Ed Wallace

The end of gas and diesel

Ed Wallace
Ed Wallace

Yes, it is: Elected officials around the world have arrived at the conclusion that the days of automobiles powered by crude oil-derived fossil fuels must end. Naturally, the connection is this is necessary because of mankind’s contributions to global warming, which many continue to insist could cause massive devastation to the planet by the year 2100. That statement may well be true.

Both England and France have stated that they will end sales of these vehicles by 2040. Norway believes this can happen by 2025, while India has circled the date 2030 to do the same. And China recently threw its hat into the “no more gasoline- or diesel-powered vehicles” ring, but has yet to set a firm date.

Over in Germany, Angela Merkel has suggested that the day of the internal combustion engine is obviously coming to an end, but past that has not put a firm government policy into place. Perhaps this is because that government believes it will lead to massive job cuts in an automotive industry that’s crucial to Germany’s economy.

Three years ago the TV documentary, Years of Living Dangerously, pointed out that clear-cutting forests, jungles and the die-off of trees are responsible for putting the same amount of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere as all of the motorized vehicles in the world combined — an astonishing admission. But how do we go about stopping the clear-cutting of forests when, inevitably, it’s being done so that food can be produced for the planet?

In many ways, this situation reminds one of the end of R-12 Freon back in the 1990s. True, there was a hard cut-off date for the production of R-12 Freon; but, just as it arrived, the EPA asked DuPont to continue producing it for a set time simply because, at the last minute, everyone realized people were going to die without it.

That was true, though maybe not here in relatively wealthy America. But in third-world countries, where old trucks were all they had to deliver food or medicines that needed refrigeration, ending R-12 Freon supplies would trigger innumerable serious health crises. Granted, continuing production was not open-ended, but it did happen — because the immediate downside risk was a catastrophe for which no government entity wanted to be blamed.

The question today is whether electric cars can replace the value most now find in their fossil fuel-based vehicles. Maybe they can. Certainly, during Hurricane Irma’s run up the west coast of Florida, a story came out that Tesla quietly increased the range of many of its cars in that state to give owners a better chance to get out of harm’s way. (Many Tesla models shipped with the 75 kWh battery, software limited to just 60 kWh. This allows Tesla owners to pay more money at a later date and have their battery’s full range activated.)

Yet, counting the Tesla charging stations in Florida, we find nine in existence on the west coast from Naples to Georgia. The east coast from Miami to Jacksonville has a similar number. Irma was traveling through the Caribbean at around 14 mph, but slowed to under 10 as it approached Naples. With a slow-moving hurricane and plenty of charging stations, you’d think that any Tesla owner who wanted to book out could easily have done so, with or without the extra range added.

One person wrote me asking how in the world you could do a mass evacuation if the only thing people owned were electric cars. Great question. But, since Florida’s gas stations quickly ran out of gasoline during the panic over the approaching hurricane, the same could be asked about regular vehicles, too.

With an international movement to ban gas- and diesel-powered cars already underway in an attempt to fend off global warming, I was interested to see how the media would portray so many hurricanes in such a short time. After all, when Katrina, Rita and other hurricanes made 2005 the most active season in recorded history, the New York Times article after Katrina’s destruction stated, “Let’s call it by its real name, global warming.”

Let’s see: Is that the same global warming that caused the recent massive drought in Texas, and the same global warming that brought huge amounts of rain when it ended? The same that brought the California drought and then the rains and snows of last year? Here’s a fun fact: California’s Mammoth Mountain ski resort was open until August 6th of this year.

In fact, on September 1st, the Washington Post ran a story headlined, “The Truth About Harvey and Climate Change is in the Middle.” The middle was this, in the third paragraph: “Before we delve a little deeper into this question, let’s dispense with the idea that climate change or global warming caused Harvey to form. It did not. Climate change does not cause hurricanes.” The well nuanced story included comments by scientists about how warmer temperatures could potentially make a hurricane’s destructive capability “a little worse” — but, the story points out, it’s best not to exaggerate any position on global warming and hurricanes.

At least, not until six days later. That’s when the same Washington Post ran a story under the headline, “Irma and Harvey Should Kill Any Doubt that Climate Change is Real.” Did you see what happened? The first story quoted scientists and climatologists saying climate change does not cause hurricanes, and at most only slightly increases their capacity for damage. A week later, after everyone forgot the first story, the second rejected any doubt that all of these hurricanes are directly caused by global warming.

That echoes the 2005 New York Times story that hurricanes have another name, global warming. But there’s a problem with all of this.

After 2005, no Category 3 or stronger hurricane hit America’s Atlantic coast for 12 years, the longest such period on record. And during that 12-year hiatus, everyone riding the global warming bandwagon was surprisingly quiet. Perhaps they were pondering why global warming seemed to have paused since 1998.

The question everyone should ask is how, in the first few days of Harvey and Irma’s damage to our coastal regions, so many said it’s not really global warming, although that might make these storms a bit more destructive; and in the very next week, all the stories said it’s absolutely, undeniably, 100 percent certain that global warming is causing this. They said the same thing in 2005, then went quiet for the next 12 years as destructive hurricanes seemed a thing of the past.

This is not to say that global warming is not real. It’s simply pointing out that every time a well-researched published story offers numerous viewpoints by respected scientists and climatologists, the “hard-core global warming is everywhere crowd” immediately spring into action to mute that previous scientific testimony.

And they call that scientific consensus.

It’s that discussion that’s driving the movement to outlaw gasoline- and diesel-powered vehicles within our lifetime. And that’s not to say that’s the right thing to do.

But I have been reading about this for a very long time and have seen these extraordinary contradictions almost monthly. Our recent drought was the worst one on record, except for the 1950s and the Dust Bowl Days. California built its massive system of waterways and reservoirs in the early Sixties because the state had suffered during too many droughts in the past. Global warming wasn’t an issue back then. Well, maybe it was an issue, as the planet has been warming ever since the end of the Little Ice Age in the mid-1800s.

It would clear a lot up to put all these scientific experts in the same hall for a week, televise the debate, and let everyone see once and for all that there are huge areas of disagreement on this subject. More important, in an open scientific debate we could start to discount those who don’t know what they’re talking about, regardless of which side of the issue they’re on.

Still, everyone should consider this critical point: Our modern awareness of global warming started around 1988. And from day one, the end date for this climate event’s impact has been the year 2100. That’s a period of 112 years from the official notification date, as it were. That means we are 29 years, or 25.8 percent of the way, to the forecast’s conclusion; and, while there have been changes, the weather’s impact has certainly been far more moderate than the worst of the scare tactics. Having said that, I don’t mean to say it can’t get worse. (And of the 29 years since global warming was labeled a public threat, for sixteen years, 1998-2014, many scientists said there was no appreciable warming. That included the Max Planck Institute in Germany and the British Met Office. Then NOAA said the warming never ended.)

However, now many governments around the world are forcing changes to our transportation needs. Again, that may be a good thing — or not. But what is true is that these decisions are responding to the loudest voices screaming about this coming apocalypse.

Yes, we could all do a better job reducing the amount of energy we use, thereby reducing our carbon footprint in all this, and we should. But this might be a good time to remind everyone that each and every one of us is a little carbon dioxide manufacturing machine. Every year we breathe in perfectly good oxygen and expel around 829 pounds of carbon dioxide. Worse, during heavy exercise living beings produce up to eight times that much carbon dioxide. Technically, as you are getting healthier your carbon dioxide output hurts mother earth.

Then again, the first week of August this year they were still snow skiing in California. One has to wonder how a televised scientific debate on this issue would have looked to the TV audience if it had been held in Mammoth Mountain ski resort in late July.

© Ed Wallace 2017

Ed Wallace is a recipient of the Gerald R. Loeb Award for business journalism, bestowed by the Anderson School of Business at UCLA, and hosts the top-rated talk show, “Wheels,” 8:00 to 1:00 Saturdays on 570 KLIF AM. Email: edwallace570@gmail.com