I believe it was Rahm Emanuel, President Obama’s, right-hand strongman, who famously said, “Never let a good crisis go to waste.” Whether this crisis is real or imagined matters not. This is the perfect time to ram through questionable policies that would gain little traction if cooler heads were prevailing.
How about with global warming today? With the prevailing “The world is ending!” hysteria we see, some are blindly dashing for solutions that may or may not work for problems, real or fantasy, and are being manipulated behind the scenes by those with ulterior agendas. Some have even employed an ingenious ‘Heads I win and tails you lose’ spin where they come out on top either way.
Lake Superior comes to mind. A few years ago the water level was low and the Knights of the Round Table Enrads (Environmental Radicals) said that with the warmer climate, the lake was not freezing over and all the water was evaporating. Shipping was going down the tube with cargoes being cut back by 10 to 20% so the boats wouldn’t drag bottom with the reduced draft. Everything was going to Hell in a handbasket and it was all because of global warming.
Now, however, the water level of the Great Lakes is high, causing a new crisis. Shorelines are eroding, some people are flooding out and one-time real estate is now under water. The culprit, they say once again, global warming! You have to hand it to them, not just anyone could fabricate a tale where however the dice are rolled, they win.
Those who make the most noise in the chorus are not always right either. The widespread drought back in the Dust Bowl days of the ‘30s was not a good time. Nothing would grow, crops frizzled out, there was no feed for livestock. The experts then said that cultivation was the way to combat this crisis and everyone jumped on the bandwagon. Years later these intellectuals came to their senses and acknowledged that cultivating was only making the problem worse, by drying out what little moisture was still in the soil.
Can you imagine if a weather catastrophe of this scope occurred today? The Enrads would blow a gasket hyperventilating so hard that we’re in imminent doom because of global warming, even though, back in those horse and buggy days there was scant emission pollution from vehicles, simply because there were so few of them. Even electricity was in its infancy then so there was barely any smokestack emissions from power plants, either. People back then must have been too busy working to spend all their time demonstrating, so they just took this in stride. As serious as this calamity was, these things happen, droughts and other weird weather phenomena occur, life goes on and, incredibly, the world didn’t end. Imagine that!
So now, even our Governor is getting his oar in the water, and making a big splash with his electric car brainchild. He wants to mandate, by government edict, that manufacturers produce more electric vehicles and deliver them to dealers across the state. Never mind whether these dealers want them, or if anyone will buy them. If these electric novelties were a hot item, wouldn’t these dealers be ordering them already … without a government pipe wrench around their neck? Why would they want to plug up their lots with oddball stuff that collects dust when they could be stocking popular vehicles they can move, and make a couple bucks?
But, we have to combat global warming he sez, and besides, everyone will save money at the gas pump. That has to be the lamest argument I have ever heard. Your motorized tub takes the same amount of energy whether it’s a gas engine or an electric motor. Either you put gas in the tank or volts in the battery. And our Governor used to be a teacher? Oh my. It really is humorous when these dreamers seem to think that this electricity for these batteries just falls from the sky by magic, like ‘free’ money from the government.
His crusade is going full tilt, however, with his lieutenants from the MPCA conducting meetings around the state. In order to save the world, our Governor wants our state to adopt the same emission standards as California … California? What in Heavens name does our state have in common with California? Our population density, demographics, and certainly our climate are as opposite from California, as night and day. Those heralding our salvation by way of electric cars seem to have forgotten a little incidental called winter. With temperatures dropping to 20, 40 and even 60 below, our winters here are brutal for any living being as well as inanimate objects like cars and brass monkeys. Even the regular battery in your car has maybe a fourth of its normal power at these extreme temperatures. In this polar climate, drivers may find themselves in a similar quandary as we see sometimes on TV ads where our poorest citizens have to make the heart-wrenching choice between spending their last coins on food, or on fuel for heat. Do these motorists turn on the electric heater in their electric jalopy so their hind end doesn’t freeze to the seat, or is their battery going to poop out before they get up the next hill? Isn’t this a cool choice? (pun intended)
Don’t laugh, there are some officials, like the Duluth Transit Authority, who have to make these choices now. Last winter, these folks had three electric buses. To make a long story short, they were having some problems and parked them. They now have seven electric buses, but report that they can only get about 40% availability from them, at the best. They’re happy if they can get a couple hours in the morning and a couple hours of service in the afternoon out of them, with charging in between. The day I stopped there the temperature was in the high teens and all their electric buses were parked. The real kicker, though, is that in order to keep the riders from freezing to death, they had to install diesel fueled heaters. Now think about this one: here we have a battery operated, zero emission vehicle… with a smoke stack sticking out of the roof, belching out smoke - just like a normal bus with a real engine! Isn’t that a winner?
The economics of these electric rigs aren’t for the financially timid either. These electric buses run around $850,000 each, and with the infrastructure necessary to support them, top out at about a cool million. Then there’s things like chargers to think about. The DTA utilizes the slower charging station that takes about eight hours to fully charge the batteries, but still costs around $350,000. A faster charging station is available, that costs $650,000.
Even the cost of the mini voltmobiles is nothing to sneeze at. A bare-bones - four tires and a steering wheel tub - starts at around 30 grand, and the ones at the top end clocking out around $150,000. In other words, for the cash you would shell out for a mid-range model, you could be sitting in a full size Cadillac. One other adverse consideration for one of these pint-size runtmobiles is, if you hit anything bigger than a jackrabbit, you might wake up to find yourself dead - regardless how many straps and belts you’re wound up in.
The economics of this electric power isn’t all it’s cracked up to be either. Proponents of these electric dune buggies point out that there are charging stations being installed around the state and some are free, while at others there may be a charge. ‘May’ is the operative word. I haven’t run into any free ones yet, but can you imagine the government, energy companies or private businesses installing gas stations around the country and just assuming the gas is going to be free? Are you kidding me? That’s the oldest bait-and-switch tactic known. You better believe there will be a cost at these electric filling stations. And, as with anything, the higher demand, the higher the price will be. Already, the cost at a fast charge outlet is higher than a slow charge plug in.
Now, they say there is a charging station in Ely, in Virginia, and Hibbing. The slow charge option takes about eight hours to pump up your battery. Even the fast charge outlet takes some 45 minutes to give your battery a 60% boost. Now if you’re from down south and move and speak in a s.l.o.w. southern drawl, this may be for you, but for the rest of us, could you fathom waiting in line for hours just to plug in your dead pedal cars? It’d be like having one gas station with one pump pedestal in each town, and, at that, you can get a full tank of gas in three minutes flat. Just think if you and everyone else had one of these e-cars and went to town… now what? One charging station in Ely, Virginia and Hibbing. There’d be a riot. They would burn the town down! As a final coffin nail - I mean footnote - the day I checked out the charging station in Virginia, the fast charging plug said, “Out of service.”
No doubt, one day there will be more of these electric doodlebugs … after they get the price cut down by half, and make batteries that go twice as far, and install 10,000 more charging stations across the state. People can recognize a good deal when they see one, and that’s why there has been no stampede for these things yet. Pressure applied by our governor and his agents to make this work is simply an admission that his plan is a failure. He might best spend his time with something more productive.