Energy Expert: Chuck Schumer’s $454B Electric Car Plan Is Misguided — Americans Like Gas-Powered Vehicles

WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 29: Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) speaks during a press conference at the U.S. Capitol on October 29, 2019 in Washington, DC. Schumer addressed reporters' questions about the ongoing impeachment inquiry and the Senate legislative agenda. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
Win McNamee/Getty Images

Late last month, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) joined the leftist chorus pushing to abandon fossil fuels by proposing replacing all gas-powered vehicles with electric cars by 2040 at a cost of $454 billion over the first ten years.

Schumer explained his plan in an op-ed in the New York Times:

How would the plan work? First, it would give you a large discount on an American-made electric vehicle when you trade in a gas-powered car. Lower-income Americans could get an even bigger discount on a new vehicle or a discount on a used electric vehicle. In total, these discounts should result in 63 million fewer gas-powered cars on the road by 2030 and put America on a path to having 100 percent of new car sales be clean.

Second, the plan would make electric vehicles — and the necessary battery-charging infrastructure — accessible to all Americans, regardless of where they live and work. This would be accomplished by providing grants to states and cities to build charging stations, with a particular emphasis on low-income, rural and other underserved communities.

Third, the plan aims to establish the United States as the global leader in electric vehicle and battery manufacturing by providing grants to retool existing manufacturing plants in the United States and build new ones in this country that specialize in those technologies.

But Mark P. Mills, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and a faculty fellow at Northwestern University’s McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science, said the plan is bound for failure for a number of reasons:

The first problem is consumers don’t seem to want electric cars. And that’s no surprise — they’re more expensive. Batteries add about $12,000 to a typical car. That’s meaningful for all but the 1 percent.

Fact is, automobiles comprise the biggest share of household spending on consumables, twice that of health care. (Housing, a non-consumable, is the biggest.) So, yes, people care about price, and lawmakers ignore that at their peril.

Consider, too, that SUVs and pickups now account for 70 percent of all vehicles purchased. And the minority who buy purely for economy choose small cars with gasoline engines. That’s the reality of what Americans want.

And even if there is one good electric vehicle out there, it would be unlikely to outsell non-electric vehicles. Elon Musk’s Tesla’s impressive 500,000 sales in the first six years after its introduction pales in comparison to the Ford Mustang sales in its first six years on the market — 2.5 million.

“Considering that Americans buy 100 million cars over a six-year period, there’s no way a stroke of a pen will radically change that market,” Mills wrote.

Moreover, if Schumer’s plan is to fight so-called climate change, it falls short on that front too, Mills explained.

If the United States became an all-electric vehicle nation, it would trim about eight percent off the world oil demand, and “it takes energy — the equivalent of 80 to 300 barrels of oil — to fabricate a battery that can hold energy equal to one barrel.”

“Thus, the energy used to make batteries means EVs [electric vehicles] carry a carbon ‘debt’ that greatly diminishes, or can even cancel out, emissions saved from avoiding oil,” Mills wrote.

Mills also pointed out that the International Energy Agency projects that the expected efficiency improvement in the combustible engine will save 300 percent more global energy than all the electric vehicles expected to be on the road by 2040.

Mills argues that a real revolution will come through investments in research that could someday change the energy landscape.

“Meantime, if today’s electric cars were genuinely compelling, consumers wouldn’t have to be ordered to buy them,” Mills said.

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