In California they seem to be going all in on a green transformation. Governor Gavin Newsom really did just ban cars as we know them as of 2035. Remarkably, in the “Land of the Free” he undertook this massive intervention in the affairs of citizens without the tedious hassle of passing a law. He just did it by executive order, leaving the ghosts of King John, Richard II, Henry VIII and Charles I gaping with envy. And citizens, we predict, soon gaping in horror.
Of course Newsom laid it on thick rhetorically, politicians’ sense of irony being on a subpar with their sense of shame or humour. “For too many decades, we have allowed cars to pollute the air that our children and families breathe. You deserve to have a car that doesn’t give your kids asthma. Our cars shouldn’t make wildfires worse – and create more days filled with smoky air. Cars shouldn’t melt glaciers or raise sea levels threatening our cherished beaches and coastlines.”
In the first place, the opening sentences are rubbish. “We” did nothing of the sort. Instead, governments mandated greater fuel economy and fewer noxious emissions and firms responded, to the point that by 2005 it would take 17 new cars to match the emissions of a single new car made in 1970.
In the second place, the subsequent sentences are rubbish. Cars aren’t making wildfires worse and electric ones won’t make them better. Ditto glaciers and sea levels.
Then there’s that greasy flattery about how “You deserve to have a car that…” Why? If Californians wanted such cars they could have bought them, and if they refused to do so on what basis do they “deserve” them, except in the general sense that the same voters politicians treat as hopeless idiots 364 days a year, hedging them in with regulations and restrictions lest their folly and nastiness should burst loose, are suddenly wise and noble on election day?
What’s more, if you “deserve” such a thing, why isn’t he giving you one? It sounds like he is, yes, thank you very much, vote for me. But of course Newsom isn’t giving anyone a new car. He’s just taking away the one you have and saying “Hope something comes along”.
If you’re wondering how the elected king can simply bypass the legislature and dramatically infringe on citizens’ rights, well, you may not have been paying attention to the erosion of the constitutional order across the English-speaking world including the massive transfer of rule-making power back to the executive. In this case specifically, “His order directs the California Air Resources Board to develop regulations mandating that all new passenger cars sold in the state by 2035 will be zero emission vehicles, meaning they will not require gas to drive.”
If you’re wondering how it’s meant to work economically, “The order also requires state agencies to partner with private sector industries to deploy affordable fueling and charging options for zero-emission cars.” Right. No boondoggle here. No mega-version of the Ontario Green Energy Act debacle. What could go wrong? Other than companies fleeing rather than comply, or filling their pockets from a fast-emptying public treasury?
Oh, right. The grid could collapse. As Eric Worrall asks, “why would anyone else want to copy California’s slow moving energy disaster? The more engineering literate amongst us might have noticed that, thanks to renewables, California can barely keep their lights on. More unreliable renewables will just make this situation worse. Adding millions of energy hungry electric vehicles, many of whose owners would want to charge at night, would be unlikely to improve California’s unstable renewable energy grid.” In fact California is already having such serious trouble keeping the lights, fridge and AC on in one of the wealthiest jurisdictions on Earth that there are billboards in Texas saying “Don’t California our Texas”.
Such mundane considerations do not reach the ears of King Gavin, to whom that dreary old-tyme work is but a distant rumour. He says “we no longer need to drill things or extract things to advance our economic goals”. Everyone can work in CGI making cool pictures of the lights being on and people moving around… even as the Golden State’s Bay Area contemplates banning going to work most of the time “to reduce greenhouse gas emissions”, possibly unaware that if they stay home people will use their AC.
As with generation, so with consumption: If electric cars made sense they wouldn’t need subsidies or the blackjacking of their rivals. If the electric-car makers can’t persuade consumers to buy their products, their ability to persuade politicians to mandate them is not an offsetting virtue but another vice, placing intolerable burdens on public finances, public power and public patience.