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Kulongoski "Plugs In" To Transportation Solutions

By: Tyler Graf
Daily Journal Of Commerce
July 31, 2008

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The transportation world is changing, Gov. Ted Kulongoski told transportation and sustainability leaders gathered in Portland Wednesday. And Oregon needs to change as well in order to become a national leader in energy efficient transportation.

In his speech to attendees of the first day of the two-day “Transportation at a Crossroads” conference at Portland State University, Kulongoski outlined his long-in-the-works transportation and sustainability initiatives, including his proposal to convert 10 state-owned Toyota Priuses into more fuel efficient “plug-in” hybrids, using state-of-the-art batteries.

Kulongoski didn’t stop there, however. He also advocated phasing out the state’s subsidies on biofuels and shifting those tax credits toward the emerging plug-in hybrids, such as those soon to be manufactured by Toyota.

Currently, most plug-in hybrids are converted biofuel hybrids outfitted with large battery packs in which electricity is stored. Toyota, Honda, Ford and General Motors are among the car manufacturers working on their own plug-in hybrids.

“This will not be easy, and it definitely will not be cost-free,” Kulongoski said, adding that in addition to promoting alternative fuels, Oregon must enact measures - such as supporting public transportation and bike routes - to lower the number of automobile miles Oregonians travel.

Peggy Fowler, CEO of Portland General Electric, said that if 10 percent of the city’s cars were converted to high-efficiency hybrids, the electricity generated by the cars’ batteries and sent back to the electricity grid would be enough to power 75,000 homes.

“Walking here, I was (already) surprised by how many Priuses I saw,” Fowler said.

Last week, during a tour of the Fubonn Shopping Center on Southeast 82nd Avenue, Kulongoski suggested that state and local transportation agencies should improve how they work together in order to repair the state’s backlog of road maintenance projects. More specific measures, however, still need to be fleshed out and will have to wait until next year’s legislative session, Kulongoski said.

“To build a sustainable future, we need more than luck,” the governor added. “We need to be prepared, and we need to be good.”

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