Electric cars and the myth of ‘clean energy’

Here in Las Vegas nine days ago, President Obama, who ran on a promise of post-partisan “change,” made a campaign swing in support of 23-year U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, who has spent 40 of his 70 years on the public payroll.

A passage in Mr. Obama’s Friday speech at UNLV seemed somewhat disconnected from most Americans’ current perception of Washington and what it’s doing to our economy.

Mr. Obama intoned: “As I said on the campaign, and as I’ve repeated many times as President, I believe the greatest generator of jobs in America is our private sector. It’s our entrepreneurs and innovators, who are willing to take a chance on a good idea. … The private sector — not government — is, was, and always will be the source of America’s economic success. That’s why we’ve cut dozens of taxes for the middle class and small businesspeople, extended loan programs to put capital in the hands of startups and worked to reduce the cost of health care for small businesses.”

I conducted an informal survey of Las Vegas small business owners, last week. Nothing fancy or even very scientific. Owners of some sandwich joints where I eat, local bookstores, places like that. None could remember any recent tax cuts or loans or “capital put in their hands” by Barack Obama or the Democratic Congress. Just the opposite — they’re puzzled by the persistence of the slowdown, and seriously worried more tax hikes and government mandates coming down the pike are going to mean lots more shuttered stores and fewer customers.

Nor could anybody figure out how Mr. Obama has “reduced the cost of health care” for anyone.

“Our role in government, especially in difficult times like these, is to break down barriers that are standing in the way of innovation,” said the President, standing in a city with an official unemployment rate of 14 percent. (It’s really over 20.) “It’s to provide an impetus for businesses to grow and expand. That … isn’t some abstract theory. We’ve seen the results.”

The president explained he meant the “clean energy sector — an industry that will not only produce the jobs of the future, but help free America from our dependence on oil in the process. Just yesterday, I took a tour of Smith Electric Vehicles in Kansas City, Missouri … a company that just hired its 50th worker and is on its way to hiring 50 more, and that’s aiming to produce 500 electric vehicles at that plant alone.”

The government “invested” $32 million from the Department of Energy to cover 30 percent of the cost of creating those jobs, the president explained.

No, don’t bother watching your mailbox for your stock certificate, guaranteeing you a return on your “investment” should the U.S. affiliate of Smith Electric Vehicles ever turn a profit. When politicians use the word “investment,” it’s more like a holdup man thanking you for “investing” in his next pipe full of crack.

But if there’s money to be made manufacturing and fielding electric vehicles, why is government needed?

Meantime, as we contemplate how bizarre it is for President Obama to come to Nevada and brag about 50 jobs “created” — 50! — in Missouri, let us contemplate the CNW Marketing Research report “Dust to Dust: The Energy Cost of New Vehicles From Concept to Disposal,” which concludes the gas-guzzling Hummer is more “environmental friendly” than another familiar electric vehicle, the hybrid electric Prius.

The Prius’ battery contains nickel, you see, which is mined in Ontario, Canada. The plant that smelts this nickel is nicknamed “the Superstack” because of the amount of pollution it puts out; the area for miles around is a wasteland because of acid rain and air pollution.

That smelted nickel then has to travel (via container ship) to Europe to be refined, then to China to be made into “nickel foam,” then to Japan for assembly, and finally back to the United States. All this shipping costs a great deal, both in dollars and in pollution.

The study concludes that — all production costs taken into account — the Prius costs about $3.25 per mile and is expected to last about 100,000 miles, while the Hummer costs about $1.95 per mile and is expected to last about 300,000 miles. And that’s before we even consider the potential ecological damage when big electric batteries, full of exotic heavy metals, are used up and dumped.

But the problem with the “clean energy” miracle of electric vehicles doesn’t end there. When you’ve run your electric car 60 or 70 miles (Smith Electric Vehicles claims “up to 100”) and need to “plug it in” for an eight-hour recharge, where does that power come from?

I’m sorry, did you say “out of the wall”? “From elves in hollow trees”? In most of this country, that electricity comes from coal-fired or natural-gas-fired electric power plants. And a fair amount of the energy sent through the transmission lines to your recharging unit to power your Giant Golf Cart is lost in transit and in storage, meaning electric vehicles require the burning of MORE fossil fuel to power them, not less.

Meantime, how much do you think the average electric car produced by Smith Motors is going to cost?

In fact, Smith doesn’t make private cars. The firm started in England, selling low-speed vehicles for government use in locations requiring zero local emissions, including inside nuclear power plants.

And the Christian Science Monitor reported on July 8 that while “A traditional FEDEX-style delivery truck might cost about $50,000, and the hybrid version about $95,000, … a plug-in or all-electric version” — like Smith’s — “could cost $100,000 to $130,000.”

To the extent Smith’s vehicles are competitive in England it’s because of another government warping of the market — the fact that electric trucks can avoid many of the taxes and fees piled on gasoline and diesel-powered vehicles, there.

At www.smithelectricvehicles.com/whyelectric_costsavings.asp we learn “In the UK, Smith Electric Vehicles qualify for a free Road Fund Licence, are exempt from the London Congestion Charge, do not require yearly MOT certificates, have no oil and filter change requirements and the ‘fuel’ cost is just £0.04 per mile; over 75 percent less than the diesel equivalent.”

If the pound is now worth about $1.50, that means fuel alone for a diesel truck in England now costs 24 American cents a mile.

Is that part of the Obama plan to make electric vehicles seem more “affordable”: charging traditional vehicles for “Road Fund Licenses,” city “Congestion Charges,” yearly “MOT certificates,” and taxing diesel and gasoline fuel till they cost us 24 cents a mile — $60 or $80 to fill a 12-gallon tank?

3 Comments to “Electric cars and the myth of ‘clean energy’”

  1. liberranter Says:

    Mr. Obama intoned: “As I said on the campaign, and as I’ve repeated many times as President, I believe the greatest generator of jobs in America is our private sector. …

    The best we can hope for is that this Marxist fraud will keep opening his mouth in public and continue to spew from it intelligence-insulting bullshit like this. Even the Amoricon public hasn’t yet been “enstupidated” to the point where it will swallow this stream of insipid intellectual vomitus. Who knows, maybe the Marionette-in-Chief already realizes that the game is up and that his chances of re-election (if one foolishly assumes that the 2012 presidential election will be free of the blatant fraud and manipulation that marked the previous three) are somewhere in the range of the average Arctic temperature in January and that he has nothing left to lose by “letting it all hang out.” And I’m sure he got a standing ovation from the UNLV faculty and students in attendance.

    Meanwhile, has anyone come across any “horror stories” from Prius owners whose batteries have died and have suffered sticker shock from the $13,000-plus price tag that accompanies their replacement? Or how about surviving victims, if any, of road accidents in one of these “oversized golf carts” that have road safety ratings to match? Either would make for entertaining (and eye-opening) reading.

  2. Stan M Says:

    As bad as the environmental “footprint” of the Prius may be, it is far less offensive than the sanctimonious attitude of the twits who drive them.

    For those who have never seen the inside of the Prius, its instrument panel contains an elaborate display showing just how great the gas mileage of the thing is at any given moment. As with any other television-like display, this gadget has great mesmerizing power. Which simply MUST be the explanation for why I see one Prius pilot or another drifting aimlessly across lanes just about every day.

    In the interest of brevity, I will refrain from commenting at length on the people who drive the Smart Car in the fast lane of the freeway at 75 mph. Considering the size, weight and apparent center of gravity of this little coffin on wheels, how “smart” is that, really?

  3. Mark Anthem Says:

    The Chinese and French build 6 reactors per year. We are building 1 and it is taking 10 years. China has just recently surpassed us in the use of energy in their economy.
    You are sadly mistaken if you think an American worker is intrinsically superior to a Guatemalen worker. We have more capital, technology, and energy deployed per worker, that is our only superiority.
    Fly on down to Guatemala City and find out how much value your PhD in Industrial Production and 20 years of CadCam and Tool & Die experience has there.
    You are only worth whatever skills Guatemalans will pay for and find of value, which means things like agricultural labor, service labor, and non technical artisan skills.