Justin Jones: Shift to clean energy, electric cars is vital to Southern Nevada’s future

Climate change is a threat to our way of life in Southern Nevada, causing hotter temperatures, more severe drought conditions that affect our water supply, and more frequent and dangerous flash flood conditions. That’s why Clark County is committed to addressing the effects of climate change, including reducing our carbon footprint and adopting a climate action plan next year.

Electric vehicles don’t pollute our air and are crucial for any plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Unfortunately, Congress is again threatening to stand in the way.

Before this year ends, the U.S. Senate has a choice: extend a critical tax credit program that helps Americans save money on the purchase of electric vehicles, or let the program expire and raise costs for American consumers.

Right now, the federal EV tax credit program allows Nevadans to save up to $7,500 off the purchase price of an electric vehicle. Nevada’s senators, Catherine Cortez Masto and Jacky Rosen, can do their part to help save that program and, by doing so, keep in place a vital consumer and health benefit for Nevadans.

The EV tax credit program is a proven success. Already to date, more than a million Americans have switched to clean, zero-emission vehicles driven in large part by the tax credit program. Electric vehicle tax credits not only save buyers on the purchase of the car, but electric vehicles also cost less to fuel and maintain than gas-powered vehicles, saving an average household $770 every year.

We are on the cusp of a transportation shift in America. A 2019 survey found that 39% of potential car buyers making $50,000 to $99,999 a year, and 31% of those making under $50,000 a year are interested in buying an electric car. Without an extension of the federal tax credit, that shift simply won’t happen.

The federal EV tax credit program has also driven innovation and job creation. For example, the tax credits have helped drive sales of Tesla vehicles. Tesla’s innovations not only changed the auto industry but have created a critical new industry in battery storage. Nevada has been a direct beneficiary, with thousands of jobs created at Tesla’s battery factory in Northern Nevada.

The U.S. subsidizes the fossil fuel industry to the tune of $4.7 billion annually. In Nevada, we do not produce much fossil fuel, but we have an abundance of sun and geothermal energy. The more electric cars on the road, the more money stays in-state. In total, we can gain up to $2.72 billion annually by shifting from out-of-state fossil fuel-powered vehicles to zero-emission vehicles using Nevada-generated clean energy.

Even if you personally do not own an electric vehicle, all Nevada businesses and consumers will save money on their monthly electricity bills with more electric vehicles on the road. Solar and wind power are variable — they are only generated when it is sunny or windy. Electric vehicle charging at non-peak hours can be used to smooth out the variability of sun and wind power, especially on hot summer days when air conditioners are running on full blast.

And all Clark County residents certainly benefit from cleaner air. Pollution from gas-powered vehicles causes respiratory issues, particularly for vulnerable populations such as children, seniors and people with pre-existing conditions like asthma. We also know that people of color are especially and disproportionately affected when smog accumulates in the Las Vegas Valley. Every conversion from a gas-powered tailpipe to a clean electric vehicle reduces that harmful pollution.

As we grapple with how to address the existential threat of climate change, we can’t afford to go backward. Allowing the electric vehicle tax credit to expire would be a blow to Clark County’s current efforts to not only address climate change, but also to keep our air clean and to expand our renewable energy economy. I implore our senators to keep fighting to extend this critical program for the more than 2.2 million residents of Clark County.

Justin Jones was elected to the Clark County Commission in 2018 and is a former state senator.