Posted on November 07, 2016 by Matt Pressman
In a thought-provoking article published in Newsweek*, Matthew Schmidt writes that, "Elon Musk could likely have more influence on America’s future foreign policy than whoever ends up as president." The piece is provocatively titled, "Will electric cars turn the world upside down?" And, Schmidt contends that: "If Musk and the other automakers can pull this [electric car transition] off, the geopolitical effects will be greater than anything since World War II. Maybe even greater."
Above: Red, white, and blue Tesla Model S electric vehicles are made in the USA (Image: St. Louis Tesla Enthusiasts)
Schmidt reports, "The investment ratings company Fitch thinks Musk and company will pull it off. They recently issued an unprecedented warning, calling the rise of electric vehicles a potential 'death spiral' for energy companies. Goldman Sachs thinks at least a quarter of all cars sold by 2025 will have, at a minimum, hybrid electric drivers. Fitch argues that it is not implausible that a decision by China to go all-in and mandate electric cars could tear the bottom out of the [fossil fuel] energy market." And, China has already begun proposing quotas for electric cars.
Above: Historical and forecasted growth of electric vehicles (Source: Goldman Sachs)
We've written before about the benefits electric vehicles could have on national security. And, although zero emission electric vehicles certainly aids in our fight against climate change, Schmidt notes that, "What no one is really talking about, however, is the impact a rapidly declining carbon economy will have on the global order. Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states will face increasing pressure from populations long accustomed to the lavish wealth of the petro-state economy... [and] oil powers in the region like Yemen, Syria, Libya, Tunisia, Sudan and South Sudan will almost certainly see competition intensify."
Above: As part of its efforts to support and hire military veterans, Tesla commissioned a Model S with camouflage vinyl wrap, louvered back windows, and its own hashtag, #teslavets (Source: Gas2)
And Russia could also be impacted: "Oil revenues fill about half of the Kremlin’s budget today, and that’s a big hit to sustain for a decade. Additionally, much of Russia’s aggressiveness can be traced to a toxic brew of Eurasianist nationalism and a weak economy overly dependent on [fossil fuel] energy. Countries where the leadership has squandered its wealth on the oligarchy instead of investing in its people will not fare well through this kind of change."
Above: Europe's dependence on foreign oil has national security implications too. The E.U. imports ~12 million barrels of oil a day, sending ~€1 billion out of Europe 365 and ¼ times per year. For context, the U.S. imports ~8 million barrels of oil a day, from a bunch of countries that probably wouldn’t otherwise (or still don’t) consider us a friend. Sure would be nice to keep that money at home, wouldn’t it? (Source: CleanTechnica)
And although some countries (that aren't our allies) may feel threatened by electric vehicles, Schmidt writes that, "The United States will fare comparatively well in the midst of this tectonic shift in the world economy. After all, America is home to Musk and other post-carbon innovators, and its economy has long since broadened beyond oil and gas... [that said] the world that emerges in a market with little oil and a lot of electric, will be shaped to a large degree by what the next U.S. President does."
Above: Tesla's military themed Model X designed for its USA Veterans Program and modeled after a F35 fighter jet (Source: SS Customs)
Yes, Tesla's ability to catalyze the electric vehicle (EV) movement will be fantastic for reducing carbon emissions and air pollution. But, Schmidt contends that the electric vehicle movement will have implications that go further than green tech — it'll have a global ripple effect that could strengthen national security and our standing in the world. He concludes: "Electric cars will change more than how we drive; they will drive the biggest overhaul of the political strategic order in generations."