Probably everyone can remember owning their first car; the make, model, year, color, and a host of other trivial details. It is a special moment. It’s personal. It’s a choice.

With the exception of a sliver of this country, Americans do not want electric cars.  Electric vehicles should remain a choice, not a government incentive or a mandate that is demanded by the Green movement.  A mass expansion of electric vehicles also brings with it numerous concerns.

Americans own or lease lots of cars, trucks and sport utility vehicles. There are an estimated 276 million such vehicles on the road in the United States.  In 2018, Americans purchased more than 17 million vehicles, among which 2 percent were electric.

Climate change activists and most left-of-center politicians want to force-feed electric vehicles on the American public. Every proposed version of the Green New Deal has electric vehicles as one of its centerpieces. The proponents imagine if there were no gasoline-powered automobiles, only electric, there would be far less need for fossil fuel extraction. Thus, the floods would recede, the planet cooled, and so on. This is fantasy.

Just how realistic is it for the United States to transform to an electric vehicle fleet for its 320 million citizens? In actuality, it’s not realistic in the near term, or distant future.

First, electric vehicles still require energy to operate. An electric car using electricity generated by an oil-fired power station still means burning fossil fuels. They may be more efficient in terms of fossil fuel use than gasoline vehicles, but electricity production is still heavily reliant on oil and coal.

Electricity also is generated by hydropower, wind power, nuclear power and natural gas. The problem for the proponents of mass electric vehicle use is they are largely the same politicians and interest groups that oppose natural gas and nuclear energy. The exponential increase in electricity demand for electric cars is nowhere near possible from “renewable” energy sources – not now, and not for the foreseeable future.

Second, electric vehicles need batteries and most are lithium-based which include a mix of other metals like cobalt, manganese and nickel. These primary metal components come from mining underground. Just like oil, natural gas, and coal, battery ingredients must be extracted from Mother Earth.

The very idea of extracting materials from the earth is anathema to the modern environmental movement. Hence, the mantra “keep it in the ground,” as a reason to oppose pipeline infrastructure, hydro fracturing and oil drilling.

Accordingly, many environmentalists oppose traditional energy production and use not only because they believe it’s causing the planet to overheat, but they oppose disturbing the planet itself by extraction. Therein lies a huge inconsistency of the Greens: drilling for oil and gas ravages the Earth, but mining for battery metals is okay?

The People’s Republic of China controls an increasing amount of the world’s reserves of cobalt and lithium, most of it through ownership rights purchased in other nations like the cobalt-rich Republic of Congo. China is no friend of the U.S.  It is an increasingly powerful adversary. Geopolitical issues make any attempt to transform to a future of electric vehicles much more complicated, and a potential factor in global conflict.

Third, electric vehicles are costly, both to purchasers and taxpayers. Electric cars have received federal subsidies and taxpayer handouts longer than Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has been alive.

Purchasers of the first 200,000 electric vehicles sold by a manufacturer receive a $7,500 tax credit, and there is an effort in Congress to extend this generous subsidy to 400,000 vehicles.

Electric vehicles are expensive, starting around $36,000, and are purchased overwhelmingly by households with six-figure incomes. That means taxpayers, most of whom earn less than six-figures, are perversely helping upper middle class and wealthy people to buy more expensive cars.

Many of the same Green New Deal politicians who castigate the wealthy seem not to have a problem subsidizing their purchases of certain automobiles.  Call it, “reverse Robin Hood” in the name of addressing climate change.  The only way to begin to transition the country from gasoline to electric vehicles is to increase these taxpayer subsidies on a massive, unaffordable scale.

Finally, are electric cars really necessary and can they be force-fed to Americans?

There is as much as 250 years worth of extractable oil in the earth. The U.S. alone has enough natural gas, so far, to last for nearly a century. With such abundance, it is not necessary or marketable to force us away from our gasoline automobiles to electric.

Assume in 80 years that less carbon resulting from mandated transition to electric vehicles actually reduced the average global temperature by a degree.  So, what? That’s not only an unproven assumption, it’s not a reason to spurn copious energy in order to force a product on the country that so few want, let alone can afford.

For those who want electric vehicles, they should go ahead and buy them with their own money. But they are not an environmental panacea, and won’t solve climate change.

Over time, with improvements in technology, electric vehicles may develop a larger market by becoming more economically practical. But the 98 percent of Americans who presently don’t purchase them should not be induced or forced otherwise.

Author

  • Peter Murphy, a CFACT analyst, has researched and advocated for a variety of policy issues, including education reform and fiscal policy. He previously wrote and edited The Chalkboard weblog for the New York Charter Schools Association, and has been published in numerous media outlets, including The Hill, New York Post and the Wall Street Journal.