WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A coalition of energy companies, automakers and shipping firms unveiled on Monday their cure for America's oil addiction -- electric vehicles.
The group, the Electrification Coalition, aims to get 75 percent of miles driven fueled by electricity by 2040, almost turning the gasoline pump into a historic roadside marker.
The change is necessary as it is too risky for the United States to import more than 65 percent of its crude oil needs, the coalition argued. As well, more than half of the world's oil supplies must pass through vulnerable maritime passageways such as the Strait of Hormuz between Iran and Qatar.
"The risk of a sudden and prolonged interruption to steady world oil supplies looms over the U.S. and world economies," it said.
Robbie Diamond, the group's president, said electricity can be generated within the United States from a variety of sources, including coal, natural gas, wind and solar.
"So it's diverse. It's domestic and it's much more stable," Diamond told Reuters in an interview.
As result, the group, backed by the likes of Nissan Motor Co and FedEx, said "it's conceivable that U.S. oil imports could effectively be reduced to zero."
To reach its goal, the coalition said the number of vehicles that run on electricity will have to jump from 1.3 million today to 250 million over the next three decades.
Diamond acknowledged that the numbers are "aggressive" and the only way to get more electric vehicles on the road and the infrastructure in place to fuel them is with government incentives.
Instead of going nationwide all at once, the government should target what Diamond calls "electricity ecosystems," comprising a handful of large cities.
The communities would be chosen on a competitive basis, with the winning cities demonstrating support for electric vehicles from large employers and state and local governments.
Each chosen area would have 50,000 to 100,000 electric vehicles by 2013, according the group
"You'll drive consumer acceptance as they see large-scale penetration in American cities, in these select ecosystems around the country," Diamond said.
Many energy experts are already worried about the reliability of the aging U.S. electric grid. But the coalition said having so many vehicles run on electricity will not be a drain as most consumers would recharge their cars overnight, when power demand is not as high.
The grid will still need increased investment to meet growing electricity demand, the groups said. But it points out that the power sector's infrastructure of generation, transmission and distribution, is in place.
Electric-run cars also produce fewer greenhouse gas emissions than gasoline-fueled vehicles, which would help fight global warming.
(Reporting by Tom Doggett)