Bob Lutz is not going to take attacks on the electric car lying down – the closest he'll come to that is doing push-ups on The Colbert Report. After spending a few of his Forbes columns laying into right-wing pundits for their attacks on the Chevrolet Volt, he is switching to a positive message about how plug-in cars can help with American national security. It is not surprising that Lutz, a former Marine, co-authors the article with two former U.S. Marines commandants and the CEO of FedEx (the three are all members of Securing America's Future Energy's (SAFE) Energy Security Leadership Council). The gist? Well, here's part of the opening paragraph:
America's addiction to gasoline costs the government billions of dollars a year, an estimated $80 billion, in fact, to guard the sea lanes, including one little area by Iran:
When ... threats exist because the United States is the protector of the world's global oil supply lines, it is a clear illustration of how our nation's over-reliance on a single, globally priced fuel impacts our national and economic security.
It's arguments like this that have made the recent right-wing criticism of the Volt such a mystery. If we use less gasoline, we can spend fewer lives and less treasure importing the fuel (of course, we don't lose many lives at the Canadian border, which is where most of our imported oil comes from). The Army says that today's soldier uses an average of 22 gallons of gasoline a day.
From a national security perspective, the U.S. military is forced to protect the world's vital oil infrastructure. The single greatest chokepoint is the Strait of Hormuz, through which 17 million barrels of oil per day passed in 2011 – 20 percent of global supplies. Protection of the sea lanes of commerce has become an American burden and will remain so, costing the United States Treasury an estimated $80 billion per year while taxing our military, which is already engaged on multiple fronts.
Lutz and his co-authors are quite clear that high gas prices are hurting Americans' pocketbooks, "essentially" wiping out tax cuts that Presidents Bush and Obama put into place. That's why, they say, "government action is needed to mitigate the risks of oil dependence, because there is no free market for oil." This intervention contains both expanded domestic production and – surprise – plugging in our light-duty transportation fleet as much as possible and feeding our big trucks lots of natural gas. To that end, they write:
Hard to disagree with that. There's more at Forbes.
Regarding electrification, the beauty of plug-in hybrids and pure electric vehicles like the Chevy Volt and the Nissan Leaf is that they are powered by electricity, which can be generated from many sources: nuclear, coal, natural gas, and renewables. Best yet, these are all domestic energy sources, meaning OPEC won't be able to corner the market. And the retail price of electricity is far less volatile that the price of oil.