Pro: Obama’s ‘pollution-free society’ is needed to combat climate change
Big Auto and Big Oil killed the electric car once. They won’t be permitted to do so again.
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In the mid-1990s, General Motors manufactured a limited production run of the electric EV1.
GM’s EV1 was a corporate ruse designed to prove to consumers that there was no great demand for the electric car. Between GM and Chrysler, Ford, Nissan, Honda and Toyota, 5,000 electric vehicles were produced in the 1990s.
Then Big Auto declared the venture to be a failure and the electric vehicles were either destroyed or donated to museums.
Big Auto and their friends in the oil industry played the consumers for suckers in the 1990s.
But the increasing threat of climate change brought on by greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel engines has focused the attention of consumers and governments beyond the self-serving gimmicks of the auto and oil industries. Electric vehicles are here to stay and stay they will.
European and Asian companies have announced they will ban cars that are powered by gasoline and diesel within the next few decades.
Fossil fuel-powered vehicles will be banned by Britain and France by 2040. China leapfrogged the Europeans by 10 years in announcing that fossil fuel vehicles will be off China’s roads by 2030.
Japan is taking measures to transform its fossil fuel-based automobile industry workforce to one that will be working in an industry that produces batteries and electric motors instead of internal combustion engines.
And New Zealand is planning on 64,000 electric vehicles in the country by 2021. To that end, New Zealand is requiring that one-third of all government vehicles be electric by 2021.
India, where people are literally choking to death on heavy smog that is largely produced by fossil fuel vehicles in heavily populated urban areas like Mumbai, is also planning to mandate electric vehicles on its roads and highways.
Deadlines for mandatory electric vehicles is not a left vs. right issue. Britain’s Environment Secretary Michael Gove, a member of the Conservative Party, stated in July 2017 that Britain could not “carry on with diesel and petrol cars.” Gove emphasized that there is “no alternative to embracing new technology.”
The United States will soon find that there is no market abroad for dirty fossil fuel vehicles or their parts.
Donald Trump, who threw one of his tiresome and childish temper tantrums in pulling the United States out of the Paris climate accord, continues to yammer on about America producing fossil fuel vehicles powered by U.S. gasoline regardless of the environmental damage to Alaska, the northern prairies, the Gulf of Mexico, and offshore Atlantic and Pacific marine areas.
America, under Trump, is ridiculously and dangerously out-of-step with the rest of the world on striving toward zero-emission vehicles.
The “drill, drill, drill” nonsense of Trump and his Environmental Protection Agency and Interior Department, with a weakened U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration powerless to deter them, should be nullified by every U.S. state and territory.
To their credit, California; New York; Washington state; Washington, DC; Oregon and other states have maintained America’s commitment to a green economy and zero-emission vehicles.
Eight states have set mandates for electric vehicles. They have done so amid active opposition from the Trump White House and an EPA that seeks to pollute — not protect — the environment.
America once led the world in developing new technologies. Trump and his Big Auto and Big Oil cronies are presiding over an American economy that will soon be bypassed by Europe, Japan and China in marketing zero-emission electric vehicles.
Barack Obama’s dream of a United States with all-electric cars is one of the best things his presidency left behind.
A graduate of the University of Mississippi, Wayne Madsen is a progressive commentator whose articles have appeared in leading newspapers through the U.S. and Europe. Readers may write him at 414 Choo Choo Lane, Valrico, FL 33594
Con: Americans should be free to buy vehicles that meet their needs
Imagine if there were just one kind of car you could buy and you were told by the government you had to buy. No choice, no options.
One size fits all, just because. It’s a ridiculous idea, of course.
The reason there are different types of cars — and trucks and SUVs and everything in between — is because people have different needs.
Some people need a full-size, 4WD SUV capable of carrying six adults, handling heavy snow in the winter and pulling a heavy trailer come summer; for others, a subcompact sedan that gets 40 MPG all year long makes more sense.
One size, obviously, does not fit all.
The car industry, operating in a free market, caters to these needs.
The same principle applies — or ought to — when it comes to what makes our cars go.
There are four major choices currently available: Gasoline, gas-electric hybrid, full electric and diesel. Each way of getting a car going has its pros and cons — just as driving one type of vehicle versus a different type of vehicle entails pros and cons.
Electrics, for instance, can be plugged in anywhere there’s an outlet. No more having to deal with gas stations. Or gas costs. And they don’t produce any tailpipe exhaust emissions — because they haven’t got a tailpipe. They are classified as Zero Emissions Vehicles for this reason.
The latter is the main reason for the legislative/regulatory push for electric cars — including subsidies at both the manufacturing and retail level — as well as the justification for laws being passed in Europe and being contemplated here that would ban other-than-electric cars outright after a certain date — 2045, in California, if a bill currently under consideration there becomes law.
On the other hand, electrics are still very expensive to buy relative to an otherwise similar non-electric gas-burning or hybrid gas-electric car — even with the subsidies — which negates the EV’s at-the-pump savings. And if only affluent people can afford to buy them, their emissions — or lack thereof — are irrelevant.
And while it’s true that electrics don’t emit any emissions at the tailpipe, emissions are emitted from the smokestacks at the utility plants that produce the electricity that makes EVs go.
It’s very debatable whether, in the aggregate, electric cars actually do emit fewer emissions than conventional cars, including emissions of carbon dioxide.
Modern diesel engines, on the other hand, are capable of better-than-hybrid fuel economy without the higher cost of a hybrid drivetrain, and have highway ranges of 600 miles or more on a full tank — a range no other form of propulsion can match.
They are also nearly emissions-free at the tailpipe and, of course, emit nothing at the smokestack.
The same goes for modern gas-burning engines. Many gas and diesel engines currently in production qualify as Partial Zero Emissions, and even those that don’t quite make that cut are extremely close to it.
Many people outside the car industry do not realize that the difference in exhaust emissions between ZEV and PZEV and Super Ultra Low Emissions, the next rung on the regulatory ladder, amounts to fractions of a percent. That there is no longer any such thing as a “dirty” internal combustion engine — whether gas or diesel.
And there’s more to come, including an ultra-efficient and ultra-low-emissions hybrid gas-diesel engine being developed by Mazda.
Strides are being made in terms of electric cars as well. Range is increasing and recharge times reducing, while costs are going down.
But all types still have their pros and their cons, which is why it’s important that people remain free to choose the form of propulsion that best meets their needs.
Just as they are still free to choose the type of vehicle that best meets their needs.
Eric Peters is one of the nation’s leading automotive journalists and a frequent commentator on radio and television. Readers may write him at EPAutos, 721 Copper Hill Lane SE, Copper Hill, VA 24079