The attacks in Paris on Friday were another reminder of the threat that Middle Eastern instability poses to the rest of the world. The news affected me more than the usual foreign event, since I was just in Paris for an electric vehicle conference last December and am planning to attend the United Nations conference on climate change there in just a few weeks.
I’m struck by the similarities to 9/11 in the United States, in terms of the willingness of many in France and the United States to retaliate militarily in the Middle East. As an example, France just launched a big bombing assault yesterday on an ISIS stronghold in Syria.
I can certainly relate to the impulse to retaliate, but it seems that most of the political chatter now is about our military intervention options in response to the attacks, from large-scale to targeted.
But no one seems to be discussing with any seriousness another option: divest from the Middle East. And by divestment, I mean stop investing in the economies of that region, specifically in oil. Fortunately, we have an existing technology that can help with this effort: electric vehicles.
I ran some numbers on the cost of large-scale war versus the cost of investing in electric vehicles, and the results are pretty staggering. The Iraq War, as a point of comparison for a large-scale military effort, will end up costing the United States over $2 trillion dollars (and the war in Afghanistan is estimated to cost $1 trillion). If you assume an electric vehicle costs $30,000 (the price of a Nissan LEAF after incentives), that’s enough money to buy over 66.7 million electric vehicles, or one for every two households in America — and many households in urban areas may not even have a car. Assuming that each of these vehicles displace 10,000 driving miles on gas per year at 25 miles per gallon, that could save 26.7 billion gallons of gasoline annually, or almost a quarter of United States annual consumption.
Of course, if the United States government (and other willing governments around the world) actually bought that many electric vehicles, the cost of the vehicles would fall dramatically with the economies of scale, so these figures are quite conservative.
The result of this huge decrease in demand for oil would be the economic collapse of many petro-states around the world, including some parts of the United States, like Texas. Middle Eastern countries would have to find different industries to gain their wealth and would be hard-pressed to support terrorism financially. Meanwhile, for the United States, the region would no longer be of strategic importance to us and could be left to sort out its own problems without American lives on the line. And of course the investment in electric vehicles would not only bolster our domestic economy and electric utilities, it would clean our air and stabilize our global climate.
All in all, electric vehicles as a response to Middle Eastern terrorism seems like an important option to consider, if our leaders are willing to do so.