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A Cleaner, More Efficient and Safer Energy Future

For more than a year, we have seen a national consensus build over improving our nation’s energy efficiency and reducing our carbon emissions — particularly in terms of America’s transportation mode of choice: motor vehicles. Indeed, energy efficiency and carbon emissions are among the most important challenges facing our nation today.[IMGCAP(1)]With this week’s White House announcement calling for national fuel efficiency and emissions standards, and the introduction of the American Clean Energy and Security Act (H.R. 2454), it is clear that automotive and environmental policy are in the spotlight, and the line between the two is fading.Of course, this comes as no surprise. We knew about our dangerous addiction to oil long before gas prices flew to such extreme levels in 2008. Nevertheless, the last year has put this issue back in the spotlight. It’s not uncommon to have dinner-table conversations about how U.S. oil consumption threatens not only the environment, but our health, our economy and our security.We agree with Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) that this bill would mark “the dawn of a clean energy age.— Combined with the administration’s efforts on fuel efficiency and emissions issues, Americans appear primed for a “once-in-a-century transformation— of the auto industry that could reaffirm our nation’s technological prowess and restore American leadership while creating thousands of well-paying green jobs here in the United States.At the Progressive Insurance Automotive X PRIZE, we are offering a $10 million prize purse designed to inspire a new generation of viable, clean, super fuel-efficient vehicles that are production capable, get 100 MPGe (miles per gallon energy equivalent), are affordable and meet market needs for capability, safety and performance. Not science project or concept cars, but real cars, capable of meeting real needs of drivers today.Since 2007, The Progressive Automotive X PRIZE has been stimulating innovations that will improve vehicle fuel efficiency and reduce carbon emissions. This follows the X PRIZE Foundation model of offering a cash incentive prize to meet important challenges, and through that challenge, to stimulate important breakthroughs — sometimes from some of the most unlikely sources.There are currently 111 registered teams with 136 vehicles competing for the prize purse. Many of the vehicles will use electricity to supplement renewable-based fuels like E85, E10, B20 biodiesel and natural gas. Progressive Automotive X PRIZE vehicles will be tested over realistic driving cycles and conditions based on how everyday consumers actually use their vehicles. They will also have to achieve a number of strict performance targets that meet consumer expectations. While ambitious, we strongly believe that this competition will illustrate that our country can overcome its addiction to oil and dramatically curtail the economic, national security, health and environmental costs of our most cherished mode of personal transport.We have approached a national tipping point, and it appears we’re choosing the road to develop sustainable transportation and energy solutions that address our most pressing needs. With more than 230 million vehicles in the U.S., the road ahead is steep. But at the Progressive Automotive X PRIZE, we are nurturing the next Thomas Edisons and Henry Fords, who will revolutionize the automotive industry for the 21st century and lead us toward a new automotive industry that embraces, and benefits from, increased fuel efficiency. We applaud the decisive action by the White House, and the passion of Markey and Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) to produce a bill that has received support from all regions of the country, and we stand ready to help lead the way forward.Eric Cahill is the senior director of the Progressive Automotive X PRIZE.