The Sierra Club, the largest and one of the most influential environmental organizations in the United States, today launched its Go Electric campaign to promote switching from gasoline to electric vehicles (EVs). This may be the biggest commitment to plug-in vehicles any environmental organization has shown so far. The World Wildlife Fund produced a very pro-EV analysis in 2008 called ” Plugged In: The End of the Oil Age.” The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) teamed with the Electric Power Research Institute in an impressive 2007 Environmental Assessment of Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles. The Rainforest Action Network (RAN) and its Jumpstart Ford campaign had played a crucial role in helping to save Ford Th!nks and Ford Ranger EVs from destruction. The Sierra Club’s camnpaign will build on this history to help shift local, state and federal U.S. policies toward electrification of transportation.
A mere 5 or 6 years ago, however, I was outside a national Sierra Club conference in San Francisco with other plug-in vehicle supporters protesting the Sierra Club’s exclusion of plug-in vehicles in its “green vehicles” showcase for members and the media. That’s me with the bullhorn and the bad haircut in the photo. At the time, all the major environmental organizations — the Sierra Club, NRDC and the Union of Concerned Scientists — were being very wishy washy and occasionally downright obstructionist to efforts to save the existing EVs that were being crushed by automakers. The big enviros limited their focus mainly to gasoline-dependent hybrids.
Bullhorns don’t easily win allies, thoough. Luckily, I got a key piece of advice from Jennifer Krill, who was then a RAN staffer (now executive director of Earthworks). Sierra Club is a membership organization, she said. If you want to change it, get involved. So I did, and found great enthusiasm for plug-in vehicles in the California-Nevada Sierra Club Regional Conservation Committee’s Climate and Energy Subcommittee. California members of Sierra Club have been pushing internally for more than a half-decade to get the national Club on board with plug-in vehicles. Last year, national Sierra Club hired a new executive director, and picked Michael Brune, former executive director of RAN and a solid plug-in vehicle advocate.
That’s often how change works. People get involved. They work together and work through their differences with potential allies. It’s not glamorous, and it’s sometimes tedious, but we end up with a stronger joint effort and a common strategy for change. I want to take this moment to salute all the Sierra Club members who have worked for so many years to steer this fine organization into the fast lane of plug-in advocacy. And I want to thank the Sierra Club for launching Go Electric.
If you haven’t already, check out the Go Electric website and sign the petition to President Obama. If they get 50,000 signatures, they’ll deliver it to him in an electric car.
— Sherry Boschert