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Biden’s Electric Vehicle Obsession Is Costing Us Plenty

nyc electric charging stations

If you listen to the White House, you might think electric vehicles are the Veg-O-Matic of federal policy—the handy solution to every pesky problem. First, there’s climate change, of course.

On the campaign trail, Joe Biden called global warming “an existential threat.” To fix it, we need to “get internal-combustion-engine vehicles off the road,” he said. [bold, links added]

Once in office, the president signed an executive order mandating that, by 2030, half of all new vehicles sold in the U.S. must create “zero emissions.”

High gas prices? Team Biden has the answer: “When we have electric cars powered by clean energy, we will never have to worry about gas prices again,” the White House tweeted in March.

What about the economy? At a press event on the South Lawn of the White House, the president repeated one of his favorite campaign themes: “When I hear ‘climate,’ I think ‘jobs,’” he said. “Good-paying union jobs.”

Then he climbed into a $60,000 plug-in Jeep Wrangler and drove off. Problem solved!

But wait, there’s more! EVs fight poverty, too. Former White House press secretary Jen Psaki touted Biden’s $5 billion plan to build “500,000 electric-vehicle charging stations,” noting that the plan prioritizes “rural and disadvantaged communities.”

Because nothing says you care about the poor like giving them a place to charge their Teslas.

But can electric cars stop Putin’s tanks? Of course, they can! We just need to keep “transforming our economy to run on electric vehicles powered by clean energy,” the president recently explained. “That’ll mean tyrants like Putin won’t be able to use fossil fuels as weapons against other nations.” Well, OK then!

To be fair, electric cars aren’t the Biden administration’s only policy preference when it comes to energy and the environment. The White House also backs wind and solar power—including a network of gargantuan wind turbines lining the East Coast—and made moves to limit gas and oil drilling (oops!).

But EVs are the policy option the administration likes to talk about the most. Biden and his staff seem to have decided that promising a shiny EV in every driveway is the most appealing way to frame their green agenda. …snip…

But does that make EVs the silver bullet against climate change? The White House sure thinks so. Last year, Biden’s EPA announced much stricter fuel-efficiency standards: By 2026, automakers will need to achieve fleet-wide averages of 55 miles per gallon.

Manhattan Institute economist Jonathan Lesser calls the move a “stealth electric-vehicle mandate”; to meet the standard, manufacturers will have to multiply the number of EVs they sell whether buyers clamor for them or not.

To goose demand, Team Biden also backs much bigger rebates for people who buy electric cars. Biden’s doomed Build Back Better plan included a $12,500 rebate for EV buyers—but with a catch: Only vehicles built in unionized U.S. factories would qualify for the full rebate.

The plan pointedly penalized Tesla—which outsells all other EV brands combined—and other companies building EVs in non-union plants. (The White House likes to talk about the climate “crisis,” but policies like this reveal its true priorities: Rather than trying to maximize EV sales, the rebate plan was designed to maximize the money flowing to Biden’s union supporters.)

Build Back Better famously collapsed under the weight of its own grandiosity. But Democrats are still talking about somehow passing the “climate-related” parts of the bill. …snip…

But the fact is, EVs will be an elite choice for years to come. Not everyone can afford to spend $50,000 on a new car—or to buy a new car at all.

Some people need the longer range and convenient fueling options that internal-combustion engines provide. And not everyone lives in a suburban home where they can recharge a car in their own garage each night.

But there’s a bigger problem. Biden’s policies assume that EV sales can double or triple year after year, and that their environmental benefits will scale up with them. It turns out that’s not so simple. Alterman asks, “How sustainable is sustainability?”

EV motors and batteries require a host of exotic minerals—lithium, cobalt, and rare earth metals. Environmental rules make it almost impossible to mine those in the U.S., and the quantities available from China, Africa, and other sketchy suppliers are limited.

Prices are spiking. Several years ago, a team of British scientists calculated what it would take to convert all of the UK’s motor vehicles to battery operation.

Going all-electric would require nearly “two times the total annual world cobalt production, nearly the entire world production of neodymium, [and] three-quarters of the world’s lithium production,” they concluded.

And that’s just the UK. The U.S. has roughly nine times more vehicles. Before we bet the future of the planet on building hundreds of millions of EVs, maybe somebody should crunch the numbers on the resources required.

In most cases, the lifecycle environmental footprint of EVs is still better than that of internal combustion vehicles, but the margin isn’t as big as some supporters think.

And electric vehicles need…electricity. The EV revolution advocated by the White House will put enormous new demands on the power grid. There’s little indication the grid will be ready.

The same people advocating for a wholesale shift to EVs also believe we can run our electric grid primarily on wind and solar power. But the rollout of these renewable sources is going more slowly than promised.

And the states most committed to the renewables-first approach—including California and New York—are struggling just to meet current demand.

They’ve learned that closing nuclear plants while trying to ramp up intermittent wind and solar power makes the grid less reliable and forces electricity prices through the roof.

To its credit, the Biden administration supports keeping nuclear plants open. But it still doesn’t have a realistic plan to increase American power generation.

A program to convert U.S. transportation to electric power—without a parallel program to ramp up the production of electric power—is an exercise in wishful thinking.

While Biden’s team touts EVs as the feel-good solution to climate change—and almost everything else—it avoids grappling with these economic and engineering realities. And when it comes to this country’s total carbon output, EVs will not save us that much.

Read in full at Commentary

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