Replacing 20% of Gasoline Powered Vehicles with Electric Cars Would Eliminate the Need to Import Oil From the Middle East
Oil is absolutely the lifeblood of the American economy right now, we need so much of it that we are willing to buy it from just about anyone. Middle Eastern countries that depend primarily on exporting oil have found that their internal politics usually do not matter when dealing with the U.S., provided expats are not significantly affected (there’s a reason we don’t deal with Iran).
The United States imports approximately 10 million barrels of oil per day while extracting about 9.5 million barrels a day at home. Of that 19.5 million barrels, about 47% of it is used up in the refinement process to meet the nation’s gasoline needs. Simply put, about 9.4 million barrels of oil a day are needed to fuel the machines that sit in our driveways and garages.
We bring in approximately 18% of our oil from Persian Gulf countries according to the EIA. Some people might be surprised to learn that the U.S. imports more oil from Canada than any other country, by a long shot at 38%. In general, it’s better to import anything you need to keep the lights on in your country from long-term allies. The U.S. does have a lot of allies in the Middle East, thanks in large part to their oil, but also plenty of countries and non-state actors that certainly would not be considered friendly.
There are a couple of things that work together to make it possible, though difficult in the short-term future, to stop importing Middle Eastern oil. The first is the increasing fuel economy seen in gas-powered automobiles. 15 miles a gallon used to be considered alright 30 years ago, today, the car that gets 15 miles to the gallon would take the form of either a crushed chunk of twisted steel and metal at the junk heap, or the 2017 Cadillac Escalade. Either way, the type of car that guzzles gas has been going out of style with the vast majority of Americans for years. Your average new car in 1990 would get about 28 mpg driven off the dealer’s lot, in 2015, that has increased to over 36 mpg while being a much safer vehicle filled with many luxuries that most 1990 model year cars did not possess.
Electric vehicles are perhaps the more important aspect when it comes to importing less oil overall. Coal and natural gas make up about 65% of the fuel required for electricity production in the U.S. with slightly more coming from natural gas than coal in 2016. These energy sources come overwhelmingly from the U.S. and would theoretically be 2/3rds responsible for the power that it takes to run an electric car. Market saturation for pure plug-in electric vehicles is very low, amounting to around 570,000 vehicles out of about 255 million. Non-plugin hybrids help bring the total up to 4.2 million that run on some type of electric power. In total, abut 1.6% of the vehicles on U.S. roads are electric or hybrid.
Bringing that total up to 20% would take time and probably substantial subsidies in addition to the ones already offered. States like California, where having a gasoline powered vehicle is disadvantageous thanks to extreme stop and go traffic, as well as higher registration fees, have a monumental 3.3% share of all new passenger vehicles being powered by plug-in electricity.
As of now, only one country looks poised to cross that 20% threshold in the near future, and they certainly don’t need to import any oil – Norway. About 22% of new car sales in Norway are plug-in electric vehicles and more than 5% of cars on the road do not require any gas.
About one in every 195 cars sold in the U.S. is a plug-in electric vehicle, while 2.75% of U.S. new car sales are hybrids. A far cry from where we need to be, but progress is being made, albeit slowly.