Editorial: My $32,000 Electric Car Lunch with President Obama

By · May 31, 2013

Paul Scott and Nissan LEAF

If you had something important to say to the President, how much would you spend to get his ear? On June 7, I'll be eating lunch with President Obama for $32,400. Two dozen other high-dollar donors will be there, but I'll be the only one in the room who does his own laundry. I'm not wealthy—I'm spending a large percentage of my retirement savings, at age 60, to sit at the table.

Why? Because it's a deeply troubling time in our country and in our world. Whether you choose to believe it or not, climate change is a greater threat to life on Earth than at any time in modern history. Our economic recovery remains shaky, at best, and millions remain unemployed. Say what you will about dubious fracking practices that may result in more U.S. oil exports, we'll be treacherously dependent upon hostile nations for much of our petroleum for a long, long time.

But I, and thousands of other Americans, have been practicing solutions to these seemingly intractable problems by driving electric vehicles on renewable energy. I want to tell Obama about the economic benefits of this transition away from oil during his visit to Santa Monica to raise money for the Democratic Party.

As we all know, money drives the political game. Those with a lot of money are given access to politicians, Democrats and Republicans alike, and those of modest means are only heard at the ballot box. Adding to the problem is the use of vast sums of money spent to pollute the democratic process with massive slur campaigns filled with misinformation and outright lies. The truth rarely gets heard.

What I want Obama to hear is that for over a decade, I've been driving a zero-emission electric car powered by sunlight—it runs on solar electricity generated by the solar panels I purchased over 10 years ago. This is, in fact, the reason I can afford to speak to the President. By powering my home and car with clean energy, I'm no longer forking over thousands to the oil, coal and natural gas companies. I recently calculated how much I've saved by paying a small utility bill, only, for these basic needs since 2002: roughly $16,000. This is about half what it is costing me to meet with Obama.

It begs the question: what would our planet and political process look like if millions of Americans stopped giving hundreds of billions to polluting industries and spent their savings instead on locally-generated, renewable electricity and local goods and services. It's reasonable to assume that the inexorable march toward climate calamity would slow and that millions of jobs would be generated. And, if people contributed even a small portion of this savings to causes they believed in—school fundraisers, healthcare for a relative, animal rescue, and especially political causes--the playing field would begin to level.

They tell me I'll have two-to-three minutes with the President. I will represent the average American who wants a clean environment, a fair political process and a livable society. Switching from oil to renewable electricity will clean the air, diminish the power of the fossil fuel industry, and strengthen the economic vitality of our communities by stopping the flow of $700 billion spent on oil every year, much of it leaving the country. We must redirect that wealth toward making life better for everyone. It can be done. This is what I will tell Barack Obama.

Paul Scott is a co-founder of Plug In America, the nation's leading nonprofit voice for consumer adoption of electric vehicles. He sells electric cars and solar power for a living.


· · 5 years ago

I would also remind him that changing the federal tax credit to a point of sale discount would be very helpful. And that in a few years, the discount won't even be needed anymore. Good luck Paul.

· · 5 years ago

Tom, you nailed it. That is one of three asks I'll be making. I'll tell him that his desire to up the $7,500 tax credit to $10,000 is great, but he can negotiate the increase, but keep the rebate part. I can sell a lot more EVs with the $7,500 as a point of sale rebate. It's a big deal.

I'll also be asking for funding for Plug In America. Fox News is a huge megaphone for the right and they are hammering us on EVs. We need a bigger megaphone. Plug In America has a fantastic knowledge base, but we lack the funding to use it properly.

· · 5 years ago

If the country wants to dramatically increase EV numbers, some kind of rebate should be offered for EV conversion. The amount doesn't have to be $7500. It can be say 50% of the total conversion cost.

Apart from increasing EV numbers on the road, this will be a huge job boost for many blue collar workers.

· · 5 years ago

Even if the $7500 credit was refundable, or carried forward, that would be better than the way it's set up now. I don't earn nearly enough to take advantage of the entire $7500 - why should someone else get that much more tax credit, simply because they make more money than I do?

· · 5 years ago


I envy you and good luck to you !!

I think by taking a very small cost-neutral step like the one described below federal govt can encourage adaptation to renewal energy sources like solar panels


(Essentially what is ; an easy recoup-able loan program by the fed govt whereas the loan is given to the panel installer on behalf of the home owner and is recouped in installments by adding to tax liability of home owner over next 5-10 years)

If i had a chance i would discuss example of concreted proposals like this one :)

Give Obama a solution or approach as well than just telling him about the problem.

· · 5 years ago

@Paul Scott

Oh man Paul, you're a smart guy, but Obama won't listen to you. He only listens to the wall street bankers who are his real bosses.

I wish people would donate to you, so as to not spend a substantial chunk of your own money for (sorry to say this) a wasted cause. Obama's actions are already predetermined for him by others. Same as that Idiot Bush we had before him.

If its not too late I'd save your money... You may need it shortly for other reasons. Incidentally I did go over to the surgeon's house and we've become friends.

What was the other reason Roadster owners gave you for not charging all the time?

· · 5 years ago

Good for you, Paul. Although I'm guessing he'll also hearing it from other concerns, please squeeze in - if you can - a request to President Obama to not complete the Keystone XL pipeline. It's not a path to energy independence but, rather, only a perpetuation of today's energy and environmental problems.

· · 5 years ago

Way to go Paul. I hope you are heard.

· · 5 years ago

Obama will not complete Keystone, seeing as Warren Buffet owns Burlington Northern. He wants it tankered on the railroad, not put through a pipe.

· · 5 years ago

Paul, that is awesome. My company is doing just what you have been doing - we add solar power to homes, and have partnered with Nissan to promote the Leaf. Solar + Leaf eliminates 2 bills (gasoline & electricity), and we can reduce the amount of money we send to countries that want to see our end. Hopefully Obama won't just shine you on...

· · 5 years ago


I've been trying to spread the idea that we do have funding available for wide scale EV deployment. In 1975 our country spent $23 billion to create the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. In today's dollars that equates to $100 billion. Why not methodically draw down the SPR in order to fund the deployment of evs and natural gas trucks. Rather than continue a subsidy that artificially manipulates market pricing (SPR) to keep us on oil, why not methodically transition the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to a diversified Energy Reserve. If we have $63 billion in oil reserves, why not draw down $10 billion over five years and see how adding 1,000,000 EVs would affect the market price of oil, market price of EVs, battery development. Of course, it might be smarter to have it called the George Schultz plan or Elon Musk plan, or the exploit natural gas plan, anything but Obama. As a Republican it embarrasses me that EVs have become political but such is life.

· · 5 years ago

All the best Paul. Please let him know that the economics also makes sense now. We are living in an energy surplus home with 2 EVs for almost two years now. It is not that expensive or difficult to do. We can cut fossil fuel consumption by almost 80% now. We do not need any new technologies - all we need is some resolve.

· · 5 years ago

Hats off to you and anyone who stands for the good in such a strong way.
I have to admitt that I am skeptical because the western economy is driven by consumption-disposal. I have seen correlation between GDP of USA and volume of trash.
In my thoughts towards sustainable policy, I always endup to a conclusion that crediting EV's, solar etc. (incentives in general) is only one side of the coin. The other side is taxing the non-sustainable behaviors (disincentives), so we should be taxing oil products but also coal and natural gas.
Perhaps the best measure would be implementation of tax for releasing CO2. Each product that is meant to release carbon dioxide upon consumption should have tax added (at point of manufacturing, not point of sale) proportional to the amount of carbon in it. Those who recycle plastics and everything that would be otherwise burnt, should receive carbon credit. It also implies that all imports will be taxed and to be fair, exports should have the tax refunded.

· · 5 years ago

The interesting thing to me is that at some point, greater efficiency pays off in dollar terms, not just "green"-ness or feel-good or whatever it is that certain unnamed groups are against because other groups seem to be for.

This is really super-obvious when, for instance, you go to buy an air conditioner and one uses half the electricity of the other to achieve the same result. Even at just $.10/kWh, you save $100 every time you use 1000 kWh instead of 2000 kWh. If the twice-as-efficient one costs $100 more, but you make back the $100 in two years and the unit works for ten years, you come out way ahead.

This point is almost here for many EVs and drivers and definitely here for some. It's almost here for many with rooftop PV, and definitely here for some. (I put in rooftop PV but may well fall into the former category—"almost" here, i.e., I jumped the gun—since each kWh here is so cheap, relatively speaking. It's hard to be sure since prices are rising at an unpredictable rate. It's currently $.10/kWh; it was $.08/kWh a few years ago; and there are increases in the pipeline but nothing is really firm yet. If we go "multi-tiered" and have high marginal rates in the summer, which seems likely, I'll end up ahead after all.)

Similar arguments apply to light bulbs, refrigerators, washer-and-dryers, water heaters, and so on. But some people refuse to pay more up front in order to save money over the device's lifespan. I find this fascinating.

· · 5 years ago

If Only I could do the same. I'd reiterate our need to work on a plug-in future, and on a personal note, I'd ask him to unite our family: My wife is American but I can't move to the US because our marriage is not recognised Federally :(

· · 5 years ago

Paul, you have "bigger ones" than me, that's for sure. The chances of him actually remembering the minutia of your niche issues is small, when considering that everybody who hands him money expects to have his ear for their special interest.

Therefore, I suggest keeping you points to NO MORE than three, and highlighting those points on a business card. Just, 1, 2, 3, with simple, no acronyms, plain words (like you're talking to a third grader); assume neither he nor the staffer he will likely hand the card to really know anything about your issues.

I almost met Mr. Obama when he was a senator. I was doing some lobbying in the various Senate and House offices, and Mr. Obama was coming to speak to our group at the Hyatt, across the street from the Capital building. I listened to Hillary Clinton, shook hands with John Kerry, watched Ted Kennedy mumble his way through a well worn speech, and there were others. Neil Abercrombie was awesome!

But, I decided to knock on a few more congressional doors when the "no name" Mr. Obama came to speak. He went down the escalator as I went up. I heard later he gave a great speech, and he was an "up and comer". Ya, sure he was, I though, just like everybody is in that town.

Anyway, good luck. Getting that kind of access takes money, and apparently you're willing to make it happen. Best wishes, Tony

· · 5 years ago

There is nothing wrong with using as much energy as you want so long as it is generated in a clean way. It doesn't have to be local either. Efficiency is an important goal for a variety of reasons, but it should be secondary to generating clean energy.

· · 5 years ago

Paul -- Thanks for the worthy effort! I do agree with others that the message has to stay simple. When people look back at Obama's legacy as President, we will ask, "Did this administration rally Americans and join other nations in getting off fossil fuels ASAP?"

What will it take for him to hear and understand, realize that an energy policy of "all of the above" is a recipe for disaster, and see climate change as a problem for us, not for our grandchildren? What will it take for him to start talking about how we can save ourselve sand improve our lives with renewable energy? I would use your story of solar-fueled EVs as an inspiration and rallying point within this bigger picture.

A stunning indicator of how blind the administration has been: a recent White House briefing brought the shattering news we could lose ALL our winter Arctic ice within a few years. Can you guess what they talked about? Exciting opportunities to extract more fossil fuels and benefit from shorter trade routes. Plus worries about territorial jurisdictions and military implications. Nothing about the impact on the permafrost, global weather patterns, or the possible loss of entire agricultural economies.

Many key people on Obama's team -- Kerry at State, McCarthy at EPA, Jewell at Interior, and Chief of Staff McDonough -- really understand the crisis we face and want to address it. (Moniz at Energy is a question mark; he has leaned toward natural gas.) Can Obama understand it's time to be courageous, to tell the truth about our challenge, and allow his team to base their actions and decisions on science, not politics?

Good luck in trying to break through!

· · 5 years ago

try putting your three bullet points on a 3x5 card you can hand him to keep.

Heres' the 3 bullet points i'd suggest

1) Convert EV Credit to POS discount and expand to 10K or another 5 years.

2) Continue 30% Federal tax credit to Solar and make POS Discount for another 4 years.

3) $2K Credit for L2 chargers and conctinue for another 5 years.

If people have an incentive to put in solar based chargers we will see a lot of 2 KW installations

· · 5 years ago

don't ask Obama for money, everyone asks him for money.

if you want to leverage Plugincars.com, try a kickstarter.

get 80K from enthusiasts, and build up

· · 5 years ago

I appreciate his enthusiasm but the incentives for EV and PV are already pretty good.
1) The $7500 tax-credit for full-speed EVs
2) The ZEV rules pushing car makers to make EVs.
3) The 30% federal tax-credit for PV installations.

At this point, pushing for more generous incentives is probably just asking for a back-lash. And some of these suggestions like making the federal tax-credit at the day of sale is tough because what if they don't fully qualify for the tax-credit at the time of sale? Some small tweaks are possible . . . raise the PV credit to 35%. Extend the $7500 tax-credit beyond the first 200K vehicles. Give employers a big incentive to install chargers . . . I think that would help a lot of people . . . especially if they can charge for 'free' at work.

· · 5 years ago

Excellent website Mr Scott, for my part we have built a 23 kw solar farm giving us net zero and net zero fuel bill for our two Leaf's. for our second home we built an array 10 kw in size achieving net zero in Florida as well. This great effort is the way to show by example an alternative to the oil war industry.
Oil equals war, and enslavement of our political system to the oilagarchs. It destroys not just the environment but the spirit of humanity.

· · 5 years ago

Sadly, Zhukhov, Mr. Scott won't be meeting with the president after all. See this update from this morning . . .


· · 2 years ago

Whoa! Precisely what a close look opener this specific article have been to me. A lot loved, added, My spouse and i can’t loose time waiting for additional!
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