Tuesday night, Mr. Obama emphasized the importance of government investment in everything from high-speed rails and highways to schools and clean-energy industries.
The President listed several clean-energy goals to work towards. For instance, the President proposed that 85% of the nation’s energy should come from clean energy by 2035 and that he’d like to see America be the first country to have at least 1 million electric vehicles on the road by 2015. The latter would require the production of way more electric vehicles and way more infrastructure, which could mean way more jobs. J.D. Power and Associates predicts there to be roughly 700,000 electric cars on the road by 2015, a whole 300,000 shy of the President’s goal.
In order to reach these goals, Mr. Obama challenged individuals and businesses to bring together the best and the brightest to work on developing new ideas and technologies. He went as far as proposing the elimination of taxpayer subsidies for oil companies. Pausing for a second, the President said, “I don’t know if you noticed, but they’re doing just fine on their own. So instead of subsidizing yesterday’s energy, let’s invest in tomorrow’s.”
Here’s a quick, informative image of U.S. energy subsidies from 2002-2008.
If electric cars are a part of “tomorrow’s energy,” how exactly are we going to get Americans to make the switch to electric? Cutting back on oil subsidies will likely cause a rise in gas prices. Europeans pay roughly $7 bucks a gallon, and the Chinese around $5, which is much closer to what gas would cost on the open market. Over the last several weeks, we’ve seen an increase at U.S. pumps and it’s expected to rise into the summer months. What would happen if Americans started paying $5 a gallon? What sort of implications would there be for those who can’t afford a new electric car (even with tax credits) and can’t afford the higher price of gas to get to and from work? What’s it going to take to make the transition without placing a burden on the already fragile middle and lower classes?
In order to become a widely used mode of transportation, electric cars need to be accessible to the masses. Perhaps the government could offer a higher tax break for those in a lower income bracket or ensure that the proper infrastructure be installed in lower income areas. Also, the government should launch education efforts to make the public aware of the tax incentives and that electric cars have the potential to cost less to maintain and operate—especially if they are powered by clean-energy created on American soil. On average, charging up an electric car will cost about $3 per 100 miles whereas a gas-powered vehicle costs about $9 per 100 miles.
The benefits of switching to electric are profound, but it may not seem as obvious if Americans are unaware of what they could be saving.
Charis works in MOM’s main office.