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BEPPLE – Political will can take us from gas guzzlers to electric vehicles

(Image: BC Sustainable Energy Association, Kamloops)

I GREW UP WHEN KIDS bounced around in the back seats of cars because there were no seatbelts, let alone child car seats.  Except for one time when the family car went flying into the ditch and narrowly missed a telephone pole, it all worked out for me and my siblings.

Kids would still be flying around backseats on sharp corners if government regulations hadn’t forced carmakers to put seatbelts in cars.

I remember when the ozone hole in the atmosphere, caused by chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and other chemicals first made the news.  Ozone was being depleted to as low as 33 per cent due to the chemicals. Depleted ozone is linked to increases in skin cancer, and cataracts.  In 1987, an international treaty banned the production of CFCs and other harmful chemicals.

Suddenly, refrigerators had to be manufactured in a whole new way. Refrigerators didn’t go away, but how they are built changed.  And the threat of ozone depletion has been lessened if not eradicated.

I am not so much reminiscing for the days when governments made policies for positive social good, as I am trying to come to terms with an interview I listened to on July 2 on CBC Kamloops.  There, host Shelley Joyce interviewed President and CEO of Trans Mountain Corporation Ian Anderson.  He outlined the steps ahead for the construction of the twinning of the Trans Mountain pipeline.  He reasoned it would be a good thing for Kamloops, and Canada.  I won’t argue those points, since good is rather subjective.

But, where I paused was when he stated, “For the time being, though, the world’s going to rely on fossil fuels, so where better to get it than a great country like Canada?”

The premise that fossil fuels is a requirement going forward ignores the forces of change.

One only has to see how quickly things have changed in the past, to know that it is not inevitable that our future economy is dependent on fossil fuels.

In 2012, there were fewer than 100,000 electric cars sold globally.  By 2016, in just Norway alone, 100,000 electric cars were sold.   And globally, one million electric cars were sold in 2016, an increase of 2,000 per cent in four years. In 2018, two million electric cars were sold.  In Norway, in 2018, 10 per cent of cars on the road were electric.  In all, there were over 5 million electric cars on the road by 2018.

And that’s not even accounting for the electric buses, trains, two wheelers, and heavy trucks.

The technology is there. All that is required is political will to make the shift happen.

Following Ian Anderson’s argument, since the world currently requires fossil fuels, government policies for the production of fossil fuels and the building of pipelines should not just continue but expand.

The flaw in his argument is that he is ignoring that the world is at a tipping point.  Governments around the world are creating policies to encourage people to buy electric vehicles.  People are choosing to drive electric vehicles.

California has roughly the same population as Canada.  In 2018, Canada had just over 81,000 electric vehicles.  Meanwhile, California had 530,000 vehicles, or 6.5 times as many.  California government incentives make it easier for their residents to buy electric vehicles.  California residents get up to $7,000 for the purchase or lease of a new, eligible zero-emission or plug-in hybrid light-duty vehicleIn comparison, for instance, in B.C. drivers get rebates of just $1,500 to $3,000 for electric or hybrid vehicles.

People in Kamloops are at a tipping point too.  Last year, when a local group organized an electric car symposium, 75 people showed up. This year, the June 23 event was sold out and people were turned away.  In all, 500 people gave up their Sunday to find out more about electric cars.

Back in 1908, New York City was at a tipping point. That was the first year there were more cars than horses.  From that point onward, there were always more cars on New York’s streets than horses. Once the change started, it did not stop.

The change to electric vehicles has started.  By 2030, The Netherlands, all cars will be emission free.  Already, many of their city buses are electric. In 2018, there were more electric cars sold in China than the rest of the world combined.  China is bypassing fuel-based vehicle designs and is poised to dominate the electric car manufacturing.

In 2018 in Norway, 50 per cent of all new-car sales were electric.  Just five years before, in 2013, only six per cent of Norwegian new-car sales were electric.  If Iceland, Sweden, Netherlands, Finland and China experience similar growth, then they could join Norway in a few short years with half their new car sales being electric.

There are many pros and cons to building the Trans Mountain pipeline.  But the one that just doesn’t hold water for me is that there is a future in fossil fuel-based vehicles.  The tipping point is here.

Political will gave us seat belts, and CFC-free fridges.  Political will can give us an electric vehicle future as well.

Nancy Bepple is a former City councillor of Kamloops with a strong interest in community building projects.

About Mel Rothenburger (7038 Articles)
ArmchairMayor.ca is a forum about Kamloops and the world. It has more than one million views. Mel Rothenburger is the former Editor of The Daily News in Kamloops, B.C. (retiring in 2012), and past mayor of Kamloops (1999-2005). At ArmchairMayor.ca he is the publisher, editor, news editor, city editor, reporter, webmaster, and just about anything else you can think of. He is grateful for the contributions of several local columnists. This blog doesn't require a subscription but gratefully accepts donations to help defray costs.

3 Comments on BEPPLE – Political will can take us from gas guzzlers to electric vehicles

  1. Tony Brumell // July 5, 2019 at 11:37 AM // Reply

    i do not believe that Pierre is correct on the availability of electricity. It is my understanding that we waste or” ground” a huge percentage of produced electricity simply because we don’t need it during nightime hours. the differance between peek hours of use and off peak use is extreme. The differance “According to the Pembina institite” is enough to power the conversion to pure elecrtricity of all road vehicles in BC. If we were to convert locomoties and shipping to electricity then we might need more produced but not until. Think of the reduced carbon footprint if we did. There are so many ways of producing green electricity using existing technology that we could convert everything to Electricity within 20 years and meet most of the commitments we have already made.
    I want to drive an electric vehicle .So why is it with the huge market for small pick ups on the west coast that nobody is producing an afordable one ?

  2. John Noakes // July 3, 2019 at 7:21 AM // Reply

    It seems that we have a “growth over green” Mayor so that will have to change.

    I agree with Pierre about the availability of CLEAN electricity not only to charge the battery banks for the electric vehicles but also to power factories to supply such vehicles. Our present day passenger jets consume a lot of petroleum based fuel; the energy required to get these things in the air and power them over great distances require a lot of potential energy on board.

    As coal was once the mainstay for energy, and now petroleum products, these will give way to something else.
    If you believe in “UFO’s” i.e. extraterrestrial life, then I might assume they have advanced even beyond simple electric vehicles to something far better. Maybe they have harnessed to power available in gravitational field differential.

  3. Electricity will be needed in greater amounts than it is currently available, new materials will need to be sourced, plastic will be used and eventually road taxes other than gasoline taxes will be introduced. Electric vehicles will introduce a host of other problems that’s for sure. A key ingredient to (true) sustainability and less environmental degradation is to consume less and to consume much more wisely than under the current paradigm…but not many seem interested.

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