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USA: Getting Off Oil Can Be Done – The Electric Industry Already Did

Imagine driving on a cleaner, domestic, oil-free fuel, at a cost that’s roughly equivalent to dollar-a-gallon gasoline. That, in essence, is the reason why thousands will gather this week at the Los Angeles Convention Center for the International Electric Vehicle Symposium. I’ll be there, speaking on a panel highlighting the crucial role electric utilities will play in breaking Big Oil’s monopoly on transportation fuels. To borrow a line from a paper we wrote on the subject: “Just as the oil industry was instrumental to the success of the internal combustion engine, the electric industry will play a central role in determining the fate of the electric vehicle.” Who would you rather buy your transportation fuel from, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, or your local utility?

Electricity is made from a diverse mix of largely domestic resources. Some utilities are cleaner than others, but on average, driving an electric car emits about half as much carbon pollution as the typical gasoline car. In states with cleaner utilities, such as California, driving on electricity emits only a quarter as much carbon pollution. And that’s today. Twenty-nine states, plus the District of Columbia, have set goals for increasing renewable generation, and market forces are pushing aging coal plants out of the mix. In other words, unlike gasoline, which will only become dirtier as oil companies resort to expensive and increasingly polluting resources such as tar sands, electricity gets cleaner every year.

Driving on electricity already means driving oil-free. There was a time when almost 20% of our nation’s electricity was generated using petroleum, but utilities and utility regulators made a concerted effort to get off oil following the 1973 Arab Oil Embargo.


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