- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 8, 2009


Gary Andres is absolutely right that we must think much bigger in order to address our energy problems (“Mideast oil debate begins anew,” Op-Ed, Friday). However, we also must think deeper.

A million electric cars make little difference in a nation with 250 million cars. On the other hand, 100 million electric cars would crash our electric grid. Or, if they were phased in such a way that they didn’t crash the grid, they would quickly deplete our natural-gas and coal reserves. Even going whole-hog nuclear to support an electrified car fleet is limited by our uranium reserves.

The lowest-risk approach is to greatly reduce our energy use. This would allow our fossil fuels to carry us further and allow renewable energy to meet a greater percentage of the remaining demand. I doubt that we can sustainably support a fleet of 250 million cars.

Reducing the average number of cars per family by half and doubling the fuel economy of the remaining vehicles would reduce our energy use for the auto fleet to one quarter of current demand. If we met half the remaining demand with electric cars, then we would only need an eighth of the liquid fuel that we currently use for cars.

For this to work, it would require more compact living arrangements, better transit, car sharing, biking, walking and telecommuting. It is hard to envision us moving forward with such a challenging transformation without a fundamental consensus that it is necessary. It is. We must leave oil before it leaves us.



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