Like many boys my age, I grew up with a fascination for cars. I loved the Pontiac Firebird in ‘Smokey and the Bandit’ and the exotic car series from ‘Cannonball Run’. I had a small, precious stack of hand-me-down copies of Road and rail which I practically memorized. I patiently waited for the Indy 500 to come every year and set aside a day to watch.
Americans cherish our autonomy, and for me turning 16 meant a new sense of freedom.
I still love cars, although being a father of four means I have to choose my next ride based on seating capacity and cargo space over speed. But more than that, I understand that my love of things going pious is at odds with my role as a father. When I watch Formula 1 races with my kids on Sundays, I can’t help but think about the statement: “We don’t inherit the world from our parents, we borrow it from our children.” So I see the importance of balancing the thrill of a 1,000 horsepower machine swinging itself around a racetrack with figuring out how to get every mile out of a gallon of gas.
And just as Americans love the autonomy and thrill of cars, we don’t like laws that tell us what to do. That makes one of the provisions of the Inflation Reduction Act such a victory. Instead of prescribing what kind of cars we can buy, the $7,500 tax credit is extended to electric or plug-in hybrid cars that make more efficient cars more affordable (bonus: many are made in America).
One of the enhanced aspects of this program is the expansion to used cars (a $4,000 credit is available). This puts more of these vehicles within reach of more Americans.
The best part is that this also increases American autonomy. Think of the wild fluctuations in gas prices over the past two years. While the cost of electricity also fluctuates, the cost per mile for electric vehicles is about half that of gas-powered cars, and more than 98% of our electricity is generated in the U.S.
Meanwhile, we all know that when there is a crisis, global oil prices spike and prices at the pump rise faster and stay higher than the price of crude oil for longer.
While gas production has been hampered by the ongoing effects of the pandemic, oil companies are posting record profits. They have no reason to change the situation. Even if we had enough oil production, refining and transportation capacity to meet our own needs here in America, no oil company will sell gas here for $3 a gallon if they can get $4 in Mexico or $5 in Europe. Oil companies are not obligated to the American public, not bound by patriotism, and they don’t care about “America First.” Oil companies are loyal to one thing: shareholders.
So if US oil companies have no reason to find ways to lower prices, what expectation can we have that OPEC countries or Vladimir Putin would do anything to lower prices at the pump?
The truth is that very few countries that make up the world’s largest oil producers share our interests and because oil is traded in a global market, we are always at the mercy of the world’s major oil producing countries.
Not long ago, we sent $1 billion a day to other countries for oil.
Not long ago we sent our soldiers and sailors to defend our oil interests abroad. And still foreign countries can pull levers that make our lives more or less painful.
There is nothing you and I – the average consumer – can do to affect the global oil supply. But we can control the demand, and one of the easiest ways is to buy more fuel-efficient cars.
As we reduce our oil consumption, we decrease the power that foreign countries have over our economy and international affairs in general. Even climate change deniers should see the benefit of taking away Putin’s primary source of income and global influence.
The Inflation Reduction Act may not do much to lower inflation in the short term, but in the long run it could have a huge impact on US autonomy. I would like to exchange the roar of an engine for that.
Will Wood is a small business owner, veteran, and a pretty good runner. He lives, works and writes in West Chester.