Today in things so good you have to be forced to buy them: Electric cars.

Remember when governments banned horses and carts and forced everyone to buy those new-fangled Model T Fords, instead? No? So, where are the horses and carts, now? Gone, because the internal combustion engines were so good that people happily handed over their own money to get them.

On the other hand, hardly anybody except cashed-up Boomers buy EVs.

Unless they’re forced to. Yes, EVs are so fantastic that the government has to make people buy them.

Car manufacturers will be financially punished unless they sell a minimum number of electric vehicles each year under fresh plans to drive down prices and speed up Britain’s transition to a net zero economy.

However, government analysis concedes the goal of carbon neutrality by 2050 will saddle taxpayers with bigger bills and warns a huge hole will be blown in the budget as revenue from fuel consumption plummets.

“Drive down prices” and “saddle taxpayers with bigger bills”. Yes, they said both of those things at the same time.

Then again, what can you expect from a government led by a prime minister who blithers this sort of absolute, barking nonsense:

“And I say to them first that there is a force out there stronger than government. And actually a force that is stronger than business. And that force is consumer choice. That force is the market. And the market is going green.”

No, it isn’t. This isn’t consumer choice: it’s the absolute opposite. Forcing people to buy one product only is not “consumer choice”. Is Boris Johnson really so stupid that he actually believes it when he gibbers this sort of obviously self-contradictory idiocy?

The United Kingdom will ban the sale of new petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2030 – one of the world’s most ambitious targets. With pure electric cars accounting for 15 per cent of new car registrations last month, the UK needs to rapidly stimulate uptake to meet the end-of-decade goal.

In other words, they’re going to force people to buy EVs. That’s how great EVs are.

This is just the whole ban-incandescent-light-bulbs fiasco, writ even larger.

Which reminds me: how did the light-bulb ban work out”?

Australia “led the world” in banning incandescent bulbs and mandating compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs), which use 70% less electricity and supposedly last ten times longer — although experience throws serious doubt on the latter claim. So, why weren’t people rushing to buy CFLs, if they were so great?

Because they suck: expensive, slow to reach full brightness, quick to break and bad for health and the environment.

The latter is not just because of the mercury in the CFLs. There was a side benefit to incandescent bulbs, in colder climates especially: heat. This was damned as an “inefficiency” by bulb-ban proponents, but the heat from incandescents could often be a useful addition to ambient temperature.

In fact, a Canadian study found that the mandated switch to CFLs increased greenhouse gas emissions in Quebec by the equivalent of 40,000 additional cars on the road.

Finally, the touted savings in CO2 emissions was much less impressive than it sounded: 800,000 tonnes per year. Sound impressive? Well, no: it actually amounts to just 0.14% of annual greenhouse gas emissions.

Of course, CFLs are increasingly being replaced by LEDs (although cartel-like behaviour by manufacturers CFLs during the bulb ban has been accused of hindering the introduction of LEDs). While a distinct improvement on CFLs, LEDs remain very expensive compared to incandescents.

In all, in fact, the light bulb ban has been estimated to have cost consumers some $NZ33 billion.

Which brings us back to electric cars.

While they may save greenhouse emissions on the road, the cars still have to be charged — usually with fossil-fuel generated electricity. In places like Britain which have increased their penetration of “renewables” (primarily wind and solar), energy poverty and rolling blackouts, not to mention soaring electricity costs, are already a fact of life. Powering a fleet of EVs will only make a bad situation worse.

And while consumers might “save” on the purchase price for EVs in a grossly distorted market, they pay through the nose in increased taxes.

The UK government’s £3000 ($5539) electric vehicle grant has already cost £800 million between 2011 and 2020 and is forecast to require another £400 million until 2023.

In Norway, tax incentives have lowered the purchase price of a petrol Volkswagen Golf to €34,076 compared to €33,286 for the electric equivalent, even though the import price of the battery model is about €$10,000 more.

The scheme costs Norwegian taxpayers an estimated $US2.3 billion in annual lost revenue.

The Age

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Of Light Bulbs and Electric Cars
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Lushington D. Brady

Punk rock philosopher. Liberalist contrarian. Grumpy old bastard. I grew up in a generational-Labor-voting family. I kept the faith long after the political left had abandoned it. In the last decade...