Former GM exec Bob Lutz: Going electric is a matter of national security

Bob-Lutz-Going-electric-is-a-matter-of-national-securityOne of the most cited reasons to switch to electric vehicles (EVs) — like the Nissan Leaf — is just how much more environmentally friendly they are than their gasoline-running counterparts. So much friendlier, in fact, that some people believe a shift to electric vehicles would help offset, maybe even reverse, the effects of global warming. Not Bob Lutz.

The former General Motors Vice Chairmen is not an environmentalist or a liberal, and he’s certainly not afraid to speak his mind. In fact, back in 2008, it was this very man who referred to global warming as “a crock of sh*t.” And yet, the Swiss-born, former Marine is now one of the staunchest supporters for a national shift from foreign oil. He sees the electrification of the modern automobile as crucial to national security.

It might surprise you to find the self-described conservative, who has had held many a powerful position with some of the world’s leading automotive companies like Ford, Chrysler, BMW, and GM, is such a vocal supporter of electric cars as a whole. For Bob Lutz to advocate a concentrated shift to alternative energies is huge, especially given his history in an industry that has primarily run on that very source for over one hundred years.

And while environmentalists and Bob Lutz may make strange bedfellows, both are finding themselves on the same side — albeit for different reasons.

According to a recent article in Forbes Lutz co-authored with two former U.S. Marine commandants and the CEO of FedEx, electrifying the transportation sector is of the utmost importance to national and economic security.

Chevy Volt

They write: “When … threats exist because the United States is the protector of the world’s global oil supply lines, it is a clear illustration of how our nation’s over-reliance on a single, globally-priced fuel impacts our national and economic security.”

The article goes on to point out the immense financial burden placed on the U.S. government — somewhere to the tune of $80 billion a year — and the U.S. military, which is “forced to protect the world’s vital oil infrastructure,” referring to the Strait of Hormuz near the Persian Gulf through which 17 million barrels (roughly 20 percent of the world’s supply) of oil passed per day in 2011.

But perhaps even more important than any financial loss incurred by the U.S. is the very real danger many of the brave service men and women face while securing the world’s global oil supply lines.

Of course Lutz and his fellow authors aren’t allowing themselves to drift off entirely into liberal la-la land. “To be clear, we would prefer it if the private market were able to solve this intolerable situation,” they write, “However, some government action is needed to mitigate the risks of oil dependence, because there is no free market for oil.


Instead, Lutz and his co-authors argue the need for an intervention: a widespread electrification effort for the consumer side of the automobile industry and transportation sector. Heavy-duty trucks, they say, could use alternative energy sources like natural gas to meet the nation’s distribution needs.

Ironically, and perhaps brilliantly, Lutz and his co-authors argue that such a national shift in policy isn’t an environmental issue or a political issue. They conclude that the shifting away from oil to more domestic and renewable energy sources is — by and large — a matter of national security. And though skeptics don’t care about the potential environmental benefits of a transition away from oil, it should not deter them from embracing such a goal. On the contrary, such a shift would prove beneficial to the country’s private sector growth and global leadership.

Finally, they argue that regardless of what political side you call home, high gas prices are hurting what is probably most important to the average American: his or her bank account. The increase in gas prices is “essentially” wiping out tax cuts President Bush and Obama put into place, they say, which is exactly why they believe government needs to get involved to steer our country away from the oil dependency that will cost us dearly in the long run.

“The beauty of plug-in hybrids and pure electric vehicles likes the Chevy Volt and the Nissan Leaf is that they are powered by electricity, which can be generated from many sources: nuclear, coal, and natural gas,” they write. “…These are all domestic energy sources, meaning OPEC won’t be able to corner the market. And the retail price of electricity is far less volatile than the price of oil.”

We couldn’t agree more, Bob.