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.

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