Electric vehicles & public policy ‘blinders’

Electric vehicles & public policy ‘blinders’

California has banned the sale of new gasoline-powered cars by 2035. And as The Wall Street Journal notes, “the move could serve as a spark for other left-leaning states to follow … .”

Uh-oh, Pennsylvanians — best watch out for the same kind of public policy discombobulation.

Electric vehicles, powered by batteries, are seen as the “environmentally sound” thing to do, right? Never mind a few inconvenient facts, as detailed a few years back in Forbes magazine by energy economics scholar Tilak Doshi.

There’s the environmental degradation that would result from the massive mining that would be needed to secure the raw materials used in batteries used to power electric vehicles.

“The clean and green image of EVs stands in stark contrast to the realities of manufacturing batteries,” Doshi notes.

But surely the zero-emissions claim is worth it nonetheless, right? That’s if you take the zero-emissions claim as an article of faith. Unfortunately, one can’t.

“When a new EV (electric vehicle) appears in the showroom, it has already caused 30,000 pounds of carbon-dioxide emission,” Doshi says. “The equivalent amount for manufacturing a conventional car is 14,000 pounds.”

Furthermore, Doshi says:

“Once on the road, the carbon dioxide emissions of EVs depends on the power-generation fuel used to recharge its battery. If it comes mostly from coal-fired power plants, it will lead to about 15 ounces of carbon-dioxide for every mile it is driven—three ounces more than a similar gasoline-powered car.

“Even without reference to the source of electricity used for battery charging, if an EV is driven 50,000 miles over its lifetime, the huge initial emissions from its manufacture means the EV will actually have put more carbon-dioxide in the atmosphere than a similar-size gasoline-powered car driven the same number of miles.

“Even if the EV is driven for 90,000 miles and the battery is charged by cleaner natural-gas fueled power stations, it will cause just 24 percent less carbon-dioxide emission than a gasoline-powered car.”

Lest one forget, EVs typically are quite expensive and heavily subsidized by taxpayer dollars. All taxpayer dollars – even those who can’t afford to buy an electric vehicle.

And we haven’t even broached the issue of disposing of and/or recycling these batteries. If proponents want to insist that’s a “zero-emissions” proposition, then, boy, do we have a perpetual-motion machine to sell them.

“The determination not to know or to look away when the facts assail our beliefs is an enduring frailty of human nature,” Doshi reminds. “The tendency toward group-think and confirmation bias and the will to affirm the ‘scientific consensus’ and marginalize sceptics, are rife in considerations by the so-called experts committed to advocating their favorite cause.

“In the case of EVs, the dirty secrets of ‘clean energy’ should seem apparent to all but, alas, there are none so blind as those who will not see.”

Sadly, we continue to see this in so many public policy issues – from economic development to the conveyance of public services. Mistaking novelty for “progress” while attempting to ignore the fundamental precepts of economics is not sound public policy.

Colin McNickle is communications and marketing director at the Allegheny Institute for Public Policy (cmcnickle@alleghenyinstitute.org).