Felix Kramer is the Founder of the non-profit, California Cars Initiative (Cal Cars), where he leads a team of entrepreneurs, environmentalists, engineers that focuses on developing "plug-in hybrid" technologies. He has been a founding or active member of World Wide Web Artists Consortium, New York New Media Association, Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation. A graduate of Cornell, he lives in California.
Question: How can nations unite to battle climate change?
Felix Kramer: I sometimes wonder why the world can’t unite the way you see in movies when you… when there is an asteroid heading toward the earth and we know it’s coming in a few years we all get together somehow or when we’re about to be invaded by some aliens the world cooperates and we have that kind of an asteroid heading toward us. It’s called climate change or global warming or global weirding, which is what some people talk about, extreme temperatures and the world is changing and we need all to get together on this and we don’t and we don’t declare an end to business as usual. The biggest challenge at this point is for people to realize that the next generation is going to be living in a very different world and if we don’t’ get together and do something about it we will be committing a great crime to our descendants by plundering the world and by not fixing it and we still have time to do that, but the time is running out.
Question: Do you think that the government should focus or prioritize certain R & D projects?
Felix Kramer: For a long time everyone said, “Let’s promote all alternatives.” “Let’s not lose the chance that maybe some good technology will turn out to be much more promising than we thought.” “We can’t afford to pick winners.” But in fact, we’ve been picking winners for years. For centuries the US government has been… We started financing Samuel Morris’ telegraph and ever since then we’ve been pouring money into technologies. Aerospace helped the computer industry grow and radio technology and now a lot of people are starting to realize that it’s time to pick winners. We don’t have the resources to support everything and electricity has emerged as that kind of a solution, which is… which solves many, many problems and exists… and using existing technology. We have to put the pieces together differently. That means we don’t have to wait for breakthroughs. All the breakthroughs are welcome when they happen, but we can get started and go very far with today’s technology, so there seems now finally to be a recognition that this a time to choose one primary route for transportation in particular and that is electrification.
Question: How can we overcome the huge costs of creating sustainable energy is America?
Felix Kramer: It’s a big question when whether we will declare business as usual and if we did we would say it’s time to spend the money to make this transition as rapidly as possible. Some people have estimated it would cost 600 billion dollars to rapidly accelerate the growth of the electrification of transportation. That happens to be the same amount of money we send overseas every year for imported oil, so it sounds like a lot of money, but we’ll be way ahead of the game if we do it and if it involves spending a little more on electricity and if it involves a complicated system where people who need to drive for work are subsidized and where we have maybe a… what’s called a fee based systems where the big heavy vehicles are highly taxed and the more efficient vehicles are less taxed. There are a lot of solutions here, but we have to have the will to do it and to say we can’t be afraid of calling for a gas tax. We can’t be afraid of saying that some things are going to have to change.