry.

CLEAN AIR: Clean up our power plants by setting progressively tighter limits on all power plant pollution - including carbon dioxide, the major cause of global warming. Close the loophole that allows old coal-fired power plants to pollute much more than newer plants.

CLEAN CARS: Hold sport utility vehicles, pick-up trucks and mini-vans to the same air pollution standards as cars. Improve the fuel efficiency of new cars and light trucks to a combined average of 45 MPG by 2010 and significantly beyond that by 2020. Offer incentives that build strong markets for renewable fuels and for clean vehicles powered by hybrid motors and fuel cells.

CLEAN INVESTMENTS: Quadruple federal investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency within five years, and continue this momentum over the long term.

Stop spending taxpayer dollars to subsidize the coal, oil, and nuclear industries.

To endorse the Earth Day Clean Energy Agenda and help promote it in your area, send email to or visit