Like most Americans, I have to consider the high cost of gas when traveling across the country. Whether by car or plane, it just costs more to get around.
Like clockwork, gas prices are also becoming politicized. Republicans want to blame President Biden and the White House is trying to come up with solutions that won’t do much to lower gas prices. After all, the cost of a gallon of gasoline primarily reflects the price of a barrel of oil, which is set in world markets and affected by everyone from the Saudis to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
With such unsavory forces in control of energy prices, it’s only natural that the American people demand answers from lawmakers on lower gas prices.
But the stark reality that many people don’t realize – or even acknowledge – is that our addiction to oil is hard to break because we lack cost-effective and safe alternatives to oil.
One possibility offered, traditionally by progressive Democrats, is a complete transition from gasoline-powered vehicles to electric vehicles, or EVs. Indeed, the Green New Deal touted by lawmakers like Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Representative Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez of New York calls for “achieving 100% renewable energy for electricity and transportation by 2030 in later”.
It would be a wonderful thing for our planet to move away from oil and all electric vehicles. But, we need to be honest about the challenges posed by electric vehicles.
First, there are national security issues. Specifically, China dominates markets for rare-earth metals, which are critical components for the batteries that power electric vehicles. We do not produce these mineral raw materials – like lithium – in America. Even though we have successfully exploited lithium resources in the domestic market, China still controls the manufacture of cathodes and batteries.
China would use this power over America as leverage to make us bend to its will. Let’s not beat around the bush, China has become a totalitarian regime engaged in genocide. Beijing shows little respect for people’s basic human rights. With this in mind, do we want to both enrich China and depend on it to fuel our economy? Of course not.
Second, electric vehicles are more expensive than gasoline vehicles. How can we require low-income Americans to spend more on their car or truck? If we want to subsidize the purchase to make an electric vehicle affordable for every person, through tax credits or cash rewards, a good chunk of our country’s budget will be spent on this effort.
Third, the American people are not in favor of using all electric vehicles. My organization recently commissioned a survey on this issue and consider these results:
— 41% of respondents believe that the transition to electric vehicles is underway and that additional federal investments are “not an efficient use of taxpayers’ money”.
– When asked to rank federal spending priorities, funding for “increasing the number of electric vehicles” came in last, behind these more popular priorities (in order of favor): “funding to end to child hunger”, “funding to repair our roads and bridges”, “funding to train and hire the police”, “funding to build K-12 schools”, ” financing for wind and solar energy” and “financing for public transport”.
Our poll is clear: there is not the political will to spend billions of dollars to help people afford electric vehicles. Think about it, every American without a driveway will need access to a state-subsidized charger. How can the government possibly provide this charging capability to everyone? With inflation soaring, Americans are just trying to get the basic necessities. It’s no wonder electric vehicles are lower on their list of immediate priorities.
Ultimately, I can foresee an all-EV future. Many of the challenges facing electric vehicles could be solved through innovation and smart government investments in clean technology. But until we get there, let’s get real about electric vehicles and continue to support policies that help make gas-powered vehicles cleaner and more fuel-efficient.
Hank Naughton is with Centrist Democrats of America. He is a former Massachusetts State Representative and now practices law. He wrote this for InsideSources.com.