In America, questioning the reign of the automobile remains, despite the times and the laws of physics, as forbidden as ever. Instead of acknowledging that the idea of using 3,500-pound objects to accomplish our daily errands was as foolishly unrealistic as it was profitable to capitalists, we are now being lavishly trained by our dominant institutions to remain utterly ignorant of the pertinent realities of our dire energy-and-infrastructure situation.
The latest propaganda blast comes via today’s op-ed page at The New York Times, where a character named Seth Fletcher holds forth on the supposed virtues of “the electric car.” Though he hails from Popular Science magazine, Fletcher never mentions the basic physics of automobile transportation, which will always involve use of stupendously wasteful amounts of mass per unit of accomplished locomotion. Neither does Fletcher make a single reference to where all the new electricity to power 250 million “electric” cars is going to come from. Instead, as is the norm, Fletcher talks as if electricity is itself the original power source:
Electrification is not an all-or-nothing proposition — it’s a process, the gradual replacement of gas-burning engines with batteries and electric motors.
Fletcher, in fact, explicitly treats batteries as energy sources:
Today, at universities like Stanford and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and in national laboratories like Argonne and Lawrence Berkeley, scientists are developing technologies that could power a post-oil age — batteries nearly as rich in usable energy as gasoline.
Of course, no present or future battery will ever, on its own, be rich in usable energy. Batteries store energy made elsewhere.
And, predictably enough, guess how many times the words “coal” and “nuclear” appear in Fletcher’s op-ed? Yep: Zero.
Oh, and by the way, Fletcher also hugely fudges the data:
When cars like these are being driven on a large scale, the benefits will be substantial. The Electrification Coalition, an electric-vehicle advocacy group, estimates that if, by 2040, 75 percent of all miles driven in the United States are powered by electricity, oil consumption by light-duty vehicles will drop from the current level of nearly nine million barrels a day to two million.
Not only is that the rosiest of rosy assumptions, but note the key qualifier “light-duty vehicles.” According to the recently defunded U.S. Energy Information Administration, 40 percent of present petroleum use occurs via the operation of heavy-duty vehicles and pipelines. Fletcher doesn’t want to talk about that, because it destroys his fairy tale. (He also fails to explain how he imagines burning even that rosy 2 million barrels of oil a day in light-duty vehicles is a sustainable endeavor.)
As the headlining of junk analyses like this Fletcher piece shows, the powers-that-be in this society are going to take us all over the cliff, mentally and physically, if we don’t shake ourselves free from their heedless embrace. Contrary to assurances from obscurantists like Seth Fletcher, hugging the “electric” car is accepting, not rejecting, the path of death and destruction.