Will the Tea Party unplug the car?
Do plug-in cars offer enough bang for the buck?
What is the Tea Party? As an Independent, anti-incumbent voter for almost 2 decades, my politics are pretty simple. Consequently, something like the Tea Party just hasn’t been on my radar. Nevertheless, the Tea Party has become an important voice in Congressional politics in recent weeks and they could ensure that there is little compromise between Republicans and Democrats on issues that I care most about, such as foreign oil dependence.
For instance, alternative energy tax credits, such as those intended for the buyers of plug-in vehicles, could be on the Republican’s deficit-reducing chopping block. Ultimately, I’d assume – perhaps incorrectly – that the Tea Party would be far more supportive of new drilling versus batteries.
Regardless, considering the bulging US deficit, it does seem fair to review all government expenditures with a focus on achieving the most bang for the buck. Hence, do plug-in tax credits provide enough bang for the buck?
Toyota has now sold one million Prius hybrid cars in the US alone as rising gas prices have pushed hybrid sales up more than 30 percent through the first quarter of this year. Unfortunately, even if this sale’s pace continues, hybrid cars will still only achieve an extra few percent of total vehicle market share – still well under even 10 percent of total share. As a result, in terms of my core issue – US energy independence – hybrid cars have achieved little after more than a decade on the market.
Add in the legacy effect, and hybrid cars have mostly helped just a few percent of American car buyers reduce their personal foreign oil dependence and CO2 emissions. While this is admirable, it is still US energy independence that must remain the focus, the lens for determining success. With this in mind, hybrids appear just a piece of the solution puzzle.
Will plug-in vehicles offer greater near term marketshare? A greater impact on foreign oil dependence? The most bang for the buck?
If the Tea Party believes in science rather than creationism, for instance, they’ll have little trouble finding a considerable amount of data demonstrating the very limited impact of plug-in vehicles through the next decade, possibly the next two. Inevitably, the science conclusively states that major technological breakthroughs are still required in the battery space – breakthroughs that could instantly wipe out today’s battery leaders.
Like it or not, on the face of it, “drill, baby, drill” does appear to make more sense than the battery, especially in the interim, particularly considering the state of affairs in the Middle East and US foreign oil dependence. Theoretically, something like natural gas via shale and hydraulic fracturing could end US foreign oil dependence far sooner than any alternative technology. But ONLY temporarily. And possibly not without massive environmental damage.
New drilling is NOT a scientifically proven home run either, but a scientific case for natural gas is easier to make in the short term.
More important, however, in the long term new technologies will be required. It’s not just that natural gas is a finite resource, it’s that new technologies, bought by the billions, will require ever greater amounts of energy. Innovation – the key to modern success – is ever more energy intensive, even though relatively more energy efficient. Furthermore in today’s world, one innovation can achieve the kind of change that makes the Industrial Revolution seem like child’s play.
Innovation is a game the US must play.
Besides, ultimately the human race either moves forward or backward, and the only way la raza moves forward is via clean, sustainable energies. PERIOD.
Did I break your concentration?
While it’s easy to believe that plug-in vehicles are the path of the righteous, while new drilling is the path of the weak and the wicked, the potential of disruptive technologies to change everything about transportation is very real. As a result, now is not the time to put too many eggs in one basket, especially when the impact of those investments could take decades to mature.
Along those lines it’s obvious that plug-in vehicles are not an obvious win-win today. For instance, can the US really compete with Asia, India, Brazil, Russia, etc. when it comes to the future of high tech mass-manufacturing? Is foreign lithium dependence really the key to US energy independence?
It seems to me that efficiency, not some specific technology, should be driving our future, and efficiency is simply another way of saying ‘most bang for buck’.
Unfortunately, research from Carnegie Melon University and others, for instance, suggests that current plug-in tax credits are in danger of not being very efficient or effective. And why should that surprise anyone since the Department of Energy can’t manage the $25 billion Advanced Technology Vehicle loan very well because of lack of knowledge and few metrics to judge success according to the Government Accounting Office.
Seriously, let’s be honest. Forever the government has been great at spending money. Spending it efficiently, on the other hand, has been almost impossible regardless of which party runs the House, and I doubt a little tea party is going to offer much to change that conundrum.
So, what’s my point?
If we’re honest, it’s obvious that the US has no solid plan to achieve US energy independence anytime soon – not for decades. In fact, in terms of a Congressionally approved energy independence plan signed off by the President, proving Bigfoot is more realistic.
The only sure thing America seems headed for these days is insolvency.
Still, just cutting deficits and squashing innovation won’t really fix that issue. Can the US really be debt free, yet still heavily foreign oil dependent in 2037? Can the US move out of the red and into the black without high quality jobs – and a lot of them?
While Republicans can cut the fat from entitlement programs, the military fat caused by US foreign oil dependence is probably even thicker. Will the Right dare tread there?
Anyway it’s sliced, it just seems there is no greater path to US success than US energy independence, and this independence cannot be achieved soon enough. Neither new drilling nor plug-ins alone will be the key to this success. Both will be required, as will ever greater auto efficiency, biofuels and plain old conservation – perhaps ESPECIALLY plain old conservation in the immediate term.
Can the Right drink that kind of tea?
Without doubt, deficit fighting is a noble cause. However, the Tea Party can cut all the alternative tax credits and entitlements they want, but if the Tea Party doesn’t make US energy independence a top focus, all the deficit cutting in the world won’t save America from second or third world status quite soon.