Conservative, Military Leaders Join Call for Electric Cars, Increased Oil Drilling

By Matt Cover | April 15, 2011 | 4:01 AM EDT

conservative leader Gary Bauer

( – Conservative leader Gary Bauer and former Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Conway are among those lobbying for government policies that increase electric vehicle production and domestic oil drilling.

Those two policies are key elements in ending America's dependence on foreign oil, says the Secure America’s Future Energy (SAFE) coalition.

“We must drill for oil and produce our natural domestic resources as much as possible,” SAFE CEO Robbie Diamond told in an interview. “At the same time we need to strategically diversify our transportation fleet away from oil. Ninety-four percent of our transportation fleet requires oil, and there’s no other alternative. The oil market is one where there is no free market.”

Diamond said that the most promising way to diversify away from oil-based transportation was to produce more electric vehicles.

“Strategically, in our analysis, we want to electrify the ground transportation fleet,” he said. “In our analysis, we came up with four criteria that what we need is to: diversify our fuel sources for the car; we need domestic sources; we need a fuel that’s pretty stable in price; and one that where the infrastructure exists – and electricity really does meet those criteria.”

Conway said that “detaching” from Middle Eastern oil was a vital national security interest. The former head of the Marine Corps told that oil interests committed the United States to deeper involvement in that volatile region than it might otherwise have.

“Detaching ourselves from Middle East oil is in our vital national interest because to do otherwise is a detriment to our national security,” he said. “We’ve seen it for years now -- we’ve been passing a great deal of wealth from this country into the Middle East [to] some people that want to kill us, some people that laughed when they saw the planes go into the towers on 9/11.

“We’ve just got to stop doing this certainly, in my mind,” Conway added.

Bauer, president of American Values and a former Republican presidential hopeful, said that America had a “royally screwed up” energy policy, stressing that the core problem was that most vehicles ran on gasoline.

“We have got just a royally screwed up energy policy right now under the current leadership in Washington, D.C.,” Bauer said. “He [Obama] talks about energy independence but then this hostility toward drilling, hostility toward various industries, et cetera. I don’t think his policy makes any sense at all.”

Bauer said that SAFE advocates many policies that conservatives like him support, including increased domestic drilling. He also said that SAFE understands that the problem is vehicles that run on oil, forcing us to buy that oil from unfriendly regimes.

Former Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Conway

“SAFE supports more drilling. It supports a lot of the things that conservatives naturally support,” he said. “But it also understands that the core problem we’re facing is that the overwhelming majority of our transportation fleet runs on oil, and that means we’re buying that oil from people who would prefer to kill us.”

Bauer said that for those questioning why the government should support further development of electric vehicles and infrastructure in a time of record budget deficits, the money spent incentivizing the private sector to build more electric cars would be miniscule compared to the money spent defending oil-based interests around the world.

“We have a system now that requires incredible government subsidies,” said Bauer. “We need to – all around the world – safeguard pressure points where oil flows to get it to Western Europe, the United States, and the free world,” he noted. “All we’ve done is taken those subsides and hidden them in the defense budget.

“You’ve got to provide some incentives to move away from that,” he said. “In comparison with what we’re already spending, this is a fraction of what is hidden in our [defense] budget right now.”

Aside from the policy, electric cars carry various technological hurdles that prevent their widespread market presence today, most notably the high cost of the lithium-ion batteries that power them and a dearth of high-powered electric charging stations: the gas pumps of electric cars.

Diamond admitted that these were the “known unknowns” of SAFE’s policy proposals, but said the government should let the free market compete for the best solution, directing tax and research incentives toward those areas that can demonstrate the ability to deploy market-ready products.

Known as “deployment communities,” these localities would compete to see which could most efficiently deploy electric vehicles that cost as little to own (and performed as well) as gas-powered cars.

“What you want is competition to create these various deployment communities that have different business models, different tactics, and you’re going to see very quickly – as long as everything is interoperable – [that] there’s no reason we shouldn’t have experimentation and competition in different business models and in different ways [to deploy electric vehicles,” said Diamond.

“A competition leading to temporary, targeted, and increased incentives for the vehicle and the charger so you get the scale, but you’re also getting the vehicles into the hands of the average – the right – Americans as opposed to the niche market.”