Electric Skeptic (On EVs as a “solution” to climate change)

I’m skeptical of electric vehicles as a climate friendly solution as I see them as replacing one extractive finite earth-destroying fuel (oil) for another (mined minerals) while big-auto and big-energy make trillions by trying to convince us to replace the cars we have and throwing our current vehicles into landfills. All the while telling us that it is more “green” when, in fact, the only “green” is more money for big-auto and big-energy.

An answer I hear often to this is, “We here in [insert car friendly US city] need to be more like [insert bike friendly EU city].” And while I can appreciate the utopian dream behind that idea, I’m a realist. It’ll never happen…

One problem here is history (from an urban planning standpoint). Most cities and towns in Europe were built at a time when most people had no mode of personal transportation beyond their feet. Horses were expensive and carriages even more so. Bicycles are the natural progression from that mode and designed to “fit” where foot traffic does.

While most of the oldest cities and towns in the US were designed and built for horse and carriage. Especially the newer ones west of the original thirteen. Cars (horseless carriages) are the natural progression from that mode of transportation.

This is to say that, the US will likely never be like [insert bike friendly EU city here]. US cities are not designed to be and never intended to be.

Just from a pure cultural standpoint it’s just not how most of us really live. Those who have two jobs, or have kids to pick up from one place at one time and get to another by a different time so that they can get to a third place on time and they barely have time for that. Or those that have many places to be at throughout the day for their work. Or those that have two (or sometimes three) jobs to make ends meet. Or they have shopping to do for a family of three, or four, or five or six. Or those that are disabled. Or those that are elderly. Or those that, because they are not male and white, will never feel safe on a bike through a neighborhood in which it is felt they don’t belong. Or women who would never be in any vehicle alone where they could not lock a door. Or those that can’t ride a bike (yes, Virginia, some never learn for a variety or reasons).

The solution must progress from the problem (like foot to bike, carriage to car) not regress from it (car to carriage, bike to foot). Nor can we culturally swap who/where we are (car to bike) unless you can convince an entire country’s populous to change its culture.

I don’t have any magic solution to the problem. I think folks are being sold a bag of green by big corporations (with the help of big government) with everything to gain by doing so. The companies get to sell tens of millions of new vehicles and both they and buyers get to pretend they are doing something good for the planet when, really, they are likely doing even more harm than good. Especially because it further pushes off investment/drive towards actual clean/renewable/non-finite solutions.