Beyond money and jobs, electric cars and trucks are important for our health and the health of our children, who are especially affected by pollution.Guest Blog | November 4, 2021
This op-ed, written by Richard M. Briggs, originally appeared in the Tennessean on October 28, 2021. Richard M. Briggs, M.D., is a Republican state senator representing the 7th District, which encompasses part of Knox County. He is also a retired U.S. Army colonel.
Opinion: Congress Can Help Tennessee Lead Charge to Electric Vehicle Transition
Beyond money and jobs, electric cars and trucks are important for our health and the health of our children, who are especially affected by pollution.
Let’s be clear eyed on how cars and trucks are changing — they’re all going electric. More than 20 countries will allow only electric cars and trucks to be sold within a decade, and auto companies are lining up to reach an all-electric future. Ford, for example, will spend $5.6 billion on a Stanton, Tennessee, campus to make the all-electric version of the F-150, while General Motors, Audi and Hyundai are spending billions to electrify every new vehicle they sell by 2035 or sooner.
“EVs” reached an all-time U.S. sales high in the past quarter, and sales increased 160% globally in 2021 as plunging battery costs and low electricity costs have made them cheaper to drive than gas vehicles. The price of EV batteries declined 89% between 2010 and 2020, and driving on electricity in Tennessee costs the equivalent of 95 cents per gallon of gasoline.
This generational shift is creating a historic opportunity for job growth and economic development right here in Tennessee, but only if we have federal leadership. Federal lawmakers must give our state and country the chance to lead the shift to electric transportation by investing in battery production and research, encouraging automakers to produce more electric cars and trucks, and making it easier for everyone to own one.
Fueling our cars, buses and trucks with electricity is key to economic development in Tennessee and the Southeast. We spend about $94 billion on gas and diesel every year in the Southeast, and most of that money — about two-thirds — leaks out of the region, going out of the state and out of the country to multinational oil companies. If, however, all of the vehicle miles traveled in the region were electric, Southeast consumers would save $42 billion on transportation fuel because electricity is cheaper and electric vehicles more efficient. And, of the money spent on electricity, an extra $5 billion would stay in-state, going to local and regional utilities instead of oil conglomerates, and recirculating more in local economies. Overall, electrifying transportation in the Southeast would add $47 billion to the region’s economies each year.
Beyond money and jobs, electric cars and trucks are important for our health and the health of our children. Vehicle tailpipes emit a bunch of nasty stuff you can’t see, smell or taste. Particulate matter is one of the worst offenders. It’s 30 times smaller than a single hair on your head and can find its way into every organ in the human body. This pollution especially affects kids, increasing the risk of asthma and mental disorders, and causes at least 100,000 premature deaths per year in the U.S. All-electric vehicles can therefore save lives — as many as 6,300 when powered by increasing levels of clean energy — and avoid $1.2 billion in health costs in the Southeast alone.
Should federal lawmakers do nothing to encourage U.S. leadership on electric cars and trucks, it will take longer to realize these savings and the American auto sector will see employment and job quality continue a downward march. If, however, the shift to electric cars and trucks is accompanied by strategic investment in manufacturing, the number and quality of jobs will rise together with electric car and truck production. Employment in the U.S. auto sector could rise by over 150,000 jobs in 2030 if 1 out of every 2 new vehicles sold is all-electric and policy encourages more vehicles and their parts to be assembled in the U.S. I want to see this happen, and Congress should too.
Now is the time for Congress to accelerate electric car and truck production in the Southeast and the U.S., because the tipping point at which electric cars and trucks will forever overtake their gas-powered ancestors is here.
Join me in telling Congress that we need more, not less, electric vehicle policy and investment. You can send a message to your member of Congress at pluginamerica.org/policy/tell-congress-to-take-action-for-evs-now/.