Should EVs Be Considered A “Last Resort?”
This may not come as much of surprise, but oil industry executives say that the development of electric vehicles should be a last resort in the progression away from petroleum. The industry is advocating research and development aimed at improving the efficiency of standard internal combustion engines.
Following that, the industry says, companies should turn to development of biofuels, and EV development should wait until those options have been completely explored. Based on the overall bottom-line of a conventional vehicle, the industry executives say that consumers will get a better deal by buying cars that are more efficient and cleaner-burning than they will by switching to an electric vehicle.
This debate makes Texas a state divided. On one hand, Texas is home to many local oil producers that would clearly suffer if oil consumption decreased. On the other hand, it also wants to be at the forefront of the alternative energy movement. Last week, Texas governor Rick Perry said that he would support a state tax credit of $5,000 for buyers of plug-in electric vehicles in certain Texas cities that have run afoul of the EPA's air quality regulations. Those tax credits could combine with federal tax credits on PHEVs that would slice another $7,500 off of the price tag.
The big concern in Texas (and other states) is that a large-scale switch to PHEVs would substantially increase the demand for electricity from the grid. Most electrical power plants are coal-fired, which means that gains made at the tailpipe in terms of emissions are offset by the added emissions from coal-fired electricity plants. Analysis shows that in this scenario, the CO2 reductions would be modest at best.
Texas also has a fledgling wind-power industry, but has no practical transmission system to take the converted power to the grid. Perry's plan would put the state's dollars into building a transmission system that could allow the state to make effective use of alternative energy generation, and potentially extend the emissions gains made by PHEVs.
In the short term, multiple alternative energy sources should be developed and considered. Competitive technologies often produce the best possible outcomes because they spur the development of newer, cleaner and more efficient methods of achieving the same end. The bottom-line cost of a new technology is only an immediate or intermediate concern. Once a technology is deemed reliable, and can be mass-produced or supported in sufficient quantity to meet demand, the issue of increased costs may drop out altogether.
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