‘Après is so passé’, and now it’s all about how you’re getting where you’re getting so bonjour Orient Express! Tomorrow I’m meeting friends at Coerchevel where I am going to ski and eat everything! Taking the train made so much sense especially when I am paying carbon offsets for flying anyway. I’m all for conserving but boat travel á la Greta is just not an option for most of us.
Speaking of most of us… the entire environmental industry is still reeling from John Kerry’s remark after taking a private jet to a climate conference and saying, ‘It’s the only choice for somebody like me’. I mean, UGH! Why couldn’t he just shut up? But blab he did and now it’s putting all of us under a microscope. It’s so unfair because carbon offsets are not even mandatory and yet we pay!
But enough of that because it’s not every day one takes the Orient Express, and you can bet I’m making a big deal of it by being photographed the minute I arrive. Thankfully we (me and all of my besties) reserved Courchevel early on, because Leysin had only a small patch of artificial snow and Gstaad only had 16 of 70 trails open. How embarrassing!
I was halfway through my first bottle of Veuve Clicquot when I overheard two bright young things talking about whole swaths of yellowed grass on the Vaud Alps where they’d just left. Even the sound of it was distasteful. Of course I felt for the poor darlings but why would you even say such a thing out loud? And yet one went on about having found no decent skiing on the East Coast. Ah—Americans! And they were clearly idiots. Anyone following Davos knew they had to offer alpine bike trails to provide an activity on a snowless Christmas Day.
I had just one bit of work to do and that was to figure out what (if anything) was to be done about the U.S. subsidy for electric vehicle batteries. Truth is I’d worked damned hard to see that each new battery built in the U.S. would be subsidised by 35 percent—which was accomplished, so I really didn’t understand the problem. Oh how I didn’t want to call my father but who else does one call when your opening line is I know I did a fabulous job so what’s the problem?
Maybe I’d ask the Americans. They were so loud I would easily find an opening. ‘Cheers!’ I began, lifting my champagne coupe. ‘I couldn’t help but detect a sight American accent (I lied) but you look so very European’ (a double lie). But they just began a repeat of the no-snow on the east coast and yellow alps story… I sipped my champagne and listened.
‘Surely due to climate…?’ I baited. But no takers. A bit more small talk… mention of my own Tesla back in California, and then I tried ‘Such wonderful news that the U.S. is soon going to lead the world in Electric Vehicle production…?’ They didn’t care one bit. If the car was cheaper, they were happy, and they mentioned something about damage to the environment from used EV batteries.
I had to call my father. ‘Before you start…I have just one question’ I said.
‘Before I start?’ Daddy asked. ‘I was just going to comment how clear and carbon-free your voice sounded from the train’.
Of course he had to get one in… ‘No, I think that’s from three bottles of champagne’, I lied again. ‘What I’m asking is how can it possibly be a bad thing if the subsidised battery program is a bigger success than our wildest dreams?
‘Define success’, Daddy said.
‘Well, 35 percent of every EV battery manufactured in the U.S. is going to be publicly funded… lower prices—more electric vehicles. It’s a win-win! AND the program is turning out to be four times more popular with manufacturers than imagined so… EXTRA WIN!’
‘Well, three things I would point out’ Daddy began, ‘if electricity for charging wasn’t itself fossil-fuelled, and if the discarded batteries didn’t present an environmental nightmare then… MAYBE WIN. Except with four times the success you now have four times the fossil-fuelled electricity being used. And don’t forget that your beloved California asked EV drivers not to charge when the power grid was overtaxed. Imagine four times the overtaxing’.
‘Oh blast, Daddy! When you put it that way—I get it, but most people don’t care. They just want cheaper gas, and we will find some way to make clean power eventually’.
‘Eventually? How fascinating’. He scolded. ‘And you had cheaper gas until you shut down my pipeline’. I knew he was right but I didn’t know what to say.
‘And if your program is four times more “successful” as you say, Jennifer, it just got four times more expensive. You have to understand the money crunchers determined this would cost taxpayers $30 billion over ten years, but last year alone manufacturers claimed $73 billion. Add to that all the foreign manufacturers that will show up with their eco-hands out and it is at least $140 billion’.
‘Okay, Daddy but if it just costs more…’
‘Jennifer don’t say just! And more isn’t better! It means taxpayers were tricked into a program that now costs four times more, but the obvious problem is that you and your fellow green-niks go on thinking that if it has even a possibility of helping the environment then it must be good. I just pointed out to you how it is not a bit better, and where I really lose my patience is when you imagine this has some value. Don’t assume that everyone agrees with you, but even if, it meant less carbon, which I’ve just pointed out it does not, IDEAS, unless monetised, have no intrinsic value! What you have is nothing. It’s less than nothing. It is taking money for actually nothing. How do you not see that? Honestly Jennifer, It’s worse than Denmark claiming to be renewable when they are entirely subsidised’.
‘Okay, Okay. I hear you. Now what?’
‘Well for you and yours it IS a win-win. Your clients can claim to care, and have their businesses subsidised’.
This hadn’t gone well. I went back to the bar to consider another bottle of champagne. The bright young things were asking to be seated for dinner and by the looks of things the bartender was relieved. I wanted to text Daddy to say something but I didn’t know what. It can’t be easy for a geophysical engineer to have a daughter like me. As I was thinking of what to say I got a text from him:
‘I do hope you haven't forgotten that General Motors recalled all 141,000 of their Chevy Bolts'.
On second thought, maybe I am exactly what he deserves.