The way the questions are framed is crucial to their credibility. A nonprofit organization in the southern United States is helping to make the transition of electric vehicles in the region not only credible, but also part of a special and engaging regional mindset.
It is a coalition that is pushing the south of the USA towards the EV transition. Electrify the South, the Southern Clean Energy Alliance’s (SACE) program, uses research, advocacy and reach to promote renewable energy and accelerate the equitable adoption of electric vehicles across the Southeast.
Framing the EV transition as patriotic
In 2022, the definition of an American patriot is complicated and different from rah! rah! images of Cold War America. Today, the U.S. is a divided nation, and much of the southern U.S. is firmly identified as heterosexual, Christian, and Republican with strong capitalist, militaristic, and nationalist values. How does the EV transition fit into this paradigm?
Decisions to purchase electric vehicles instead of internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles have environmental and geopolitical consequences. Factors that predict concerns when choosing a vehicle tend to focus on the performance and range of electric vehicles, the prevalence of EV in general, and beliefs about what statements different types of vehicles make about their owners and owner values.
Global value chains are in the process of localization and self-interest as policymakers want to support their stakeholders and plans. The Hinrich Foundation calls this state of business a manifestation of 21st century techno-nationalism. It is a kind of “neo-mercantilist way of thinking” that connects technological capabilities with national security, economic prosperity and socio-political stability.
One extension of this way of thinking is to frame the EV transition as a patriotic need to protect the integrity of the United States. An editorial written by program manager Dory Larsen on the Electrify the South blog argues that transport electrification is a pro-American solution. That is, “Americans should embrace electric vehicles to get rid of the gasoline dictator, improve national security, reduce fuel costs for consumers, solve the climate crisis and put an end to dangerous drilling at sea,” Larsen said. “Our transport systems can run on clean, renewable energy from a domestic source.”
Rejecting Big Oil’s call for more drilling as a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Larsen points out that energy security will not be achieved by drilling more, but by a decisive turn towards electric transport that is powered by clean energy. In this patriotic framework, the EV transition will protect the American consumer. This will create jobs. Yes, it will stabilize the climate.
Larsen uses Florida as a tangible example. Electric vehicles in Florida emit over 60% less greenhouse gas emissions per year compared to gasoline-powered vehicles, including life-cycle emissions. Why? In part, this is because EV vehicles are significantly more energy efficient than ICE vehicles. Fuel efficiency, Larsen explains, for most EVs is over 100 MPGe compared to 25.7 miles per gallon for a gas-powered vehicle. These emission reductions are improving every year, and the energy we use can be domesticated from clean energy for a decade.
Reminding the audience that “America relied on globalization,” Larsen concludes that drilling fossil fuels continues to result in dependence and vulnerability instead of power and autonomy. “The only real solution is a quick and urgent transition to clean energy and clean transport.”
Electric vehicles – for children
When we show that a policy or program is good for children, it is difficult for even the most irritable bullies to stand on the field.
For many, the effort to electrify school buses is less of a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions than a help to children. Electric school buses could reduce asthma and respiratory diseases and increase attendance and test scores. Nearly 20 million American children ride the school bus on a diesel engine every day. Diesel buses have indoor air pollution that is up to 12 times higher than the ambient level.
Electric buses do not emit any pollution from the exhaust pipe, eliminating exhaust fumes associated with asthma attacks, respiratory diseases and cancer.
So Clean Energy Works, in partnership with the Alliance for Electric School Buses and WRI’s Electric School Bus Initiative, hosted a webinar focused on electric school bus infrastructure. It states how school districts and power companies can effectively team up in the selection and installation of chargers, infrastructure upgrades and interconnection agreements. Discussion included options such as managed charging and vehicle-to-network technologies.
With funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Act, EPA’s new Clean School Bus Program provides $ 5 billion over the next five years (2022-2026) to replace existing school buses with no-emission models. The EPA is offering $ 500 million through clean school bus rebates for 2022 for zero-emission and low-emission school bus rebates as the first funding opportunity.
The numbers tell the story of the success of Southern electric vehicles
SACE and its partner, Atlas Public Policy, highlighted key year-end indicators from their annual report “Electrification of Transport in the Southeast”. The goal was to capture regional and state growth in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee. Some of the numbers that resulted were “astonishing, of course.”
The Southeast ended 2021 ahead of the rest of the country in terms of investment and jobs in the production of electric cars, trucks and buses, with 18% of the nation’s population but 43% of announced EV-related investments and 33% of announced jobs. Growing from the previous 6 months, the region added 15,784 manufacturing jobs and secured $ 12.1 billion in new investment – Rivian chose Georgia, Toyota chose North Carolina, and Ford expanded in Tennessee to sweeten the scenario.
Celebrating the Southern Road, SACE noted that these jobs and investments lie throughout the supply chain of electric vehicles, including mineral mining, battery production, electric vehicle charging station production, electronics assembly, software development and vehicle production. Companies are moving and expanding in our region, SACE affirms, because of its “pro-business political environmentlarge coastal and land ports, lower prices for electricity and water, and non-union work”(Emphasis added).
The non-profit organization supports the rapid decarbonisation of transportation systems as the transportation sector now contributes the most to U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. To accelerate decarbonisation, they educate and empower individuals, communities, municipalities, policy makers and utilities to move to clean, electric transportation across the southeast.
Electrifying the transport sector with renewable energy and increasing vehicle efficiency, they say, will also strengthen the economy, save consumers money and reduce dependence on oil and threats from offshore drilling.
Electrify the South also acknowledges small and large efforts to smooth the transition to EV. For example, the May bulletin zoomed in on citizens from 14 different coastal communities in the southeast who joined 40 other groups across the country at Hands Across the Sands. It is an opportunity for people to express their commitment to clean energy and electric vehicles – rather than risky drilling at sea. Refusing to drill and emphasizing the need to accelerate the transition to clean energy and electric transport at the state, national and global levels is key to creating Southeast support for electric vehicles.
Such is their set of electric transportation tools, which helps decision makers identify cost-effective, sustainable and equitable solutions and successful strategies to accelerate electric transportation. The handbook contains best practices of local government EV policies and actions from across the country with links to real-world examples.
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