Electric Vehicles are Key Pillar in U.S. Energy Security Strategy

As the plug-in electric vehicle (PEV) industry begins to gain a foothold in the U.S. automotive market, it will be critical that the nation’s leaders do not let short-term obstacles derail important progress, said Robbie Diamond, President and CEO of Securing America’s Future Energy (SAFE), a nonpartisan organization that aims to improve America’s energy security. PEVs must be viewed as a critical component of the nation’s long-term strategy to enhance energy security through reduced oil dependence, said Diamond.

"Our oil dependence poses a real and immediate threat to the entire nation—and it exacts enormous costs in terms of national and economic security. Economically, there is a direct transfer of wealth taking place, taking capital out of the U.S. economy and driving up our trade deficit. The U.S. military is forced to secure the world’s oil supply lines and infrastructure, and this dependence compromises our foreign policy options," said Diamond.

"The challenges to electric vehicles resemble those of many innovative transportation technologies throughout history. It would be a tragic decision to allow temporary obstacles to deny the nation the potentially transformative benefits of leveraging electric vehicles to reduce the threat of oil dependence," added Diamond, referring to recent attention regarding battery technology, sales rates, and the use government funding for the industry. Diamond noted that sales of plug-in electric vehicles are off to a better start than the introduction of traditional gasoline hybrids more than a decade ago. In their first full year of availability, plug-in vehicle sales have surpassed 15,000 units in the United States. Hybrid vehicle sales totaled 9,350 in their first full year of availability, which was 2000.

Diamond also noted that the near-term outlook for PEVs was more promising than critics contend. Major global automakers plan to introduce as many as 30 PEV models in the next two years, which will utilize the newly developed battery manufacturing capacity. At the same time, mainstream U.S. companies such as FedEx, UPS, Frito-Lay, Staples, and others have placed orders for hundreds of PEVs over the past year. Early in 2011, GE announced an intended purchase of 25,000 PEVs by 2015—12,500 of which are Chevy Volt plug-in hybrids.

According to researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, U.S. oil dependence is estimated to have cost the nation more than $5 trillion in economic damage since the 1970s. This year alone, the U.S. trade deficit for crude oil and refined products will be around $300 billion. According to an estimate by the RAND Corporation, the ongoing expense of oil dependence to our military is between $67.5 billion and $83 billion annually.

To fully combat the costs of oil dependence, SAFE advocates for aggressive energy reform that includes increased domestic production of hydrocarbons and improved automotive fuel-economy standards in the near term and a transition to electrification of transportation over the long term.

"Plug-in electric vehicles are a strategic weapon to combat oil dependence. Electricity is generated from a diverse set of domestic energy sources—from nuclear and natural gas, to coal and renewables. Electricity prices are also more stable than oil prices, and there is an existing infrastructure with spare capacity already in place," added Diamond. "With as much as 90 percent of global oil and gas reserves held by national oil companies—many of which are in countries that share neither our values nor our goals—the global oil market is not a free market. Electrification offers the opportunity to break the oil monopoly in the transportation sector."

Diamond believes that the relatively new electric vehicle industry will continue to evolve and will face obstacles, as all industries do. But the enormous costs of oil dependence, paired with the fact that there is no free market for oil, justify support for promising technologies that reduce oil consumption while growing the economy and providing mobility.

"It is essential to put the cost of supportive policies in context of the total cost of our oil dependence. Every technology experiences challenges, and electric vehicles are no different. But to stop, or even slow down support for an industry that has the potential to dramatically improve our economic and national security would only jeopardize the nation’s prosperity and security."