Subsidizing electric vehicles is bad policy making 

Electric cars are often marketed as a solution to carbon emissions by vehicles. Due to both emissions during production and fossil fuels burned to power them, electric cars are not much better for the environment than standard cars. Photo by Michael Fousert on Unsplash.

Electric vehicles are often to be portrayed as the transportation of the future – their use of electricity over gas makes them a critical stepping stone to a cleaner world. Unfortunately, this reality may only exist in the minds of Tesla fanatics.  

The recently passed Inflation Reduction Act outlines provisions generally falling under the category of corporate, healthcare and environmental provisions. Among these, an electric vehicle tax credit was enacted that provides a $7,500 income tax credit for new electric vehicles and $4,000 for previously-owned electric vehicles. As well, a 30% tax credit for clean commercial electric vehicles, and $1 billion in grants for the purchase of “clean heavy-duty vehicles”. Furthermore the bill increases the cap of tax credits that electric vehicles producers can receive and allows for fuel cell vehicles to be included in the tax credit.  

Though electric cars are preached as the future of clean energy, their current standing could not be any further from this notion. Electric vehicles indeed do emit less carbon dioxide over their lifetime compared to their gas counterparts, but this selling point comes with large setbacks, making the motif of clean transportation look more like false advertising.  

In order for electric cars to have a meaningful impact, their electricity must be sourced from clean energy sources like wind, solar and nuclear. Currently 60% of our energy is sourced from fossil fuels, thus still generally requiring electric vehicles to depend on fossil fuels. Collecting electric vehicle battery minerals as well as battery assembly both require large amounts of energy, generated from coal burning. In sum, electric vehicles only reduce carbon emissions by about half of combustion engine vehicles, far off from limiting carbon emissions.  

And there are other costs to consider. One study indicates that electric vehicles produce similar particulate matter pollution from brake pads as fuel cars. Another study shows that electric vehicles contribute to more air pollution than gasoline counterparts — the study highlights the drawbacks of electric vehicles stating that electric vehicle emissions “will decrease in 2050 due to a cleaner grid, but the relative benefits when compared to gasoline vehicles do not change significantly, as gasoline vehicles are also improving over this time.”  

Recently, the US government has subsidized electric car companies and provided tax relief to electric car purchasers. These actions put excess weight on actions that do not actually contribute to any meaningful change in carbon emissions. Photo by Bob Osias on Unsplash.

It is often forgotten that the federal government still continues to subsidize oil and gas companies, counteracting its own motives by effectively giving money to both oil companies and electric vehicle and clean technology companies. Along a similar line, there are also ethical questions to mineral sourcing for electric vehicle parts, often originating from child labor

A study by the American Economic Review states “ignoring local pollution leads to an overestimate of the benefits of electric vehicles, environmental benefits from driving cannot, alone, justify [a] federal subsidy.” It also advocates that federal subsidies may instead be incurring future costs due to the environmental damages from electric vehicles. 

Then why do politicians continue to advocate for harmful policies like subsidizing electric vehicles? It is clear that they currently have no meaningful role in environmental protection and conservation and yet we allow these things, like many other bad policies, to pass under a bill purporting itself to reduce inflation.  

In fact, the “Inflation Reduction” Act has no real policy within it that truly combats the inflation we currently face. The Congressional Office, in a letter to Senator Lindsey Graham, stated that the labeled “Inflation Reduction Act” will have a negligible reduction on inflation. Statements like, “and so many friends, what a thrill it is to be here to celebrate this life-changing legislation, making the Inflation Reduction Act…so beautifully named for all that it does,” by Speaker Nancy Pelosi hilariously encapsulate American politics and the deceitful ways politicians, both left and right, manipulate the public.   

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senator Joe Manchin issued a joint statement stating “the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 will make a historic down payment on deficit reduction to fight inflation, invest in domestic energy production and manufacturing, and reduce carbon emissions by roughly 40 percent by 2030.” But it is obvious these are empty words, with the only intention behind them to convince the public that the politicians on Capitol Hill are environmentally and economically conscious.  

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