Short Circuit: The High Cost of Electric Vehicle Subsidies
(Manhattan Institute) Many claim that “zero-emissions vehicles” (ZEVs), especially battery-powered electric vehicles, should replace most, if not all, cars and trucks powered by gasoline-burning internal combustion engines. The primary rationale is to reduce air pollution and carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.
To effect this change, governments are spending billions of dollars to subsidize electric vehicles. These subsidies include state and federal tax credits for purchasing ZEVs and programs to subsidize the installation of vehicle-charging infrastructure in businesses, households, and along highways. Several states also have mandated the sale of ZEVs. For example, an executive order signed by California governor Jerry Brown in January requires 5 million ZEVs to be on the state’s roads and highways by 2030.
Will these subsidies and programs accomplish their objectives? And at what cost? A review of the literature finds few cost-benefit studies on these key questions.
- Broad-based adoption of ZEVs will increase overall emissions of sulfur dioxide, oxides of nitrogen, and particulates, compared with the same number of new internal combustion engines. The simple fact is that, because of stringent emissions standards and low-sulfur gasoline, new gasoline-powered cars and trucks today emit very little pollution, and they will emit even less in the future.
- While new ZEVs will reduce CO2 emissions compared with new internal combustion vehicles, the overall reduction will be less than 1% of total forecast energy-related U.S. CO2 emissions through 2050. That reduction will have no measurable impact on world climate—and thus the economic value of CO2 emissions reductions associated with ZEVs is effectively zero.
- Subsidies for ZEVs and the required infrastructure to support them benefit the higher-income consumers who can afford to purchase them at the expense of lower-income consumers who cannot. In California alone, the total cost of ZEV subsidies, including federal tax credits and state rebates for ZEV purchases, as well as subsidies for private and public charging infrastructure, is likely to exceed $100 billion. READ MORE
Are electric cars worse for the environment? (Politico)
Excerpt from Politico: So, if electric-vehicle subsidies don’t help the environment, what—or who—do they help? Most electric-vehicle buyers are far wealthier than average Americans. A nationwide survey in 2017 found that 56% had household incomes of at least $100,000 and 17% had household incomes of at least $200,000. (In 2016, median household income for the US as a whole was less than $58,000.) So it’s fair to say the subsidies disproportionately benefit the wealthy at the expense of the poor, who cannot afford to buy even subsidized electric vehicles or live in their own homes to take advantage of residential chargers or solar panels.
Not only that, the wires and charging stations needed to charge all those electric vehicles will be paid for by all ratepayers, further raising electric rates. And as more wealthy customers install solar panels to charge their electric vehicles, the costs to provide them back-up power will fall on those who cannot afford to do so.
In effect, the wealthy owners of electric vehicles will enjoy the benefits of their clean, silent cars, while passing on many of the costs of keeping their vehicles on the road to everyone else, especially the poor. READ MORE