Electric cars won’t save us #3

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by Steve Austin

Many otherwise ecologically aware people continue to promote electric vehicles as one of the needed pieces of technology for the post carbon era.  If only we could have fleets of them driving around, why then we can continue “life as we know it” but just in a “greener” way.

But this is on its face incompatible with the climate emergency.  Climate science urgently tells us that we must end all fossil fuel use and other CO2 emissions very soon.  Unfortunately, electric cars are made of and with fossil fuels; there is no alternative.  Fossil-fuel derived plastics comprise up to 50% of electric vehicle’s in order to make them lighter and extend the range of the batteries. Electric vehicles also have large amounts of lubricants and synthetic rubber within them.  Mining and manufacturing the metal components of an electric vehicle both require enormous amounts of fossil fuels as well as emit CO2 from the chemical process of making steel. (Not even touching on the ecological issues surrounding the creation and lifespan of batteries – currently mining cobalt is a human rights abuse.)

Further, the infrastructure for cars of any type – streets, roads, highways – is completely dependent on fossil fuels.  From high carbon asphalt and concrete surfaces – which emit copious quantities of CO2 during their creation – to the fossil fueled machines that create and maintain them, our auto centric transportation is incompatible with what science says we must do.

Then there is the issue of electricity to power these vehicles.  In the post carbon world, electricity will be forced to provide much more than the 20% of global energy it provides today.  Thus, there will be immense demands made on electric supplies.  However, even if solar, wind, hydro, and tidal grows exponentially over the coming years, it will never come close to replacing all the energy we currently use from fossil fuels.  It is extremely unlikely that there will ever be enough electricity to  power a global fleet of hundreds of millions –  if not billions of electric vehicles  – in addition to providing for light, heat, cooling, and manufacturing processes.   At some point it would also become an ethical issue:  just what should we be using our limited electricity on?  Using it to allow individuals and small groups to putter around surely wouldn’t be that important.

Electric vehicles are a fantasy that allows some to envision a post carbon future that somehow looks like today.  But if the science is real – and it is –then all CO2 emissions must cease within 30 years.  And we must begin to rapidly develop ways to draw down the excess CO2 that is already causing such devastation.

The post carbon world will be drastically different than today’s.  Could be worse.  Could be a lot better.  But it will not be basically the same as today.  This will require us to rearrange every single thing in our lives, from where we live, to how we move around, to how our food gets to us, to planning cities.  The longer we maintain the fantasy that electric cars will save us, the worse the damage will be.

Quoting myself about the electric car fantasy:  “it hurts the cause: when deniers see commentary like this they can rightfully say, ‘it can’t be too bad if all it will take is electric cars to solve it.’  To them, and to perhaps the majority of Americans, promoting electric cars seems to make dealing with climate change about lifestyle choices, instead of the radical reimagining of our civilizational structure that addressing the climate peril demands.”

Of course, it may be that the climate crisis isn’t really one, and that this is really just an effort to get us to live “greener.”  If it is truly a crisis, then those who profess that it is  must be made to reconcile their promotion of electric cars with ending the crisis. They need to explain how electric cars are compatible with the “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society” that the UN says are needed to keep heating below 1.5C.

UPDATE:  One of the most prominent shills for electric vehicles – for trying to keep life as it is in the face of the crisis – recently posted this relative to Trump’s assault on science: In the words of Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, a force of nature at just 16 years old, “You don’t listen to the science because you are only interested in solutions that will enable you to carry on like before. Like now. And those answers don’t exist any more. Because you did not act in time.”

Click here to see a graphic revealing just how soaked in oil an electric car is. (And yes, I realize that the information is provided by a pro-oil – thus pro climate apocalypse – organization. But they do provide the inconvenient facts about electric cars.  I think they are un-ironically doing it as a booster of electric cars.)

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