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Saturday, November 12, 2016

The American Conservative Case for Electric Vehicles (5 Reasons That Are Not The Environment)

Given the recent election results, it's very likely that there will be sweeping legislative changes in the areas of energy and environmental regulation. Regarding electric cars, it's important to make sure the baby is not tossed out with the bathwater.

The Conservative Case Against EVs (don't stop reading here)

Electric vehicles (EVs) are often touted as eco-friendly cars. This immediately casts them into the political realm of the environmentalists. This opens the door to question the actual environmental impact of "coal powered" cars with "landfill batteries." From there it is easy to dismiss EVs. They have questionable value to an environmental cause, for which a conservative might have little to no support. When government subsidies for both the cars and the infrastructure are placed on this brittle foundation, it appears to be simple government folly.

Given the above, eliminating EV subsidies seems to be a simple way to cut government spending. Simply stop funding them with tax dollars. If EVs are able to stand on their own, in a free market, that's fine, but my tax dollars should not fund them. Especially when most EV-drivers have six-figure incomes.

This reasoning above is clear and self-consistent, but reasonable minds can disagree on the environmental impacts of EVs. However, regardless of whether EVs are better, equal, or worse for the environment, they're still the right way to go (and for better reasons). So let's set the environment argument aside, and discuss the other reasons to support EVs. The reasons that conservatives support EVs.

It's not about the environment; there are plenty of reasons EVs are great for America.

A little about me: I served 6 years in the U.S. military, including a tour in the middle east.

In this post, I plan to show:
  • EVs are great for America.
  • EVs have incredible performance.
  • EVs improve our national security.
  • EVs will keep gasoline prices low.
  • EV fueling money goes to your local community.

EVs are patriotically fueled

EVs are usually filled up at home, in the garage, overnight, from the electrical grid. The local power plant there in your community is the is the source of that energy. That means that the money that you pay to fill up an EV are dollars that are paid to a local business. This money goes to your local utility. It pays the salary for the person that reads your meter and the person repairs your power lines when a winter storm knocks the power out. These are your friends and community members. And the money you spend here gives them jobs and allows them to be productive members of your community.

Fueling an EV puts money in your local economy, not a foreign country's banks.

Since your electricity is locally generated, communities can make their own choices of what is important to them. Should they burn coal, should they have wind turbines leased on local farms, should they put solar panels on their roofs? These are choices that local communities can make for themselves.

EVs are fueled by the local grid with power plants that reflects the community's values.

EVs support American innovation

When you look at electric car makers, the clear leader is Tesla Motors. They are a Fremont, California company and they are driving innovation throughout the entire industry. They are ahead of the Germans and Japanese in internet-connected cars, self-driving, fast charging, battery technology, and battery manufacturing. Tesla designs and builds these innovative cars here in America and they are shipped around the world.

American companies are outpacing the Germans and Japanese in electric vehicle technology.

There is a growing worldwide market for these vehicles. It is important that American companies are not left behind in this shift.

EVs support free market choice

Before the current generation of EVs, there were few choices to fuel your personal transportation. The options were gasoline or diesel. If you were a tinkerer, you could modify a car to run on veggie oil or build your own battery powered car. For most people, converting their own car is not an option. Most people buy the car they want and drive it as it rolls off the lot.

Plug-in cars put more options on the sales floor. You can buy gas, diesel, hybrid, plug-in hybrid, or battery electric. And if the car does plug in, you can choose where you want that electricity to come from. Free market choice and personal freedom.

Depending on your local electricity cost, fueling with electricity is equivalent to about $1 per gallon. As some people move to EVs, that is fewer people buying gas, reducing the demand and allowing the remaining supply to last longer and cost less for those of us still using it.

EVs support national security

With nearly all of our transportation fuel coming from oil, we are vulnerable to attacks on supply. When pipelines are hit in Nigeria or rebels attack tankers in the Strait Of Hormuz, our oil prices here at home spike.

The electricity grid, on the other hand, is powered by coal plants, natural gas, nuclear, hydro, wind, and solar. If there are fluctuations in the any of these source fuel supplies, the mix can change to take up the slack.

The grid has had outages, but it is a redundant system. This makes it resilient to many forms of attack. When our transportation fuel is domestic, events halfway around the world will not change how much you pay to commute to work.

EVs are fun

It is called the EV grin. Often when people are behind the wheel of an EV, they get a broad smile. EVs are smooth and quiet. It's magical to be moving without the vibration and noise.

EVs have incredible performance. Electric motors have a digital response time, there's no rev up time before they go. This makes them quick off the line and these peppy cars are fun to drive. If you have not been behind the wheel of one, you should try it for this experience alone.

EVs are a kick to drive. No matter what side of the aisle you are on, you should try it.

EVs should have incentives (if they are the right type)

Today, there is a $7,500 federal tax incentive for new EV sales. It is important to understand that this is not a governmental largesse, it's a tax credit. This means that it can only reduce the amount of taxes that you pay. Many of us feel overtaxed. And for the taxes that we do pay, we're not sure that this money will be spent in ways that we'd approve. Well, the EV incentive is a tax credit. A non-refundable, no carryover tax credit. This means it allows you to keep more of your own money; money that you have earned. It does not, however, entitle you to a payment of money from other taxpayers. Tax credits like this are good things and we need more ways to allow people to keep their own money while advancing our economy and national interests.

The infrastructure programs that are in place are public-private partnerships. This allows the market to get a foothold and then for private businesses to own and operate the network after that. As long as this is done in such a way that the private sector is allowed to make sound investments, it can be successful. Federal infrastructure spending too often gets bogged down in mismanagement and cost overruns. So the government's role must be limited to setting goals and funding such as loan guarantees. The government cannot be involved in the project management. This avoids the problem of the projects getting stuck in the political quagmire.

The point of government EV infrastructure spending is to accelerate private deployment, not to have a government-owned national network.


There are many reasons, other than the environment, to support EVs. Environmentalists might be supporting EVs for the wrong reasons, but that alone does not make them the wrong choice.

Domestic fueling, domestic design, and domestic manufacturing support the American economy. 

If you are concerned with national security, energy, and/or economic growth, then EVs are a crucial component of all of these issues. This topic is as bipartisan as they come, and there is no longer any excuse not to support it. And if they happen to keep our cities' air pure along the way, that's a free bonus.

Footnote: This post was inspired by ideas from "How to Reach Across the Political Divide" by Robb Willer 

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