A Community Newspaper for the way we live

Gordon J. Fulks, PhD (Physics)

Americans love their cars, because they allow us such great mobility and freedom, the mobility to live in one location and work in another, the mobility to run errands whenever necessary, the mobility to attend sporting events and visit friends, and the mobility to see this great nation from sea to shining sea. No other mode of transportation is as fundamental for our way of life.

Yet the automobile is under assault by the ruling elites who believe that everyone should ride public transportation or at least drive the cars they design. To be sure, regulations have helped to improve automobiles over the last 50 years. Modern cars are far more capable, far safer, far less polluting, and far easier on fuel usage. But this does not say that regulations were the only impetus for improvements or that future regulations will be beneficial at all, especially since regulators have taken a hard left turn into the climate swamp.
Former President Obama left America with vastly more stringent fuel economy standards coming into force after his term expired and someone else would be blamed. These have little regard for practicality and are supposed to save us from a mythical climate catastrophe.

Manufacturers initially responded by optimizing current technology. They now get just about as much out of conventional internal combustion engines as they are likely to get. Yet the next round of Obama’s regulations demand far more. The likely way manufacturers will meet these is to further reduce the size and weight of cars, until we are left with hardly more than motor scooters, the primary mode of transportation in the Third World today.

The route that the elites intend us to follow is the electric vehicle route. Never mind that electric vehicles have to be recharged from the electric grid and that involves as much of a carbon footprint as conventional cars, planners have convinced themselves that they will someday reach the promised land of pure renewable power. Anyway, what is out of sight is also out of mind! Don’t ask them about the details. That spoils the illusion of a perfect Utopian dream.

While we already have electric vehicles today, they are more of a novelty than a practical solution. Few who have purchased them will buy another, because of their limited range and long recharge times, not to mention their relatively high cost. Those who can afford them are not about to give up their real cars for an all-electric vehicle that cannot even make it to the dealer and back on a single charge. Advertised ranges on a single charge of 250 miles are only realized under ideal conditions, not realistic conditions. My two modern vehicles with internal combustion engines boast 800 mile ranges under similarly ideal conditions. Those are not realistic ranges either.

Then there is the problem of charging electrics. In the time that I can refuel one of my cars with a theoretical 800 mile range, an electric vehicle will only get enough ‘fuel’ to go a few miles. To get the full 250 mythical mile range takes hours. Hence, electric car owners suffer from “range anxiety” as they hope they can make it to the next charging station. Without a technology breakthrough, this situation will not improve. The industry tries to divert attention from their range problem by pointing out that their very inadequate batteries are getting cheaper!

Happily, President Trump is fully aware of the collision course with reality that Obama imposed on the automobile industry. Future ‘Corporate Average Fuel Economy’ (CAFE) standards are under review and will likely be changed to allow the continued manufacture of real automobiles to serve real needs. The automobile industry will be allowed to continue to innovate, without being forced to produce inferior cars that Americans do not want. This means not only continued improvements in vehicles with internal combustion engines but also in vehicles with electric motors and hybrids with both.

Another big development that we should see in a few years are self-driving cars and especially self-driving trucks. This will be a transportation revolution in itself.

But there are also very dark clouds on the horizon, with West Coast Democrats becoming ever more focused on causing ever more damage to our transportation system. Seattle lawyer Mathew Metz has driven hybrid and all-electric vehicles and thinks they are great. That probably means that he never ventures far from Seattle in his all-electric Chevy Bolt. Like so many other wealthy elitists, he presumes that what works for his lifestyle works for everyone.

Metz is pushing a complete ban on fossil-fueled cars by 2040 and has teamed with a California legislator to introduce a bill in the California Assembly to ban the sale of all such cars by 2040. He expects a similar bill to be introduced in Washington State. And of course, he wants the entire nation to follow his lead. Never mind the details, let’s just do it! Such thoughts are infinitely appealing to those who want the world remade in their image and infinitely disastrous when the real world intrudes on their delusions.

Most of us do not live in an inner city environment where we travel only short distances and never carry heavy loads. The majority of Americans need a vehicle that can make it to a nearby town or even across the state without having to spend half their travel time recharging a toy car. They need a real car or light truck that can carry a payload, perhaps to carry their kids to an event or to move from one city to another or to pull a trailer or to bring lumber home for a do-it-yourself project. No electric vehicle comes anywhere close to fulfilling these needs. And there are none on the horizon that can do so. Battery-powered cars cannot store enough energy to compete with the tremendous energy density available from fossil fuels.

Even in a future world without fossil fuels, perhaps running on nuclear power, we would likely want to manufacture synthetic fuels to fulfill our transportation needs. And what about trucks? Have those opposed to fossil fuels thought about how we will get everything we purchase without large trucks to transport manufactured products and food to market? How will farmers even be able to grow our food without diesel tractors?

Nevertheless, politicians up and down the West Coast want to drive into the climate swamp at full speed with a sink or swim mentality. California is refusing Trump Administration overtures to discuss more reasonable CAFE standards and even threatening secession over any challenges to the Utopian plans they put in place during the Obama years. Governor Jerry Brown has been negotiating with China over their shared interests in electric vehicles. Several countries, including China, are contemplating bans on internal combustion engines, as the madness spreads. China has at least some reason to consider electric vehicles as a potential solution for their very polluted inner cities. Of course, they will also have to do something about the uncontrolled noxious emissions from the coal-fired power plants that they will use to charge the electric cars.

In Oregon, the latest careening into the climate swamp is a proposal from our Governor Brown to impose a broad $1.4 billion dollar ‘carbon tax’ on the state, but not call it a ‘carbon tax’ to avoid the 3/5 majority necessary to impose a tax. Carbon taxes raise the cost of all goods and services, making them much like the sales tax that Democrats here have always coveted.
Welcome to George Orwell’s “1984”, where ‘Big Brother’ decides what is best for everyone. Welcome to the Dystopian nightmare!

Gordon J. Fulks lives in Corbett and can be reached at gordonfulks@hotmail.com. He holds a doctorate in physics from the University of Chicago’s Laboratory for Astrophysics and Space Research.

 

(Unless otherwise noted, the opinions expressed are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Northwest Connection.)

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