OPINION: Efforts to fund green cars would be better spent on wind turbines

Building more wind turbines could be approved by both parties, unlike electric cars



Though subsidizing green cars would be good for the environment, it’s unlikely to be passed by Republicans. Money for wind turbines would have more of a chance.

GUS WATERS, Evergreen columnist

Subsidies for electric cars are a great idea to combat climate change, but in today’s political world it makes more sense to focus on bipartisan efforts to build wind turbines.

Chuck Schumer, Democratic Senate minority leader, announced a $450 billion plan that would subsidize the purchase of electric vehicles over the next 10 years. There is a clear need to get more fuel-efficient cars on the streets of the United States.

In 2017 over 3.2 trillion miles were driven in the U.S. on highways, which is roughly equivalent to a thousand times the distance between the sun and Pluto, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics.

While this plan would likely reduce carbon emissions, it does have some drawbacks.

Chuck Schumer hasn’t announced any plans for how he would pay for his proposition. The proposition likely won’t pass due to the Senate’s Republican majority.

Few people intend to buy electric vehicles. A 2018 poll by AAA found that only 20 percent of Americans intend for their next car to be electric. That same poll found that 58 percent of Americans fear that their electric car would run out of energy while driving.

Right now, it seems as if the subsidies would be ineffective at getting Americans to buy electric vehicles in massive numbers since few Americans already intend on buying them. However, this doesn’t mean that the subsidies are altogether bad.

While only 20 percent of Americans would have their next car purchase be electric, this number is up five percent from 2017. If this trend continues, in just a few years we could have large amounts of public support for the subsidies. The number of Americans who fear their electric car running out of electricity is down 10 percent from 2017 as well.

Action on climate change is not altogether impossible in the next few years but would need to have strong bipartisan roots.

“The majority of people believe in climate change, how pressing it is certainly varies … in the Republican party you have many who don’t view it that way,” said Travis Ridout, WSU professor of political science specializing in political polarization. “It has become a politicized issue, which makes action on climate change difficult.”

As for whether electric car subsidies will happen, Ridout said that it depends on the 2020 election and that Trump’s reelection would prevent this legislation from passing.

While action on climate change is imperative for the continued success of U.S., car subsidies are just not a realistic option right now. That is why the federal government should invest in building electric wind turbines.

“It makes Republican states in the middle of the country richer … it’s something that plays well in Texas or Iowa,” Ridout said. “It would be one of the most politically popular things to do, it would unite Democrats and Republicans.”

Wind turbines are already popular in Washington; Ellensburg has a large wind turbine farm with 149 turbines according to Puget Sound Energy.

This is something that would create jobs in construction, have bipartisan support and help combat climate change.

Building wind turbines is by no means a silver bullet to climate change. The Office of Energy 

Efficiency and Renewable Energy found that wind turbines have a higher base cost than conventional fossil fuel generators and are built-in spots that are far from cities making it difficult to transfer power.

Building wind turbines is a first step, not a solution. However, it’s better to take this first step together as Republicans and Democrats than to try to run this path alone.