Commissioner Tim Echols of the State of Georgia Public Service Commission penned an op-ed and invited us to share it. Before I do, I want to give a little bit of background on Commissioner Echols. I met him during a Tesla parade event back in December where we were trying to set a Guinness World Record for the longest Tesla parade while raising funds to fight human trafficking. Commissioner Echols played a critical role in helping the Tesla Owners of Atlanta safely secure the use of the GA 400 highway, a main artery that connects with I-85 and I-75 and the Downtown Connector. Closing down this highway for the Tesla event wouldn’t have been possible without the help of Mr. Echols.
Commissioner Echols has a passion for electric vehicles, and he is an ally for those of us who are advocating the adoption of EVs. He’s currently on his fifth electric vehicle and he is the creator of the Clean Energy Roadshow, which is in its 11th year. He also serves as Vice Chair of the Georgia Public Service Commission and is the host of WGAU‘s weekly radio show “Energy Matters.” His op-ed follows.
The Future of Georgia is Electric
When you think about the latest clean energy trend, you may think of power plants or manufacturing facilities using solar, wind, or batteries? Good guess, but it may surprise you that the transportation sector is our greatest opportunity to reduce pollution in the United States. Because of that, companies like UPS and Microsoft, non-profits, and state agencies are all focusing on incentives, strategies, and policies to decarbonize transportation.
The Biden administration took a bold step forward in late April when it took the first step to restoring state authority to pass strong tailpipe pollution standards, an authority provided to states under the Clean Air Act. Strong clean car standards safeguard our air, save consumers money, create jobs, and grow our economy by spurring investments in our electric vehicle (EV) markets. State autonomy is important, but so is strong bipartisan national policy coming out of Congress.
In our state, the impacts of vehicle pollution are already apparent. Here in Georgia, over 250,000 children and nearly 620,000 adults suffer from asthma, a chronic respiratory condition that is expensive, debilitating, and susceptible to pollution triggers. My own brother struggles with this. Pollution from dirty vehicles can both cause and worsen this illness — and it doesn’t affect everyone equally. Nationwide, we can see that the burden of vehicle pollution falls disproportionately on poor communities who are frequently the ones that live near high-traffic areas. By transitioning to cleaner cars and trucks, we can provide cleaner air for all and build a thriving EV market in the process.
Not only do electric vehicles hold promise when it comes to cleaning up our air and protecting public health, but they also present a major economic opportunity — the kind that could benefit all Georgians. The new SK Innovation battery factory in my home county here in North Georgia will make our state a part of the supply chain for Volkswagen and Ford EVs which utilize the product. And electric vehicles are cheaper to operate with far fewer parts than traditional powertrains, lowering the total cost of ownership for all who own or lease them.
Manufacturing represents 10% of Georgia’s total economic output. Investing in clean vehicle technologies means more jobs for our state. By 2030, strong clean car standards could create 18,500 new jobs here in Georgia, and families would save an average of $2,700 at the gas pump. With the creative overnight charging rates, our PSC is allowing Georgia Power to offer, those savings can be even more.
The Biden administration has already taken vital steps towards making the dream of cleaner cars a reality, restoring states’ authority to issue stronger tailpipe pollution standards and rolling out a plan to invest in sustainable infrastructure and a clean vehicle economy. By installing 500,000 charging stations across the country and investing $184 billion into expanding our clean vehicle economy, we can grow the market for EVs and improve air quality in the process.
To make this dream a reality, we need all hands on deck. As a Republican, I don’t see this as a partisan issue. Just like Georgia has become the movie hub of the south through our tax credits, I see how targeted investments in clean vehicles resonate with the goals of my party: driving economic growth and opportunity that can put Americans back to work.
We’ve made similar investments in countless other industries, including industries that generate pollution. The market and the economy are already moving towards a clean economy. So why would we cede this to other countries like China by refusing to compete internationally or win the race to be the world’s EV and clean transportation leader? If our country can privatize the space program, we can dominate the world with EVs.
Our state has already put into place smart legislation that will prepare us for autonomous transportation — most of which will be electric. Now, we need to support safeguards and pass bold legislation that will put us on the path to cleaner transportation — the next frontier in this transition. Congressional Republicans and Democrats can debate this issue and come up with a solution that makes sense — cleaner vehicles via an American supply chain that bolster our economy. This is the future, and Georgia is ready.
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