Electric cars: Obama’s got it wrong

(Boy, I’ve really got something against electric cars. What did they ever do to me?)

Our CEO is out across the land – well in the rust belt at least – extolling the virtues of electric cars.  I think he’s probably pandering to a pro-Obama union base, but so be it.  It makes him seem like he’s trying to do something about both jobs and clean energy.

But electric cars, do not, cannot, and will not ever be representative of a clean energy economy.  Why?  They are energy USERS.  A clean energy economy is all about creating energy GENERATORS. See, if we use all of our time making electric cars, which take an enormous amount of dirty energy to produce, and then require that same dirty energy to run, why we are not moving into the vaunted green future at all.  We’re simply trading one dirty fuel – gas – for another – coal, in an attempt to maintain the lifestyle we are addicted to today.  Call it sprawl light.

A true clean energy economy is based on getting us off of carbon entirely.  To do that we need PVs and windmills, and tidal machines – things that generate electricity.  We need batteries too; not to put into cars, but to put into houses and offices to store energy for the times when renewables aren’t maximized. A clean energy economy is a local economy, where there is no need for 2 tons of metal and plastic to cart our lardasses around. We should not be wasting time and resources as Jim Kunstler says, “trying to sustain the unsustainable.”  We should be using those resources to give us a chance at a really great and clean future.

Yes, a nation driving around in electric cars would potentially free us from some of our exposure to foreign oil – but not all.  Electric wont harvest crops at the scale we’ve grown used to, it wont fly airplanes, and it won’t move trains (we never electrified our rail system.)  Plus, all the plastic in each electric car is all made from oil.  Plus, that lithium and other materials have to get to the factory somehow.  I doubt our national reserves would be able to supply those needs, even though they are reduced greatly from today’s. So we will still be dependent on foreign oil, even if it’s from Canada – which is no sure thing given the massive Chinese investments there.

Electric cars aren’t the answer from a whole host of other reasons.  There are 250 million combustion powered vehicles in this country. How long will it take to trade them out? Who will be able to afford them?  What about the people who don’t live in a place where it is convenient to plug in at night? What happens if we plug in millions of cars at once every night?  Can our grid take it?  Or would we need to add new – dirty – energy plants to feed the demand?

Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

We need to give up the fantasy that we can keep living as we have been.  Electric cars are perhaps the most visible symbol in that losing struggle.  It’s also a screaming acknowledgment that without cars of some sort, the mess we’ve made of our living environments is not sustainable.  Without cars, a new order is demanded in how we live, and the economy we create.

Let’s keep telling Obama:  “Give up on the electric cars. Help us really create a green future.”


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