Can buying an electric car help defund terrorism?

Electric cars represent a meaningful step forward in reducing carbon emissions. However, is there something else major about electric vehicles, like those from Tesla, that many Americans might overlook? This July 4th, it's worth taking time to reflect on something of critical importance to our country: electric cars and national security. 

Above: Tesla's electric vehicles charging at a Supercharger station (Image: Tesla)

A few years back, I was struck by a heartfelt statement from Tesla's former VP, Diarmuid O’Connell, when questioned about his previous role as Chief of Staff for Political Military Affairs at the U.S. State Department where he was deeply involved in operational support for the U.S military in various theaters of operation.

When discussing his decision to join Tesla, the expected answer from O'Connell might have been "to accelerate the transition to sustainable energy" — the mission statement often cited by Tesla's top brass. Instead, he admitted climate change, "at that time, wasn't really on my radar screen. It was a much more pragmatic view of what American foreign policy would look like in the absence of dependence on foreign oil coming from troubled areas of the world." 

Was he onto something often ignored in the discussion surrounding electric cars? Business Insider, a media outlet not exactly pro-Tesla, once published an article titled, Buying an electric car can help defeat ISIS, that admits: "The sooner we wean ourselves from oil, not just the Persian Gulf variety but oil in general, and the sooner we electrify transport, the sooner we can extricate ourselves from religious holy and civil wars that we do not understand and have no business getting involved in."

Above: This Model 3 owner makes the argument that a Tesla is the most patriotic car you can buy (Youtube: TWANGnBANG)

Plug In America, a leading U.S. electric vehicle advocacy group also highlights National Security as a key reason to buy an electric vehicle: "Our addiction to imported oil has huge national security implications. The U.S. spends nearly a half billion dollars on foreign oil every day, mostly for transportation. Every time you fill up your car, you’re sending a check to foreign countries to pay for their oil. Why not send your money to the local electric utility or neighborhood solar installer instead?"

"Are electric cars a matter of national security? You bet," according to an article in Forbes. In a profile of Tim Goodrich, who spent three tours of duty in the Middle East, the question was: "Are these conflicts wars for oil?" After his time in the Air Force, Goodrich decided to leave the gas pump behind and drive an all-electric Nissan Leaf. He explained his rationale: "How much sense does it make to send money to countries that don’t like us, [sometimes] don’t share our values, and sometimes find ways to get that money into the hands of terrorist organizations?”

On Tesla's blog, O’Connell also penned The Promise of Electric Vehicles in which he concluded, "If you don’t believe there is anything wrong with the monopoly that oil has on our transportation sector, if you don’t believe that we spend at least $75B in our national defense budget every year on securing access to foreign sources of oil and associated supply routes... then there is nothing that can be said in support of Electric Vehicles. If, however, you believe in the power of American innovation to fundamentally change and improve our individual lives and our larger societal interests, then there is no question the time is right to step up and support the development of a viable EV market."