So, I just received my monthly home “Energy Report.” You may receive something similar from your electric company. It’s a report that shows me how much electricity I used last month and how my home compares to all the others in the neighborhood. It shows how I compare to the most energy-efficient homes, the average energy users, and, heaven forbid, the most extravagant electricity users.
When I use less electricity, the report applauds my effort; it says things like, “Yeah!” “Good Job!” and so on. I’ve always thought that this is odd. How does an electricity company whose primary function is to deliver electric power to its customers now want us to consume less of its product? Imagine if Apple Computer encouraged us to purchase fewer iPhones, or Meta wanted us to visit their website LESS often. It is a sure road to eventually going out of business.
Simply put, businesses that want their customer to purchase less of their goods or services eventually reach a point where they no longer operate. Generally, this happens because the consumer no longer wants what they’re selling. The American business landscape is littered with companies that provide goods that have become outdated, bought a slide-rule lately? Or a hula hoop? Neither have most Americans, and so those products are no longer manufactured.
But in our economy, it has traditionally been the consumer who has made that decision. Today, when it comes to electricity production, the producers are advocating that we cut back.
As it turns out, that’s only the beginning of the strange happenings occurring in the electricity “market.”
In the last twenty years, we’ve had two Administrations that have made a conversion to Electric Vehicles a cornerstone of their energy policy. First with President Obama, and now with President Biden, they are attempting to move the country to adopt more EVs to provide, in Biden’s words, “cleaner cars and trucks.”
After just eight months in Office, President Biden announced the most ambitious plan to move America toward “plug-in” transportation. The numbers reveal just how ambitious this plan is. In just over six years, Biden proposes that fully one-half of all the cars and trucks in the country be electric.
OK, Biden wants half of the American cars to be electric; what would that look like? Currently, America has roughly 260 million vehicles on the road nationwide. Half of that means we need to have 130 million electric cars produced in the next six years. Currently, the country’s total number of Electric Vehicles is 2.3 million, or about 1% of all vehicles on the road. We must produce about 125 million Evs by 2030 (Biden’s target year). We’ll ignore, for the moment, how we discard those 125 million gas vehicles that we will replace with Evs.
The most significant EV producer in the nation is Tesla. Tesla makes slightly over 1.3 million vehicles a year. So, if we add 100 Teslas between now and 2030 (magically?), we should make the President’s goal.
Are you beginning to see the strangeness?
So, add a hundred more Teslas, and we’ll make the President’s production goals. But that’s only half the story; remember that each new Ev will need to charge up somewhere. Somehow, to make all this work, we’ll need to have enough electricity to power 200 times more Evs than we have currently. That will mean plants of whatever type (natural gas, oil, renewable…and coal?) to produce the electricity and stations to charge all these additional electric cars.
As you can see, this is turning into an incredibly ambitious project, ranking with past national initiatives like the continental railroad, the interstate highway system, and putting a man on the moon. All national goals were for the country to unite to build a better America.
So how is the Biden initiative on Electric Vehicles proceeding? And why is my electric company encouraging me to use less in this immense build-up in electric capacity? I’ll be using the latest numbers from a report entitled “America’s Electricity Generation Capacity” by the American Public Power Association, links at valueside.com
The first thing to recognize in the US electricity use is that we are the most electric nation on earth (pun intended). Each of us uses more than 12,000 megawatts of electricity each year. Interestingly, we’ve been reducing our electric consumption lately, just like my power company wants me to do. Per capita, electric usage for the ten years ending in 2020 was down 8% from the previous decade. More recently, the rate of reduction has increased. The country reduced electricity usage by almost 3% in just two years, from 2019 to 2021 — a remarkable decrease in just 24 months. But we will need much more than conservation to power those 125 million new Electric vehicles that President Biden wants to put on the road.
We need to add a substantial amount of new electric production. And here, some of the projections may need to be clarified. The country was on the road to adding around 12–15% of new electric plants this year. Unfortunately, that’s not turning out to be the case. First came the cancellation of 30,000 megawatts of proposed new wind and natural gas power production.
The cancellation of these new plants has reduced proposed new electric production to just 27 MW to be added this year, instead of the over 50 MW initially planned. But there’s more. As part of the Biden Administration’s green initiatives, they are closing coal-fired plants at double the past rate. More coal power will be taken offline during Biden’s term in office than ever before. This year 11MW of coal-powered electricity will be shut down. It makes the net addition to electric power this year 16MW, not the 27MW project. A mere fraction of the 4,000 Terra Watts that America currently produces and far below the expansion that would be needed to meet Biden’s EV Goal in six years.
Politicians often embellish, setting hard-to-reach goals for the country. But, today, President Biden has crossed a line between the difficult but doable and the unreasonable. One would hope that Biden’s proposal for adding substantial numbers of new Electric Vehicles would have been matched with the corresponding goal of adding new sources of electricity. Instead, the President positions the country to add all new Evs without the power to run them. While an all-electric future may be a worthy goal, we’re not going to get there by reducing supply (fossil fuel) while increasing demand.