The governors of Washington, California and Idaho are taking a bold stride to begin to ween ourselves from the current gasoline infrastructure according to a recent Seattle Times article. A proposed plan along the 1,382 miles of the west coast I-5 corridor would create a “green freeway” utilizing rest stops as refueling stations for alternative fuel vehicles. These refueling stations could provide electric charging stations, battery swaps, bio diesel, ethanol, hydrogen and compressed natural gas. The plan includes incentives to assist businesses operating these stations, including deferred rent until a profit is achieved.
West Coast leaders are recognizing the opportunity to capitalize on the national push for green jobs and alternative energy. This plan will put them in position for a portion of the $15 billion in federal stimulus dollars allotted to alternative energy development. All three states are working together to make this plan a reality. Washington State is ready to start implementing the plan as soon as this summer, with additional plans to build refueling stations at Park and Ride locations.
As expected there are already companies jockeying for potentially lucrative contracts to install these refueling stations in major cities and rest stops. One of these is Better Place, led by Shai Agassi a former Silicon Valley software exec. His company has already built automated electric car charging and battery swap stations in Israel and is expanding to the SF Bay Area, Hawaii, Canada, Japan, and Australia. Washington’s Governor Christine Gregoire has already met with the innovative business owner to discuss the plan. As of yet no contracts have been awarded.
This idea is causing a ruckus with interest groups like the National Association of Truck Stop Operators that claim state approved rest station fueling facilities would compete with truck stops, gas stations, hotels and restaurants. This claim seems outlandish considering that the people in need of the alternative refueling stations have little or no options currently. Due to the lack of private investment in the alternative fuel sector the government sees an opportunity to incubate private infrastructure investment in these emerging alternative fuel technologies. As outlined in the WSDOT Alternative Fuels Corridor Pilot Project, they will avoid hosting refueling sites in geographic areas where existing businesses already provide sales of alternative fuels and will help to promote existing businesses throughout the I-5 corridor.
It would make sense for the truck stops and gas stations to take the initiative and provide these service to a new customer base, rather than trying to derail a legitimate plan to encourage private investment in alternative fuels, create green jobs, cut greenhouse gasses and reduce the nations need for foreign oil. Its ridiculous for these interest groups opposed to the plan to attempt to stake a claim on a customer base they don’t serve. Encouraging innovation and new technology is what will allow us to thrive as a nation and as a world for decades to come.
If you build it they will come!