Market Overview

The Electric Popemobile and the Future of Energy Policy in America


By Justin Rohrlich

The Vatican yesterday unveiled a book on the Holy See's environmental initiatives titled “The Energy of the Sun in the Vatican,” which covers various projects such as the 2008 installation of 2,400 solar panels on the roof of the Paul VI audience hall and other, similar undertakings that have helped prevent the release of some 305 tons of carbon dioxide emissions.

Pope Benedict XVI, to whom many refer as the “Green Pope,” is now open to the idea of a solar/electric powered popemobile -- the spelling of which, according to Newsweek, requires a small “p” because there has never been an official confirmation as to whether or not the term “describes every car in the pontiff's fleet or whether only the car in use by the pope is the Popemobile with a big p (the same way any plane carrying the US president becomes Air Force One).

Pier Carlo Cuscianna, director of technical services for Vatican City, says discussions regarding production of an electric popemobile (a tag which Pope John Paul II abhorred, as it apparently sounded “undignified”) are at a “well-advanced” stage.

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“It would… be a demonstration, a sign of his ecological attention,” Cardinal Giovanni Lajolo, who runs the Vatican City state, said.
The current popemobile is a custom-built Mercedes ML 430, with a 272-horsepower engine, full climate-control, and a tape deck -- which certainly must have been upgraded by now to include a dock for an iPod (AAPL). The vehicle can reportedly accelerate from zero to 60 mph in less than eight seconds -- not particularly fast when escaping danger, but perhaps Elon Musk and Tesla (TSLA) could figure out a way around this, as the Chevy (GM) Volt and the Toyota (TM) Prius aren't exactly known for breaking any land speed records.

As for security issues, Jason Forston, executive vice-president of Texas Armoring, one of the largest providers of armored passenger vehicles in the world -- and the company that bulletproofed the popemobile used on a 2002 trip to Mexico by Pope John Paul II -- says going electric is a feasible idea.

“Just last week, we released the world's first Mercedes-Benz S400 bulletproof hybrid, as a matter of fact,” he tells Minyanville. “Armoring a hybrid, or a full-electric -- is more expensive and harder to do, but it's definitely possible.”

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The Pope's security team would likely go for the maximum protection available, he explains.

“Someone like that's going to want high-powered rifle protection and armor-piercing protection,” Forston says. “We're talking about rounds from an AK47, an M16, a .308 sniper rifle; we can even defeat black market, uncertified, wildcard rounds -- there are some nasty munitions out there.”

This level of protection runs from approximately $130,000 to $160,000, not including the car itself.

However green the Pope may be, his views don't quite square with those of certain other religiously-minded folks charged with formulating current energy policy.

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US Representative John Shimkus (R-IL), is angling to be named chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, the Congressional body that deals with energy and the environment, in January. Shimkus, who already serves on the committee, dismissed the warnings issued by the scientific community during a hearing last year and invoked the following passages from Genesis 8:21-22:

“Never again will I curse the ground because of man, even though all inclinations of his heart are evil from childhood and never again will I destroy all living creatures as I have done.”

“As long as the earth endures, seed time and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, will never cease.”

He then quoted Matthew 24:31:

“And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds from one end of the heavens to the other.”

Shimkus then proclaimed, “I believe that's the infallible word of God, and that's the way it's going to be for his creation. The Earth will end only when God declares it's time to be over. Man will not destroy this Earth. This Earth will not be destroyed by a Flood. I do believe that God's word is infallible, unchanging, perfect.”

To read the rest, head over to Minyanville.


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