Extreme weather patterns are causing unprecedented storm events which seem to be more intense and frequent. This means we can expect another snowstorm next winter like the one we experienced last month which will push our electrical grid to its breaking point again.
March’s weather emergency made it clear that relying on the grid for all our needs will inevitably cause unexpected problems. This is an important fact that policymakers must keep in mind as they push for electric vehicles (EVs) and a fully electric transportation system.
At the start of March’s winter storm, Ameren was already urging customers to conserve energy, in part because of the increased demand they expected, which would put an additional strain on the electrical grid. And given the interconnected nature of our nation’s electricity supply, it wasn’t even just the demand in Missouri that had to be considered but also the surrounding states, some of which were hit much harder by the storm.
We were extremely fortunate in Missouri that the situation was not as bad as what happened in Texas, but we cannot simply forget March’s winter storm and other extreme weather events we have seen across the country in recent years that have led to electrical issues, like the California wildfires leading to mandatory rolling blackouts.
It is important to note that these weather-related emergencies could also have been made infinitely worse if everyone was reliant solely upon EVs, particularly when power outages last a long time or when there is a need to evacuate. We have all seen images or experienced firsthand the long line at gas stations before a storm. Now imagine if every single gas pump in the area just stopped working. That would be the situation if everyone only drove electric cars, and the power goes out.
Given that the U.S. transportation sector is the largest contributor to carbon emissions, it is understandable why we have seen a huge push by policymakers on the state and national level to encourage EV usage. For example, starting next year new construction sites in St. Louis will be required to have charging stations. And President Joe Biden promised $400 billion in public investment in clean energy, including electric vehicles, and said the government fleet of vehicles will be replaced by EVs.
Car manufacturers, following the lead of elected officials, have also switched their production toward electric cars. Earlier this year, General Motors announced that it had set a goal of manufacturing only EVs by 2035. Last year, Ford announced an additional $100 million investment in its Kansas City plant to build its all-new electric van called E-Transit.
But with all the progress toward the manufacturing and adoption of EVs, it is critical that our policymakers see the value of diverse transportation options as a means to ensure the resilience of the system as a whole — particularly in emergency situations like the one our region just experienced.
Electric vehicles present a valuable opportunity for individuals to decrease their carbon footprint, but politicians promoting a 100 percent transition to EVs, particularly without addressing our obviously flawed electrical grid, should acknowledge the important role of traditional gas-powered vehicles. The best solution for Americans is a diverse transportation system that considers carbon emissions but is also not solely reliant upon electricity.
Charles Watson owns and operates Charley’s Service, a tire and auto mechanic shop in northeast Missouri.