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 vehicle. In 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.