The Swedish government might ban the sale of new combustion cars in 2030 – and a new paper wants to get even more Draconian. Their computer estimate suggests that banning all combustion cars, even older ones already in use, might be the only way they will meet their climate targets. The replacement: electric vehicles.
It could work.
But isn’t that a headfake? In most countries, yes. Electricity in much of the world is gained from fossil fuels, so converting those to DC electricity, which then gets transformed with losses to AC electricity, when then gets turned back with losses into DC electricity, which then gets stored in a battery, is incredibly inefficient. Electric cars may make individuals feel good, but American CO2 has dropped because natural gas replaced coal in electricity production, not because of battery-powered transportation.
Credit: Yen Strandqvist/Chalmers University of Technology
Sweden, though, is already powered by green energy like hydroelectric and nuclear. So it can work for them but those are two things that American activists hate.(1) Electric cars in the US are instead both a strain on the grid and an emissions boondoggle but as long as they are mandated and subsidized by government, companies will make them. Then the government tells utilities they must build EV recharging stations and they get to pass the cost along to people like me, who’s driving a 19-year-old 4-cylinder car that gets great gas mileage with much less environmental strain than goes into making a new electric car. Worse, electric car owners don’t pay any gas taxes, though they use the same roads I do, so I am stuck paying for their share of maintenance and repairs.(2)
But we are saving the environment, right? No, 50 percent of California electricity is provided by fossil fuels so electric cars are an even less efficient way to keep using them. Only 16 percent is hydroelectric, and modern environmental groups oppose even that fraction. Nuclear, also opposed by Democrats, now makes up only 9 percent while virtually useless solar and wind has used government fiat to get up to 22 percent – giving Californians the highest utility costs in America and brownouts in summer months.
One problem glossed over in all scenarios; batteries are horrible for the environment, in creation and disposal. Academics and government pundits alike invoke the Miracle Of Capitalism when it comes to batteries, without acknowledging that the Miracle Of Capitalism is why combustion cars are still popular after 150 years. The free market made the energy density of combustion cars terrific, not government subsidies. Batteries are held back by being forced into use now. Batteries have not had a big improvement in 30 years and won’t, as long as current batteries are where the big money is.
That said, outright banning combustion engines in Sweden (for cars – diesel generators are far worse for the environment, as is shipping, but Sweden can’t ban those) is actually possible(3), without a lot of drama, mostly because their activists hate different things than ours do. They hate fossil fuels but not nuclear and hydroelectric. We hate everything except solar and wind, which everyone knows will mean a return to the Dark Ages if they have to replace fossil fuels.
They like actual green energy while we basically need to give activists something else to complain about. They never understood enough science to know that nuclear plants are not nuclear bombs but that is not going to change any time soon. They loved natural gas until it replaced coal, then they said it was causing earth to deflate and was worse than coal for emissions, so reduction opportunity there is limited.
Monsanto needs to make GMO Solar Panels or whatever else would get anti-science activists using their $2 billion a year for something useful instead of blocking dams and nuclear.
We all live on the same planet and see the same sky, but not all groups that make money manipulating science policy share the same horizon as those of us who actually care about the environment. And for progress to happen, that will need to change.
(1) President Clinton fulfilled a promise to his party and scuttled nuclear energy in America in the 1990s, so that may never come back, and the war on dams is being waged now. Environmentalists block repairs and then write press releases about how dams are poorly maintained and need to be torn down. Progressive journalists dutifully rewrite them. Progress on actual viable clean energy is held back.
(2) California is raising gas taxes another 12 cents a gallon in July, after raising the highest gas taxes in the nation in 2017, because they say there isn’t enough money to repair roads. Guess which state leads the nation in electric cars that don’t pay any gas taxes?
(3) Some of their ideas make no sense – more biofuels, for example. Biofuels are non-starters for the same reason wind and solar don’t make progress. When current technology is mandated and subsidized, there is no incentive to improve it. If government had subsidized my Motorola StarTAC, there would be no iPhone. Biofuels create more environmental strain in production than they save in emissions and there is no indication that will change. Corn ethanol and other blends are just bad for cars and help nothing.