Oil has monopolized America’s transportation sector, but this is changing. By the end of 2010, several major automobile manufacturers, including Nissan, General Motors, Volt, Nissan,GM, Ford, Mitsubishi, Toyota, Volvo, BMW, and Mercedes will release their first generation electric vehicles – vehicles that allow you to run partially and even fully on electricity. The US government has also committed to spending millions of dollars to help prepare our cities and communities for the coming wave of electric vehicles.
The devastating oil crisis has many of us looking for someone to blame. As we helplessly watch oil spew into the Gulf of Mexico each evening on the news, we ask ourselves, “How could they let this happen?”
According to the Department of Energy, the average American – each one of us – consumes over 23 barrels, or 1,000 gallons of oil each year. We consume twice as much as our counterparts in the United Kingdom, Japan, and Brazil. And all that oil has to come from somewhere. Because our on-shore domestic wells produce enough to supply only a fraction of our oil demand, we draw the rest from off-shore wells and foreign nations. In 2008, the US spent over $150 billion importing oil from countries the State Department labels “dangerous or unstable.” So with the instability of our foreign oil supply and the risks, both economic and ecological, of drilling offshore, we should really be asking ourselves, “How could we let this happen?”
Since the 1930s, oil has monopolized America’s transportation sector. Because we’ve had no alternatives to oil-fueled planes, trains, and automobiles, we consumers have never had the option to support a diverse energy strategy. Thankfully that is about to change.
By the end of 2010, major automobile manufacturers will release their first generation electric vehicles – vehicles that allow you to run partially and even fully on electricity. Nissan’s fully electric Leaf will allow you to travel 100 miles before needing to recharge. General Motors will be releasing its extended range electric vehicle, the Chevrolet Volt. Given the Department of Transportation’s findings that 75 percent of us drive less than 40 miles per day, the Volt allows you to go 40 miles on electricity before a gasoline generator kicks in, extending your range potential by another 250+ miles. And it doesn’t stop with Nissan and GM. Ford, Mitsubishi, Toyota, Volvo, BMW, and Mercedes all have plans to release electric vehicle models over the next three years. [See Is 2010 the Year of the Electric (and Plugin Hybrid) Car?]
With automakers moving towards electrified transportation, the US government has committed to spending millions of dollars to help prepare our cities and communities for the coming wave of electric vehicles. Through one such infrastructure grant, the EV Project, the government will spend over $100 million installing electric vehicle recharging stations, so that when you’re out and about and need to recharge your electric vehicle, there are systems available to fill you up. The US government also offers tax rebates for the purchase of electric vehicles and recharging stations. There is currently a $7,500 rebate for the purchase of an electric vehicle model, with some states committing an additional $5,000 rebate. With a sticker price of $33,720, the Nissan Leaf will cost a Georgia resident around just $21,000.
What all this means for us, the American public, is that for the first time in almost 100 years we have the opportunity to give oil some competition. The automakers have committed to selling the vehicles and the government has committed to supporting them. Now the responsibility is with us. The transition to an economy less dependent on the effects of oil prices, a government less threatened by hostile oil-rich countries, and an environment less at risk from devastating oil spills, begins with the actions of just one person: you.
With the decision to purchase an electric vehicle over the next five years, you cast your vote to move towards a more stable and sustainable future. The goal is not to make oil obsolete, but to support a multi-faceted energy strategy. With room for many different technologies including electric vehicles, hybrid drive systems, gasoline-powered vehicles, and hydrogen fuel cells, a diverse energy strategy is the only solution to our country’s complex dependency on oil.
Do not let this catastrophe be brushed off as just another byproduct of America’s continuing addiction to oil – let it be a turning point. When you sit down to watch the news this evening with the clip of more oil spilling into the Gulf, resolve to take responsibility and stop saying “They need to fix this,” and instead say “We need to fix this.
© 2010, Rebecca Hough. All rights reserved. Do not republish.