Friday, 11 October 2019

Going Extinct

The Extinction Rebellion mass hysteria has certainly worked on some. People have been obstructed from going about their innocent, non-planet threatening business, children have been frightened out of their wits, police have been shown to be toothless and politicians have lost no time in jumping on the bandwagon. Even those of us who are mocking from the sidelines have been drawn into the ‘debate’ by their antics; everybody is now talking about it.

And one of the things they are talking about is the coming age of the electric car. I tweeted several weeks ago that I have never actually seen an electric vehicle charging point in the flesh and was greeted with incredulity. But it’s not so hard to explain. I live in a small village and I work 40 miles away. I can’t charge at home (no off-road parking), I can’t charge at work and I have to go out of my way to find a garage. I rarely travel outside of that pattern and I never fill up at motorway services. I repeat, I have never seen an EVCP in real life.

This doesn’t make me a bad person. But, judging by the callers to Nick Ferrari’s LBC programme this morning, maybe it does. In the wake of James Dyson’s decision to abandon his own electric car project, a segment of the show was given over to the shining disciples of the new dawn. I don’t think there was a single dissenter and even those for whom, like me, a supercharged milk float is impractical, expressed regret that they could not take advantage of this energy revolution.

Electric is clean, electric is free (for some), electric is a miracle and electric will save the planet. How dare Dyson bow to economic considerations rather than join the gold rush? But that’s the thing, isn’t it? Just like wind energy, the advantages are loud-hailered to the world, but the downsides, the hidden costs and the aggressive subsidies are given rather more subdued coverage. Subsidies? Yes, if you currently use a plug-in electric vehicle everybody else is subsidising your travel; somebody always has to foot the bill.

But Dyson is right, it should be considered in the round. For all the Tesla supercars out there, which are really just virtue-signalling status symbols, the all-electric transport system is still a long way off. For the vast majority of drivers – those who live in terraced houses, in council flats, in those odd, low-rise fifties developments where you have to park dozens of yards from your front door – plug-in charging is an impossible dream. And where is all this extra electricity coming from, especially when electricity generation is one of the activities at which the environmentalists’ fingers most vigorously wag?

But don’t worry, procrastinate, because some members of Extinction Rebellion claim that 90% of the human population will have died out in just two generations. That’s probably how much time it would have taken to properly develop the infrastructure for us to go all-electric. On this basis Dyson’s decision would appear to be economically sage. What’s the point of spending all that investment if the market isn’t going to be there when it comes to fruition? Thank you, XR for defeating your own argument.


  1. ER investment tip. Buy Co-op shares. They run the largest undertaking business in the country.