Despite America’s fracking revolution, our national security remains at great risk due to our continued dependence on oil. Oil remains a globally traded, fungible commodity. This means that instability in and changes in output from any one of the major oil producing countries—Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, Russia, Nigeria, Iran—has global price ramifications, especially for the largest consumer of oil in the world: the U.S.
Therefore, it is critical that we do all we can to promote the use of renewable energy technology, particularly electric vehicles, in order to not only secure U.S. energy needs but also to reduce the amount of money going abroad to those who do not necessarily share our values and present a risk to our security. Transitioning to renewable energy sources would also save money, as securing America’s oil supply lines currently cost an estimated $68 billion annually—in addition to putting too many of our soldiers are in harm’s way in order to provide that security.
In essence, if we can slow our nation’s reliance on oil here at home, then we should be doing all we can because, in the long run, that will establish our energy independence and protect our loved ones in uniform.
Ambitious clean energy goals set here in New York are critical to these efforts. The Governor and legislature have long stood as global leaders in efforts to combat climate change and promote a cleaner electricity grid, demonstrating that we take the fossil fuel transition seriously and will work tirelessly to ensure a safe world for the next generation.
However, action to reform New York’s electricity grid means little if not mirrored in the transportation sector. The transportation sector is one of the largest emitters of greenhouse gases in New York and is uniquely undiversified and reliant on a single fuel source. The U.S. electricity sector, on the other hand, is highly diversified using domestic natural gas, coal, nuclear, hydro, solar, and wind to generate power. The use of domestically generated electricity to power our transport sector results in a cleaner environment as well as strengthens U.S. national and energy security.
In this light, increasing consumer access to electric vehicles should be a top priority for New York state and our country. An important first step is to make it as easy as possible to buy an electric vehicle. After all, direct sales of electric vehicles by manufacturers increases public awareness about the importance of clean energy, encourages build-out of strong public charging infrastructure, and provides motivation for existing dealerships to offer more electric vehicles than they already do.
Telsa, for instance, is already demonstrating these benefits at their five locations across New York. However, they operate under a cap on the number of stores it can open within the state—which makes little sense when you consider how low electric vehicle adoption rates remain and the security imperative to expedite this transition to clean energy. Simply put, a barrier to electric vehicle adoption is a barrier to bolstered U.S. energy security. In no other industry is a company capped on how many stores it can open and where it can sell—and besides, this runs counter to various state programs promoting the adoption of electric vehicles in New York.
While more Tesla stores do not necessarily mean we will see an immediate spike in electric vehicle adoption, it does mean that the car-buying experience for more families will include electric vehicles. This gives consumers more choices to not just consider a Tesla, but to also go back to their local auto dealer and see what other options are on the market.
In the aftermath of President Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Accords, states, cities, and ultimately consumers will be what drive U.S. climate policy. Thus, it is especially important to ensure that the market works and consumers can learn more about how to transition to cleaner vehicles. Given the national security implications of climate change and our nation’s reliance on oil, we must empower consumers to fight for a better future by making electric vehicle purchases easy, affordable, and accessible. Otherwise, we will continue down our path towards supporting dangerous fossil fuels and being over reliant on regional actors who do not share our nation’s best interests or values.
Timothy Magner is a graduate of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy and a Security Fellow with the Truman National Security Project. He lives and works in the Capital Region. Views expressed are his own.