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March 31, 2021  

Does Subsidizing Electric Vehicles Promote Car Dependency?

March 31, 2021

In a recent article in The American Conservative, Jordan McGillis, a policy analyst specializing in energy, climate, and urbanism, describes how politicians are doubling down on cars...but this time on cars “with a different energy system under the hood.”

As an example, he points to a recent bill introduced by Rep. Peter Welch, a Vermont congressman who sits on the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. According to Rep. Welch, the Electric CARS Act encourages people to buy electric vehicles (EVs)—which he calls “next generation transportation”—as “a key step...to bring down our global emissions and combat the current climate emergency.”

McGillis begs to differ: not only are many of the green benefits of widespread EV adoption debatable or negligible, they “neglect the deeper problem,” the perpetuation of car-centric culture. “Getting to the heart of the issue,” he writes, “a car is a car, even if it’s electric.” He goes on to say that instead of subsidizing new cars, we would be better served by redirecting our energies and resources toward improving development patterns so that cars don’t have to be so central to our lives in the first place.

Every week on Upzoned, host Abby Kinney, an urban planner in Kansas City, and Chuck Marohn, the president of Strong Towns, take one story from the news and they “upzone” it—they look at it through the Strong Towns lens. This week, Abby and Chuck are talking about McGillis’s article, “The Electric Slide: Car Culture Captures Climate Policy.” They talk about McGillis’s claim that EVs really are “the climate idol of the unimaginative” (one of several memorable phrases from the piece). They discuss whether pushing the purchase of electric cars distracts from the underlying issues of the suburban development pattern, whether or not Strong Towns is “anti-car,” and why building cities around cars—even electric ones—is “antiquated.”

Then in the Downzone, Chuck talks more about the audiobook he’s listening to on the story of human language. And Abby talks about watching her favorite film for the hundredth time—a movie Chuck has yet to see once.

Also in this episode you’ll hear more about a fun upcoming event for Strong Towns members: Late Night with Strong Towns. If you’re already a member, we hope to see you there! If you’re not yet a member, this is the perfect time.

Additional Show Notes