We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Samizdata quote of the day

If the non-internal combustion engine cars were to be wondrous by that point then there’d be no need to ban them. For everyone would be purchasing them as a matter of choice. The only reason to ban people from purchasing ICEs is because they would be chosen given how appalling the alternatives are all going to be.

The ban is thus an admission – and insistence – from government that non-ICE cars are going to remain pretty terrible. But we’re going to be forced to have them, aren’t we the lucky ones?

Tim Worstall

28 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • Tim the Coder

    On the upside, the instruments of state, from the Police to the local council planning enforcement orifice will also have duracell cars.
    Special exceptions? well no, there will be no petrol car infrastructure, so they will be the same as us. Walking or not bothering at all.

    The battery powered HGV delivering to the supermarkets…..now that’ll be the day.
    Forwards comrades to the 11th century! Urah!!!

    Funny thing is, in a week or two, there will be an news story about some car factory closing and massive job losses. Not driven by Government policy, no, not at all. Must be Brexit, or something.

  • Schrodinger's Dog

    Isn’t it time to tell our elites: “Enough!”

    The battle for Brexit appears to have been won. The battle to save the internal combustion engine – and, more generally, to stop a regression to the eighteenth century – may be upon us.

  • TMLutas

    I have to disagree with Tim Worstall because of one minor detail. I don’t think that any national government has a clue as to the state of technology in 2035 on any front. If they did, then five-year plans might actually work.

    Five-year plans don’t work, except by coincidence and happenstance completely independent of the skill of the planner which is exactly what is going to happen with this fifteen-year plan.

  • bobby b

    They’ve been reading up on the “new” market forces, and they’ve decided that government will be a market disruptor.

    They don’t realize that a true market disruptor is an addition, not a prohibition.

  • Fred Z

    bobby b: They don’t realize where their own arseholes are. That’s why their fingers are always in ours.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “If the non-internal combustion engine cars were to be wondrous by that point then there’d be no need to ban them.”

    And what makes you think there will be a need by then to ban them?

    The problem for the government is that they perceive public support for action on climate change, and vicious attacks if they don’t play along with it. Is this a permanent feature? Or will it fade away again as the predictions fall flat? We don’t know yet, but we probably will around 2035. So if you set the policy target for about the same time frame as the predictions, then either by then everyone will be saying “Where the hell is climate change? What a load of rubbish!” and they can cancel it, or they’ll be saying “How wonderfully prescient the Boris government was!”

    Boris doesn’t know or care if it’s true. It’s easy, it’s popular, and he won’t be judged on the success of it until after he’s likely retired. It shuts the critics up, to some degree.

    Plus, they’re looking at how electric cars are progressing anyway, and figure that by 2035 a lot of the transition will have happened anyway, because the new cars *are* more wondrous. So they get to claim credit for a bringing in a change they had absolutely nothing to do with, like the politician who promises to make the sun come up next morning, and to bring back summer.

    I don’t know. I admit I’m somewhat disappointed, he’s evidently putting more priority on it than I thought he was going to. I did like his speech on free trade the other day, but nobody is perfect. But I suspect that unless he gets lots of angry attacks in the press condemning him for it, he’s not going to change his mind. The problem with populist leaders is that they follow all the strongest current political fashions, and this is the current political fashion.

  • Stonyground

    Surely if this absurd policy was popular then electric cars would be. Even with huge subsidies, the only people who buy them are virtue signalling idiots with more money than sense. Where is all the extra electricity going to come from? How are we all going to get refuelled when it takes hours rather than minutes? How are we going to dispose of the knackered batteries? Is there a single person sitting in the HOC who isn’t an imbecile?

  • Clovis Sangrail

    Never mind generating the extra electricity (fossil fuels anyone?). Where are the distribution points coming from, and at what cost?

    If this came to pass, it would be like a national version of a water shortage, with everyone queuing for hours at a charging point.
    What a way to ruin an economy!

    I suppose we might meet our neighbours a lot more often. We could even share methods for extracting electricity from lemons. OTOH there wouldn’t be any lemons available, because the transportation costs would be prohibitive.

    I think NiV is right in his appraisal (did I really say that?) Boris is a pragmatist and is looking to deliver on his semi-populist agenda.
    I wonder whether one might direct Boris to some of the more honest pronouncements of the green lobby. The ones where they talk about destroying capitalism and reducing the world’s population by a factor of a hundred. Would that change his mind?

  • Boris doesn’t know or care if it’s true. (Nullius in Verba, February 5, 2020 at 7:12 am)

    That Boris does not care (as regards the next 5 years) is indeed my hope and may very well be so. But it would be regrettable if he and his advisors also do not have even an inkling that the alleged need is at the very least improbable in any event, and vastly less likely than the narrative pretends – regrettable and not very excusable (though I suppose that if Boris, Dominic et al said they’d been short of spare time since 2016 I suppose I’d have to allow the possibility). So I’m hoping they know more than they let on and are just picking their battles.

    However the possibility that Gove went native during his time at the Department of the Environment (and etc.) should be considered. Gove has no shred of excuse for not knowing better. The danger of this is that someone who does not know of the holes in the ‘science’ and does care gets in charge of it, because then stupid things may not be postponed till 2035 (which, as Nullius says, may prove to be forever).

    At least we know what government promises are worth: half-a-loaf will indeed be better than no bread if the half is given in the next 5 years and the other half is merely promised to be taken away in 2035. 🙂

  • Tim the Coder

    A lot is talked about how batteries will get so much better,so that electric cars will be usable Real Soon Now.

    This misses the difference between Technology and Science.
    The science of chemical batteries is understood. The current ones are about as good as its possible to be.
    There may be a few technological improvements, with marginal benefit: the odd % here and there, but there won’t be, cannot be, a 200% or 300% improvement in capacity/kg, because the science is known.
    What electric cars needs is a whole new science.

    Looks like individuals will need to drive commercial vehicles: vans etc. Don’t see any duracell HGV yet!
    Or do what Jeremy Clarkson did: fit a diesel generator on a trailer and charge while driving 🙂

  • Sam Duncan

    “This misses the difference between Technology and Science.”

    I call it “videogame thinking”: “We’ll take Resources out of internal combustion and put them into batteries, and batteries will get better,” as if “resources” were interchangeable and comparable across different fields.

  • William H. Stoddard

    Last year I did research for a tech supplement for Steve Jackson Games. In the course of it, I found performance specifications not only for the Tesla, but for a late nineteenth century electric car. It cost just about the same, in adjusted dollars. It had about a tenth the range, being dependent on lead-acid, so there has been improvement. But it was still a luxury for, at best, the upper middle class—just like the Tesla.

    Aside from the question of whether more advanced batteries are possible (fuel cells can have higher output, but they still use carbon compounds—and hydrogen storage is another difficult problem), there’s the question of environmental impact. Lithium batteries are toxic and aren’t supposed to be thrown into general trash; how will it be when there are huge massive of them in every worn out car? And it isn’t as if producing lithium were environmentally cost-free. It amazes me that so many Greens seem to love them. It’s as if they’ve gone on from fairy godmother economics to fairy godmother technology.

  • Stephen Lindsey

    It’s this kind of nonsense logic that caused me to stop following TW a year or two back.

  • llamas

    William H. Stoddard wrote:

    “It amazes me that so many Greens seem to love them.”

    I think I can explain why – it has a lot to do with aesthetics.

    Most common fuels – petrol, diesel, coal, etc etc, are nasty and smelly and dirty at the point of use. Similarly, the systems that use them (cars, trucks, boilers, power plants etc) tend to be likewise dirty and smelly. Greta Thunberg claims that she can see the carbon being emitted from power plants. Everyone knows what a big semi-truck smells like. Seeing a huge tanker truck full of petrol, or a two-mile train of coal cars, reinforces the fact that our choices have consequences, some of them not-so-nice.

    Electric vehicles, especially the latest generations, are completely free of smells and unpleasantness. The batteries especially are incredibly high-tech-looking, all shiny and like something out of Star Wars. Charging them is a white-gloves process. I think that, in the minds of many people who are vaguely ‘green’, as a social usage rather than as a scientific position, this aesthetic advantage at the point of use is a useful veneer that allows them to avoid having to think about the system realities of their choices. The electricity just magically pours out of the wall and into the car, you can’t even see it. The car just magically glides down the road, with no visible or audible indication that work is being done and energy is being used. There’s no visible consequences for their choices. For people for whom their feelz are often much-more important than facts, these purely-aesthetic advantages have great weight.

    llater,

    llamas

  • Sam Duncan

    It’s not a channel I’ve watched before, but this rather good video popped up in my recommendations today. I think he’s too optimistic on the possibility of improvement in battery technology, and of course the politicians’ answer to most of his points is this very sledgehammer-ban on ICEs, but he makes some good ones.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “Surely if this absurd policy was popular then electric cars would be. Even with huge subsidies, the only people who buy them are virtue signalling idiots with more money than sense.”

    It’s a small sample, but all the people I know with electric cars are not in the least bit green or inclined to virtue-signalling, quite the opposite. They say they bought them because they’re better to drive.

    It depends a lot on what you use them for – for pootling round town or popping to the shops, which is 95% of what they use it for, you don’t need a huge range.

    “I wonder whether one might direct Boris to some of the more honest pronouncements of the green lobby. The ones where they talk about destroying capitalism and reducing the world’s population by a factor of a hundred. Would that change his mind?”

    I’m sure Boris knows. I read somewhere that they’ve gone back and dug up some of his old comments and statements expressing climate scepticism.

    The way to change Boris’s mind is to change the mind of the middle-ground middle class swing voters. If there are more votes in scepticism, Boris will be a sceptic.

  • bobby b

    If I lived in a large urban center, and seldom drove more than 100 miles in any day, I’d buy one of the new Teslas.

    They’re well-built, the acceleration is next to awesome, and tech is fun.

    So the EV revolution ends up much like the 5G cellular revolution. Urban residents with lots of money will be well served, and rural types will see their needs ignored and denigrated.

  • NickM

    It is well past time people recognised Green for the utter unmitigated evil it is. It is at least as anti-human as fascism or communism. Johnnie Porritt and the rest ought to be tried and hung (with organic Fairtrade ropes from sustainable sources, naturally). How can they object to that when, after all, they think there are too many people don’t they?

    Until our societies acknowledge this profound evil we are fucked.

  • Mr Ed

    There is a way forward, absurd though it might be, but who is counting the cost? (Certainly not the politicians!). A huge fleet of HGV ‘tankers’ with batteries or as transformers to recharge electric cars by dangling ‘cables’, to cars that have to line up behind them for, say, 40 minutes part-way through a long journey, like fighter jets hanging on a tanker, and our smarter cars would drive themselves whilst holding station behind the ‘tanker’, at a constant speed, before rejoining the flowing traffic. The trouble with suggesting this stupidity is that someone might think it a plan.

  • bobby b

    “A huge fleet of HGV ‘tankers’ with batteries or as transformers to recharge electric cars . . . “

    More appropriate (and educational) if they carried huge belching diesel generators! 😈

  • Nullius in Verba

    “Urban residents with lots of money will be well served, and rural types will see their needs ignored and denigrated.”

    Well, urban residents would cover 83% of the population – I think it’s projected to be over 90% by 2030.

    “It is well past time people recognised Green for the utter unmitigated evil it is. It is at least as anti-human as fascism or communism.”

    It’s one of the many guises of communism. But there are two aspects to it – the scientific argument that addresses the specifics is only part of it; the more important part is the recognition of the authoritarian tendency, to want to make society conform to one’s own worldview by force. Wanting to execute all the enemy class is a part of that. It’s no use defeating one instance if you’re too focussed on the specifics of past wars, and thus fail to recognise it in its new form.

    As they say, generals always want to fight the last war.

    “There is a way forward, absurd though it might be, but who is counting the cost?”

    There are lots of ways round it. Humans are endlessly inventive. And at the rate technology is advancing, nobody can predict what the context will be in 15 years time. For example, what will be the effect of driverless cars and trucks on the issue? What about internet shopping, and tele-working? Will most people even need to drive so much of the time?

    What if Boris had the great idea of meeting his climate objectives by GOING NUCLEARRR!!!? He wants science and technology and infrastructure – OK, so do what the French did in the 1980s and build a few hundred nuclear power stations. Lots of jobs, world-leading technology, easily sellable abroad, can’t argue it’s not addressing climate change, makes the UK self-sufficient, less reliant on oil and coal imports (let alone bleedin’ wood chips), it’s safer than coal mining, less damaging to wildlife than rotary bird-choppers, and it’s totally sci-fi cool in a 1950s Heinlein sort of way. You can even use nuclear power to manufacture artificial petrol to run your cars on, if that’s what you really want.

    All this sort of stuff is going to happen eventually, anyway. It’s like somebody in 1920 wondering if these new fangled automobiles are ever going to replace the horse and cart for the common man, and how unaffordably expensive (given the price of early cars) that would be. The problem is trying to rush it, to insist on doing it right now, instead of allowing it to happen at its own pace.

    That, I think, is why politicians have been so willing to make grand promises of taking action “by 2050”. Besides the usual point that politicians are always making promises they have no intention nor means of keeping – and this is especialy so when they come with deadlines long after they’re due to be retired and living somewhere hot and sunny – they’re far enough off that things are bound to be different then, and either they’ve already been solved, or else everyone’s forgotten all about it as new issues supercede it. Who after all campaigns on acid rain, or the ozone layer, or food additives and pesticides any more? Who among the youth of today has ever read the predictions in The Population Bomb or Limits to Growth? 2050 is far enough off in the misty future to mean “never”.

    2035 is enough nearer that you might almost believe they actually intend to do something about it. Boris I gather is aiming/expecting to be there for at least 10 years, so 15 is very much on the horizon. But bearing in mind that most politicians make promises they intend to break by the end of the month, I don’t consider this in itself to be a particular threat.

    However, Boris is acting a little too enthusiastically about it for my comfort. I suspect that Climate Change, like the NHS, is a topic on which the public is strongly swayed, and Dominic Cummings is driving the Tories down a line of data-driven policy choices, based on surveys and focus groups, and abandoning traditional Tory ideology. I agree with the idea of concentrating on building free trade and not opening multiple fronts to fight on, but they might not be just paying lip service, but actually intending to deliver on it. I seem to remember one of those political surveys asking people what their priorities were, that after Brexit and the NHS put the Environment third, for some critical group. If Dominic thinks there’s votes in it, who knows how far they might go with it?

    Still, annoying as it is, they’re unlikely to accede to all the stuff about instituting “a supreme office of the biosphere comprised of specially trained philosopher/ecologists who will either rule themselves or advise an authoritarian government of policies based on their ecological training and philosophical sensitivities” (to paraphrase only slightly). It will be an annoying waste of money, like the lightbulbs thing, or the plastic bags thing, or the recycling bins thing, but it won’t actually pose any insurmountable problems for society’s survival. There’s plenty of government waste already – a bit more isn’t going to make a big difference.

    But like I said, we really do need to educate the public. Boris, I think, would be perfectly willing to drop the Green stuff in a hot second. But he’s not willing to let go of the votes. That’s the way you have to win the argument – with democracy.

  • Lee Moore

    Tim the Coder’s horribly realist comment reminded me of a bit of chatter I saw elsewhere – Democrats talking about the primaries. One gal (not a horrible realist) said plaintively “I don’t understand why we can’t just look at whose policies we like best.” Yes, dear.

    That had in turn reminded me of a lovely comment by a businessman (whose name escapes me) who was drafted into the Blair government, and who left after a few years with the bemused comment :

    “They seem to think announcing a policy is the same as implementing it.”

  • “They [the Blair government] seem to think announcing a policy is the same as implementing it.”

    This is a natural state for politicians to get into if they:

    – rose to prominence by talking, not by doing (Jim Hacker’s background as writer and editor was meant to be representative);

    – steer by pundit, as Cameron and his advisers did (like many others);

    – have a friendly media (champagne bottles littered the BBC’s corridors after Blair’s first win), so the immediate goal of any policy announcement – persuading the pundits – requires no evidence of implementation, still less of outcome, to achieve.

    It sits on top of the more fundamental PC inclination to value theory over experience.

  • Andrew Duffin

    “The science of chemical batteries is understood. The current ones are about as good as its possible to be.”

    Much as I agree with the general drift of the thread, this comment seems to be dangerously near to “Heavier-than-air flying machines are clearly impossible” or “above 30mph the human body would disintegrate” etc etc.

  • Sam Duncan

    “A huge fleet of HGV ‘tankers’ with batteries or as transformers to recharge electric cars by dangling ‘cables’,”

    You could, in theory, have induction loops under the roads. This was actually the original proposal for the new black cabs: induction charging at traffic lights. The trouble is, it costs a fortune, causes disruption while it’s installed, has to be maintained (causing more disruption), and doesn’t really work that well.

    “They seem to think announcing a policy is the same as implementing it.”

    Oh yes, that was very true of the Blair mob. They’d announce things several times just to get more of a boost in the polls. Implementation was an afterthought.

    Of course, this makes a perverse kind of sense for career politicans. “Delivery”, as they called it, is less important than winning elections and grabbing your slice of the salary and expenses pie. Oh, sure, you might have to do something at some point to keep people quiet, but that’s far less important than telling them you’re going to do it. Any minute now. Just watch. After the next election.

    (I’ve said for years – and even some of their previously most enthusiastic supporters are beginning to realise – that the last thing the SNP wants is to hold a referendum and win it. Then they’d have to do something. Their real game is stringing the mob along, keeping it fired up to vote them into cushy “jobs” at election after election. Professional politics is, as I’ve titled the politics section of my RSS reader for years, nothing more than a racket.)

  • John

    There’s no excuse I can see for this kind of mandate or prohibition on almost anything and I agree that it is probably cynical political grand-standing (which is very much what I’d expect if it were on this western side of the Atlantic….) But. I say “let the market decide”. Just because big gov types and pious evangelistic greens like a thing is not a *sure* sign it is bad.

    I own 5 vehicles (plus a tractor) two are small (5liter) v-8s. One is a Nissan Leaf electric. I’m speaking from experience when I say that, for me (and that’s what counts, I’m the one buying and driving right?) the Leaf is the best unless… A. I have to make a long road trip (in which case I rent because the gas savings over the V-8s pays the bill) B. I have to haul stuff, where the truck is a necessity.

    There are valid criticisms of electric cars, but most of the criticism seems to come from people who don’t actually have any experience with them.

    Much else could be said but I’ll just add that charge time is not usually as bad as people think. Mine takes about 2-3 hours to charge on a level 2 charger if it is completely discharged. Charge overnight, drive to work, plug it in, drive home, repeat.

    Not for everyone, but for me, it’s great.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “Much as I agree with the general drift of the thread, this comment seems to be dangerously near to “Heavier-than-air flying machines are clearly impossible” or “above 30mph the human body would disintegrate” etc etc.”

    Or “The science is settled.” 🙂

  • Paul Marks

    If nuclear power, to generate the electricity, was radically deregulated (which would greatly reduce costs and IMPROVE safety) and there was a major improvement in battery design, then electric cars would make sense.

    However, the people who tend to be support of banning petrol cars tend to be AGAINST nuclear power.

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