Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Cars, Carbon, Energy, Monbiot, Scribbler, Tesla and the rest

Robert Scribbler likes EVs, especially the new Tesla. He thinks that these vehicles will help reduce emissions and thereby reduce the effects of a changing climate. I agree. But they won't make as much difference as many of us hope in the bigger picture. Where they make the most difference is in how we as individuals can pass on responsibility for the future by 'doing our bit'.

George doesn't like EVs so much. Perhaps more accurately, he isn't keen on the social/environmental pathway implied by a continuing commitment to personal vehicles and thinks that there are better ways to do things. As usual, he has a point, but in common with most (all?) thinkers about the future, he struggles with finding the best way to get from here to there; I don't disagree with many of the things he says or proposes, but there is a disconnect between the present state of affairs and the desired endgame position (his views on re-wilding also struggle with this).

Elon has put his money where his mouth is; making (and very successfully promoting) stuff which doesn't spew out toxins (directly), in large volume. But as George points out, when it is resource exploitation which is a part of the problem, more resource exploitation can't really be the solution.

More critically, Elon's solution (EVs) only works under one condition; the means of generating the energy required to operate them must be exclusively either renewable or nuclear, otherwise, EVs merely move the emissions problem rather than solving it.

And all of these need to be put into context. The BIG Carbon problem is Energy. We have created a society which depends utterly on the readily available supply of cheap energy with which everything else in our society is possible. Personal transportation is a problem and doing something about this particular problem is a good thing, no doubt, but it is only a small part of the problem, and an even smaller part of the solution.

Energy isn't the only very important societal/environmental problem, though. Pollution, deforestation, waste, inefficiency and biodiversity busting all represent problems which are already biting us and will continue to do so. In some cases, there is no connection between these and the energy problem, but in many cases, there are underlying connections which can be addressed, most specifically, the way in which we perceive our World, our lives and our needs. 

This is the big target of George's issues with EVs; it isn't that EVs can't help some, but that seeking solutions like this don't address deeper and more difficult problems, such as why we need personal vehicles in the first place, and why we keep imagining that we can fix the problems caused by overexploitation by doing some more exploitation, only differently.

In my next post I'll propose some ideas for breaking the energy log jam. Meantime, I'll make a simple point. Electric, Hybrid or low-emissions cars are a good way forward in dealing with the problem of energy and emissions related specifically to cars - they're better than what we have at the moment, IF and ONLY IF they source their power for the batteries from renewable sources. That's a small plus and a move in the right sort of direction, but it ain't gonna save the World.