When we talked about the future of transportation just a few decades ago, we imagined driverless cars, cleaner fuels and thousands of technology and manufacturing jobs that would be necessary to make it a reality.

Well, the future of transportation is here. Just look at Arizona. This state has become a hub in the research and development of autonomous vehicles, with hundreds of driverless cars being safely tested on our roads. At least 14 different companies are now testing autonomous vehicles in Arizona, among them innovative new companies like Lucid Motors and Nikola Corporation — both located in my district of Pinal County — as well as traditional automotive companies like Ford, Chrysler and GM.

Arizona is also leading the way in research and development of alternative fuels — everything from electric vehicles to hydrogen power and battery storage are being developed and rolled out here in our state. These technologies are continuing to improve because of Arizona’s innovative, entrepreneurial and business-friendly climate; at the same time, the price tag on these technologies is continuing to fall. That is evidence that the market is working as it should.

Electric vehicles are the perfect example. Whereas early models were expensive and had issues with range and charging capabilities, EV technology is rapidly improving and EVs are becoming more and more affordable. The fact is, more conservatives should be driving EVs — not because some bureaucrat says so, but because they are proving to be the best technology on the market. And, if you take a closer look at the reality behind EVs, you will find a strong conservative case for driving electric.

1. EVs support advanced manufacturing and economic development.

Manufacturing has always been one of the backbones of our economy, and it should stay that way. Just like everything else, electric vehicles need to be manufactured somewhere, and EV manufacturing facilities bring great jobs and other economic development opportunities that are critical for rural communities. Just look at my district. Last year, Lucid Motors started the first phase of construction on its electric vehicle manufacturing facility in Casa Grande, representing a $300 million capital investment. And just last month, Nikola Corporation broke ground on a 1-million-square-foot manufacturing facility in Coolidge — a $600 million investment — and announced a huge deal with trash-hauler Republic Services for 2,500 electric garbage and recycling trucks, which will all be manufactured at its Coolidge facility. The Lucid and Nikola manufacturing facilities will bring thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in total revenue impact to Pinal County over the coming years.

2. Driving electric is driving “all of the above.”

For more than a decade, conservatives and other champions of free enterprise have rallied around an “all of the above” approach to energy. While the far left only believes that some energy sources should be allowed to exist, conservatives believe in a competitive marketplace with a diverse mix of fuels.

Driving electric is about as close to the “all of the above” ideal as you can get. Depending on where you live, your EV will run on electricity from a combination of coal, nuclear, natural gas and renewable sources. Environmental groups know this, but for political reasons they push a false narrative that EVs are purer than cars that run on gasoline.

This is total nonsense, of course. There’s nothing magical about EVs — they are just cars that run on a mix of energy sources instead of a single energy source. Conservatives who choose to drive an EV aren’t surrendering to the environmental left — they are challenging the environmental left by putting the words “all of the above” into action.

3. EVs preserve the strategic value of our oil.

Ten years ago, the United States was dangerously dependent on foreign sources of energy. But in less than a decade, we became the world’s largest producer of oil and natural gas. In 2019, we even became a net exporter of oil.

Thanks to the innovation and hard work of scientists, engineers and geologists in the oil and natural gas industry, we haven’t just achieved true energy security — we are able to help other countries shift away from Saudi Arabia, Russia and other countries that use energy as a geopolitical weapon.

Driving electric vehicles will increase the amount of oil we can produce here and sell to friendly nations, expanding America’s export economy and strengthening our geopolitical power. It’s a smart, tough strategy for dealing with the Saudi royal family, Vladimir Putin and anyone else who wants to undermine our country.

Conservatives are champions of technological innovation.

Those are just a few of the reasons why more conservatives should consider an electric vehicle for their next car purchase. But maybe the strongest argument is this: Conservatives are champions of technological innovation. We believe in the power of the free-enterprise system and the potential for breakthrough technologies to become better and cheaper over time.

Will the cost and performance of EVs continue to improve? Yes, as long as public policy encourages innovation rather than hinders it. If public policy is heavy with mandates and central planning, then uneconomical technologies will be forced upon the public, those higher costs will be locked in place for years, innovation will be stifled and consumers will lose.

But if public policy is built around choice, competition and a commitment to free-enterprise — as it is in Arizona — then EV technology will have the chance to reach its full potential, our economy will be strengthened and consumers will win.


State Rep. T.J. Shope, R-Coolidge, represents Legislative District 8, which includes much of Pinal County.