Streetwise Professor

March 25, 2024

EPA Delenda Est

Filed under: Climate Change,Economics,Politics,Regulation — cpirrong @ 5:54 pm

It is a challenge to identify the worst of the worst Federal agencies, but the Environmental Protection Agency is clearly a heavy favorite.  (The security organs are in a class by themselves.  Here I refer to civil regulatory agencies.)

In a strong effort to cement winning this dubious distinction, last week the EPA announced new tailpipe standards that reduce by 50 percent allowable emissions of CO2 (relative to an already reduced 2026 level).  This is transparently intended to throttle internal combustion engines (ICE) and jam electric vehicles (EVs) down our throats.

The administration is crowing about this:

“Three years ago, I set an ambitious target: that half of all new cars and trucks sold in 2030 would be zero-emission,” Biden said in a statement, adding that the country will meet that goal “and race forward in the years ahead.”

Biden said in a statement issued in his name—written by someone else, of course, because he couldn’t form these sentences by himself.

 In numbers pulled straight from its collective ass, the EPA claims the reduction in CO2 emissions will produce $100 billion in benefits annually, the vast bulk of which are due to chimerical gains from ameliorating climate change. 

As the much-missed Sonic Charm (still mordant on X, but not in the blogosphere) said: all large calculations are wrong.  And that goes exponentially for any calculation involving alleged climate benefits and costs.  Despite all the claims about scientific consensus (which should make you neuralgic in the aftermath of Covid, where almost all claims about The Science flogged by governments and the media have turned out to be the inversion of the truth), estimates of the impact of changes in CO2 emissions on climate are speculative in the extreme.  And those speculations pale in comparison to estimates of the impact of climate changes on welfare, including effects on wealth, income, and living standards.

Climate is a complex system.  Economies are complex systems.  Only fools and the evil have the hubris to claim to know how small changes in one variable will affect outcomes in the interaction between two complex systems. 

Where does the EPA fit here? Both, clearly. 

It is particularly perverse that the EPA is attempting to socially engineer economic outcomes—namely, what vehicles people drive—at a time when the manifold defects of EVs are becoming clearly manifest.  Their performance sucks in multiple ways, including limited range, declining range over time (as batteries age), poor performance in cold weather, and long recharging times (human time is valuable—did the EPA take that into account? I crack myself up sometimes).  Repair costs are astronomical.  And the putative environmental benefits are dubious when the entire vehicle lifecycle is considered, or when the environmental impacts of mining the myriad materials EVs need are taken into account.  Moreover, there are other environmental costs—notably substantial road degradation and substantially increased particulate emissions from tire wear, both due to the great weight of EVs.

Increased awareness of these effects is turning EVs into the Typhoid Marys of automobiles.  Sales are well below what had been projected as consumers have become aware of the clear inferiority of EVs relative to ICE vehicles in doing the things people want—and need—their vehicles to do.  EVs are clogging dealer lots, and they don’t want to buy more.  Resale values are in the tank.  Insurance costs are prohibitive. 

EVs are far more expensive to drive off the lot, and are more expensive to operate, than ICE vehicles.  Is it any wonder why Ford is drastically cutting its production of electric F-150s, and why every other auto manufacturer is hedging on its previous promises to go all electric in the near future?

Two rental car companies—Hertz and Sixt—have recently pulled the plug on their EV fleets (figuratively and literally) because the economics are so atrocious.  The disastrous Hertz plunge into electrics cost the CEO his job.   

EV skeptic Toyota is looking pretty damned smart now, ain’t it?

The inadequacies and defects of EVs are particularly pronounced for anyone who lives outside of a major metro area, and the more exurban or rural you are, the less suitable EVs are for you.  So this regulation represents another front in the war on suburban, exurban, and rural America.

And maybe that is part of the plan.  Recall my post on the war on cars generally.  They want you to walk the road to serfdom, and to jam people into villages (soothingly named “15 minute cities”), just like castellans did in the 11th century. 

Put differently: from the perspective of the progressive, globalist types who want to eliminate personal mobility (for the proles, that is, not for them), all the aforementioned bugs of EVs are features because they drastically raise the cost of mobility. 

Not to mention the strains that increased EV usage will place on already creaking electricity grids and generation systems.  The interaction between this regulation, and the EPA’s equally (or even more malign) regulations of power plants, poses extreme risk to the nation’s electricity system.

To compound the lies, the administration claims that this will be a boon for the domestic automobile industry:

Biden added that U.S. workers “will lead the world on autos making clean cars and trucks, each stamped ‘Made in America.‘”

As. Fucking.  If.  This regulation will wreak havoc on the existing ICE-centric US auto industry (and the entire supply chain for it), with all of the baleful consequences that will have for capital value and employment.  The US industry has shown little prospect of having a comparative advantage in EV manufacturing.  Note the huge losses Ford has racked up on a per vehicle basis on its electronic version of the stalwart F-150.  GM’s EV operation has also frolicked in pools of red ink. 

Trump claimed that the US auto industry would face a bloodbath due to Chinese manufacturing of cars in Mexico.  That is nothing compared to the ensuing bloodbath—economic bloodbath; it’s a metaphor!—if the EPA guts the ICE industry. (“Guts” is a metaphor too! Can’t assume anything these days, right?)

These regulations are beyond sickeningly perverse.  They represent an extreme exercise of arbitrary power in the service of a delusional ideological agenda embraced by a tiny sliver of the citizenry. 

And when I say extreme, I mean by the standards of rational behavior, not by the standards of the current American administrative state. Sadly, what the EPA is doing has strong parallels in what virtually every other Biden administrative agency is doing—don’t get me started on GiGi’s SEC.  Or the FTC.  Or the DoL. 

Extremism in the exercise of administrative power is definitely a vice.  It is the enemy of personal freedom, personal choice, and economic prosperity. 

Rein in the administrative state?  Is that even possible?  Doubtful.  The only sure remedy is the Carthaginian one.

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32 Comments »

  1. Thomas Sowell made the point that one of the major, if not THE major, driver of the environmental movement is to keep the Proles in their place. He said this well before global warming became an issue and instead pointed out how the Greenies at the time were trying to prevent a gas station being built near Yosemite Park. They attacked this on environmental grounds but the real reason is they want Yosemite to themselves. They want everything to themselves. If there is a gas station near Yosemite more families could travel in their “station wagons (that was the era)” because it would be more convenient because they could refuel in the area.

    God forbid the low class and their annoying children get in the way of the elite.

    Comment by MARK — March 25, 2024 @ 9:40 pm

  2. As an engineer, I feel qualified to offer some fact-checking there:

    “declining range over time (as batteries age)” – False, except for EVs with air-cooled batteries, notably the Nissan Leaf, which was a crap idea and most new EVs don’t do.
    “Repair costs are astronomical” – True, but also rare. This could easily be solved by mutualising the risk.
    “long recharging time” – Partly true, but rapidly becoming false. 800 volt EVs can charge 20-80% in the time taken for a bathroom break and a snack. Also, the vast majority of journeys can be covered by an overnight charge at home.
    “dubious when the entire vehicle lifecycle is considered” – Very, very true. Volvo themselves estimate that the lifecycle emissions of their electric XC40 model are 75% of the gasoline model. That’s it?! All the new mines, all the chargers, all the political arguments, all the subsidies… for 25% ?!
    “environmental costs … due to the great weight of EVs” – Ah come off it. In a nation of privately-owned trucks, that’s a silly argument. It’s also false: A Tesla Model 3 weighs about the same as a BMW 3-series.
    “Two rental car companies … have recently pulled the plug on their EV fleets” – The Prof is always telling us to consider the externalities of a decision. Well, the rental company carries all the burdens of the electric rental cars, while the customers reap the benefits of lower fuel bills. This does not necessarily mean that EVs are not a good prospect for owner-operators.

    But whatever, the lifecycle emissions alone kill the environmental business case. It get’s a little better if you consider the well-to-pump emissions in addition to just the tailpipe emissions, but I’m still not convinced by pure EVs. Current plug-in Hybrids combine the worst of both worlds. However, Mazda has just introduced a range-extender EV using a rotary engine, and if they put that tech into a car other than a tiny, ugly, fake-SUV (where it currently is), I think that’s a fantastic way forward. You do your shopping on overnight electricity, and long trips on gasoline. The batteries are small and low impact, the cars are cheaper to make, gasoline prices go down. What more could you want?

    As for the “soothingly named “15 minute cities”” (and not speaking as an engineer): Why do some Americans want to deny other people the right to live in a medium-density neighborhood with good public transit? The existing stock of low-density housing is HUUUUUGE – it isn’t going anywhere, the authorities aren’t trying to shoo you in there like cattle. Don’t go if you don’t want. But for those who do, government zoning rules shouldn’t needlessy discommode them, right? Why fight this?

    Comment by HibernoFrog — March 26, 2024 @ 3:02 am

  3. Clarification: I don’t mean that EVs don’t lose range over time, I mean that they routinely outlast ICE cars before battery replacement is required due to degradation.

    Comment by HibernoFrog — March 26, 2024 @ 3:03 am

  4. And to think that some Americans suffer from the delusion that their leading enemy is Mr Putin or some ragbag Moslem terrorist group!

    @HF: “the vast majority of journeys can be covered by an overnight charge at home” But in some countries charging at home will be effectively impossible for many families. Apartments and terraced housing are ill-suited to charging at home. Moreover people don’t buy cars for only “the vast majority of journeys”: they want the flexibility to undertake other journeys too.

    Anyway, detailed rebuttal is quite unnecessary. If what you said is true there would be no need for massive taxpayer subsidies for EVs. But such subsidies are paid. Why?

    Comment by dearieme — March 26, 2024 @ 7:06 am

  5. Thanks for the details Hibernofrog – I noticed in the Volvo study that the lifetime carbon emissions can be up to 50% if the electricity is low-carbon (i.e. wind) – so as the grid decarbonizes further the carbon accounting should look better and better. I also read just this morning that CATL is working on technology that will allow charging within ten minutes – technology is ever improving for EVs while ICEs is a mature technology
    https://www.pv-magazine.com/2023/08/22/catl-unveils-ev-battery-enabling-a-400-km-driving-range-on-a-10-minute-charge/

    Dearieme, many technologies and solutions that are ubiquitous today were well-subsidized at the start of their commercial journey- that should not mean that the technology won’t become cost competitive vs. ICE over time. It already is in China and will so in the U.S.

    And final point, fossil fuel production and/or consumption is still heavily subsidized , about $20bn annual in the U.S. and 7 TRILLION $ worldwide.

    Comment by [email protected] — March 26, 2024 @ 8:36 am

  6. “fossil fuel production and/or consumption is still heavily subsidized , about $20bn annual in the U.S. and 7 TRILLION $ worldwide.”

    Every time I’ve seen someone try to defend that argument what he’s had to say has been tripe. Codswallop. Utter tosh. Baloney. Economic illiteracy.

    “It already is in China”. I doubt it but if it’s so they ought properly to be called coal-fuelled cars. How very “green”.

    Comment by dearieme — March 26, 2024 @ 11:04 am

  7. I don’t get what you are saying. Do you think fossil fuel production and consumption is not subsidized, in the U.S. or elsewhere? What argument are we trying to discuss here?

    Comment by [email protected] — March 26, 2024 @ 11:20 am

  8. You think my subsidy is your dodgy externality, but A subsidy isn’t a charge you think should be levied but isn’t.

    Comment by Andrew agaun — March 26, 2024 @ 4:51 pm

  9. @Dearieme:
    “they want the flexibility to undertake other journeys too.” Indeed, that’s why I mentioned the incredible speed of 800V fast charging and Mazda’s new take on the plug-in hybrid. My point about “vast majority of journeys” is that the time lost to charging is pretty small over the lifetime of the car, if you’re into EVs, which you and I are not.

    “Apartments and terraced housing are ill-suited to charging at home” There would be little hope for America if installing an outdoor plug at each parking space was as impossible as you say. Just go to any country cold enough to need block-heaters and you’ll see that this problem is very easily solved.

    “detailed rebuttal is quite unnecessary” Yes, I do go on sometimes, sorry… But I wasn’t really going for rebuttal, more of an pro/con evaluation. The prof is arguing a position here, rather than doing an evaluation as he more usually does, and I thought it was worth having that.

    “If what you said is true there would be no need for massive taxpayer subsidies for EVs” As @[email protected] says, it’s just to get the industry going. We’re about to see a flood of (mostly Chinese) EVs that are cheap enough to not need subsidy. Whether that’s actually good for our economies is a very valid question. But anyway, on balance, I’m against mass adoption of full-EVs. Purpose built plug-in hybrids make environmental AND economic sense, I honestly don’t understand why they’re not more popular.

    Comment by HibernoFrog — March 27, 2024 @ 3:33 am

  10. @Dearieme: Incidentally, and not that I think this is a sensible thing to do, but even with 100% coal power, EVs are so ridiculously efficient that they come out about the same emissions per unit distance. There’s been plenty of studies confirming this. I was quite surprised. That said, I don’t think they included construction emissions in that calculation, so on balance the EV is worse, but that’s only in the most extreme of cases.

    Comment by HibernoFrog — March 27, 2024 @ 3:38 am

  11. This is the last gasp of millenarian Christianity. It’ll all be over in about 2037 (if Norman Cohen’s estimate for the last millennium is true.) Note that no non Christian country is at all bothered by CO2.

    As a matter of fact crops and vegetation would grow better at levels three times the current atmospheric concentration. No long term effects on human health would be detectable at rates ten times today’s. These increases simply won’t happen on account of those vegetables.

    China is taking a massive punt on the gullibility of the Western consumer. Maybe they’re right, but I don’t think it’s the way to bet.

    Comment by philip — March 27, 2024 @ 11:36 am

  12. btw, Cohen’s book records declining incidence of antiChrist hysteria and Second Coming prophesies from about 1015. It does look a lot like history repeating itself.

    Comment by philip — March 27, 2024 @ 11:42 am

  13. @ philip, China, a non Christian country, in the process of decarbonizing its power grid. Is that not so?

    Comment by [email protected] — March 27, 2024 @ 7:12 pm

  14. “China, a non Christian country, in the process of decarbonizing its power grid. Is that not so?”

    Ho ho ho.

    There’s a difference between what they say they’re doing and what they’re doing, you know.

    from CREA

    China’s new coal power spree continues as more provinces jump on the bandwagon

    Coal power continues to expand in China, despite the government’s pledges and goals. In the first half of 2023, construction was started on 37 gigawatts (GW) of new coal power capacity, 52 GW was permitted, while 41 GW of new projects were announced and 8 GW of previously shelved projects were revived. Of the permitted projects, 10 GW of capacity has already moved to construction.

    Comment by philip — March 28, 2024 @ 7:51 am

  15. They continue to build coal power plants but the share of coal is decreasing while the share of low-carbon energy is increasing in the power gen mix, therefore, it’s progressively decarbonizing.

    https://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.php?id=33092

    Comment by [email protected] — March 28, 2024 @ 10:01 am

  16. @Philip, [email protected]:
    It’s worth noting that China is so keen to get away from carbon-based energy (though it has to be said, this is probably more for energy-security reasons than environmental) that they’ve taken up the long-abandoned (by the US) challenge of Thorium nuclear power. They just recently got approval to start running their experimental reactor (reportedly finished 3 years early). This is highly speculative and VERY expensive stuff they’re doing, so yeah, there’s no merit to the argument that the Chinese aren’t at least trying to get away from fossil fuel power.

    Comment by HibernoFrog — March 29, 2024 @ 9:03 am

  17. All the argument, and it’s all for nothing. There’s no climate crisis. There’s no evidence that CO2 emissions are causing the current highly-precedented warming.

    https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/feart.2019.00223/full
    https://www.mdpi.com/1424-8220/23/13/5976

    In June 2021, I sent official notice to the EPA and the IPCC that the endangerment finding and the climate crisis are grounded in false precision (see the linked papers). Despite their obligation to respond, their reply has been silence.

    So-called climate scientists are not scientists.
    https://doi.org/10.13140/RG.2.2.34218.70083

    So-called climate science is artful pseudo-science — looking like science but not science.

    So-called renewables can’t support the manufacture of more renewables.
    Battery power will never, ever be as efficient, convenient, or reliable as fossil-fuel power.
    Enforced 15-minute cities are concentration camps.

    The supposed hundreds of billions in subsidies for fossil fuels are calculated in the fraud called the social cost of carbon. Models all the way down. In actual cash subsidies wind and solar get about 50x more $/€/£ per kWH of energy produced. And no one ever includes the real and huge social cost of renewables(sic).

    Economically beneficial technological advances have never needed to be primed early-on with government subsidies (steam engines, light bulbs, power transmission, automobiles, air craft, antibiotics, transistors, computers). If anything, government steps in after the advantage has been demonstrated.

    Our CO2 emissions have greened up the entire planet. And caused a 15% increase in agricultural yield.

    Given its very evident benefits to the environment, environmentalists should be enthusiastic about more CO2. Fossil fuels have freed humans from drudge labor. They have provided the means of our vastly better lives and health. They even pay for their own clean-up. There’s no net down-side.

    Those who both call themselves environmentalists and oppose the CO2 increase are better seen as majority useful idiots (most charitably), a minority of partisan liars and a core of outright misanthropes.

    Comment by Pat Frank — March 29, 2024 @ 10:26 am

  18. Hi Pat, hope you are doing well. As HibernoFrog alluded to earlier in the discussion, EV’s are fantastically efficient on a ‘tank-to-wheel’ basis. But obviously if you look at the whole lifecycle (the well-to-wheel calculation), EVs can hold their own. There are many papers one could cite, but generally speaking ICEs have a w-t-w efficiency of 10-30% while EVs run on fossil fuels generated power clock in at about the same levels. But a higher share of renewable power could push that number up to 40-70% (the first link) – something not achievable with internal combustion engines due to heat loss mostly. The second study shows similar results with EVs achieving higher efficiencies than ICEs

    https://intapi.sciendo.com/pdf/10.2478/rtuect-2020-0041
    https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/15567036.2023.2182844#:~:text=Since%20EVs%20use%20various%20sources,Well%2Dto%2Dwheel

    Comment by [email protected] — April 3, 2024 @ 12:39 pm

  19. @18, here’s a bet libte: your sources don’t include the cost of mining and manufacture in producing the batteries.

    On checking…

    ALBATAYNEH et al., certainly do not. They also do not factor in the cost of solar and windmills delivering only 25-40% of their rated power. And that, intermittently.

    Nor, apparently, do Saini, et al.

    They’re both junk studies.

    But the real test is easy. Stop EV subsidies and see whether they can deliver more cheaply than ICE vehicles. I 100% doubt it.

    But in any case, my point wasn’t about EV promotion. My point was (and is) that there is no climate crisis in evidence. The whole controversy justifying EVs and restricting fossil fuels is about nothing.

    The thousands of excess Winter fuel poverty deaths, the wrecked lives and ruined livelihoods, the bankrupting regulations, the frightened children, the despairing young adults, the chopped birds, the exploded bats, the spoiled landscapes, the emotional battering and guilt-tripping.

    All for nothing.

    Every single green NGO should be banned and have its funds confiscated to clean up the mess. And the academics who promoted the climate crisis falsehood should lose tenure and be fired for rank incompetence.

    Comment by Pat Frank — April 3, 2024 @ 11:14 pm

  20. But even if you use fossil fuels for the electricity used, EVs are comparably or even more efficient! That was my point. I hope you get it.

    Are you very concerned about the birds, Patrick?

    Comment by [email protected] — April 4, 2024 @ 11:48 am

  21. @20, libte: No, they’re not.

    Mindless frippery.

    Comment by Pat Frank — April 4, 2024 @ 1:44 pm

  22. Yes they are as these studies show. You wishing otherwise won’t change that.

    Well are you concerned about the birds then?

    Comment by [email protected] — April 4, 2024 @ 3:03 pm

  23. @22 libte. No they’re not, as those studies show.

    If EV vehicles were more efficient in truth, they’d not have to publish junk studies such as you linked — but evidently are unable to evaluate — misrepresenting the costs by judicious omission.

    You post arguments from authority, libte. Talking points without any understanding.

    Have you stopped being shameless?

    Comment by Pat Frank — April 4, 2024 @ 11:13 pm

  24. Oh but I understand it very well mon cher ami Pat Frank. Here is another study that clearly shows how much more efficient EVs and hybrid vehicles can be vs ICE/gasoline engines. I am sorry you are not able to understand what these studies show and why it matters.

    https://www.energy.gov/eere/fuelcells/articles/well-wheels-analysis-energy-use-and-greenhouse-gas-emissions-plug-hybrid

    So what is it about the birds you are concerned about?

    Comment by [email protected] — April 5, 2024 @ 4:41 am

  25. @24 libte — your new authoritative study has the same lacunae as your previous authoritative studies. No mention of mining costs. They also don’t include that the PHEVs and EVs are manufactured using fossil-fuel energy, not wind or solar.

    You don’t understand any of it. Or perhaps you don’t care.

    Also you evidently hate birds.

    And trivialize tragedy.

    Comment by Pat Frank — April 5, 2024 @ 7:55 am

  26. It’s measuring vehicle efficiency, so you are correct it doesn’t include mining costs.

    Since you are so concerned about bird population (evidently), maybe have a look at that website below. What would you tacke first, the tall buildings (599m fatalities a year according to the median study), house cats (2.4bn), or possibly transition lines (25.5m) – all multiple orders of magnitude more dangerous to birds than wind turbines! It’s not the turbines, stupid.

    https://www.fws.gov/library/collections/threats-birds

    Comment by [email protected] — April 5, 2024 @ 11:54 am

  27. @26 libte, judging vehicle efficiency does not mean excluding everything that imposes unique costs. The whole approach is misconceived, and likely deliberately so. Not by you, but by those who have an ideological axe to grind about the climate frenzy. Their pseudo-analytical polemics are meant to mislead. Junk decorated with math.

    Let’s understand your argument about birds. Here it is: as there are so many causes of avian mortality, why should we worry about adding another one. That’s *your* thoughtless fatuity, and then *you* call *me* stupid.

    Given your consistent lack of analytical presence, I was about to suggest you’re a dilettante, paddling about in shallow waters. But your latest foolishness about birds eliminates even that level of attention.

    Even worse, you focus on birds, when the profound issue is the widespread wreckage and tragedy — including tens of thousands of excess Winter fuel poverty deaths — caused by the insane demonization of CO2 emissions.

    You’ve admitted a cloistered life. It’s apparently let you completely disconnect from a healthy regard for reality. And perhaps for humanity.

    Comment by Pat Frank — April 5, 2024 @ 6:17 pm

  28. That’s precisely what an vehicle efficiency calculation does, Pat Frank.

    I didn’t focus on birds, you did! You brought it up and I educated you that in the grand scheme of things, wind turbines are a rather minor threat to our beloved bird population.

    Bird lives matter Pat Frank.

    Comment by [email protected] — April 7, 2024 @ 5:37 am

  29. @29 libte: “I didn’t focus on birds, you did!”

    Here’s my mention of birds in #19: “The thousands of excess Winter fuel poverty deaths, the wrecked lives and ruined livelihoods, the bankrupting regulations, the frightened children, the despairing young adults, the chopped birds, the exploded bats, the spoiled landscapes, the emotional battering and guilt-tripping.

    “All for nothing.”

    Where’s the focus on birds, Libte?

    Your immediately following #20: “Are you very concerned about the birds, Patrick?”

    Of all the subjects in my #19, you chose out birds.

    Making your statement: “I didn’t focus on birds, you did!” a double lie. Your lie, libte.

    On top of that lie, you suppose that exclusion of costs is the way to judge efficiency. Incredible.

    Life in your fantasyland, libte.

    Comment by Pat Frank — April 7, 2024 @ 8:15 am

  30. oh sorry monsieur le grand fromage, you didn’t focus on the birds, you just mentioned them en passant, or rather, en volant! Well I must apologize for mischaracterizing your levels of concern with regards to the impact of wind turbines on our avian friends.

    Then let’s move one, lets discuss the ‘frightened children’ next, shall we? What on earth are you talking about?

    Comment by [email protected] — April 7, 2024 @ 6:47 pm

  31. @30 libte — a conversation with your trivialities and dishonesties is not worth the time.

    Comment by Pat Frank — April 8, 2024 @ 12:42 am

  32. Won’t somebody think of the children? Anemomenophobia is a thing and I am glad Pat Frank is brave enough to mention it (while not focusing on it).

    Comment by [email protected] — April 8, 2024 @ 6:39 am

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