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Connecting the Automotive and Energy Dots

Ever since the 1970's one of the main goals of the Democratic party has been to reduce the amount energy consumed by the United States. This is not a bad idea in and of itself, but its urgency has always been ideological, rather than market-based. Cheap oil prices and Reagan-era deregulation foiled the Democrats' original efforts, but now, "global warming" has provided a convenient reason to continue, and expand, this effort.

Now that the Democrats have been able to use the current economic crisis to gain control of two of America's "Big Three" automakers, they are ready to forge ahead with the main portion of their energy reduction scheme -- the elimination (or drastic scale-back) of the gasoline-powered automobile. Their plan involves two major components:

  • Fixing automobile design solely around fuel efficiency and carbon emissions, rather than comfort, safety, reliability, or any other criteria valued by consumers
  • Developing energy and environmental policies designed primarily to drive the cost of fossil fuel production and refining sky-high, so that we will be forced to by the government's new energy efficient automobiles -- vehicles that we would otherwise reject

How can we be so sure about all of this? Simple -- all you have to do is connect the dots:

Rush Limbaugh said yesterday that GM will eventually be forced by the government to discontinue 11 of their 20 most profitable vehicles. I couldn't find a link to his source (he said it's in the Treasure Department's viability report on GM) but for months now there has been talk of GM discontinuing the Avalanche, the Hummer, the Cadillac Escalade (their most profitable vehicle) and most of their mid and full-size SUV's. This discussion began in earnest last year, when gas prices spiked over $4 a gallon.

It doesn't take a genius to figure out that environmentalists and government bureaucrats have been studying the summer 2008 vehicle sales trends -- when hybrids and small, efficient cars sold very well, and SUV's and heavy trucks sold very poorly -- and are now planning policies to recreate those market conditions.

Rush also featured an excerpt of Wolf Blitzer interviewing Austan Goolsbee, one of the "Ivy League egghead members of the Obama administration" who will be restructuring the American automotive industry. Blitzer grilled Goolsbee about the fact that none of the 21 members of President Obama's automotive industry task force have any real experience in the automotive industry, and Goolsbee's answers were truly embarrassing. There is no reason to put a panel of "experts" with zero automotive industry experience in charge of restructuring the automotive industry, unless you no longer want car companies to build cars based on the expectations of consumers. As Kim just reported, Chrysler and GM have just been ordered to suspend all involvement with NASCAR. (UPDATE: this was a joke. But my point about the Obama Administration still stands -- what they want to do isn't about saving money; it's about disconnecting the future of the automobile industry from our fond memories of its past.)

A provision buried in the current Congressional omnibus spending bill will declare another two million acres of public land off-limits for energy exploration. Combined with the high taxes on oil and gas production already proposed by the Obama Administration, further limits on areas that can be explored and developed for energy production will be a one-two punch guaranteed to raise the cost of gasoline, diesel fuel, and, incidentally, electricity (which is mostly generated by burning coal or natural gas).

The Obama Administration seems to want us to believe that in a few years we will all be driving sleek, efficient electric cars. But right now, lithium-ion battery technology is prohibitively expensive, adding nearly $10,000 to the cost of an automobile when compared with an equivalent model powered by a gasoline engine. We also currently lack the capacity to produce enough batteries to equip the millions of electric-powered vehicles that would have to be built annually.

Additionally, the cost of the electricity that would be consumed charging and recharging electric car batteries would make an electric car cost-effective only if gasoline were to rise above $5 a gallon. And we haven't even discussed how we will produce and transmit the hundreds of additional gigawatts of electricity that will be needed to power those cars. Right now, our government seems to be anxious to drastically raise the cost of electricity production with an ill-conceived (and already failed) "cap and trade" carbon emissions reduction scheme, at a time when they should be figuring out how to lower the cost of electricity, thereby making their precious electric vehicles more economical. Leave it to the government to screw up something so simple. On second thought, it's probably easier just to raise energy taxes and make gasoline more expensive.

So ... with the government in charge, what will be driving? I'm not getting my hopes up too high. It will probably be something like this:

(More on the CitiCar here. Other bloggers have linked to this hilarious little video before, but I think it's worth dusting off again.)

I also expect that calls to our new government warranty service agency will go something like this.

Naturally conservatives are unhappy about all of this. You'll hear our displeasure misrepresented and distorted by the mainstream media and by the Democrats. You'll hear us despised as greedy and selfish and uncaring.

I want to tell you the real reason that we oppose these plans. It's very simple, really. This was not our choice. That's it -- that's all there is to it.

Americans, "free" Americans, are about to have the freedom to choose which automobiles they drive, and how they generate their energy, taken away from them by the Federal government. We will be given a "solution" that we had no part in determining. A group of elites in Washington, DC will determine what cars we will drive and how our energy will be produced. And they will force us to accept their solution through the piecemeal destruction of other options. Of course all of this mandated change will carry an enormous price tag that "we the people" will be forced to pay, along with all of the other debts that this administration is stacking on our backs.

That's not freedom. It's tyranny. It may be benevolent tyranny, but it is tyranny nonetheless.

(Edited at 14:10 04-01-09 to correct some grammatical errors.)

PS - Here's probably the best discussion ever posted on the Internet about the disparities between gasoline and non-carbon-emitting energy alternatives (particularly solar energy).

And yes, I understand that electric cars possess a lot of advantages over gasoline cars. The Tesla, Chevy Volt, and other cars all have promise, but we are simply not ready to support electric cars at the scale necessary to make them the main replacement for gasoline powered vehicles. Besides, the government is most proficient at taking a good idea and screwing it up. After Uncle Sam gets through with the car industry, we will probably be lucky to get something like the CitiCar. I wish this was all just an elaborate April Fools joke, but it's not.


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Comments (21)

Not to worry, the environme... (Below threshold)

Not to worry, the environmentalists will have us all back in the stone age real soon. Gaia will be a wonderful place, once all the humans are gone.

Thank AGW for the religious... (Below threshold)

Thank AGW for the religious left. This AGW damn CO2 is killing us all. AGW bless America. Oh my AGW, I can't believe we almost boiled the Earth.

Follow the link for GM's ca... (Below threshold)
retired milirary:

Follow the link for GM's car of the year for 2011.


I've seen nuclear power ess... (Below threshold)

I've seen nuclear power essentially stalled over the last 30 years. Coal is villified, oil also. Oil shale? Forget about it - it's 'oil' so it's bad.

This doesn't leave much except wind, solar, hydro, and geothermal. Wind's getting a bad rap for birdkills, solar... well, Feinstein just turned some 'choice' sun-drenched Mojave into a protected area. Obviously, some things are more important than making sure civilization keeps the lights on.

Hydro is maxed out, and geothermal simply doesn't have enough potential places where it's affordable.

And this leaves... nothing.

("Nothing's too good for the people - and nothing is just what they'll get!")

As den Beste points out in the article you referenced - "The real problem here is that the numbers are just too big. The people who suggest these kinds of alternatives don't realize just how much energy we consume, and don't have any idea about the problems of scaling in engineering."

The people who suggest these things are sheilded from the actual effects if their suggestions are ever implemented. They're lawyers, not engineers. You can't tell me Pelosi will ever have to worry about higher energy bills, or Gore is ever going to be concerned about his carbon footprint - THAT is for the lesser peoples to worry about.

Governmental energy policy (including that 'Cap and Trade' garbage) now seems to be designed to make sure energy is NOT available to the people, and that under no circumstances is it to ever be available. That's the thinking of an autocrat, of an upper class that believes there are things the lower classes shouldn't have, because it wouldn't be good for them.

God help them if the 'lower class' ever figures out the 'upper class' politicians are surplus to requirements.

The C & D story re NASCAR w... (Below threshold)

The C & D story re NASCAR was a HOAX!!!!
April Fools!!!!!

Although if it were to happen, we would certainly see the South rise again.

Happily for Hussein and the... (Below threshold)

Happily for Hussein and the Autoworkers union, federal operations do not have to be profitable...or anything close to it. Our tax dollars will be making a convenient little trip, from those who work and must produce, to Big Brother, to UAW members, to the union and then to political hacks and thugs in DC. Naturally the cost of this trip will be overwhelming, for taxpayers. But as we don't count for a great deal, well, everyone who is REALLY important will be quite happy indeed. That is, the UAW, Washington politicians, members of the MSM--the necessary folks.

Additionally, the ... (Below threshold)
Mac Lorry:
Additionally, the cost of the electricity that would be consumed charging and recharging electric car batteries would make an electric car cost-effective only if gasoline were to rise above $5 a gallon.

I would like to know the source of that information because it doesn't match up with other sources. For example, the May 09 issue of Car And Driver has an article on the Tesla Roadster. They report that it costs $4 to $7 to charge the 53 kWh lithium-ion battery depending on the local electricity rates. For that you get about 240 miles of driving.

The Tesla is based on the Lotus Elise body, but is 781 pound heavier than the gas engine powered Lotus Elise. The Lotus Elise is rated at 29 MPG highway by the EPA, so 240 highway miles would take 8.3 gallons. Compare that to $7 to charge the Tesla you would be paying an equivalent cost 84 cents per gallon, and remember, the Tesla is caring an extra 781 pounds of weight. Obvious, in time government will have to tax electric vehicles at the same or higher rate, so add another $7 to the electric charge and you get the equivalent of $1.68 per gallon, which is still a bit cheaper than we are paying now.

This is possible because a conventional gasoline engine and drivetrain converts about 20% of the energy in the fuel it uses into useful motion, while an electric drivetrain converts about 72% of the energy in the battery to useful motion. When comparing gas vs. electic efficiency the discussion inevitably proceeds to the efficiency of generating and transporting the electricity, but skips the part about the efficiency of producing, refining, and transporting gasoline.

Don't get me wrong, the Tesla Roadster is a full sized electric slot car for the rich with little practical value, but the technology is real and offers many advantages for passenger vehicles. The biggest advantage is that electricity can be generated from any energy source including wind and solar.

As for the current power grid, it's capacity is based on peak demand, which is more than triple the average demand. As it exists now it has the capacity to charge one electric car per single family home if the car is charged at night during the traditional low demand hours. The grid is not the problem right now.

The biggest impediment to practical electric passenger vehicles is still battery technology and cost, and while there are improvements in that area, it will take some new breakthrough technology to make the pure electric car a practical alternative to current cars. In the interim we'll see cars like the Chevy Volt, which are pure electric, but with a smaller battery good for only 40 miles or so, yet carry a generator on-board to extend the range. The idea is that most people dive less than 40 miles per day, and thus, don't need to burn any fuel, just plug it in at night. Now if environmentalists would only let us build nuclear power plants.

Thanks Laura. I just found... (Below threshold)

Thanks Laura. I just found the C&D retraction linked on Drudge. I'll update my post.

It says something, though, when something this far out suddenly seems believable ...

Does this mean the Presiden... (Below threshold)

Does this mean the President and the Speaker of the House will be flying around the country/world in electric powered airplanes?

I didn't think so.

Yeah!Green jobs fo... (Below threshold)


Green jobs for EVERYONE!

If "everyone" means 2.2 jobs destroyed for every 1 renewable job financed by the government.

All the D.C. green Gore glo... (Below threshold)

All the D.C. green Gore global warming politician idiots should be mandated to drive these roller coaster cars to work everyday regardless of weather.

Americans, "free"... (Below threshold)
Americans, "free" Americans, are about to have the freedom to choose which automobiles they drive, and how they generate their energy, taken away from them by the Federal government.

The worst was when they took away our right to litter.

Then they made us give up regular gas for unleaded, so that the air we breath would be better.

Then they found out that oil was a finite resource, and forced the companies that came begging for a loan to accept conditions of the loan which make them plan for the future.

What's next, the nuclear reactor in my backyard? Sure the neighbor's kids have lost their hair from radiation poisoning, but it's my right to make my own my own energy damnit!

There seems to be an epidem... (Below threshold)

There seems to be an epidemic among the
trolls, twititis.

JMCOpen mouth, ins... (Below threshold)
retired military:


Open mouth, insert foot.

In other news Democrats spent more taxpayer money today.

One of my best friends in h... (Below threshold)

One of my best friends in high school had a CitiCar and drove it daily, it was a total hoot! The doors didn't have locks and the car rolled when the power was off so we'd go out on our lunch hour and move it a block down the road and "hide" it from our friend. The friend had a funny quote about the CitiCar: "A Ferrari you maneuver, a Chevy you steer, but with a CitiCar you AIM!"

jmc - "What's next, the... (Below threshold)

jmc - "What's next, the nuclear reactor in my backyard? Sure the neighbor's kids have lost their hair from radiation poisoning, but it's my right to make my own my own energy damnit!

And that has happened on a regular basis?

Show me.


JMCOpen mout... (Below threshold)

Open mouth, insert foot.

That phrase is reserved for when someone commits a gaffe. You of course didn't demonstrate any such gaffe, just idiotically, said the phrase.

Now, for example: if I had said something like, "Bush didn't go to Yale." and you demonstrated that I spoke out mistakenly by posting a link showing he did go to Yale the phrase would be appropriate.

See how it works?

I would ask you to open your mouth and insert your own foot, but alas, I'm sure your other foot is already there.

"But its my right to mak... (Below threshold)

"But its my right to make my own my own energy damnit."

And its our right to declare you a nitwit a nitwit.

The day they come up with a... (Below threshold)

The day they come up with a car that can run 70 mph for 20 hours is the day I'll get in line for it. Otherwise they can keep their expensive little slot cars plugged up for the 8 hours a night it takes to recharge them so they can be driven 200 miles while all it takes for me to keep driving is a stop at a gas station every 350 miles.

Addendum to the above.....<... (Below threshold)

Addendum to the above.....

"The day they come up with 'an electric car' that can run 70 mph for 20 hours..."

jmc - right om!... (Below threshold)

jmc - right om!






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