Electric Vehicles Will Increase Energy Poverty, Weaken Industry
(AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Electric Vehicles Will Increase Energy Poverty, Weaken Industry
(AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
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Expect to see an influx of electric vehicles on the road throughout the next decade, as newly sworn-in President Joe Biden’s climate plan includes $400 billion in so-called clean energy expenditures. 

His plan would mandate that, by 2030, the United States have seventeen times as many electric-vehicle-charging stations on the road. Since 2012, electric utilities have been allowed to spend $1.5 billion for transportation electrification across the United States. 

Right now, there are nearly a billion dollars in utility requests to do even more. However, having all electric users and taxpayers dish out more money for electricity to support more affluent people who can afford expensive electric vehicles isn’t fair. 

Increasing electric rates to support such programming, which inevitably happens when subsidies are involved, hurts poor and lower-income families the most. These families are often minority men and women who are then faced with tough budget choices. How is that environmental justice? Increasing electricity costs increases energy poverty.  

Higher energy costs also make our industries less competitive, shifting jobs and production to lower-cost energy countries like China—a country that relies on cheap coal for nearly 60 percent of all its energy, not just electricity. 

China, moreover, is building hundreds more coal plants. They must be planning for the transfer of even more jobs and production from the west. Less competitive industry means lower wages and less work here. Is that environmental or economic justice?  

Furthermore, North Carolina regulators signed off on a scheme that requires electric users to pick up the $18.5 million tab for Duke Energy’s foray into the electric-vehicle-charging business. Duke asked for $76 million for 2,500 charging stations and the conversion of public-transit buses to electricity.  

They ‘only’ get to own and operate 280 charging stations and administer $6.5 million for an electric school bus grant program for 30 electric buses at $215,000 each. Never mind that it only costs $10,000 to convert an existing bus to cleaner and lower-cost propane.  

Michigan has a grant program for charging stations paid for by electric users. It provides $400 grants for homes and $5,000 to $70,000 for businesses. California has the most programs and is spending more than $3.3 billion on electric-vehicle infrastructure.

At the same time, California is dramatically increasing its electric rates as it continues to add part-time wind and solar generation, which is increasing its blackout problem. 

There are now more than 26,000 electric-vehicle charging stations with 82,000 cords around the country. Some estimates suggest we need at least one to two million more public—and up to 10 million private—charging stations by 2030. 

In the rush to install more, we should consider whether it’s wise for the government and utilities to use taxpayers’ and electric user’s money for an expensive build-out funding electric vehicles for the privileged few.  

After all, the average electric-vehicle owner is better off than 85 percent of the regular people being tapped to subsidize electric-vehicle users. Even with all the generous subsidies for manufacturers and enhanced charging-station infrastructure, low-income people won’t be able to afford an electric vehicle for decades. 

Even still, twenty million electric vehicles on the road by 2030 is the goal apparently talked about the most. This will increase electric demand by as much as 95 TWh, which will require costly investments in our electric grid. 

These investments in a new generation of vehicles will increase electric rates for everyone. High- energy costs, though, most severely affect the poor. These investments also spike unreliability as part-time wind and solar generation is added to the electric supply. 

A recent study shows achieving 20 million electric vehicles will be costly—more than $100 billion in spending for an industry that supplies just 2 percent of new-car purchases in the United States. There are 285 million cars on the road and fewer than 2 million are electric plug-ins.  

The fairest way to handle this electric-vehicle charging station build-out is to add the increased costs to the electric-vehicle charged rate and a prorated transportation tax for miles driven. Why? Because, as more and more electric vehicles hit the road, there will be less and less gas tax money to pay for roads, bridges, highways, and public transit (an electric public transit bus costs $200,000 more than a clean propane model).  

As we enter this progressive sci-fi world of electrification, we should be talking about the real-world costs and who pays. We shouldn’t be doing Robinhood in reverse, particularly when the majority of electric-vehicle purchasers are wealthy, while low-income people must pay for it while experiencing energy poverty.  

Frank Lasee is a former Wisconsin state senator and former member of Governor Scott Walker’s administration. The district he represented had two nuclear power plants, a biomass plant and numerous wind towers. He has experience dealing with energy, the environment and the climate. 

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