Consumers should focus candidates on energy alternatives

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Rising gas prices appear to be a simple, yet important question for the American consumer and college students with tight budgets. Higher prices mean driving less, while the logical solution of lowering prices means driving more.

However, the economics of prices and driving can and must be changed by thinking differently about the connectedness of the energy market through subsidies, alternative sources and the politics of gas costs.

When consumers consider how they value and under what circumstances they would purchase an electric car, the objectives become transition and financial sustainability within the energy market.

Michael Lynch of Strategic Energy and Economic Research, an analysis firm, explains awareness of cost and benefits is a large deterrent from consumers purchasing electric vehicles. The central costs to Americans tied to electric cars are the government subsidies, such as the $7500 for each Chevrolet Volt.

Yet an infusion of capital to lower prices stimulates demand, which encourages automakers to produce, compete and innovate among electric vehicles. In time, better technology and supply chains can lower prices and integrate electric options into the market as gasoline-based vehicles become less desirable.

The context of the inevitable arrival of Peak Oil and the exhaustion of fossil fuels make the rise of alternative fuel even more pressing.

China already witnessed the success of its energy subsidies, as it quintupled the number of green cars on its roads from 2010-2012.

Meanwhile, critics of subsidies should take note of the $4 billion of government funds given to oil company operations, and at least be content with parity between sustainable and unsustainable fuel sources.

Neither is the American manufacturing sector, a cornerstone of the country’s economy, an unworthy recipient of funds when compared to newer industries such as solar power. Pushing favorable market conditions for electric vehicles also ties to the entire energy sector, because electric vehicles are tied to the power grid.

With an increasing number of cars tied to energy infrastructure, consumers become more concerned with the price and origins of their power. More usage and naturally rising demand for energy over time in the United States lead to decisions over how to source and distribute new power plants and replace aging ones.

An interconnected energy market can be more sensitive to environmental impacts and encourage more long-term planning and consensus-building on alternatives within company boardrooms and Congressional committees alike.

The final and largest short-term benefit to considering electric cars in the American market is the better framing of political issues it would bring.

Republican presidential candidates have proposed solutions to high gas prices through freer drilling and opening the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, while boldly promising gas as low as $2.50 per gallon.

Focusing political debate on the inevitable need to shift to alternative fuels is far better than wishing for a short-term easing on the pocketbook. The United States’ 20 percent of world oil consumption dwarfs its two percent of proven reserves.

In an election year, however, the direction of public opinion will have the greatest impact on the rhetoric and promises of politicians. Looking to electric cars and a greener energy future solves important economic, environmental and political debates in a contentious time.

 

Pearce Edwards is a junior political science and history double major from Albuquerque, N.M.