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FedEx CEO Frederick Smith (right), a former U.S. Marine, says that America's oil "addiction" is costing American lives and jobs.  (Source: AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

Many have claimed that America's invasion of Iraq, costly in American lives, was driven by a desire/need to safeguard the nation's oil supplies.  (Source: AP Photo)

Mr. Smith says electrification -- and government intervention -- are the only workable solution as there's no "free market" in oil (FedEx EV delivery truck pictured)
Company says failing to transition to EVs would be disastrous for America

Oil prices may be easing for a minute, but it's fresh off new record highs, having reached $4.30 USD across many parts of the U.S.  Yet despite enthusiasm by industry figures and the government, there's still much debate about whether electrified vehicles like hybrids, battery electric vehicles (BEVs), plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV) are really going to be viable.  Some analysts and customers say they are turning the corner -- others say electrified vehicles still don't make sense [1] [2].

FedEx Corp. (FDX) joined the fray, when its Chairman, President, and CEO Frederick W. Smith published an editorial in The Financial Times, which FedEx later reprinted on its own site.

In the article Mr. Smith firmly throws FedEx's support behind electrification, which he characterizes as vital for U.S. security and financial stability.

Regarding the financial costs, he writes:

Every American recession over the past 35 years has been preceded by – or occurred concurrently with – an oil-price spike. The last time this happened, just a few years ago, the average retail price of gasoline in the US increased from $1.46 to $3.27, costing typical households $2,115 a year in increased fuel expenses. That price spike contributed greatly to the recession and financial crisis which the world is still struggling to recover from.

And Mr. Smith, who served as a U.S. Marine from 1966 to 1970, also complains that America's "addiction" to foreign oil is also costing the lives of servicemen:

This addiction has also led the US to commit its young men and women in uniform to protecting the world’s oil infrastructure. And it means that western diplomacy is handicapped by the need to placate oil-producing nations, including those that do not share America’s views or values. 

II. What Should be Done?

Mr. Smith says that given that the U.S. spent $260B USD last year on foreign oil, the "wisdom of producing more [oil] domestically becomes clear".  He praises stricter safety and environmental standards regarding oil exploration, but complains that some environmentalists and government bureaucrats are acting as obstructionists.

Fuel economy improvements are another vital mechanism, according to Mr. Smith.  The CEO praised former U.S. President George W. Bush and current President Barrack Obama for passing updates to the CAFE standards, which are actively forcing automakers to improve fleet wide efficiency.

But he complains that oil drilling and fuel economy improvements are only "interim measures".  He comments that the only real way to save the U.S. is through electrification, stating:

Only electricity can give the transport sector the flexibility to switch fuels when one or more become too expensive. Electricity from homegrown sources – wind or solar, coal or hydro, natural gas or nuclear – would free America’s mobile economy from dependence on a single source. And unlike some alternatives, the infrastructure backbone for “refueling” electric vehicles already exists in the US national grid, which offers significant spare generating capacity at night, when it is needed for this purpose.

He says he's not one usually for government intervention, but that the government must intervene to push electrification as there's no free market on oil.  He writes:

I am not someone who tends to advocate for increased government involvement in the private sector. Free-market solutions to these economic threats would be ideal. But there is no free market for oil. To the contrary, today more than 90 per cent of proved conventional global oil reserves are held by national oil companies that are either fully or partially controlled by foreign governments, whose interests often have as much or more to do with geopolitical considerations than free-market principles. 

The issue is one that hits close to home for FedEx.  FedEx has attempted some modest electrification projects, but the majority of its fleet runs on gasoline.  And as a business heavily driven by ground shipping, the company is very vulnerable to gas price fluctuations.

The company's CEO remains optimistic that America can electrify and kick America's "addiction" to foreign oil, but warns, "The time to do so without truly calamitous consequences is rapidly running out."

DailyTech has raised similar thoughts, in some regard, in past editorials about transition America's economy to an all-electric infrastructure driven by clean nuclear power.



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RE: But then again.....
By Doormat on 5/21/2011 2:55:07 PM , Rating: 2
No we aren't. Well, at least we don't have to be.

There is enough Lithium in Nevada to build over a billion Chevy Volts. Nevada is the Saudi Arabia of Lithium . There are at least three major lithium deposits - Kings Valley, Clayton Valley, Fish Lake Valley. Estimates are all over the map unfortunately, but if you take an average of them all, Nevada has approximately 40M metric tons (40B kg) of lithium carbonate (LCE).

At about 0.9kg LCE per kWH of battery capacity and a 50% recovery rate (that figure is conservative, it might be has high as 85%), that equals 22B kWh of battery capacity. Thats 1.378 billion Chevy Volts, or about 3.3 billion Toyota Prius Plug-ins. Just on the Lithium in Nevada. The US only has 250M or so cars and trucks on the road, so we can replace every car on the road with a Chevy Volt five times over.

So no, we wont have to rely on other countries if we don't have to. The difficulty isn't availability, rather cost. Its cheaper to pay workers a pittance and have virtually no safety regulations in third world countries (and China) and import it, rather than mine it here and have to pay workers a living wage and make sure they are safe. But if the cost of oil continues to stay elevated, the frieght cost of either the lithium or the finished batteries may tip the scales back in our favor.


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