From the Right
by Don Schmitz
If you build it, they will come, or for California, if you require it, they will drive electric cars (EVs). California now requires that all new cars sold in the state be electric by 2035.
The laudable goal is to slash CO2 emissions, but is it practical? We have made tremendous progress already.
The EPA reports that U.S. CO2 emissions dropped steadily from 6,000 million metric tons (MMT) in 2006 to 4,800 MMT in 2020, during a time of substantial population and economic growth, accomplished without overreaching regulations via technological innovation. Global contribution of CO2 from the U.S. dropped from 42 percent in 1950 to 13.5 percent in 2020. Calfornia, with the fifth-largest economy in the world, generates 1 percent of the annual CO2 globally. Incidentally, our horrible wildland fuel management has resulted in 3.4 million acres of fires in our state, releasing the CO2 equivalent of 25 percent of our emissions from all fossil fuels.
California in 2020 had 14.2 million registered vehicles. The average EV requires 30 kilowatt-hours to travel 100 miles, which is as much as the average American home uses daily (cooking, AC, lights). Incidentally, average home use is going to spike as the government requires the conversion of all appliances from natural gas to electricity. Not including population growth, California will have to expand electricity production in 2035 for the EV fleet, equivalent to over 14 million homes!
A U.S. Department of Energy study determined that national consumption of electricity would spike 38 percent by 2050 due to electric vehicles. California predicted, before the new law, that electric cars would demand 5.4 percent of the state’s electricity capacity by 2030. If all cars in the U.S. were EVs, they would consume 27.6 percent of the grid’s production. According to a state-commissioned study, the load on the California grid could rise 60 percent to 90 percent with the conversion of the vehicle fleet and homes to all-electric.
Currently, the U.S. produces 20 percent of its electricity with wind and solar, which is impressive. In California, that number is even higher at 33.6 percent, with 66.4 percent coming from coal, natural gas, nuclear, and large hydro. California law requires ALL electricity in the state to be zero carbon emitting by 2045 and 60 percent by 2030. The EV mandate will supercharge electricity demand. California currently must buy electricity from neighboring states, call flex alerts, and suffers blackouts. We’ll have to almost double our grid production while replacing over half of the production with renewables. In 2021 we increased production by 2 percent. We’ve added essentially no new wind capacity since 2013, as rural communities deny permits. The math is daunting.
The conversion and expansion will cost billions of dollars, which will be passed on to the rate-payers. Already electricity prices exploded by 39.5 percent between 2010 and 2020. PG&E customers pay 80 percent more for electricity than the national average, SCE customers 45 percent more. California has the highest poverty rate in the country, 18.1 percent. Despite California homes using half as much energy as the national average, residents pay $2,328 yearly for electricity, 20 percent higher than the national average. This February, the PUC warned energy costs are growing far faster than the rate of inflation, and “energy bills will become less affordable over time.” It is projected that San Diego customers will pay three times more by 2030. This mismanagement is regressive and painful to the expanding working poor, and part of the reason our middle class are leaving the state.
I love the potential that a fully renewable energy grid and fleet could make us resistant to foreign influence. Even with energy independence achieved during the last administration, oil and gas are fungible commodities, so a spike in world demand or foreign disruption hurts us here at home. Yet disconcerting is the fact that the raw materials for EV batteries are from emerging markets with poor labor and environmental regulations. Congo is the main source of cobalt, with an estimated 40,000 child laborers in their mines. Worse, China overwhelmingly dominates the mining and processing of raw materials for EV production, and produces up to 76 percent of the EV batteries, while the U.S. makes 8 percent. Very late, we are waking up to our vulnerability, with bipartisan support seeking to expand rare earth mining and battery production. Currently though China is preeminent, Europe is surging, while the infighting is already starting domestically with environmentalists opposing proposed mining operations.
The EV revolution is happening. Ford and Toyota have announced they will be carbon neutral by 2050, and GM plans to stop selling gas and diesel vehicles by 2035. Yet the 1.2 million new EV charging stations needed in California by 2030 must be energized, as do our homes. No credible plan exists to meet this huge increase, all while replacing current power sources with renewables, and without economically crushing everyone except the affluent.