Forbes is known for giving voice to anti-EV purveryors of fear, uncertainty, and doubt about electric vehicles. The latest in a long line of hit pieces comes from Diana Furchtgott-Roth, a professor of transportation economics at George Washington University and a former functionary at the US Department of Transportation during the Trump administration. Her swipe at electric cars begins this way:
“It’s 2035, all cars are electric, and the massive Hurricane Iris has hit Louisiana. Much of New Orleans is under water, and emergency workers with their Ford F-150 Lightning electric pickup trucks need to rescue families and pets. But Louisiana has lost power, and the trucks are all dead. The Blessey family, which has lived in New Orleans for generations, want to get out of town to stay with relatives. They can’t set off in their Chevy Bolt EV because they won’t be able to recharge it on the way.”
“Gasoline and diesel are winners when natural disasters interfere with the electricity grid,” she writes, ignoring the fact that gas and diesel pumps are powered by electricity as well. Furchtgott-Roth is an unapologetic champion of the “government shouldn’t be forcing its policies down our throat” school of thought. “Federal and state governments have two contradictory goals,” she writes. “The first is increasing the share of electricity that is made with renewables and phasing out fossil fuels: with current technology, this goal makes electricity more expensive and less reliable. The second is mandating more electricity use by requiring that new vehicles run on electricity rather than gasoline. The combination of these two goals makes transportation less resilient to hurricanes and other natural disasters.”
The author is not done with her wrecking ball approach. “The climate crisis is the stated reason for moving to electric cars because they have lower tailpipe emissions, so they are cleaner on the road. But if the climate crisis is going to bring more weather-related events that contribute to outages, electric vehicle mandates are not the way to go. Whether the result of a hurricane on the East Coast or insufficient electricity power generation capacity on the West Coast, electricity outages harm Americans. They make our lives uncomfortable, and they make us less inclined to become more dependent on electricity.”
Here is her concluding paragraph: “Hurricane Ida has shown us that today’s government decisions on electricity generation and vehicle requirements are in direct conflict. American consumers are being asked to pay higher prices for electric vehicles — which depend on higher prices for less-dependable electricity that may not be available during peak demand or in the aftermath of wildfires, tornadoes, and hurricanes. This is not a resilient, prosperous future.”
With such bright lights embedded deep in the federal government’s policymaking infrastructure, it is little wonder the prior administration brought suit to eliminate California’s power to set more stringent exhaust emission standards than those required by the federal government.
Ordinarily, I wouldn’t waste my time refuting ignorant jerks like Diana Furchtgott-Roth, but I came across a post the other day on the reddit EV forum by Tonya The Beetle, who actually lives near New Orleans and owns an electric car. I thought it might be helpful to share it with our readers.
This is not meant to be bragging post but rather a counter argument to all the “But what happens when (insert natural disaster) and you can’t drive???” It’s tragic what other people are going through and just because I own an EV doesn’t mean I’m better. Now to my experience:
I’m between New Orleans and Baton Rouge so Hurricane Ida passed directly over me and did knock out power. It was only for a day though. In that time I simply didn’t make any trips aside from a quick drive down the street and prior to the hurricane I let the car fully charge.
There really wasn’t any point in trying to drive to work or somewhere out of town since most roads were blocked by trees, downed power lines, or someone’s house. Even when power was restored at my house and my work was open again, it was still fairly dangerous to drive on account of traffic lights not working.
By the time power was restored, I could charge anytime I wanted to at my house or at work. On the other hand, gas stations were either out of fuel or had incredibly long lines that stretch out to the main road. Today is the second day I’m commuting to work and so far I have no issues getting fuel since I only need a standard 120v outlet.
For those worried about EVs during a natural disaster, you just aren’t going to travel while there’s no power. Or you’ll just go to a charging station if the power is out for longer than a few days. The road simply wouldn’t be safe to travel after a hurricane and by the time it’s safe, you can simply charge at home instead of waiting in line at a gas station.
That post has gotten 100 comments so far, most of them from people pointing out that charging infrastructure in America is still severely limited compared to the number of gas stations available. But keep in mind, when a natural disaster strikes, finding a gas station open that has gasoline to sell is a challenge. Even getting to one can involve hours of negotiating snarled traffic, flooded roads, and downed powerlines. And if you should be lucky enough to get to the highway, you may find yourself among thousands of other vehicles, all going nowhere at 3 miles an hour.
reddit user faizimam posted this cogent thought: “What people forget in the case of major disaster, the single most important infrastructure priority is getting power restored, everything depends on it. In the vast majority of cases you’ll get power back before or at the same time as other major systems. People imagine this Hollywood vision of driving around a post apocalyptic hellscape scavenging fuel cans to get around. In a crisis most people stay put.”
I was walking along Marginal Way in Ogunquit, Maine a few days after Hurricane Ida came ashore, and overheard two men yucking it up about how EV owners in Florida can’t even get out of the state if a hurricane hits. They were shaking their heads and laughing about the poor misguided dupes who decided to get an electric car. They probably read Forbes and listen to Faux News.
There is a lot of misinformation out there about a warming planet and electric cars, much of it bought and paid for by the fossil fuel industry, which is running scared as cities and nations around the world announce plans to ban the sale of cars with infernal combustion engines in the near future. They are like King Cnut seated on the shore and ordering the tide not to rise. It is perhaps understandable that existing companies don’t want to be on the receiving end of the creative destruction that is part and parcel of the capitalist system, but doing so when you know your behavior is putting every living thing at risk is immoral and reprehensible.
When my grandchildren are considering college, I will urge them to avoid George Washington University and choose a school that does not allow shills for outside interests to masquerade as academics. The thought for today from A Word A Day comes from Robert Persig, author of Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance. He wrote this bon mot before his death in 2017: “When people are fanatically dedicated to political or religious faiths or any other kind of dogmas or goals, it’s always because these dogmas or goals are in doubt.” Amen to that.