Arguing Against Sustainability

On the weekend I had an argument with @unambig (Adrian), a former blogger turned journalist in BC, and @BSnowsell (Brandon) a Saskatoonian Conservative. They’ve said they are against government involvement in making infrastructure for sustainable transportation. Adrian is upset by the carbon tax, and Brandon wants no money put into giving electric powered vehicles a chance to replace gas vehicles.

His accounting of the situation is far from accurate. Trillions of dollars have gone into gasoline vehicle infrastructure throughout the 20th century. Watch Taken For A Ride, the story of how GM bought and undermined electric streetcar systems across America, and was convicted for its calculated and malicious actions to force people into cars on the Interstate instead. Brandon and Adrian who argue against putting a few Billion dollars into electric/hybrid cars to put them on par with gas vehicles, are making them start from a lopsided position.

Brandon: that’s a ludicrous argument. Infrastructure benefits both and therefore not for/against either vehicle. #commonsense

ADDED: [Brandon clarifies his position, and helps back up what I've said:] I am against public $$$ being used for electric recharge stations. Gas stations are private. Supply/Demand. #basicconcept

Existing infrastructure favours who it was built for. Tried gas in a totally electric car lately? Sheesh! Closest battery swap station is where? You say existing infrastructure favours both, which is plainly FALSE. The infrastructure, from freeways, to service station types and locations, favours gas vehicles. Complaining that an electric vehicle doesn’t travel as far is an artificial roadblock, because gas vehicles didn’t travel as far when they were first unleashed too. How many gas service stations along rural routes have dried up in the last decades as gas mileage got better?

ADDED: [There was no demand for freeways until GM manufactured the need by decimating public transportation. If the government doesn't promote and pay for infrastructure changes, individuals will not change behaviour. We don't have time to wait for supply/demand to drive change, because there will be little demand if the technology isn't made mainstream through government advertising and implementation. The "demand" by the way doesn't have to be for electric vehicles specifically, it is also represented by those demanding the Gov't do something now to stop climate change.]

The convenience of gas burning vehicles is completely outweighed by the dangers from climate change, smog, and resource depletion. Nothing else matters to people, if they are dead, or have no clean water, air, or food. Climate change is affecting our ability to have all of those three things now, and it is going to get much worse for most people on the planet, soon. Electric cars would give us another decade or more to work on better solutions.

We’ve switched personal transportation methods plenty of times in the last 100 years, we can’t stop now and settle on gas burning cars that get only 30 MPG. It’s really a matter of life or death. That’s why I’m passionate about this sort of progress. Eliminating inefficiency in how we travel is crucial, and can’t be delayed by people who don’t even understand science let alone the social and environmental havoc their transportation choices wreak.

==

More than one comment from Adrian was especially laughable.

You need to understand that people have to put economics first. Not everybody is in the position to do these things

You’re not offering change. You’re offering theoretical changes based on unproven science.

I don’t lack a conscience. I have perspective. People are more important than invisible gasses.

Only the wealthy can afford to have an environmental conscience

To sum up:
You need money to have a conscience. Without it, you can’t afford empathy for people dying from climate change, and can’t write free letters to MPs and newspapers crying out for cleaner technologies to get government support. Invisible gases are unimportant, (since Adrian doesn’t breath or count on air pressure to keep his insides, inside him) so long as we’re talking about climate change. Otherwise invisible gases pretty much rule our lives every second. And he’s completely fine with people putting destructive economic theories as their motivating factors, but heaven forbid you put environmental limits and the survivability of mankind, its achievements, and knowledge as a top priority instead while making a new economic theory that works better at preserving and building progress.

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29 responses to “Arguing Against Sustainability

    • Actually, I heard about these cars. Jonathan Narvey, who writes for The Propagandist, visited Israel as a part of the Canada Israeli Committee blogger tour and said he was impressed by them.

      A few obvious observations and questions:

      1. No real word on the fuel efficiency, as it were, of these cars. What’s the mileage?
      2. Israel is a tiny country that could fit inside Canada thousands of times over. Our geography is an obstacle.
      3. Israel has ideal driving conditions at almost all times.
      4. What’s the sticker price of this car? Where is the mass produced car for the median income driver?
      5. What is the energy cost of refueling and who provides it? Do you pay by kilowatt?
      6. What is the environmental cost of producing the energy required to refuel the car, and what is the net reduction in pollution as a result?

      • A few fair questions, and I too would like to see more details.

        1. It’s going to be better than gas vehicles, probably even if the electricity is derived from coal. The point is that we can get electricity from non-polluting sources.

        2. Our cities are where electric cars make the most sense, so that quibble isn’t a strong one at all. Intercity transportation can be attained with gasoline shared cars or improved bus and rail travel.

        3. So? Powerplant isn’t a big deal, it doesn’t touch the road conditions. Aside from a cold battery, and heating the interior by electricity, these are possibly solved by hybridization with gas, or a more clever solution yet to come.

        4. It’s coming when our governments decide not to kill private projects like the ZENN with bad laws and no grants.

        5. Huh? Who pays your fuel bill? The car owner of course.

        6. It’s going to be less than gas, potentially MUCH less. If it’s Tar Sand Oil, MUCH MUCH less.

      • Sorry, this reply is actually to Saskboy’s reply to this question – alas, I can’t directly reply to it:

        2. Knowing what you know of the Canadian people, what percentage of the population would buy a car solely to use within cities? Is this percentage high enough to create economies of scale? And without reaching economies of scale, can production costs ever get low enough to make electric vehicles feasible for the average consumer?
        3. Powerplant is a huge deal – cold weather does bad things to engines and decreases efficiency accordingly. Consequently, you could end up building an electric car that consumes more fossil fuels than gasoline only vehicles!
        4. One of the reasons ZENN died was because its top speed was only 40km/h. This triggered low speed vehicle restrictions. Is this really a bad law? If you think so, take a look at some statistics on accidents that are caused by going too slow for road conditions/traffic flow.
        5. This is an important question and is definitely not answered by ‘huh?’ For alternative energy vehicles to make a substantial splash, the economics behind them have to be at or around the same level as the economics of gasoline powered vehicles. Incidentally, this is why hybrid vehicles have not made as big a splash as originally forecast…
        6. Show me some statistics on that – I have not read a single well written study that confirms your hypothesis.

      • “2. Knowing what you know of the Canadian people, what percentage of the population would buy a car solely to use within cities? ”

        People will buy whatever cars they are told to buy. That’s the short, cheeky, and true answer. Why? They’ll rent a vehicle at a place like Enterprise, or take a locally parked shared car otherwise. Public transit will be the fast way to get around in the city, so fewer people will own cars anyway.

        “Is this percentage high enough to create economies of scale? And without reaching economies of scale, can production costs ever get low enough to make electric vehicles feasible for the average consumer?”

        Your last question won’t, can’t, come to pass. This is not an option to fail on, if we want to do our part at preserving a natural climate (as natural as the one we’ve changed it to already, anyway).

        “3. Powerplant is a huge deal – cold weather does bad things to engines and decreases efficiency accordingly. Consequently, you could end up building an electric car that consumes more fossil fuels than gasoline only vehicles!”

        Engines, or electric motors? Cold obviously affects everything to some degree – metal contraction, battery, for a couple. I don’t know exact figures about how much when it’s really cold. Again, it won’t matter so much with shared vehicles because they’ll be in use, and warm through most cold days.

        I actually predict that hybrids are a better solution for the prairies, not only because of great distances, but because burning fuel seems like an acceptable way to get heat, instead of sapping propulsion electricity for resistive heat.

        “4. One of the reasons ZENN died was because its top speed was only 40km/h. This triggered low speed vehicle restrictions. Is this really a bad law? If you think so, take a look at some statistics on accidents that are caused by going too slow for road conditions/traffic flow.”

        Laws that restrict vehicle innovation are shit. Not “the shit”, just shitty. Pardon the potty talk, but I feel strongly about this. And I have figures to back up my position too.

        Take a look at the EU. They’re going to 30km speed limits in cities to increase pedestrian/car collision survivability to 95% (from recollection, I could be off by 5%). Reduced speeds in residential areas also improves a sense of community, by making it more walkable/cycle friendly.
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Traffic_calming#Speed_limits

        If Brandon doesn’t want to appear a hypocrite on intrusive government intervention into the market, why isn’t he banging down City Hall’s door to upend any law that makes it harder for electric cars to use our streets, even though slower bikes are entitled to those same roads?

        “5. This is an important question and is definitely not answered by ‘huh?’ For alternative energy vehicles to make a substantial splash, the economics behind them have to be at or around the same level as the economics of gasoline powered vehicles. Incidentally, this is why hybrid vehicles have not made as big a splash as originally forecast…”

        Adrian wasn’t clear what he meant. He’s welcome to clarify.
        To answer from your perspective of his point, include the cost of putting the pollution into the air wherever the energy is converted, and then you can use economics instead of science to make a decision. If economics are used as a point to justify air polluting status quo, I can confirm for you that waste costs were not considered in the economic system.

        “6. Show me some statistics on that – I have not read a single well written study that confirms your hypothesis.”

        You can wait for a study or you can reason it out for yourself if you study thermodynamics a little more, and/or look up the efficiency values for electric motors vs combustion engines. Then look at how much energy/freshwater goes into production of tar sand oil:
        “A Pembina Institute report stated “To produce one cubic metre (m3) of synthetic crude oil (SCO) (upgraded bitumen) in a mining operation requires about 2–4.5 m3 of water (net figures).”

        And have you read one that disproves it?

      • “Studies have shown that small reductions in speeds have the potential to greatly improve safety outcomes. For example, McLean et al, 1994 have shown that if a car hits a pedestrian at 60 k, there is an 85 percent chance of death. On the other hand, at 50 km/h the chance of
        death is reduced to 40 percent. So this small reduction in speeds around our neighbourhoods has considerable potential to reduce road trauma with little loss due to increased travel time.
        An important by-product is an improvement in neighbourhood amenity associated with lower vehicle speeds. “

      • I can’t wait for people from Saskatcewan to start buying electric cars. With the kind of winter you people have to endure every year, we’ll see how long an electric car will last. Lol!

        E-cars are only good in warm weather.

      • As usual Klem, you’re mostly wrong. Electric cars will work fine in SK most of the year. I actually favour hybrids since gas can be burned for heat on the cold days.

        It’s one thing to have an opinion, but you’re over the top with unhelpful and misinformed comments. If you keep speaking before you think or read I’m going to consider more seriously deleting your comments rather than respond to them with corrections.

  1. “The convenience of gas burning vehicles is completely outweighed by the dangers from climate change, smog, and resource depletion”

    Climate change: For starters, people aren’t dying due to climate change and switching all the gas vehicles on the planet to electric wouldn’t save them if they were.

    Smog: I’ll give you this one. Burning gas causes pollution (smog) but electricity is created largely through. . . you guessed it. . . the burning of coal and natural gas that also produce smog. The only benefit is that the pollution is likely to be further away from major centres. Still a win for you though, and a bigger one if you happen to live in a place that generates electricity with hydro or nuclear.

    Resource depletion: A straw man. There is enough supply of oil/gas/coal to last longer than the lifetime of our children’s children. So long in fact that we will have developed an alternative before it happens. That alternative will come all by itself because it makes sense on its own merits not because some government will mandate it (plus someone will be made a billionaire once they discover it, a good motivator).

    If you think 100 years from now we will be using the same energy mix we are using now you are foolish. Look at what we were using 100 years ago for proof – wood and whale blubber.

    • I don’t know how you figure that people aren’t dying from climate change already, it’s in the news quite frequently. Of course bad weather happens anyway, but nation flooding and severity and frequency of storms are increased already, scientists know this from available data. http://www.cnn.com/2012/01/23/us/severe-weather/index.html?hpt=hp_t3 Here’s the top story on CNN right now, imagine that.

      What’s with people claiming “straw men”, when I give clear examples of how someone’s reasoning is flawed.

      “longer than the lifetime of our children’s children”
      Ooooh, more than 140 years? That’s like, forever? There is no guarantee we’ll have the scientific and industrial capacity to implement next-gen energy inventions on a large scale if we don’t preserve our climate right now. And it’s a veritable certainty that governments will mandate it, because the project is too large for individuals to quickly change the energy habits of billions of people.

  2. Adrian, I have no idea who Jonathan Narvey is, but here is a link to an Israeli fellow who test drove one.

    http://www.israellycool.com/2012/01/12/i-went-to-a-better-place-and-returned-a-changed-man/

    My understanding is that the cars go 5 hours without a recharge – when its necessary to recharge – you swap batteries and pay a monthly subscription fee – which is quite reasonable given that Israelis pay approximately US$7 per litre for gasoline. There is a special programing built into the car which allows you to calculate your charge for a trip and plots ‘battery’ swap locations and charging stations.

    There is almost no maintenance necessary on these cars. While Israel is a small place with recharging stations and battery swaps – it becomes very feasible even here. All that is needed is to change the infrastructure. Perfect driving conditions – Israeli is heavily trafficked, the heat is a true killer, and in the winter flash flooding is common on the roads. While there is no salt necessary for the roads – its not easy either.

    Arutz Sheva has a report in Angleet.

    http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/151996#.Tx0XSWP9PXs

    My point to you Adrian, is that if this didn’t make economic sense for the government of Israel to help fund the infrastructure change over to the electric car it would not have done so. Israeli governments are known to be tight with the public purse… Quite frankly, certainly the majority of people living in the large urban centres of Canada would benefit enormously form a similar change….

    • My understanding is the Nissan Leaf costs $40k and will go 160 km on a charge. But that is under optimum conditions, not winter conditions. Cold weather reduces the battery’s storage ability and of course the cabin needs heat, which also drains the battery. And as time passes, the batteries gradually lose the ability to hold a charge. Eventually the batteries must be replaced, and the cost of replacement will offset much of the gas savings that were gained over the prervious years.

      E-cars are for warm weather and rich people.

      • Once again Klem you are wrong, wrong, wrong.

        I think I’m going to delete your comments and ban you forever from my website. Of course, once you’re gone my blog hits will be cut in half, but I’m willing to make that sacrifice just get rid of you.

        Oh wait now, I’m Klem!

  3. John…………. are you promoting a wholesale change in western society ?

    Since Henry Ford put North America on wheels our society has dveloped around the concept. I don’t see a change in that lifestyle in your’s or my lifetime. We have proven reserves of fosssil fuels that will last for 100′s of years .It’s cheap and easy to obtain in the whole scheme of things, thus no big push to change the way things are.

    When it comes to transportation the current offering of electric cars is dismal. For intance the Chevy Volt is selling poorly…..GM forecast sales of 10,000 for 2011…they sold just over 6,000. The Volt’s base price is around $40,000, it’s range on battery power, maximum 80 kilks…on gasoline it gets an estimted 37 mpg…..right now we have a Chevy Impala that averages 32 mpg on the highway and has as much room in the trunk as my GMC 1/2 ton short box.Why would I want a vehicle that would get me from Regina to Moose Jaw, then I’m out of power…and that’s on a good day…God forbid when its -35.

    Car sharing might be ok for the dedicated co-oper’s but for the general masses I can’t see it working simply because of logistics, you know how STC has failed in Saskatchewan and how Greyhound has failed across Canada. Why has Viva rail virtually collapsed? But that is now. I gather what you are proposing lies in the future…..well maybe 100, 200, 300 years from now you will see that model developed.

    Change is organic and happens slowly over time. Systems are replaced or slowly modified as needed. What is going on in the political world doesn’t bode well for folks who hold on to the “climate change/global warming” philosophy. The general population is very atuned to higher taxation or tax and spend politicians who promote hair brained ideas. Times have changed for the left wingers and their pet projects are losing ground quickly. People especially in Europe and North America are not to apt to embrace any group of politicians who try to promote higher taxation to change our whole lifestyle. Can you imagine the chaos that would cause..(.oh, sorry, I forget who I aiming this at)

    Regardless of how shrill you speak about your passions of saving the planet and glamour for your 15 minutes of fame the majority of people in western society aren’t listening to you or your playmates…but whatever works to keep you occupied with fanciful dreams and wishful thinking. I just hope it’s not keeping you up at night !!

    But back to my opening question…are you seriously promotoing a wholesale change in western society ? Do you seriously think the masses will go along with that ?

    I didn’t think so !!

      • And here lies the problem.People don’t want politicians to get up and tell them that they should up end their daily lives to solve something as ephemeral as “global warming”.

        A “progressive” person pushing these ideas won’t speak of the consequences if they were wrong. Society thown into turmoil on a whoopsy. That’s why change of this magnitude is slow. It allows for fewer and less costly mistakes (something that politicians of all stripes are notoriously bad at).

      • Global warming is going to happen in their lives and upend them one way or another, unless they live in adapted communities. It is much better to be safe than sorry and make changes now while we still can and keep the quality of life for everybody and prevent untold extinction.

      • And aren’t you implying that changes that brought us to the system we have now were made gradually? They were anything but gradual. World War II veterans returned and needed suburbs with cars and freeways. Consumerism and chemicals ruled the Fifties, and were ingrained as normal and healthy, to beat the Russians.

    • “Why would I want a vehicle that would get me from Regina to Moose Jaw, then I’m out of power…and that’s on a good day…God forbid when its -35.”

      You’ve never heard of refilling, recharging, or battery swap? You expect perfection from new, and lackluster technology from a company dragging its heels into the new electric vehicle age? Imagine if Tim Hortons was told they had to replace one of their coffees with dandelion tea — would they make it stellar, or stink?

      Why would you want a vehicle that will condemn your offspring to a life of suffering as their country is invaded by people desperate for water and land to grow food, as theirs is destroyed by flooding, droughts, or other invasions. But hey, who’s making predictions for 50, 100, 200, or 300 years from now? Who gives a shit about those people anyway? They were just born at the wrong time and missed the party.

      • “Why would you want a vehicle that will condemn your offspring to a life of suffering…blah blah… and land to grow food, as theirs is destroyed by flooding, droughts, or other invasions”

        Your comments are so emotional and full of fear, yuck, how can you live like that?..The sad part is you truly believe that the future is so bleak. Let me guess, you’re about 20 or so.

      • Klem, you’re a true testament to the stereotype that people in their 90s think everyone younger than 50 looks and sounds like they are 20.

    • Brandon, you didn’t mention the key point about GM and how they were convicted of destroying electric transportation systems, and invented the highway lobby to build freeways for gasoline vehicles.

      You apparently forget that it’s common for governments to even own gas stations, and regulate the crap out of them. Does Petro-Canada sound familiar?
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Petro-Canada#History

      I never said the “oil” industry alone has been the benefactor of trillions in subsidies, but they certainly have had their business model helped too. Automakers are a major force, too of course. Tire makers too. So you don’t have to hold your breath for details on how the (American & Canadian) governments have spent trillions on highways, gas bars, regulations/laws, and more at the behest of GM et al; they made Google to save your life apparently.

      I don’t think the government will have to spend “trillions on electric vehicles” before they’ll catch on and the obvious benefits will keep their infrastructure built up and overtaking the gas fueling and repair systems. Billions, most likely.

      • The government won’t be spending billions on e-cars. E-cars have been around since the early 1900′s and they failed. They make a comback about every 20 years or so, but they always fail. Why? Because there are good reasons why gasoline is the energy source of choice, it is energy rich, it is cheap, plentiful and it is easily transported.

        Battery power sucks. It has always sucked and it still sucks. It can’t compete with gasoline and the internal combustion engine, and they are useless and dangerous in the winter. Oh yea, remember winter?

        If you like e-cars so much go buy one. Start walking the walk for once in your lives.

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