California's Electric Boogaloo to Nowheresville

No sooner does California move to ban the sale of gasoline-powered cars by 2035 and force everyone to buy electric cars than it announces, oh by the way, please don’t charge your electric cars last weekend because we’re going to be short of power as three-digit temperatures strain the grid. And turn your thermostats up to 78 while you’re at it.

Perhaps California will have figured out a way of expanding its carbon-free electricity sources and grid capacity in the next decade, and the recent week’s lopsided vote in the state legislature to keep open its Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant, which supplies nearly 10 percent of California total electricity at present, is a sign that energy reality is starting to intrude. But even if the dreams of a “carbon-free” California somehow come true over the next two decades, the electric car diktat represents a stark new moment in our green madness.

Gavin Newsom: now hear this, peasants.

Never mind that the electric car mandate was promulgated not by the elected state legislature, but by the eco-crats at the California Air Resources Board (CARB), representing yet another example of the administrative state in action. And never mind that the lifecycle environmental impacts (including carbon emissions) of the vast supply-chain for electric cars and their material-intensive batteries are nearly as large as conventional hydrocarbon vehicle. The strangest aspect of the scene is that the biggest enthusiasts for the electric car mandate are America’s auto manufacturers.

Barron’s magazine reported last month: The Biggest Fans of California’s No-Gas Policy? Ford and GM. “General Motors and California have a shared vision of an all-electric future,” said GM’s spokesperson Elizabeth Winter. “We’re proud of our partnership with California,” Ford’s “chief sustainability officer,” Bob Holycross, said in a statement. In Detroit-speak, “partnership” is today’s patois for “take orders from the government.” It was fashionable after the automakers were bailed out in 2009 to refer to GM as “Government Motors,” but today the label truly fits. The political takeover of the auto industry, long in the making, is now complete.

One way to perceive this slow-motion takeover more clearly is to ask why cars from every automaker now look the same. Most cars models now are squat, with teardrop-shaped bodies, nearly interchangeable with models from other manufacturers. Even high-end SUVs like the Ford Explorer or Range Rover are shorter and rounder than their predecessor models of just a few years ago. This is likely not a response to changing taste in car buyers, like tail fins in the late 1950s. A primary driver of current design are aerodynamic requirements to help meet the government-mandated fleet fuel-economy standards that have been slowly ratcheted up over the last decade.

Some years ago I met in Washington with senior executives from one of the big-three Detroit automakers to talk about energy and environmental policy, and how it affected their industry. They said that their single biggest problem in planning for the future was less the uncertainty of government regulation than wildly fluctuating gasoline prices. If car makers could predict what gasoline prices would be over the next decade, they’d know what kind of cars to build. When gas prices are low, consumers like SUVs; when gas prices are high, they shift on a dime to smaller, higher mileage cars. Car companies may see a shift to an all-electric car fleet as a means to ending the boom-and-bust cycle that has afflicted the industry for decades. Never mind that electricity rates are likely to become more volatile as we “green” the supply, as Europe is learning to its chagrin right now. And Californians already pay twice as much for electricity as the national average.

Pray it keeps working.

Beyond the final submission of the auto companies to our green commissars, there are a number of other ways California’s electric car mandate represents a step increase in the ambition of the climate crusaders. California has long enjoyed the privilege under federal law of setting its own tailpipe emissions standards for autos sold in the state that were tougher than national standards (a power the Trump Administration sought to curtail—and a lawsuit remains in process). Because auto makers didn’t want to manufacture two different kinds of cars (or surrender the California market), the California standard effectively became the national standard.

It’s one thing to impose a product performance standard; it’s another thing to ban a product that would be legal in the other 49 states. This may run afoul of the Commerce Clause of the Constitution, especially if California prohibits bringing gasoline-powered cars into the state. One can imagine a market for gasoline-powered cars sold just over state lines, and delivered to California buyers by Carvana or some other enterprise. Will the state attempt to “retire” the existing gasoline-powered vehicles in the state and close down gas stations? Look for a flourishing black market for gas and diesel. And the next wave of demand for H1B visas will be for Cuban auto mechanics, who are skilled in keeping gasoline-powered cars running for decades.

As it did with emissions standards, California likely thinks it can strong-arm other states or Congress to adopt its electric-car mandate. Texas (among other states) might have something to say about that. And what if car companies and consumers don’t go along with this extravagant target? The New York Times reported a crucial caveat:

To enforce its rule . . . California would fine automakers up to $20,000 for every car that falls short of production targets. The state also could propose new amendments revising the sales targets if the market doesn’t react as state leaders hope, said Jennifer Gress, who leads the California air board’s sustainable transportation division. [Emphasis added.]

Cuban mechanics wanted.

That language about “amendments” is the Emily Litella “never mind” clause. It has happened before. In a prequel to the current madness, in the early 1990s California tried to mandate that 5 percent of all new cars sold by the year 2001 be emission-free, which meant electric cars in practice. GM publicized lots of happy talk about its EV-1, a crappy electric car that cost six-figures (though it was “leased” at an implied purchase price of about $35,000), had a pathetically short range (50 miles on a good day), and took several hours to recharge. Not long before the mandate was set to take effect, it was quietly abandoned.

Electric cars have gotten much better in recent years, but in a state where lots of drivers travel well beyond the range of an electric vehicle every day, EVs still won’t meet the needs of a large number of Californians—never mind citizens of rural states that need vehicles that can run all day long. Look for history to repeat itself with the California EV mandate.

'At the Mercy of this Goddamn Spaceship'

The Wall Street Journal recently featured an amusing article entitled, "I Rented an Electric Car for a Four-Day Road Trip. I Spent More Time Charging It Than I Did Sleeping." The title more or less speaks for itself -- reporter Rachel Wolfe rented a brand-new Kia EV6, loaded her friend Mack into the car, and set off on a road trip from New Orleans to Chicago and back, a "2,000-mile trip in just under four days" so Mack could make it back in time for work.

She thought it would be a fun adventure, but in reality their desperate search for E.V. charging stations along the way, coupled with the extreme length of time it took to actually charge the car, undercut the thrill of the open road.

The main "pro" of her E.V. experience was cost. Though, Wolfe explains, "cost varies widely based on factors such as local electricity prices and charger brands," she estimates that her trip would have cost about $275 if she'd been driving a car with a gasoline powered engine, whereas she spent $175 total for her E.V. trip.

"Dear Diary..."

There are several reasons for this price disparity, including one Wolfe mentions herself -- "some businesses offer free juice as a perk to existing customers or to entice drivers to come inside while they wait." The cash spent on impulse buying as you wait for hours for your car to charge doesn't technically come out of your fuel budget, but it might as well.

The more important difference, though, is one of supply and demand. Fossil fuels are stretched particularly thin at the moment, and the tight supply has to both fuel the vast majority of vehicles on the road and generate most of the electricity fueling E.V.s (among other things). But the incongruity between the point-of-delivery price of gasoline and electricity isn't scalable. The more people owning and driving E.V.s, the more expensive it will become to charge them.

And then there is the main "con." Wolfe had "plotted a meticulous route" from one charging station to another, with their car's advertised range of 310 miles always in mind, planning to use thirty minute "fast chargers" twice per day and then eight-hour "Level 2" charges at their hotels overnight. The plan was straightforward, but the reality was not.

Right from the start they found that the car battery's charge was unpredictable -- on the first morning it "tick[ed] down 15 percent over 35 miles" and then the "quick charge" top up they wanted to do so that they would hit the road with a full battery ended up taking an hour instead of the estimated five minutes.

Eventually they make it to a Kia dealership in Meridian, Miss., where no one seems to know how to use the fast charger on site, and when they finally get it hooked up, the dashboard computer informs them that "a full charge, from 18 percent to 100 percent," will take them more than three hours. Wolfe explains:

It turns out not all “fast chargers” live up to the name. The biggest variable, according to State of Charge, is how many kilowatts a unit can churn out in an hour. To be considered “fast,” a charger must be capable of about 24 kW. The fastest chargers can pump out up to 350. Our charger in Meridian claims to meet that standard, but it has trouble cracking 20.

Are we there yet?

Once they make it to Chicago, Wolfe figures that they've mastered E.V.s and predicts that the return journey will be uneventful. “Don’t say that!” [Mack] says. “We’re at the mercy of this goddamn spaceship!” Boy was she ever right -- the drive back was, if anything, even more stressful, with continual “Charge, Urgently!” warnings as they power down everything in the car in the hopes of making it to the next charging station on "electric fumes." They discover, rather too late, that E.V. batteries do worse on the highways, since they're designed to draw some charge from the energy generated by slowing down.

Ultimately they make it home in time... barely. "The following week," says Wolfe, "I fill up my Jetta at a local Shell station. Gas is up to $4.08 a gallon. I inhale deeply. Fumes never smelled so sweet." Expect more and more people to come to that realization, sooner than you think.

'Green Energy'? Let's Do the Math

Rather than argue climate politics and ideology, let’s look at math, the language of the universe. Americans own approximately 270 million private gasoline vehicles (GVs) and drive 3.2 trillion miles per year, consuming 123 billion gallons of gasoline.  Why? Because we want to. Because we (still) are free to do what and go as and where we want. Democrats don’t like this. They prefer that we little people live in little boxes wedged-in with a hundred other little boxes, next to the (subsidized) light rail and the (un-air-conditioned) workplace and the (un-air-conditioned) grocery store selling bugs instead of food.

President Brandon read from his teleprompter that he wants to build 500,000 EV charging stations. By comparison, our 279 million GVs require only 115,000 “charging” (gas) stations. “Charging” a GV for the next 400 miles takes about 10 minutes. Absent fast chargers, charging an EV for the next 400 miles can take up to eight hours.  Spending less time per person charging requires having more stations – about four times more. How much CO2 will be expelled into the atmosphere to build this costly infrastructure? As with windmills, arguably more than using them will reduce.

America generates annually, using 99 percent traditional power sources (hydro, coal, oil, natural gas, uranium) about four trillion kilowatt hours (Kwh) of electricity to power our grid and run our homes, offices, stores, internet, etc. NOT in charging 270 million EVs. The additional one percent of electricity generation comes from small-scale solar. The EPA has created a metric, “MPGe,” for EVs. An EV will use 33.7 Kwh of electricity to travel as far as a GV on one gallon of gasoline. Replacing 123 billion gallons of gasoline will require four trillion Kwh, or double what the nation generates and uses today. See the problem? California can’t even keep the lights on today.

Not as easy as it looks.

Let’s add physics to math. How does the electricity we use get to a charging station, whether commercial or at our home? Electrons – electricity – travel in the vacuum of free space at the speed of light, which is the speed of electromagnetic radiation, of which light is a frequency. This speed is three million meters, or about 186,272 miles, per second. Through wire here on earth the electrons travel more slowly, but the speed of the electrical charge moving through a wire is nearly the same as in free space.

The transmission wires from a power plant to an outlet are not batteries; no charge is “held” in them to be used when turning on a light switch or plugging in an EV. The instant the switch is flipped to charge an EV and apply that load to the circuit, that electrical charge is created by releasing water at the dam, burning coal, natural gas or oil, or using the heat of fission at a nuclear plant.

What’s the point? If 270 million cars are sitting at home plugged-in overnight for their change, how much sun is shining? How much wind is blowing? None, and not much. As noted previously, the planet lacks the elements and minerals, and certainly the mining capacity, to create the amount of battery storage required to store all the energy hitting the earth daily from the sun to charge our vehicles overnight.

[A] rough conclusion is that getting all of our electricity from wind, solar and batteries would consume around 70 percent of all of the copper currently mined in the world, 337 percent of global nickel production, 3,053 percent of the world’s total cobalt production, 355 percent of the U.S.’s iron output, and 284 percent of U.S. steel production. Along with unfathomable quantities of concrete–which, by the way, off-gases CO2.

Plugging in the car, closing that circuit, requires that the electricity is created at that instant. Simply – this cannot happen with “sustainable” electricity generation and storage. It is mathematically impossible to replace America’s GVs with EVs and retain anything close to our rate of progress or standard of living. It also is culturally impossible; why do you think the elites have been attacking Western Culture?

Been around for thousands of years.

Economists talk about removing friction from the economy. Removing economic friction ostensibly is why we are going to (be forced to) go cashless, though the reality for that forcing may be entirely different. Moving to EVs will add friction to our everyday lives, to food and material consumption, to transportation, to the entire supply chain and the variety and quantities of goods and services we have come to expect and which all our jobs are designed to extract, produce, move, sell and dispose of. Removing friction aids progress; adding friction reduces progress.

Progress is the more productive use of natural and human resources, including energy. If we want to consume fewer resources, to use less energy, we need more progress...  and more electricity.

This seems to be a conundrum. Do we use less energy shopping online than going to a dozen stores around town on a Saturday? Sure. But do you know how much electricity the data centers hosting our online shopping used over a decade ago…?

In 2010, over 10 percent of electricity in the U.S. was due to computer and IT equipment usage…  assorted US data centers use a collective 7000 megawatts… ; this is more power than is used by the State of Mississippi.

We need electricity to create and maintain our standard of living, to continue to progress. “Sustainable” energy cannot replace hydro, fossil and nuclear, let alone double it. We can neither sustain our current standard of living nor advance it without more energy. This doesn’t factor-in the developing world’s need for more energy to achieve equity in living standards with the first world.

Can we generate the additional electricity we need to continue our current, and future-desired, standard of living? Of course. Can we do so and reduce the CO2 in the atmosphere (which may not be necessary at all, given that the CO2 levels have increased for years without warming)? Yes. How? Nuclear. No other generation capability can do so. Nuclear is such a good idea that even the founder of Greenpeace is all for it. It’s pretty hard to refer to him as an “anti-environmentalist.” But the left won’t allow nuclear, and our rulers don’t want us to have the freedom it provides.

Only way this works, greenies.

Friction – the Green Dream – is anti-progress. Which makes it anti-employment, anti-prosperity, anti-humanity, anti-liberty, anti-freedom, anti-natural resource and anti-future. The only people supporting adding this friction are those not understanding the ramifications, and those not having children so who do not care about the future. The former need to be educated and the latter ignored. The Green Dream is cultural and civilizational suicide. Because math.

Our elites know this. They aren’t stupid. The also aren’t replacing their motorcades with EVs, their seaside homes with inland apartments, and their steaks with bugs. Because they aren’t stupid. The Klimate Kult isn’t about the environment, the planet, the climate. It’s about control.

The Green Dream is about getting us in on the plot to destroy liberty and enable tyranny by brainwashing us to vote for our own demise. To destroy prosperity and spread poverty. To destroy the educated, productive middle class on which civilization depends.

Bernie Sanders may remark that we don’t need one thousand different kinds of deodorant that capitalism can provide and Marxism can’t, but I’m not at all sure I want a government that can’t win a war, can’t keep the homeless off the streets, can’t stop Capitol Cops from rioting against and murdering peaceful citizens, can’t stop BLM from burning down our cities and assassinating law enforcement officials, can’t stop meth and heroin junkies from shooting-up in the streets, can’t stop “teachers” from “teaching” 6-yr-olds how to masturbate, can’t stop pedophiles from attacking our children, can’t police our own border, can’t stop printing money to repair the damage from their last money-printing… telling me I can’t drive my GV to Yosemite or to a steak house.

Do you?