How We Can Plug In $3 Billion To Washington’s Economy

The electric car economy is a key driver of the zero-carbon revolution.

Electric vehicles (EVs) aren’t new news, but the technology has evolved to the point that they’re affordable for most drivers and result in savings over the life of the vehicle. There is an obvious environmental advantage anywhere a driver swaps their gas-burning ride for an EV. In the Evergreen State, the impact is multiplied by our clean electric grid, and we’ve only just begun to unlock the economic power of this transportation ecosystem.

Even drivers of non-electric vehicles can save money when EV’s fill Washington’s streets and freeways.

The Positive Economics Of Zero-Emission Vehicles

It goes without saying that EV drivers the world over save money on gas and diesel, but Washington’s infrastructure makes those fuel savings especially lucrative.

Consider a few numbers:

  • – 73% of all kilowatts produced in Washington come from hydropower.
  • – Power costs just $.0966 per kWh thanks to the low cost of operation.

At that rate, Washington EV drivers spend an average of just $386 annually, as opposed to the average $2,000-$2,500 price tag of fueling a car for a year at $2.80 per gallon.

Economists of all stripes agree when middle-income families get more money, that money gets spent in the local economy. The US government has been employing an identical strategy with tax refund checks for decades, and the immediate economic benefit of that money is obvious.

If all registered vehicles in Washington state switched to electric, it could lead to over $3 billion in consumer savings, a healthy cash injection to local economies all over the state.

Over and above the fuel savings is the reduction of health care costs due to cleaner air and fewer pulmonary cases. Californians, thanks to an aggressive clean transportation push, have reduced health care expenditures by over two billion dollars.

EV charging makes power even cheaper — whether you drive an electric vehicle or not.

Not only do EV drivers save on gas, but they also save on the power they’re already saving on.

By charging time of use (TOU) rates, EV drivers put less stress on the electric grid, utilizing existing utility resources more efficiently. The result? The cost of power drops. And as more drivers switch to electric, the more efficient utilities will be able to manage their resources, creating more cost-saving opportunities for all ratepayers.

In other words, even if the minority of households are EV adopters, everyone benefits.

The Job Multiplier Effect Of Zero-Emission Vehicles

As EV adoption increases, a corresponding market will necessarily take off for charging stations. These station deployments create demand for planning and development jobs as well as local construction, engineering, and electrical jobs and services.

These “employment intense” industries can’t be outsourced to Asia, and as a result of vehicle electrification, studies show average real wages and employment increase, especially for low-income demographics.

While fossil fuels industry job creation is limited mainly to places where oil is drilled as well as oil industry headquarters like Houston, research estimates 16 times the number of jobs are created per dollar of spending in non-petroleum sectors relative to petroleum spending anywhere in the country.

The growth of EV adoption in recent years, buoyed by supportive policy, has sparked the development of local supply chains and business opportunities, as we’re already seeing in California, home to a burgeoning clean transportation technology industry that supports over 300 companies and 20,000 jobs in clean vehicle component manufacturing, advanced feedstock research and development, and hardware and software companies to support the low carbon sector.

History Shows Electrifying Transportation Stimulates The Economy

California’s legislature passed the most aggressive clean energy legislation in the nation in 2006. To reduce the carbon intensity of liquid fuels, California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) went into effect in 2011. California voters followed up the next year by passing the Clean Energy Jobs Act in 2012 to spur projects improving energy efficiency and expanding clean energy generation.

Despite claims of impending economic doom from fossil fuel interests, California’s economy grew by an average of 29,200 jobs per month over the last decade (2010-2019), eclipsing the jobs recovery of the nation at large after the 2008 crash. And as far as gas prices go? Gas prices in California are lower today than they were prior to the enactment of the LCFS, and have been more stable and less prone to price spikes under the LCFS than in the 10-year run-up to the program going into effect.

Research has shown that the jobs indirectly created by higher EV adoption significantly outweigh the jobs lost in the fossil fuels industry. Why? Because those jobs were in “employment intense” industries that by necessity were located close to the demand for EV’s.

We call this the electric trifecta: more jobs, cleaner jobs, and all of them closer to home.

Because California was an early adopter of the clean energy economy, now one out of every six “clean jobs” in America based in are based in the state, 60% of which are construction and manufacturing jobs.

Now the question becomes, “Why can’t we have that here in Washington?”

The adage about regulations like clean energy renewable portfolio standards and the LCFS “killing jobs” has been a fanciful facade of fear-mongering in Olympia, driven by the folks who profit from an unregulated market where profits demand pollution. And in fact, oil and gas companies operating in Washington enjoy some of the highest profit margins on fossil fuel sales anywhere in the country. That explains why they’ve spent over $50 million in Washington since 2016 trying to protect their fuel monopoly through disinformation campaigns, lobbying, and political contributions.

It’s time Washington takes advantage of the growing green energy market with clean transportation legislation before other states accelerate past us.

Washington has the resources to become a central player in these nascent industries. Cheap hydroelectric power, enough timber waste to produce 400 million gallons of renewable diesel every year, and a dairy industry primed to capture methane from manure and turn it into renewable natural gas are among the ways Washington can unlock our clean energy potential.

Currently, most of the clean transportation fuel Washington produces gets shipped across state lines to Oregon and California because those states have low carbon fuel standards that incentivize greener gas and diesel. Wouldn’t it be nice if local consumers could choose less polluting fuels and benefit from increased competition and cleaner air too?

Understandably, carbon emission reduction has been framed as an ecological moral imperative. It also happens to be a potentially highly profitable ecological imperative, at least for states that incentivize refining cleaner fuels as part of an overall strategy of a clean transportation system.

Our planetary carbon budget is close to running out before irreversible damage is done. There is no more running from the future because it’s not the future anymore. Washington workers need the benefit of an LCFS clean energy economy, and so does the earth.

For a penny at the pump, so many people could enjoy that massive multiplier benefit of an economy evolving toward zero emissions. It is inevitable because there is no alternative, and Washington’s economic future demands that we take this opportunity to lead and to thrive.