What’s more, the evidence shows that the environmental benefits gained from switching to EVs is greatest when the electricity used to charge them comes from zero-carbon sources, namely solar, wind, hydro and nuclear power. As an environmental engineer, I am proud of the excellent performance of U.S. nuclear plants. They provide nearly 55% of the nation’s emission-free energy, and many are located here in the Midwest.
With EVs, an accelerated start would get production rolling. Congress should throw its support behind President Joe Biden’s plan to produce a government fleet of EVs — more than 600,000 cars and trucks — and have the vehicles assembled in U.S. factories. Building the vehicles in this country, along with batteries, would create a projected 1 million jobs and help the United States regain world leadership in auto technology and production from China, which has catapulted into the world’s No. 1 producer of EVs, accounting for half of global EV sales.
Policies that support the transition to EVs should not be seen as a threat to the fossil-fuel industry, since oil will continue to be needed for aviation and industrial production. Instead, it’s an opportunity to ensure that America has a stake in the auto industry of the future and ensure that the jobs it will provide are American jobs. But if we don’t act with urgency now, those jobs won’t be American but, rather, Chinese.
As we protect our auto industry, we also need to ensure a secure supply of the materials needed for lithium-ion batteries and wind turbines, with less reliance on imports. Each EV battery requires 25 pounds of lithium, much of which comes from China. Astonishingly, there is only one lithium mine in the United States. Other lithium mines are expected to open, but the concern is that China can force battery prices to rise — or that it might curtail the export of lithium.