Duggan Flanakin

Duggan Flanakin is a senior policy analyst with the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow. A former senior fellow with the Texas Public Policy Foundation, Mr Flanakin authored definitive works on the creation of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and on environmental education in Texas. A brief history of his multifaceted career appears in his book, Infinite Galaxies: Poems from the Dugout.


Remember the American love for the open road? That paean to American freedom built on the automobile but made possible by highways that also enabled trucks to deliver goods to just about any location quickly and safely?

Hot cars are still popular today, as evidenced by the fact that the Fast and Furious movies have generated about $2 billion in ticket sales in the US and another $5 billion worldwide. Formula 1 reported revenues of more than $3.2 billion in 2023, with profits up by 64 per cent.

In 2021, the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA), which governs world motorsports, including touring, sportscar, drag racing, and rally car events, commissioned the first-ever report on the global market impact from motorsports. In the first year after the Covid pandemic, the industry generated over $200 billion in business impact on the world’s economy, directly and indirectly supporting over a million jobs.

Electric vehicles arrived concurrently with the internal combustion engine – and were quickly rejected as impractical. During their brief heyday, electric vehicles were marketed as “the ideal woman’s car,” but gasoline engines provided more energy per unit mass and could travel greater distances.

Gasoline could also be easily transported to filling stations in rural areas, many of which lacked electric power lines. Not until the 1930s did affordable electricity become available nationwide. After World War II, the gasoline-powered automobile became as popular as apple pie.

“See the USA in your Chevrolet!” and similar slogans echo the days of muscle cars and hot rods – along with convertibles and even sedans with good radios. Working people had pickup trucks, and the driver’s license was the first badge of adulthood.

Then came the minivan, now largely replaced by the sport utility vehicle. Cheap American gasoline or diesel (even with ethanol added) made even transcontinental trips possible for millions of Americans.

And then came the Progressives to spoil all the fun.

First, they hopped on the ‘climate emergency’ bandwagon to justify massive subsidies for ‘clean’ vehicles to ‘save the planet,’ emphasizing no tailpipe emissions while ignoring the darker realities of cobalt and lithium mining, Chinese labour camps, or the cost of an entirely new infrastructure the private sector was not about to underwrite.

Backed by climate hype, politicians authorized massive subsidies that, to date, have gone mostly to the trendy urban rich, often purchased to show support for ‘green’ technology and thus gain brown-nose points, but sometimes just because of the ‘zoom’ factor.

As long as EVs were a novelty luxury item, no one really cared that the rich got a discount on their new toys. [Remember when the ‘toy of the month’ was the Hummer?]  It may come as a surprise that Tesla did not even enter the marketplace until 2008. The EV fad also engulfed the European subsidy market in very short order.

Not satisfied with the speed of the ‘transition’ to electric vehicles, governments began imposing mandates on manufacturers to force them to shutter long-successful product lines and switch to electric vehicles only within a very brief timeframe.

In August 2021, President Biden signed an executive order setting a national goal that, by 2030, half of all new sales must be zero-tailpipe-emissions vehicles – regardless of cost and without evidence that the buying public would, or even could, choose an EV.

The order also called on the Environmental Protection Agency to put the squeeze on manufacturers to virtually eliminate gasoline engines. And just last month, the EPA unveiled its grand scheme to force the majority of American auto buyers into EVs within the next eight years – though the final rules have a slightly slower timetable than the version proposed a year ago.

Initial reaction to the bureaucrat-written rules was mixed, as Politico reported. While President Biden gushed that he was pleasing the climate police, auto manufacturers said that “this wildly unpopular policy is going to feel and function like a ban,” noting that it comes as “Americans are struggling with high costs and inflation.”

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, announcing the new rules, boasted that, “We estimate that today’s rule will prevent 5.5 trillion pounds of carbon dioxide from going into our atmosphere between now and 2050.” Citing the tougher mileage standards, Papa Pete also claimed that the new rules will “save a typical American household hundreds of dollars.”

“That’s a lot of lipstick smeared on this pig,” one can imagine someone saying. In the real world, EV sales are declining across Europe such that the European Union has backed away from its lofty goals – and may have to retreat further, based on recent election results.

In the US, auto rental giant Hertz is selling its entire 20,000-EV fleet, citing high repair costs and weak demand. Ford lost $4.7 billion in its EV division last year and has slowed or stopped production of its EV Lightning pickup.

The Biden-Buttigieg EV mandates are already taking away factory jobs and threatening to devastate motorsports (even though there is a burgeoning Formula E racing circuit).

Yet Buttigieg could not wait to insult the vast majority of Americans who have expressed little or no desire to trade in reliable gasoline-powered vehicles for an electric vehicle – for many of the same reasons Americans rejected them a century ago.

Many of the scarce EV charging stations rely on diesel or natural gas generators or even coal-fired power plants, only adding to the perceived absurdity of forcibly imposing an unwanted technology on an already financially stressed populace.

But Papa Pete, fresh from admitting the collapse of a bridge he once deemed “racist” was “unimaginable” (proving his incompetence),  had no problem mocking Americans who willingly abandoned landlines yet “cling” to their “old-fashioned” [our words] “gas guzzlers.” This unthinking knee-jerk spirit, which permeates Western officialdom, is sparking citizen revolts against a bloated ruling class that evokes memories of a French monarch whose response to the cries of those her policies made poor was “Let ’em eat cake” – when they had no bread.

And, while landline phones may seem old-fashioned, they still offer a level of reliability and voice quality unmatched by cell phones. There just are not enough cell phone towers (sound familiar?) to ensure 24/7/365 reliable service in every community.

One more thing. Papa Pete should know that cell phones first appeared in 1973 and only became popular two decades later, but not until the arrival of the iPhone in 2007 did people begin to ditch their landlines rather than pay for both technologies at the same time. That voluntary timetable is a lot longer than the one Buttigieg and his masters are forcing upon Americans.

This article originally appeared at Real Clear Energy.

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