(October 6, 2017) Electric vehicles are for city folk. For most rural residents, their role is to give, give, give.
This article, by Lawrence Solomon, first appeared in the National Post
Electric cars, the vehicles of choice for the virtue signallers among us, epitomize the confusions and the divisions in society. These vehicles aren’t environmental exemplars, as their touters claim. And they of course aren’t economic. They excel in one area above all: in exploiting rural regions and their inhabitants, mostly for the benefit of affluent urbanites.
Electric vehicles — now a trivial proportion of cars on the road — do benefit the urban environments in which they operate, by limiting harmful vehicular emissions such as NOx, SOx and ground-level ozone. If electric vehicles ever obtained a broader market, that urban benefit would increase. But it would come at a much greater cost to the rural environment, which electric-vehicle proponents would seek to sacrifice to provide the cities with electricity for charging.
To fuel electric cars with “green” power, the social engineers pushing them plan to vastly expand the use of renewable electricity. When the electricity comes from industrial wind turbines, rural lands are lost. When the wind farms are located at distant sites — a typical occurrence because that’s where the wind happens to blow strongest — the immense transmission corridors needed to carry the power to urban markets consume more land, despoiling farm and cottage country in the process.
Most of the power to fuel this electrified transportation system of the future is expected to come from large hydro dams, however, where the consumption of land, and the resulting environmental damage, takes an even greater toll. BC Hydro’s Site C dam, an $8.8-billion white elephant slated to flood 83 kilometres of the agriculturally rich Peace River Valley, is but one of some 40 large dams that Canada’s environmental planners believe would be needed over the next three decades to keep more electric vehicles on the road.
Other forms of renewable electricity — such as biofuels and solar photovoltaic arrays, which claim forests and fields — are again based in rural areas, and again require rural pain for urban gain. To add insult to injury, none of these renewables are economic, none would exist if the private sector were free to meet consumers’ actual needs. All these schemes raise power rates and all exist only because government planners redirect industry to meeting the presumed needs of their imagined future.
Most of the virtue-signalling e-car purchasers have no reason to question the planners’ policies, and so are unaware of the costs of their choices to the rural environment. They also might not give a second’s thought to society’s wasteful investment in refuelling stations and related infrastructure. Or to the free ride they’re getting from their fellow citizens who drive gasoline-fuelled vehicles, whose taxes at the pump help pay for the roads electric cars proudly coast on.
But all e-car purchasers are aware of the direct subsidies that they obtain when they opt for an electric car. Under Ontario’s Electric Vehicle Incentive Program, for example, the government kicks in $14,000 for someone taking the wheel of a Volkswagen e-Golf or 40 other models, whether as a purchase or on a three-year lease. Those subsidies need to be rich to overcome the prohibitive price tag affixed to electric vehicles, and to make virtue-signalling affordable. When those subsidies are removed, sales plummet, as happened in Denmark and Hong Kong where they plunged by more than 90 per cent.
Electric vehicles are for city folk. Charging stations are few and far between in low-density areas. For most rural residents, there are no freebies for the taking, and no opportunity for virtue signalling. Their sole role is to give, give, give — through inflated taxes for subsidies to lower the capital costs of the electric vehicles, through inflated electricity bills to lower the operating cost of the electric vehicles and through a degraded rural environment, without which the high-priced power for the high-priced vehicles could not even be contemplated. In contrast, the role of the urbanites acquiring electric vehicles — whether they realize it or not — is to take, take, take.
Those who signal their virtue most, the ancient sages have told us, are not the most virtuous among us. Had they seen the modern species of virtue signallers, they would also have philosophized on how virtue signalling begets vice.
Lawrence Solomon is executive director of Energy Probe, a Toronto-based environmental group. Email: LawrenceSolomon@nextcity.com.