Beyond Oil

 That new age, which brings together proponents of reducing America’s dependence on foreign oil in transportation, cutting greenhouse gas emissions and helping the economy, will be the focus of the Cascadia Center of Discovery Institute’s "Beyond Oil" conference Oct. 23-24 on Microsoft’s campus in Redmond, Wash.

The annual conference has become a leading venue for the discussion of a changing transportation system that will, over time, become less reliant on oil as a fuel source. Cascadia Center’s director, Bruce Agnew, says technology and government initiatives have created an opportunity to accelerate and integrate flexible fuel, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs). The Seattle-based center has long argued that one of the best ways to reduce reliance on foreign oil and cut greenhouse gas emissions is through the widespread integration of PHEVs.

"The Northwest will soon see a growing number of plug-in cars and public charging stations to power them. Many automakers have committed to producing plug-in vehicles," says Agnew. "Technology and policy initiatives have caught up to each other, and that’s why a key focus this year is to discuss the new administration’s initiatives and the steps the Northwest is taking to set a foundation for the electrification of transportation."

The region, Agnew says, has received "competitive federal grant awards that will help establish the charging and information infrastructure for plug-in cars." The U.S. Department of Energy awarded the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency’s Clean Cities Coalition program $15 million for alternative fuel and vehicle projects, which will result in new fueling and electric charging stations and put at least 650 alternative fuel and advanced technology vehicles onto the region’s roads. The Northwest will also benefit from a $100 million grant that Nissan and eTec received, with help from Idaho National Laboratory, to install charging stations for owners of the all-electric Nissan Leaf.

Some of the world’s most advanced electric vehicles, including the Tesla Roadster and the all-electric Ford Focus will be on display at the conference. Microsoft, Clean Cities, Idaho National Laboratory, Ford and the University of Washington are all "Beyond Oil" co-sponsors.