Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

January 17, 2012

Ending America’s Energy Insecurity: How Electric Vehicles Can Drive The Solution To Energy Independence

Filed under: Futures,General Homeland Security — by Christopher Bellavita on January 17, 2012

Today’s post was written by Fred Stein.  It is based on his recently completed homeland security master’s degree thesis.

Fred’s central conclusion — a surprising one to me — is the U.S. would basically become energy independent if we stopped using gasoline to power our automobiles.

Information about obtaining the complete thesis (including the evidence supporting his argument) can be found at the end of this post.

Fred’s analysis begins with a look at some common perceptions about this country’s dependence on foreign oil.

——————–

Common Perception Validity Explanation
America is heavily dependent on foreign countries for oil. True Net oil imports are 50% of America’s use.
America is dependent on oil because it does not produce much oil. False America is the world’s third largest producer of oil.
America’s dependence on oil is undesirable because it supports our enemies. True Military experts decry that we are actually funding both sides of the war on terror.
There is no immediate threat from America’s dependence on foreign oil. False Oil prices could triple overnight and oil supplies would be inadequate to meet the most basic needs of the U.S.
Increasing production of energy from wind, solar, hydro-electric, nuclear, coal, etc.  can end America’s energy dependence. False Only about 2% of the oil consumed in the U.S. is used for producing electricity.  Until there is a mechanism that transfers the energy produced from those sources to a form usable for transportation and the other uses of oil, increased electricity production will not affect U.S. energy dependency.
Plug-in electric vehicles use electricity generated from the above named sources. True
Electric vehicles require significant technical innovation before they are capable of providing transport equivalent to internal combustion vehicles. False The Tesla roadster has a range of about 300 miles on a single charge.  Though it is expensive, the driving experience is equivalent to an internal combustion vehicle.

Dependence on foreign oil is the Achilles heal of the United States’ security.

While the direct economic costs are staggering with an oil trade deficit of $1 billion per day, the security threat posed by that dependence is an even greater disaster waiting to happen.

Hugo Chavez has threatened to cut supplies of oil to the United States.  Al Qaeda and other Islamic radicals have identified the world oil supply as a prime target.  As Iran proceeds inexorably towards nuclear weapons, U.S. and European policy makers must temper their responses to counter this threat for fear of driving up oil prices.  Iran has the ability, and espouses rhetoric about its desire, to close the straits of Hormuz to interrupt the supply of oil in certain circumstances.

Every U.S. President since Richard Nixon has denounced America’s dependence on foreign oil.  Discussions abound regarding increasing U.S. oil production or efficiencies, but no real measures have been seriously considered that would truly end America’s dependence on foreign oil by simply eliminating the need for that oil.

Though the consequences of energy dependence are complex, the solution is simple.  The amount of oil used by the U.S. for motor gasoline, about 50% of total oil consumption, is the same as the net amount of oil imported by the U.S., about 50% of total oil consumption.

If the U.S. stopped using gasoline to power its automobiles, it would essentially become energy independent.

 

Adding nuclear or clean coal facilities, building wind farms, installing solar panel fields, etc., would do little to foster energy independence.  Those technologies increase the generation of electricity, but not in a manner that can currently be utilized by most of the transportation sector that depends almost exclusively on the combustion of oil.

Electric vehicles (EVs) bridge that gap. The price of EVs and the lack of a recharge infrastructure is all that stands in the way of their full integration into the automobile market.

It has been demonstrated before that as the price of gasoline increases, consumers respond in large part by purchasing more fuel-efficient vehicles.  A detailed analysis of historical gasoline prices, car prices, car sales, and other factors, allows for creation of a model that predicts the EV car sales as it relates to the price of gasoline.

A model developed here, predicts the rapid growth of EV sales if an excise tax on gasoline of $2/gallon, incrementally rising to $5/gallon were to be imposed on the retail sale of gasoline, and simultaneously a $15,000 rebate on the sale of new EVs were to be introduced.  The results are illustrated graphically below.

An excise tax of that magnitude would raise sufficient funds to provide for the EV tax rebate, to mitigate the effects from the regressive nature of the tax, and to provide monetary incentive for the development of a nation wide recharge infrastructure.   The funds that would be collected under such a scenario are described in the table below.

There is a cost to achieving energy independence.  That cost is two to five dollars on each gallon of retail gasoline sold, paid by drivers continue using internal combustion vehicles.  With conviction and determination, the United States can achieve energy independence in a few short years.

For a copy of Fred Stein’s thesis providing in-depth analysis of the ideas expressed in this paper, go to the Center for Homeland Defense and Security in February 2012.  You can also contact Fred Stein at chdsstein[at]gmail.com

 

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7 Comments »

Comment by William R. Cumming

January 17, 2012 @ 6:52 am

Yes definitely a homeland security issue. That is why next time we invade a country suggest it is CANADA and we can also buy beach front property on the Arctic Ocean and set Quebec free so that we have a great place to vacation, party, and eat.

Ever wonder why 90% of so-called proven reserves are owned by NOCs [national oil companies]?

Comment by John Comiskey

January 17, 2012 @ 9:20 am

Fred,

Fantastic and agree with William that energy is a homeland security (and national security) issue.

IMHO, a robust and innovative energy portfolio to include energy, wind, solar, nuclear, and hydro and energy conservation IS part of the solution.

Recommend government (all levels) set example: less limos, SUVs, and air travel. Tie to national health crisis (more walking/biking to work = less emissions and less obesity)

After WWII, the nation built the interstate highway system under the guise of national security. How about a national high speed rail system?

Bad example; NYC built a rail line from JFK airport to connect with the subway system instead of the more logical direct line to the city. An airport to city line would have reduced traffic and emissions.
I will take a look at Fred’s paper and congratulations.

Comment by Dan O'Connor

January 17, 2012 @ 12:48 pm

In concept it is a superior idea. Energy is a huge homeland security issue and has put our National interests in harms way for years. I am not shooting down the idea at all, but have read alot on energy and automobiles over the last several years. I am not an expert in electricity but pose the following questions;

where will you get he power from?

Little electricity today is generated from oil. Sources of electricity were generated by consuming fossil fuels. Fossil fuels consumption make up 67%, renewable energy 18%, and nuclear power 13%. The majority of fossil fuel usage for the generation of electricity was of coal and gas. Oil was only 5.5%. Ninety-two percent of renewable energy was hydroelectric followed by wind at 6% and geothermal at 1.8%. Solar photovoltaic was 0.06%, and solar thermal was 0.004%.

If we are going to convert from a petroleum distillate, gasoline, we will need to find a comparable combustible to fire the plants that convert the potential energy of coal to generated electricity. The locomotion of vehicles still requires energy. And the use of ethanol and bio fuels seems to be, at this point, a water hog, another soon to be redefined commodity, and not cost effective for the energy it requires. A carbohydrate source of fuel is significantly less capable than a fat source of fuel.

You will also have to replace tires with a technology probably not ready for prime time.

Approximately 300 million tires get thrown out every year in America and each tire contains about 10 gallons of oil. That comes to 3 billion gallons… a year. I cannot vouch for the preciseness of the number but I have seen it before in other readings.

How are we moving forward to replace that technology? And are these technologies mature enough to exercise themselves in a complex concert of logistics, manufacturing, and distribution?

From tires one has to now think about the current technologies for storage; batteries. Currently nickel cad batteries are not up to the task of providing a viable power storage solution. On the other hand Lithium ion batteries are four times more efficient than the current generation of nickel cadmium batteries, and are essential for electric cars to finally become economically viable. Bolivia is currently the largest producer of lithium as well as Peru and other South American countries.

Nationalism is percolating in Bolivia. The price will go up.

We’ll also be competing with China for these and other rare earth metals as time goes on. How will we compete?

And we’ll also need a lot of batteries; somewhere in the order of 230 million vehicles worth of batteries. That’s a lot!

And then there’s the deliverability of ‘charges” for the batteries. It currently takes between 6 and 10 hours to charge a Chevy Volt Battery. Multiple sources have different values probably to bolster their point of view. In any case, how will we be able to distribute this power source? It takes 5 minutes to re fill a car and travel 300-500 miles per tank of gas. How will we duplicate that in the electric car world?

And I think it’s a viable question to further examine as it relates our just in time logistics train and global distribution systems. Business will not support an alternative modality of transportation that is not cost effective, not redundant, and not proven to be at least as efficient as our current one.

The container industry, train, cargo, and trucking modalities of delivery must all radically change in order to adopt and exercise an electric alternative.

Robert Moses was a visionary…if you like automobiles. His impact is felt to this day and he was a car guy, not a train guy or mass transit guy.

We have not invested in rail or rail distribution in decades, because we built our transportation infrastructure on a petroleum based vehicle and very low and stable petroleum prices…

Coupled with this reluctance to build rail infrastructure our automobile industry is not currently capable of making the adjustments to rapidly transform from a gas model to an electric model. Perhaps they are and I am just ignorant to their capabilities. But I do seem to recall GM saying it was only capable of one large transition and there was not interest in the electric vehicle. Too big to fail is also too big to change.
Our entire economy is based on an industrial age, petroleum based model.

The transition to an information based one has shown itself to be painful and we are currently down some 7 million jobs. Industry, information, and education combined with a robust industrial arts program and skilled laborer programs may be the ticket to weathering the storm and altering our economy.

I am excited about reading Fred’s thesis to also read how it studies driving habits, commutes, average distances driven etc. All of this plays into his argument for a transition. I do think the current distance limitations, size, and availability of reliable and rapid charging may be a challenge that will be difficult to overcome.

The other elephant in the room is the foreign relations aspect of removing ourselves from all the places we have injected our interests and foreign policies to maintain favorable fuel costs to feed our needs. Those vacuums created would drastically alter geographical behaviors, relationships, and could also bring more harm to our shores…

It sounds very interesting and I am looking forward to reading it.

Comment by Sally Chapman

January 17, 2012 @ 3:25 pm

Just one question: What happens to the electric grid when everyone comes home after work and plugs their car in at the same time?

Comment by Chas Eby

January 18, 2012 @ 12:09 pm

I thoroughly enjoyed this article and found it quite interesting. In my opinion, the concept of reducing the consumption of gasoline has very few negatives.

Policy and actions to increase oil production, such as fracking, and increasing the amount of oil that we import really miss the point and are not a solution for a nonrenewable resource. In order to build a sustainable solution, we cannot simply increase the numerator (supply); rather, we need to decrease the denominator (demand). By increasing supply, nothing is done to curb demand. In fact, increasing supply could reduce prices and increase demand. The International Energy Agency cut it’s forecast for oil demand today, but, cited one of the three main reasons as being elevated oil prices due to potential cuts in oil supply.

It will be difficult to decrease the demand for oil in the U.S. and it will be difficult to get the power from other sources. I agree with Mr. Comiskey above when he says that “a robust and innovative energy portfolio to include energy, wind, solar, nuclear, and hydro and energy conservation” is necessary. By increasing our number of energy sources outside of oil, we not only decrease oil demand, but, we also increase redundancy and concurrently hedge our bets on the cost of energy sources in the future.

Comment by No US Energy Policy

January 18, 2012 @ 3:00 pm

No US Energy Policy has been established whatsoever during at least eight Presidential administrations and We here on “Main Street USA” heard it so often back when we were waiting for gasoline fill up back in the early 1970′s …folks blaming the “damn Arabs….” I think the finger of blame squarely points to the beltway.

It is the “damn politicians” and the “damn oil companies” and their highly paid executives and special interest groups We here on “Main Street USA” blame as oil prices will begin to soar in the next few weeks and will reach more than $5.00 per gallon in many localities….

$27 trillion has been set aside by leading entrepreneurs for green technology and good ‘ol polictics cntinues to play out as We here are so utterly disgusted with no only this inept WH and both sides of the Congressional floor, but past Presidents who talked and did nothing about establishing a real Energy policy.

Politics, power and money and while only a whisper…get smart and do your research on – graphene – another technology like carbon nano tube technoloogy which would change much about our world in a very favorable manner if in fact we were not going into a global depression and War as the US is broke and the present WH administration should be forced to resign for misleading policy initiatives and spending so much money knowing the coffers are empty what, some $15 trillion (federal reserve notes) as some refer to as dollars….

chris.tingus@gmail.com

Comment by William R. Cumming

January 18, 2012 @ 7:07 pm

By the way domestic consumption of refined gasoline has dropped 6-10% in the last two decades.

I find the Oil Drum a useful website.

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