The media wizards in the media room of The Ford Motor Company must have been burning the midnight oil to cook up a scheme in which the automaker introduces an electric version of its popular F-150 pickup truck under the Lightning moniker just before the US approves its first world class offshore wind farm and right after a major oil pipeline shuts down, leading to a surge of panic buying not seen since the oil crisis of the 1970s. If you smell burning toast in the air, that would be the gasmobile finally going down in flames.
The End Of The Gasmobile, Colonial Pipeline Edition
The US got a wakeup call on climate change earlier this year when a severe winter storm knocked gas power plants out of commission in Texas for days on end, and now here comes the Colonial oil pipeline to show how unready we are to fend off cyber attacks.
The massive pipeline shut down on the heels of a ransomware attack on May 7, and it is still picking up the pieces. Meanwhile, 17 US governors have issued emergency declarations for their states as drivers scramble to suck the last drop of juice out of their local gas stations. They are literally filling up plastic shopping bags with gas and stacking piles of gas jugs sideways into their SUVs, neither of which is recommended. Seriously, who does that?
For that matter, our friends over at CNBC remind us that part or all of Colonial has gone down practically every year since 2002, sometimes resulting in price spikes and temporary shortages.
The Rise Of The EV & Distributed Energy Resources
As if anyone needed any more reminding that gasmobiles are toast, the latest Colonial pipeline debacle is yet another demonstration that the nation’s centralized, fossil-reliant energy infrastructure is not up to the job of dealing with the threats of today.
The EV revolution is putting the power in the hands of millions of drivers. Not everyone can use their own rooftop solar array to charge their own EV at home, but a sprawling network of public EV charging stations is taking shape along with an emphasis on decentralized, distributed renewable resources.
There’s no more filling up plastic bags with highly flammable toxic liquid when you can plug into your local solar-powered EV charging station from your community solar array, take advantage of a workplace charging perk, or top off your battery at the friendly neighborhood shopping mall.
The End Of The Gasmobile, Ford F-150 Lightning EV Edition
Into this picture steps the Ford Motor Company with its two-way electric edition of the iconic F-150 pickup truck, dubbed the Ford Lightning.
We say two-way because Ford teased the May 19 launch date for the Lightning earlier this week, taking special note of the battery’s ability to work both ways. You can charge it up and then use it to keep your lights on during power outages.
Yes, they went there.
“F-150 Lightning can power your home during an outage; it’s even quicker than the original F-150 Lightning performance truck; and it will constantly improve through over-the-air updates,” enthuses Ford President and CEO Jim Farley.
While your Ford EV battery is taking care of the home front during an outage, perhaps some day you can hop on your Ford-branded electric bicycle and check on the neighbors.
In the meantime, Ford has been busy extending its mini-mobility wings through the Spin electric scooter company, which it acquired back in 2018. Ford is apparently determined to not repeat the mistakes of other e-scooter sharing firms. Remote control and a 3-wheel configuration are part of the mix, so stay tuned for more on that.
As for the new Lightning EV, no details yet on the battery, but we’re guessing it’s a little too early for that new solid state energy storage technology of which Ford has become enamored.
Finally, More Offshore Wind For More EVs In The US
Yes, finally. The reluctance of the US to dip a toe into the offshore wind field is legendary, but better late than never.
The Vineyard Wind project off the coast of Massachusetts is a case in point. The massive 800-megawatt offshore wind farm began to take shape during the Trump administration, which promptly threw a monkey wrench into the works.
However, karma being what it is, the delay enabled the wind farm’s developer Vineyard Wind LLC to switch out the wind turbines it initially selected for the project and sub in the latest, improved version of the powerful GE Haliade-X turbine (Vineyard is a partnership between Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners and Avangrid Renewables, a branch of Spain’s Ibderola group).
Considering that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell pledged to focus “100%” on stopping all things Biden just last week, it is perhaps understandable that the Biden administration took a victory lap over the new offshore wind farm yesterday, because yesterday was the day that the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management finally greenlighted the project.
“The approval of this project is an important step toward advancing the Administration’s goals to create good-paying union jobs while combating climate change and powering our nation,” said Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland, whose agency oversees BOEM.
“This project is an example of the investments we need to achieve the Biden-Harris administration’s ambitious climate goals, and I’m proud to be part of the team leading the charge on offshore wind,” chipped in Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo.
“In its first four months, the Biden-Harris administration has catalyzed the offshore wind industry by announcing the first ever national offshore wind energy mandate, creating a roadmap for the future of this innovative industry,” DOI emphasized.
Cape Wind? What Cape Wind?
Speaking of Secretary Raimondo, the former Governor of Rhode Island oversaw the construction of the nation’s very first and still the only commercial wind farm, the 11-turbine, 30-megawatt Block Island array.
The achievement was significant considering that another early entrant into the offshore wind race, the Cape Wind project, died on the vine partly due to opposition reportedly financed by a member of the Koch industrial family, which also happens to own an interest in the Colonial pipeline.
Considering that Raimondo is now tasked with shepherding the President’s goal of 30 gigawatts in offshore wind by 2030, that’s quite a leap for the US wind industry and the entire domestic supply chain, including steel making, ship building, and of course, turbine manufacturing.
It’s also a plus for EV owners. After all, who wants to fill up their nice, clean EV with electricity generated by planet-killing fossil energy power plants?
More to the point, who wants to be at the mercy of a single oil pipeline? The Biden administration is fulfilling former President Obama’s dream of a vast, sprawling network of offshore wind farms powering population centers all up and down the Atlantic coast. Meanwhile, Louisiana is leading the charge into offshore wind for the Gulf coast, and plans are hatching to install floating wind turbines in the technologically challenging waters of the Pacific coast.
That’s on top of all the wind and solar activity taking place on solid ground. Millions of EV drivers in the US can already get their electricity from a sprawling network of rural electric cooperatives (#socialism!), helping to provide the US a solid platform for developing a more diverse and resilient energy infrastructure.
The US offshore wind industry has come a long way from Cape Wind, but all good things are worth waiting for, and the timing is eerily perfect for the nation’s auto industry to embrace the EV revolution once and for all.
Follow me on Twitter: @TinaMCasey.
Photo: F-150 Lightning EV pickup truck courtesy of Ford.