The New York Times has an opinion piece, Electric Avenue
, on electric cars that has both feet firmly rooted in fantasy land.
THE American response to rising gas prices has been depressingly predictable. We’re shocked to see prices top $4 a gallon, as if it’s never happened before. We demand that something be done — not to reduce our dependence on oil, but to cut the cost of a fill-up. Fortunately the White House is standing behind a goal that could genuinely transform the nation’s automotive fleet: putting one million electric vehicles on the road by 2015.
Purely electric cars like the Leaf never consume gasoline; plug-in hybrids like the Volt can run primarily on electricity. Department of Transportation statistics show that 78 percent of Americans commute 40 miles or fewer a day, so most people who drive a Volt won’t need to burn any gas on a normal day.
When cars like these are being driven on a large scale, the benefits will be substantial. The Electrification Coalition, an electric-vehicle advocacy group, estimates that if, by 2040, 75 percent of all miles driven in the United States are powered by electricity, oil consumption by light-duty vehicles will drop from the current level of nearly nine million barrels a day to two million. But getting there will require a mass rollout of these cars, and it will take government assistance to make that happen.
Sounds great as long as people understand that replacing gasoline-powered cars with electric-powered cars really means that you're creating coal-powered or nuclear-powered cars. Which means our dependence on coal or nuclear will increase significantly. That sounds like a fair trade-off to me, but it needs to be a conscious decision.
The Obama administration already supports incentives to encourage drivers to buy electric cars, and it has devoted $2.4 billion in stimulus money to the development of a domestic electric-car industry. The president’s 2012 budget request increases financing for battery research and proposes good ideas for accelerating the spread of electric vehicles, including the transformation of the existing $7,500 tax credit for the purchase of a plug-in vehicle into a point-of-sale rebate, which would give buyers their refund immediately rather than at tax time.
These investments may be too much to expect from a Congress that can barely keep the government running. At the very least, however, President Obama and the Senate must resist pressure to gut renewable energy programs in the name of reducing the deficit — an urge expressed most clearly in Representative Paul D. Ryan’s budget plan, which proposes a sizable and profoundly shortsighted cut in financing for energy research and development.
Sorry folks - I'm not a scientist, but everything I've read would indicate that generating enough electricity through cost-effective renewable means to cover 75% of the miles driven in the US is a very long-term project. By 2040? Possible, but I highly doubt probable.
Switching to electrically-powered vehicles will also require a significant overhaul of the nation's electricity transmission grid - a non-trivial expense.
And, when less gas is sold, that's less tax revenue for the government, so be prepared to pay for that some other way - either increased electricity costs, some sort of mileage-based tax, or something else entirely.
So, while I think switching to electric-powered cars is a great idea, I can't see any way it could possibly happen in the near-term nor be any sort of cost-saving measure.