Alternative Energy Tech for Transportation “Skunk Works” / Could the USPS lead the charge?
I was listening to NPR on the way home today from work and there was an interesting segment, talking about how the good old United States Postal Service has a division dedicated to finding ways to be more fuel efficient. This makes sense once you think about it. The USPS operates the largest fleet of vehicles and with rising gas prices, they have by far the biggest incentive to find alternatives to gasoline. They have several labs looking into propane, natural gas, biodiesel, electric, etc. for their automotive fleet. This is very cool and made me very excited to hear it. I was very pleased to hear this about this proactive development.
I am wondering if there is a way to convince our government to take this to the next level. To get an organization like the Department of Energy to come up with a “Skunk Works” program with a mandate to replace all of the fleets of the US governments vehicles with fuel efficient alternative energy ones. If there was a mandate like this, then you would see all kinds of investment money from private sector and the government flow into all kinds of alternative energy investments: Companies like SATC to make electric motors more efficient, Algae biodiesel firms (all of which are private right now) to start increasing output / closing on viable processes through research through large cash infusions, Thin Film solar panel manufacturers like Nanosolar or FSLR. And could you imagine what this would do for GM? If they had a large customer already waiting for a fleet of cars derived of the Chevy Volt concept?
Not only will there be stock plays like these, but biodiesel distribution stations would have to be set up to supply the governments fleet of vehicles, this would in turn be the entry point for the rest of the economy.
This is where the government can do the most good with the economy, come up with a wide-reaching mandate that stimulates a large part of the economy. Much like when NASA was formed, not only did it stimulate the aerospace industry specifically, but materials science exploded, funding into computers increased significantly, etc. And all new industries were formed as a spin-off of a very important government mandate.
I hope we can get a wide reaching government alternative-energy for transportation mandate going. Something like the Pickens Plan is very good for baseload power, and he does talk about Natural Gas for cars. But that is ultimately a band-aid. Biodiesel from algae and electric cars / hybrids that can use power generated from thin-film solar is the next leap that needs to happen that will make a huge difference for the environment, global warming, and energy independence.
Any thoughts on how to lobby congress to put this into action? Has anybody heard about initiatives like this that are happening, either in the US or elsewhere? (For example, Brazil uses a huge amount of its sugar cane for ethanol production).