Exclusive: Sierra Club’s Director Talks About Green Cars

More than 60 communities around the country held events to celebrate the second annual National Plug In Day on Sunday, September 23.† The event, designed to stimulate interest in electric cars, was organized by the Electric Auto Association, Plug In America, andóperhaps surprising to some peopleóthe Sierra Club.† eBay Green Driving spoke with Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club, to find out why an organization dedicated to preserving natural places would want to support cutting-edge electric car technology.

Why is the Sierra Club promoting electric vehicles?

We have a deeply held philosophy at Sierra Club that you canít just criticize the things that are wrong with the world.† You have to offer real pragmatic solutions to some of the biggest problems that we face.† I think itís safe to say that most Americans believe we need to reduce our dependence on oil, if not get off oil entirely, because of its impact on public lands, the Arctic, the Gulf, foreign policy, and our economy.† Electric vehicles arenít the only solution to our oil problem, but itís in a handful of the best solutions.

We believe itís very important to electrify the transportation sector, or as much of it as we can, in order to help people get from place to place in a way that doesnít pollute nearly as much.

Critics say that electrics and other fuel-efficient cars are too expensive, and that consumer will not reap any savings at the pumps.

Itís factually untrue.† My family has been driving a hybrid for eight years now.† It did cost a little more than a conventional car when we bought it.† But we have more than made up for those costs, and have had significant net savings over the life of the vehicle.† And we expect to have it for a few more years.

Yes, itís fair to say that the purchase price of a plug-in hybrid or electric vehicle may be higher than that of a car that uses more gas, but itís also demonstrably true and thereís plenty of evidence that depending on how much you drive, and how much gas prices rise, that over four, five, six years, youíll see significant savings. Itís rare in life when you find one solution that works for multiple problems.† An electric vehicle or plug-in hybrid helps cut air pollution, helps stabilize greenhouse gas emissions, helps to cut costs, helps to revitalize the manufacturing sector in the U.S., and helps to reduce our dependence on oil.

So, unless you are a senior executive working at Exxon or Chevron, thereís not much to not like about cars that use a lot less gas.

Is the Sierra Club taking on the oil industry?

Yes, we are.† Itís even bigger.† As a country, weíll be stronger, healthier, and more resilient when we break our dependence on fossil fuels.†† When we do, and Iím confident that we can, weíll increase the quality of Americansí lives.† Weíll be able to put more people to work. Weíll make our air and water cleaner, and our climate and our economy more stable.† The only question is how quickly we can move beyond oil, and how we can we do it in a way that maintains our quality of life.† In addition to other transportation choices like biking, walking, and transit, we think that electric vehicles are one of the most effective ways to meet those objectives.

Is an electric vehicle in your future?

Definitely. Weíre maybe a couple years away from our next car.† We made a commitment that our next car will definitely take a plug.† I donít think weíll ever buy a car again that doesnít have a big battery.

Does holding on to a car longer, or buying used, make sense from an environmental perspective?

Thereís a fourth R that goes in there.† Reduce, reuse, repair, and recycle.† As a country, and as a species, weíre past the carrying capacity of our planet.† Weíre using more resources than can be sustained.† So, what we have to do for everything we consume is to find a way to repurpose and extend the life of lots of products.† And cars are no different.

Itís clear that Americansí usage patterns of cars are changing significantly. People are living closer to work.† People are engaging in car-sharing as well.† We think itís possible for someone to have a car for a much longer period of time, if they use it lessóbut also to be buying fewer new cars and extending the life of the existing fleet.

What role does public education play in making these positive changes regarding transportation?

Cars really didnít change that much for more than a half a century. Now, what weíre seeing is technology that will make things a little bit different.† As you go from a conventional car to a hybrid, the only real impact is that you use less gas and pay less money at the pump.† As you move from a hybrid to a plug-in hybrid, you have to make sure to plug in at night and that the car is fully charged. But you see even more savings in greenhouse gas emissions and fuel costs.† And once the leap is made to fully electric vehicles, then thereís another usage pattern altogether.

Sierra Club has more than a million members and supporters.† And a big part of our involvement in National Plug In Day, and other similar activities, is to help our members as they move toward hybrid or plug-in or electric vehicles, if they drive at all, to educate each other about the best ways to use the new technology.

For more information about electric cars and other fuel efficient alternatives, visit eBay’s Green Driving Center.


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Past Member 2 years ago

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Warren Webber
Warren Webber3 years ago

Live long and prosper

Robert German
Past Member 3 years ago

Whatever the discussion here is totally impressive.

Rob Walden K
Past Member 5 years ago

The Benefits of Biodiesel from Green America

THINK LOCAL Restaurant oil not agricultural sources biodiesel.
If you can go biodiesel and start a real revolution to sustainablilty.

Biodiesel reduces greenhouse gas emissions better than gasoline, ethanol, and conventional diesel, and can help shift your energy use to renewables.

Tim Zang of Kansas City, Missouri, bought a diesel Jeep Liberty last January. When he drove off the lot, instead of heading to a fuel pump, he headed straight home, where a 55-gallon drum of Missouri-grown, 100-percent soy-based biodiesel sat waiting for him in his garage.

“Every gallon of soy we use replaces a gallon of fossil fuel,” says Zang. “The money I spend on soy stays right here in Missouri, biodiesel is better for my engine and better for the environment, and if we as a society wake up to the benefits of biofuels, they can put a lot of people to work here in the US.”

After using fuel from the drum in his garage for several months (sometimes mixing it with conventional diesel, which is necessary to keep biodiesel at temperatures below freezing), the Kansas City fuel market caught up to Zang, and in April the first public biodiesel fueling station opened a few miles from his home.

Zang switched back to fueling up at a pump, and other Kansas City residents, pinched by ever increasing petroleum costs, started giving biodiesel a chance as well.

“Biodiesel was an easy choice for us,” says James

Debra Griffin
Missy G5 years ago


James Hager
James Hager5 years ago

good read, thanks!!!


Nicole Gorman
Nicole Gorman5 years ago

Interesting. Thanks!

John B.
John B5 years ago

Thanks for sharing Mr. Burne's thoughtful perspective .

Dave C.
David C5 years ago

like my hybrid(s)...but my wife's Volt is even better.....> 10000 miles, 25 gallons of gas, wind-power offsets.....saving carbon pollution, particle pollution, $$$$ and not supporting BIG POLLUTION and GREED Companies.....like those funding the GREEDY OIL POLLUTING party....