Our hydro-powered state awaits the electric Model T
The recent plunge in oil and gas prices has hurt the bad guys and helped the good guys.
It has threatened Vladimir Putin, Hugo Chavez, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and other petrocrats whose job security rises or falls along with their countries’ oil revenues.
It’s a godsend for undeveloped countries heavily dependent on oil imports. It’s great for the poor in general, who’ve already been slammed by the recession and can barely afford the gasoline they need to make it to their jobs – if they have jobs. In most cases, it’s also good for the businesses that employ them.
For Western Washingtonians, it’s been a blessed relief.
We’re finally seeing the fruits of the price collapse, now that the West Coast’s refineries are up and running again after six were off line – somewhat suspiciously – at the same time this spring.
The resulting shortage – compounded by the loss of output from the fire-stricken Cherry Point refinery near Blaine, Wash. – had gasoline prices approaching $4.50 a gallon at some South Sound service stations, even as prices were falling in the Midwest, South and Eastern states.
Out-of-state energy companies spent much of the spring siphoning money out of the pockets of Washington drivers – money that otherwise would have been spent sustaining jobs close to home.
Against this backdrop of volatile gas prices, another piece of automotive news – the much-anticipated rollout of Tesla’s luxury Model S in California last week – is especially notable. The Model S is a sign that Washington’s cars eventually will be powered by Northwest dams, not a fossil fuel whose prices fluctuate between larcenous and ruinous.
Tesla, based in Palo Alto, appears to be the only serious automobile manufacturer building battery-powered cars from scratch – engineering them as electrics from the ground up rather than adapting conventional designs.
“If Apple made a car, this would be it,” said one stock analyst Friday.
On top of its tech-intensive features, the Model S can go much farther on a single charge than other plug-in cars and can accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in less than six seconds – less than five seconds in the high-performance line.
As with other battery-powered cars, its Achilles’ heel is plastered on the sticker: $50,000 and up. But the sleek Model S looks like a harbinger of a 21st-century Model T: In the not-distant future, economies of scale and the expansion of battery-recharging stations are bound to put more modest all-electric cars within reach of the average guy.
When autos without tailpipes start to multiply on the roads, it’ll be more bad news for the oil despots – but good news for Washingtonians, who will be able to plug their cars into the region’s relatively cheap and green hydropower.