February 19, 2013 - From the January/February, 2013 issue

CALSTART’s 20th Anniversary Testimonials - How Time Flies!

CALSTART is an organization of over 140 firms, fleets, and agencies that has promoted electric vehicles and energy-efficient transportation since 1992 through technology commercialization, consulting, industry services and policy-making. Members gathered in Downtown LA in December to celebrate CALSTART’s 20th Anniversary and honor four recipients of the organization’s Blue Sky Award. MIR is pleased to share the acceptance speeches of US Senator Barbara Boxer, Former Congressman Jerry Lewis, and first Co-Chairs of CALSTART Lon Bell, Amerigon founder and retired president, and Michael Peevey, former president of SCE and current president of the CPUC.


Barbara Boxer

“I am motivated by a deep biting fear that our climate is significantly changing due to CO2, and we’re going to have to decarbonize transportation, and decarbonize generation of electricity if we’re going to do anything to keep this planet inhabitable over the next forty to fifty years” -Mike Peevey

Senator Barbara Boxer: I am so honored to receive CALSTART’s Blue Sky Legacy Award. 

Thank you so much. 

I want congratulate CALSTART on twenty years of dedicated service in promoting clean energy vehicles. Because of what you’ve done, we’ve seen exciting innovations from hybrid and electric cars to cleaner bus and truck fleets. And thank you so much for your work with the president. Recently we saw historic fuel economy standards put into place. These standards will significantly reduce harmful carbon pollution that contributes so significantly to climate change, while saving consumers $1.7 trillion in fuel costs over the lifetime of these vehicles. 

By using clean energy technologies in our cars and trucks, we reduce our dependence on foreign oil, we make our nation more secure, we make our air cleaner to breath, we create jobs right here in America—it is such a win-win-win. As Chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee I will continue to promote and protect our clean air policies, such as reducing carbon pollution while investing in our transportation systems. Our transportation bill that President Obama signed into law, MAP-21, or Moving Ahead for Progress in the Twenty-First Century, supports projects that reduce traffic congestion and improve air quality. Your organization is a great example of why California is the hub of clean energy technologies, so congratulations on that. Thank you for the award, and have a wonderful event! 

Congressman Jerry Lewis: I’m honored to be included in CALSTART’s 20th Anniversary Celebration, and I’m particularly honored to receive the Blue Sky Legacy Award.

I’ve been honored to partner with CALSTART as they work to address the transportation challenges facing the Inland Empire and surrounding areas. Furthering the growth of clean transportation technologies, reducing traffic congestion, and improving goods movement have long been priorities that we share. 

CALSTART has long engaged with elected officials regardless of party affiliation. This approach is a great reminder that the overwhelming majority of the work that we do, especially in the transportation arena, has absolutely nothing to do with partisan politics. 

Many challenges lie ahead; demand for highway travel by Americans continues to grow as populations increase, particularly in our metropolitan areas. Construction of new highways and adding capacity to accommodate this growth in travel has not kept pace with our needs. Improving goods movement remains a formidable task. Yet I know that those of you at CALSTART will continue as champions for the region. 

As I look forward to retirement from public office, I wish all of you nothing but the best in the years ahead. Thank you all.

Lon Bell: This is obviously quite an event, and I’d just like to spend just a couple of minutes talking about CALSTART’s first twenty years and then a little about going forward. 

CALSTART began with Mike Peevey, Howard Berman, and myself to look at and understand a massive change that needed to occur in our transportation system. We knew about the environment; we knew about the downturn in aerospace; we knew about the need for job creation; and everyday we saw signs that change had to occur. 

Change did start to occur, and what we wanted to do was to accelerate that trend and to participate in it. We had the resident technologies right here, and certainly throughout the United States we knew that could enable this change. Those technologies were not being utilized in a way that could make them most productive. They were in aerospace, in fields foreign to the vehicle and transportation industry. Could we develop a way to take those technologies and use them for our benefit and for the benefit of society? 

We recognized the need, then we raised awareness and made arguments for acceptance of our ideas. We went to industry. We built a showcase car, for example, which had products from over twenty different automotive companies and other companies, to demonstrate that the technologies were there and could be put together to such devices. We went to the federal government, as had been described eloquently by our Senator and our Congressman, and we went to the state government where we saw great acceptance as well. So we mobilized those resources in a way that brought the stakeholders together. Then we started to take action -  John Boesel, CALSTART’s current President and CEO, very nicely presented the actions that we have taken. You can see by us all being here, and you can see by what has been accomplished, that actions indeed have been taken and that they were worth taking and are worth pursuing in the future. 

So as we look at the next twenty years, how might this evolve? And what should our role be? First of all, there is a continuing shift; we’re seeing it. I think that’s broadly recognized now, though it wasn’t at first. We should participate in that shift, and we should benefit from that shift. 

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One of the things is to broaden our actions, to accelerate our actions, as John has stated. As we go forward, that is speeded up for all of our benefits. We also have to learn from other shifts. We saw a shift in television manufacturing; we saw a shift in facsimile transmission manufacturing; we saw a shift in electronic components manufacturing. All of those were away from America, in other regions of the world. Some of that may be natural, but this is too much. So as we look at those shifts, we have to learn from them. 

If you use the same process, you get the same result. What process can we use to make us more involved in and permanently participate in the benefits? That’s a major role for CALSTART, and it should be a major role for organizations throughout the United States. I think we’ll see more of that, but we have to look at that and really take that to heart and really facilitate that process. That process is going on in terms of investment, in terms of our government’s actions, in terms of our industrial policies, in terms of our state government’s actions, and in terms of what foundations do. Because of the arguments that John and the team at CALSTART make, we’re involved in that, and we’re changing the direction that is taking. I think we can take some credit in the past twenty years for the evolution of some of these changes—some of the policy changes, some of the industrial actions, some of the foundation actions. And if we can continue that and speed it, then it will benefit us all tremendously. 

Just as a last remark on this subject, one of the things that we have to learn is how to control and maintain ownership in the technologies. We develop a technology, and others have tended to commercialize it. We have invested through department of defense, transportation, energy, in many new pioneering technologies—we invented them, we paid for them, and then they are manufactured away from us, and we buy them. We have to learn and develop our policies and develop our awareness that we must maintain and control these technologies for our long-term benefit so that we reap the economic rewards from the investment and pioneering work. This is, I think, one of the challenges that we all face and certainly something that we can do through CalStart and other organizations. 

So, I thank you all for coming, and especially for the efforts of John and the CalStart team who have just been magnificent at doing what we all need. Thank you. 

Mike Peevey (President, CPUC): Well thank you very much. I have to say, it’s been twenty plus years since I first became interested in electric vehicles. My interest began when I was at Southern California Edison before I became its president. I was Executive VP, and in the late 80s, I went to the then chairman of the company, Howard Allen, kind of an irascible guy, and I said, “I’m really interested in EVs, we ought to foster and promote them,” and he said, “Mike that’s a waste of time. We’ve tried that twice already at Edison and it never goes anywhere, forget the electric vehicle. Do something else, you’re going to be president, find other things to do.” So I said, “Ok Howard, I’ll find something else to do.” 

But then shortly after I became president, a person in this room, Richard Mullen sitting over there, and a fellow named Chuck Winter said, “Mike, you’ve got to met Lon Bell, this guy’s extremely creative and innovative, he’s made a lot of money with his own company and now he’s starting this other effort, and you guys ought to get together.” So Lon and I met, we became friends, and out of that really, truly flowed CALSTART. 

Lon has been the brains, the visionary of CALSTART; I guess you would say that I provided some of the muscle. Being a president of a big utility company, you’re able to engender resources and reach out and all that. And that’s the road we started down. Lon and myself, a few others back at that time, President of the Public Utilities Commission, Dan Fessler, and David Freeman was head of SMUD at the time, and we were going to promote electric vehicles and we were really excited about it.

 Lon, I recall, built a prototype car that went with him to Geneva Auto Show and all that; but we also went to Detroit, and we said to GM and Chrysler and Ford, “This is the future and blablabla.” I have to say, it fell on somewhat deaf ears; is that right Lon? Pretty deaf ears. Although, GM did send their president out to look at CALSTART, just to check out, to make sure we weren’t some nefarious threat that was all of a sudden going to spring on the scene. And if you went to that old building that we were in, it’s all torn down now, I don’t know who’s there, you’d have taken one look at that and said, “Well, they’re not going to go very far.” But we did! 

And twenty years later, here it is, and it’s going great guns. Long out of that facility and on to other things, and really due to John Boesel and his predecessor Mike Gage, who was the first executive officer, it’s really done marvelous things. 

But I just want to leave you today with one overriding thought here about why we are doing all these things. I was out in Ventura this morning giving a breakfast speech at CSU Channel Islands—it’s always great to be up at 8 in the morning—but I spoke about climate change. 

Hardly a soul has got up here today and spoken about climate change, but for so much of what we’re doing, that is the motivator. That is the motivator for me, in continuing to be involved in an aggressive pursuit of energy policies for California; and, I would say, for this nation. 

And even broader than that, I am motivated by a deep biting fear that  our climate is significantly changing due to CO2, and we’re going to have to decarbonize transportation, and decarbonize generation of electricity if we’re going to do anything to keep this planet inhabitable over the next forty to fifty years. We’re already on a trajectory where two degrees increase in Celsius is guaranteed, just about, it’s going to happen, and that’s close to four degrees Fahrenheit, and you’ve got sea level rise, all these things. 

We have to pursue with even greater vigor and commitment the kind of programs that CALSTART and others, including the State Legislator, have engendered, things like AB32 or Global Warming Solutions Act and so forth, continue down that path with even more energy than we have in the past, and entities like CALSTART are absolutely critical in achieving that. So again, thank you all very, very much for the award, I deeply appreciate it, and John, I hope you have another great twenty years, good luck to you. 

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