March 10, 2022

Electric vehicles would give U.S. independence from a volatile global oil market

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Gas prices at a Bloomington gas station on March 10, 2022 are over $4. - Rebecca Thiele/IPB News

Gas prices at a Bloomington gas station on March 10, 2022 are over $4.

Rebecca Thiele/IPB News

Ripple effects from the war in Ukraine have pushed gas prices in the United States to their highest levels since the 2008 recession.

An Indiana University professor said switching to electric vehicles would make the U.S. more energy independent from a turbulent global oil market.

Nikos Zirogiannis is an assistant professor of environmental economics and policy at the IU O'Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs. He said if one producer has a problem with supply or changes in demand, the U.S. will likely feel the effects.

“Irrespective of where those disruptions happen, they will impact the global market. So what we see now, due to the war in Ukraine, is such a disruption," Zirogiannis said.

He said markets also react when they anticipate future disruptions — like a prolonged war.

Zirogiannis said switching to electric vehicles powered by renewable energy is the most meaningful transition the U.S. could make to become energy independent.

READ MORE: Gas prices are expected to go higher after the U.S. bans Russian oil imports

 

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He said increasing U.S. oil production won't achieve that energy independence — that oil will still be traded in a global market.

“The fact that we are drilling and extracting more oil from the U.S. doesn't mean that this oil can stay in the U.S. to satisfy domestic consumption. There is no regulatory framework that requires oil producers to sell the oil they extract in the U.S.," Zirogiannis said.

He said the U.S. should level the playing field for electric vehicles by removing tax credits for fossil fuels and problems caused by burning oil should be figured into the cost of gas.

"Everybody wants cheap gas, but there is a cost in having affordable gas — a cost in health, a cost in future impacts of climate change. That is something that needs to be considered," Zirogiannis said.

Zirogiannis said transitioning to electric vehicles and renewables could harm certain communities — like farmers that grow corn for ethanol and towns that host coal plants and mines. It's important that the U.S. achieve a just transition for these communities as well.

Contact reporter Rebecca at rthiele@iu.edu or follow her on Twitter at @beckythiele.

Indiana Environmental reporting is supported by the Environmental Resilience Institute, an Indiana University Grand Challenge project developing Indiana-specific projections and informed responses to problems of environmental change.

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