Having had their Christmas ruined by the hours spent queuing up at the chargers, many drivers are cursing the day they opted for electric cars.
Since my own car is diesel-powered, no curses came to my mind. But the words in the title did, even though they were inspired by a Leftist politician.
Mapping the strategy for Clinton’s presidential campaign, James Carville famously instructed his staff to focus on the main thing. “It’s the economy, stupid,” he said.
Perhaps it is, in the free-for-all of US electoral skirmishes. Yet such econocentrism doesn’t easily extrapolate onto life in general.
For people aren’t always, and never merely, economic creatures. Belief that they are is Marx’s fallacy shared by both his followers and, bizarrely, many of his detractors. The two groups diverge in their conclusions but converge in their premise: Herr Marx, meet Herr Hayek.
In fact, the economy tends to play second fiddle to ideology. However, when the latter wreaks havoc on the former, it’s usually the economy that takes the blame.
Just look at the dire state of the economy today. Very little of its plight is self-inflicted; it’s various ideologies that are the culprits.
One of many examples: economists are attributing the soaring cost of energy to Putin’s war on the Ukraine. But Putin didn’t push the button because he thought he’d thereby improve the state of the Russian economy.
On the contrary, he knew there would be an economic price to pay, although he didn’t quite anticipate how steep the price would be. Yet even now, with the Russian economy lying in ruins and only a speedy retreat offering a sporting chance of revival, he persists. It’s the ideology, stupid.
But why did sanctions on Russian hydrocarbon exports hurt the West so badly? An averagely clever schoolboy could have predicted that an economy heavily dependent on importing a vital commodity would be courting disaster. Especially if the commodity is imported from an unfriendly power.
Now, while I don’t rate the intellectual faculties of our leaders very highly, I do give them credit for being as smart as an averagely clever schoolboy. So why didn’t they develop alternative sources of energy, ideally all the way to energy independence? It’s the ideology, stupid.
Actually, more than one ideology. The less culpable kind was their refusal to see Russia as a hostile power. Different factors contributed to that failure, ignorance being a prominent one. But wishful thinking based on the liberal ideology was even more damaging.
It proceeds from the innate philistine assumption that the whole world either is like us already or desperately wishes to be. That turns the West into a dupe ready to be fleeced by clever disinformation.
Assorted tyrants have learned that if they scream democracy loudly enough and often enough, the West will smile smugly and close its eyes on what they actually do. It’ll then start raining credits and technology on them faster than you can say ‘the end of history’.
Yet one would think that even if we weren’t aware of Russia’s strategic menace, it would have made purely economic sense to produce all of our own energy. Not only are the known reserves of uranium sufficient to keep us in nuclear power until the Second Coming (not that I presume to know its timing), but we also have huge deposits of oil and gas sloshing underfoot.
So why have we spurned the huge economic payoff of energy independence? It’s the ideology, stupid.
Nuclear power stations didn’t spread widely enough because we chose to accept at face value the scaremongering screamed by anti-nuke campaigns, including our own CND. Most such groups were financed by foreign powers with a vested interest in our reliance on hydrocarbon imports.
The Soviet Union, in particular, busily cultivated various anti-nuke front setups, such as the CND. They somehow managed to peddle the lie that nuclear power is as lethal as nuclear weapons – this though not a single Western life had been lost to an accident at a nuclear power station, and still hasn’t.
Having succeeded in degrading, and in some Western countries destroying, nuclear energy, the same group shifted sideways into the massive fraud going by the name of global warming. At the heart of their animus was the same hatred of what Marx so loosely termed capitalism. It’s the ideology, stupid.
Fast-forward a couple of decades, and Western governments, including our own, are racing one another to the altar of ideology at which they can sacrifice the economy.
Perhaps that metaphor is inexact. For those practising human sacrifice to pagan deities killed others, not themselves. By contrast, Britain and other ideologised nations are avidly committing economic suicide.
This gets us back to those interminable queues at the chargers, with electric car owners cursing Elon Musk’s name and nominating various portions of his anatomy as their preferred receptacle for charging nozzles.
The spread of electric cars is outpacing the proliferation of the infrastructure required to keep them on the road. And at present, Britain only boasts 500,000 such vehicles, or thereabouts.
The stated goal of our successive governments is to replace all internal combustion (IC) engines with batteries. Since there are over 33 million cars in Britain, it takes a morbidly credulous person to believe that the situation will ever improve.
Moreover, our grid is already straining at the seams, even with France’s EDF taking in some of the slack. What will happen if, say, 10 million cars are plugged in at the same time, which will be likely at peak times, such as at Christmas?
True enough, transportation produces some 28 per cent of all anthropogenic carbon emissions. But percentages are often liars. So let’s deal in the more truthful absolute numbers, shall we?
Carbon dioxide makes up only 0.04 per cent of the atmosphere. And 95 per cent of it comes from natural sources that have nothing to do with human activity. Thus anthropogenic CO2 accounts for 0.0016 per cent of the air we breathe. It’s a trace gas of a trace gas, having no effect whatsoever on climate change.
Yet even assuming against every bit of available evidence that ‘our planet’ is being shallow-fried by IC cars, electric vehicles aren’t the answer.
Quite apart from the burden they put on the grid and the infrastructure, they have intrinsic problems that appear unsolvable. These start with making such vehicles in the first place.
The typical battery in an electric car weighs about 500 kg. To make it, you need to process 10 tonnes of salt for the required lithium, 15 tonnes of ore for the required cobalt, two tonnes of ore to get enough nickel and 12 tonnes of ore to get enough copper.
Add all that mining and processing together, and they pollute more than an average IC car does in 20 years. And we seldom keep our cars for that long.
Since most of that mining is done in tropical regions, environmental groups are already screaming bloody murder about the damage being done to the rain forest.
Myself, I’m more concerned about the damage being done to the miners’, which is to say minors’, health. Many of them are children working in slave-like conditions for starvation wages, but when do ideologues ever care about such incidentals?
Then there numerous technical problems with electric cars, and I’m not qualified to judge whether they’ll ever be solved. Let’s just say that so far they haven’t been.
To begin with, electric cars are fair-weather vehicles. They either misbehave or quit altogether in extreme temperatures.
Most electric cars have a risible range between charges to begin with, but freezing conditions reduce it by up to 40 per cent, especially when the heater is on. That is, if they can be charged at all. One owner, for example, recently spent 15 hours trying to charge his car in a -7°C temperature, only to have the same 19-mile range still displayed.
According to experts, electric cars are like humans: they prefer moderate temperatures between 60F and 80F. Once the temperature drops below 40 or rises above 100, they fall far short of their peak performance.
Then there are safety issues. At present, an electric car is 50 per cent more likely to create an accident, but that’s the drivers’ fault: they aren’t used to the much greater acceleration, and much quicker response, of such vehicles.
Yet some problems are intrinsic. If an electric car is rear-ended, or scrapes its bottom (where the battery is located) over a speed bump, it can catch fire. And that fire is extremely difficult to put out. Fire brigades have been known to immerse burning electric cars in water for days – only to see them catch fire again the moment they are taken out of the tank.
Some of those problems will probably be solved eventually. Some won’t be, but our governments will still insist on pressing on with their economically suicidal policies.
Because it’s not the economy, stupid. It’s ideology that inspires modern countries to drive their electric cars all the way to catastrophe.