September 2022 Vol. 77 No. 9

Editor's Log

Editor’s Log: Trendsetters or Irresponsible Dreamers?

Robert Carpenter | Editor-in-Chief 

(UC) — Leave it to the state of California. Always the trendsetters, for better or for worse. It used to be clothes, hair styles and fashion choices that started first in California then spread throughout the land. Hollywood counter-culture movies became stalwarts of the cinema as well. 

That California is a progressive-leaning state has long since been established. But when it comes to the environment and climate change issues, the state’s leadership insists on not just exploring how to improve practices and develop reasonable action plans. Rather, the state prefers to arbitrarily regulate draconian solutions – no matter what the cost or how much pain it causes residents. 

The latest example occurred recently when the California Air Resources Board adopted the world’s most stringent rules for transitioning to zero-emission vehicles. It plans for the state to have all sales of new cars, pickup trucks and SUVs be electric or hydrogen by 2035. The policy expects to cut vehicle emissions in half by 2040. 

These adopted regulations require 35 percent of vehicle sales to be electric by 2026. Simply converting all trucks operating in and through California to CNG would eliminate the state’s smog in just a few months; but it has never been considered as an option. CNG is “evil” because of its carbon roots, even though it could provide immediate, comprehensive and less-invasive results until something better evolves. 

This is all part of a grand plan by Gov. Gavin Newsom to make California exclusively an all-electric-powered state by 2045. Yet Newsom obviously sees potential hiccups. He’s pushing to keep the state’s last remaining nuclear power plant open beyond its planned closure in 2025, as well as admitting the state may turn to diesel generators or natural gas plants as a backup when the electric grid is strained. In other words, the reliability of gas is still beyond repute, even by Newsom. 

Of course, this electric grid still has to be powered by some form of energy and that’s true across the country, indeed, across the world. Experts consistently agree that it will take, at the very least, until 2045 before green energy sources can effectively replace coal, oil and finally natural gas – and it could take much longer. Any plan to electrify must factor in the heavy use of the relatively clean carbon fuel, gas, which comes in roughly 80-percent cleaner than its other carbon counterparts. 

U.S. auto makers will be heavily impacted if this plan is enacted, since about 10 percent of their sales come from California. Further, the infrastructure grid will have to be overhauled at a ferocious rate, as drivers would need at least 15 times more vehicle chargers statewide. That will also mean expanding and creating a more robust electric energy grid to handle the massive additional power consumption needed by the program. 

The cost is expected to be several billion dollars; yet California’s debt exceeds $150 billion. Oh well, what’s a few billion dollars more arbitrarily added to the debt when it’s going for a good cause? 

That doesn’t consider the cost of electric vehicles, which typically are priced at least $8,000 more than a gasoline powered vehicle – and that’s for a compact-size car. However, now purchase prices will be mitigated across the nation as Congress’ latest spending bill awards a $7,500 rebate for anyone buying an electric car, whether it be an economical Nissan Leaf or luxury Tesla model. Again, what does it matter that unfunded billions in spending are added to the national debt? 

“It’s going to be very hard getting to 100 percent [from buyers],” warned Daniel Sperling, a board member and founding director of the Institute of Transportation Studies at the University of California, Davis. “You can’t just wave your wand; you can’t just adopt a regulation – people actually have to buy them and use them.” 

Representatives of business groups and rural areas are expressing drawbacks as well, saying they fear electric cars will be too expensive or inconvenient. 

“These regulations are a big step backwards for working families and small businesses,” said Gema Gonzalez Macias of the California Hispanic Chambers of Commerce. 

It’s time to drop the wild, zealous dreams that can only end badly. Don’t force feed nonsense to the American public about overambitious, and in the final accounting, irrelevant deadlines. You can’t just make technology evolve to a manufactured concept overnight. You can’t make new infrastructure appear in an instant or disconnect from the existing infrastructure immediately by clicking your bureaucratic heels together three times. 

It’s time to be realistic about timelines. Allow research and development the opportunity to catch up with grand dreams or discover better pathways forward. Continue striving to develop electric cars with batteries that don’t rely on exotic chemicals from third-world or unreliable countries using forced or child labor. 

We should also first develop battery technology that is affordable and practical to recycle and not dangerous to dispose of at the end of its life (we’re talking actual exploding batteries). Work out methods of cost-effectively recycling the inevitable masses of car batteries. Right now, the only effective plan for disposing of electric car batteries is for Elon Musk to provide a fleet of SpaceX rockets and shoot batteries into the sun.

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