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The great green myth of electric vehicles


In light of the Lib Dems’ latest policy plans to ban petrol and diesel cars and make ‘ways to ensure a massive expansion of electric vehicles’, we thought this provocative article sent to us by US Mechanic deserved an airing. Its thesis that EVs are all about profits for carmakers happy to have ‘environmentalism’ as the story to sell them may come as a bit of a shock to green idealists.

THERE’S a hell of an argument brewing over electric vehicles. New science from German researchers shows that EVs aren’t as clean as once thought. Turns out mining those rare minerals needed for EV batteries is a dirty business. In fact if you count in coal-generated electricity, EVs produce more CO2 than diesel.

Of course there are good reasons to switch out combustion engines for electric, the lungs of small children living in big cities high among them. And some in the environmental lobby are contesting the precise numbers used in the German research.

But even if electric vehicles are only marginally cleaner than diesel, that still invalidates the primary reason for the switch to electric. Consumers have been told EVs are the miracle answer to climate change. In reality, even the most optimistic numbers show they will barely shift the dial on CO2 emissions.

This has a lot of people asking: Why ARE we being made to switch to electric vehicles?

The Left liberal narrative on EVs goes like this. Capitalism – and the economic growth it creates – is using up our finite resources and damaging the planet. EXHIBIT A: Climate change. Burning fossil fuels is raising levels of CO2, leading to a warming planet, with potentially lethal results. And so . . . we all need to be made to buy a new electric car within the decade!

You don’t need to contest the science of climate change to poke holes in this narrative. In fact conservatives too often make the mistake of trying to argue against a scientific consensus that is as solid as science gets. But there are much simpler ways to counter climate hysteria.

Enter renowned economist Jeremy Rifkin and billionaire investor Peter Thiel. Two men who occupy very different political positions, but agree on one fundamental thing. A fact that entirely changes the narrative on climate change, and neatly explains what’s really driving the forced adoption of electric vehicles.

What if economic growth stalled in the mid to late 1970s, and electric vehicles are just the latest way of squeezing more from our stagnant economy?

Rifkin and Thiel agree that real economic growth tapered out in the 1970s, at the end of what Rifkin terms the ‘second industrial revolution’ that had been driven by fossil fuels. Since then we’ve lived through four decades of fake growth, with governments and business inventing new ways to ‘grow’ the stagnant global economy.

Ballooning consumer debt, the privatisation of public assets, corporate mergers, and the swollen power of international banking, are all ways of faking growth in an economy that is actually in an era of stagnation. Growth has stalled because we have lost the real driver of growth – technology.

As Peter Thiel argues, the only real engine of growth is technological progress. And that progress has stalled. Traditional industries from construction to transportation have stopped innovating. Sure, information technology has grown, but even Silicon Valley is stalling now as technological stagnation in industry takes its toll.

Consider this alternative to the Left liberal narrative on electric vehicles: economic stagnation means that businesses constantly have to come up with new ways to fake growth. Far from resisting electric vehicles, the car industry is depending on them for its future survival.

How do you persuade people to buy a new, more expensive, less effective car when their gas guzzler is still going strong?

Look at the issue from the perspective of carmakers. You’re under intense pressure from shareholders to keep the business growing. But your product is at saturation. Europe and America have been at peak car ownership for decades, and the Chinese got there in the 2010s. What next?

Electric vehicles are your answer. Not only do you get to sell new product to every car owner in the world, you also get to switch out the entire infrastructure of gas stations, auto-supply chains and the rest. Talk about profitable!

Car makers aren’t against electric vehicles. They’re absolutely dependent on them for their future growth. The only question is . . . how do car makers get the consumer to pay over the odds for an expensive new car with bad mileage?

Enter your useful idiot – the liberal environmentalist.

Corporations have been exploiting liberal causes to sell products to consumers for decades.

It’s part of the liberal self-image that they are a minority, up against the power of big corporations, a brave resistance fighting to make the world a better place. In reality most liberal causes are pedestrian and mainstream, and if they don’t serve the interests of business to begin with, they’ll be made to in time.

In the early 20th century, tobacco companies wanted more growth. Men all smoked, but women rarely did. The firms worked with the ‘father of public relations’, one Edward Bernays, to manufacture a series of public stories in which smoking was linked with the then new ideology of female empowerment – feminism.

Today, exactly the same strategy is used to attract young women to everything from video games to superhero movies. Captain Marvel is sold as an icon of feminism, when really she’s just the latest in a long line of low quality mass entertainment marketed to consumers by exploiting popular liberal ideals.

The big advertising and PR agencies have been helping oil companies and carmakers exploit liberal environmentalism since the early 1960s. Carmakers didn’t create climate hysteria, but like any smart business, they’ve found ways to turn liberal causes to their advantage.

Climate change is a serious problem – but where is the solution?

Is anyone really surprised that electric vehicles aren’t the climate change miracle once claimed? Certainly not carmakers, even Saint Elon Musk, who’ve always known the full carbon cost of EVs. Only liberals who bought into the hype are shocked by the truth.

Anyone rational looking at the climate change data can see this is a serious problem with no clear solution. Liberals use the worst case scenarios of climate change to try to scare people into action. But if the worst case scenarios are even close to true, what action can we take?

There is no clean way to power the modern world. Electric vehicles, renewable energy, and other ‘solutions’ all have carbon costs. They can marginally reduce CO2 emissions, but nowhere near enough to present a full solution.

The real reason to cheer for electric vehicles is not their minor impact on CO2 emissions. It’s that electric vehicles are a step back on to the path of progress. The kind of incremental progress that creates jobs, generates wealth, and that has lifted one billion people out of poverty since 1990.

As long as liberal environmentalism demonises the kind of progress that makes electric vehicles possible – and it seems likely that trend will only get worse – then carmakers can’t really be blamed for turrning irrational liberalism against itself.

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