To make wise environmental choices, good options have to be widely available

In order if consumers to make wise environmental choices, good options have to be widely available, (they are not), and we have to know which experts to believe in telling us what the best options are (we don't (or at least we can't agree on who we should listen to)).

 

Those two things have been deliberately obscured so we would have to do a lot of independent research to figure things out. The typical person is too concerned about meeting day to day needs to spend significant time pondering who is lying and who is not. They just respond to whoever speaks to their immediate concerns.

 

Our choices have been deliberately limited and false information provided to confuse the situation.

 

Yes, the truth is slowly coming out and more options are becoming available but most of those options won't be available to the majority even in 2020. Even at $25,000 most can't afford a new car. It won't be until 2025 or later that most of us will really have a choice other than fossil fuels and a few years later that fossil fuels are no longer the default choice.

 

This is because of the efforts of fossil fuel companies to deliberately limit choices and hide the harms for the last half centry, not because of consumer choices.

Comments

John Minehan Added Dec 1, 2018 - 10:18am
Actually, it has more to do with thermodynamics; very few things produce the energy fossil fuels do.  Nuclear plants potentially could but there are significant down sides to that.
 
Possibly, fusion power will become commercially feasible.  Major energy innovation is always slower than anticipated (as with shale oil and fracking.) 
Will Meek Added Dec 1, 2018 - 12:21pm
No, thermodynamics isn't limiting. Also, technical correction. Fossil fuels are stored energy. Burning fossil fuels is an energy conversion process. GM had the EV1 in the late 90s. Even then, the Gen II car had a >100mile. More than enough for a commuter car. They tried to claim a lack of demand despite having a waiting list. And cancelled the car. The real reason they did this is that they discovered that EVs are inherently more reliable and changing to EVs would hurt their business model that relied on selling large amounts of repair parts.
 
Even though policy makers understood even then that global warming was happening, this information was largely hidden from the public and misinformation deliberately distributed by many sources. If you wonder how much was known, search the video "A Climate of Concern" produced by Dutch Royal Shell for presentation to Congress in 1991. You will see that they predicted the current warming more than 25 years later within their error bars.
 
Demand for the EV1 was high, but the program cancelled anyway. Not because EVs could not be produced profitably, but because it would impact their side business. Consumer choice was deliberately limited to protect profits on a secondary business line.
Dino Manalis Added Dec 1, 2018 - 1:17pm
 Change has to be gradual and economically feasible!
Jeff Michka Added Dec 1, 2018 - 1:18pm
Oh, oh!  Gee, Will, you crossed the WB Climate Scientist line by suggesting global climate change is real.  All good rightists know climate change discussions are nothing more than an attempt to screw big Oil and keep those coal miners unemployed, don't-you-know.
Bill H. Added Dec 1, 2018 - 1:20pm
Great post, Will-
Your statements on the EV1 are completely true. I had also heard that GM was pressured by the Oil Industry to not sell the vehicle, but they were OK with them testing the technology, therefore they were only leased and finally returned to GM for eventual destruction (censoring?)
TreeParty Added Dec 1, 2018 - 5:12pm
Will, You make some good and important points. And the point about good options being widely available, coupled with the deliberate limitation of options by large corporations, points to the important role the federal government can have in jump-starting the conversion to a renewable energy regime. There are some misfires for sure; but on the whole, we need the feds to help with technology investments like they have done extensively over the last decades. 
There is some inertia in the movement away from fossil fuels that John Minehan put his finger on; little else that is readily exploitable has the energy density of fossil fuels, and he is right about that. Radioisotopes do, but I, for one, think we ought to just move straight to renewable sources and stay away from the "down sides" of nuclear power. 
Will Meek Added Dec 1, 2018 - 7:30pm
TreeParty, I agree, this is specifically the role of government. That is a topic that I could discuss for days. 
Bill Caciene Added Dec 1, 2018 - 9:21pm
Each business and industry should be primarily concerned with getting consumers to buy their products or services.  They should not be expected to inform consumers of alternatives.  So as it relates to your targeting of fossil fuel companies, solar and wind are guilty of doing the very same thing. 
 
However, I agree, it’s always beneficial for consumers to educate themselves and make wise choices.  For example, solar and wind are incredibly inefficient.  Fossil fuels are amazingly efficient in comparison and now that we’ve discovered how to drill horizontally and hydraulically frack, cleaner fossil fuels are replacing dirtier fossil fuels like coal more and more.  So make no mistake, fossil fuels are here to stay and wise consumers will purchase products that exploit their many benefits. 
Flying Junior Added Dec 2, 2018 - 1:23am
One of the big hits at the Los Angeles Auto Show came from a little-known start-up, Rivian Motors.
 
Take heart, larger-than-life Americans.  If you can afford the price tag of around $70,000 you can drive a competitive, all-electric 5-passenger pickup truck or a 6-passenger SUV.  For the outdoorsy type.  I would say that kudos are in order.  The price can only come down.  Look at it like this.  How many people have bought high-end Toyota and Mercedes SUVs and trucks for the better part of a C-note?
 
https://www.theverge.com/2018/11/26/18111782/rivian-r1t-electric-pickup-price-specs-la-auto-show-2018


Flying Junior Added Dec 2, 2018 - 1:25am
Welcome to the WB, Will.
 
BTW  There is an original EV-1 that I have seen driving into La Jolla many times for the last twenty years or so.  I just saw it again this month.
TreeParty Added Dec 2, 2018 - 2:10am
Bill Caciene,
"So make no mistake, fossil fuels are here to stay and wise consumers will purchase products that exploit their many benefits."
Wow, that is so 1950's...
Fossil fuels are going away way, way faster than they are being produced. They are not here to stay; they are disappearing fast. That we have to resort to fracking and tar sands recovery means that all the "low hanging fruit" in terms of fossil fuels is mostly gone already. This little boomlet may last a few years, but the "oil party" is over. I recommend waking up and looking around....
Will Meek Added Dec 2, 2018 - 6:42pm
Bill Caciene,
Thank you for providing such a clear example of exactly what this post is about. Lies and misdirection in support of fossil fuels.
Fossil fuel companies lied for decades about what they knew about global warming and the harm it would cause around the world. This was not about hiding alternatives but hiding the need for one and the harm caused.
The wind and solar industries have not lied about or tried to hide the harms caused by the resource extraction from mines and such.
Comparing fossil fuel companies to wind and solar is a perfect example of misdirection and attempting to create a false equivalence.
 
Claiming fossil fuels are efficient compared to wind and solar is also a deliberate misdirection. Without defining how you measure efficiency, you can claim anything more efficient than the other. Comparing capacity to power generated, fossil fuels can indeed look efficient. But on a dollar per kw-h they are equivalent. From fuel cost perspective, wind and solar are much more efficient. From a perspective of the cost to society, wind and solar are vastly more efficient .
 
Attempting to create an air of inevitability is another form of misdirection. By trying to give the false impression that fossil fuels are not going anywhere he is attempting to dampen enthusiasm for renewable energy and nudge consumer choice toward fossil fuels.
Fortunately for us, the momentum for renewable energy is continuing to build. Just based on the fact that EVs and wind and solar are now on par of better that their fossil fuel counterparts, I doubt more than 10% of new cars will have an ICE by 2025 and by 2030, new wind and solar with storage will be cheaper than running existing fossil fuel plants. 
David Montaigne Added Dec 3, 2018 - 7:03am
The average American doesn't care enough to ponder life's big questions on the meaning or purpose or nature of life, the universe, God.... They certainly haven't been taught to research anything pertaining to consumer purchases.  Whatever is cheapest that isn't a clear and absolute piece of crap gets purchased.
 
As for fossil fuels disappearing - they will run out and we will save oil for producing more plastics and less for burning as fuel.
 
As for global warming, we will soon realize the process is part of a natural cycle; and that while we humans severely poison the environment we aren't responsible for much of the recent temperature increase.  The B.S. narrative about emissions causing global warming is part of an orchestrated distraction from the fact that layers beneath the Earth's crust are moving more, causing more earthquakes and volcanoes and more friction and heat, as we approach the next cataclysmic pole shift.  I know, laugh it off now.  Time will tell.
Bill Caciene Added Dec 3, 2018 - 9:24am
And thank you for providing such a clear example of why liberals use lies and misdirection to justify their political opinions.  The following is paragraph by paragraph breakdown of some of your lying and misdirection in your reply to me:
 
Paragrpah #1
Today nobody knows with certainty that the earth is warming.  Because of that simple fact, fossil fuel companies could not have known for decades that the Earth was warming.  That paragraph is just evidence of you looking for someone with deep pockets to both blame and sue. 
 
Paragraph #2
We know fossil fuels are more efficient than other sources of energy because that’s what people choose.  If one day cars are equipped with windmills or solar panels, we’ll know people have again made the more efficient choice. 
 
Paragraph #3
It’s only because of massive subsidies that electric cars have any meaningful sales volume.  I’m as hopeful as you that one day they will become more efficient than fossil fuel powered vehicles.  Until that day, consumers have made the prudent choice.  You see this is how a free market is supposed to function.  All I read from you is an argument to dismiss the free market and let government dictate what we should do with our money. 
Will Meek Added Dec 3, 2018 - 9:29am
The BS about anything but humans being responsible for trashing our only planet needs to stop. The physics behind global warming is well understood. That CO2 is a heat trapping gas has been understood for over 100 years.
Remember the global ice age scare from the 60s and 70s? That was because we understood even then that they natural cycles like orbital variations were driving temperature down not up. In the late 60s, burning large amounts of carbon based fuels was proposed as a solution. It worked a little too well.
I have literally done the math, there is no other realistic source for all the heat added to the oceans except heat trapped by increased greenhouse gasses. There is no realistic source for the excess greenhouse gas except human activity.
Kristen Foley Added Dec 3, 2018 - 2:56pm
In light of the fact good options aren’t available, are you supportive of our consumption of fossil fuels? 
 
Speaking of fossil fuels, America has done an amazing job of weaning itself off coal and onto cleaner fuels like natural gas.  It’s unfortunate that all the progress we’ve made, pales in comparison to the quantity of coal fired plants being constructed in Third World countries. Not to mention their insatiable demand for fossil fuels as most of the Third World finally enters the industrial era.  It’s too bad these people don’t have more fossil fuel options like us. 
Bill H. Added Dec 3, 2018 - 3:41pm
We are fools for not trying to make as many inroads as possible in the areas of renewable energy, and even worse, to be convinced we must back off from what efforts we did have going.
Of course we cannot just stop using fossil fuels, but to allow the Oil industry and their investors to call the shots simply to keep their stockholders happy is totally ludicrous.
We missed out on the benefits of being the innovators and producers of renewable energy tools and systems for the rest of the world. Once we finally wise up and move forward, we will only be the consumers. 
Will Meek Added Dec 3, 2018 - 4:14pm
Kristen Foley,
Yes, I am unequivocally supportive of people doing what they need to do to get by. It is only the deliberate limitation of choices and misinformation that criticize here. For instance my wife drives a Leaf because we can afford it and it has enough range for her daily commute. At around $12k for a used Leaf with 80+ miles range, it would make an excellent second car for most families. 
But I cannot afford the 300+ mile range EV I would consider necessary for a primary car, so I drive a Prius as I have some days where I have to drive over 80 miles without a chance to charge.
This is where I believe the government plays an important role. The EV tax credit has encouraged more manufacturers to get into the EV game and supply the consumer with additional choices. 
The same applies to fossil fuels in general. The government should level the playing field of RE with fossil fuels by recognizing the external costs carbon emissions place on society and tax accordingly. 
 
But the ultimate solution is to allow EVs and RE to become cheaper than fossil fuels and let market forces do their work. This should have been supported by extensive research and development grants, another place where government intervention is desirable.
goldminor Added Dec 4, 2018 - 9:11am
Fossil fuels will be our primary energy source for another 40 or 50 years. Coal can supply us with around 3 centuries of energy. Oil and natural gas can supply us with almost a century's worth of energy.
 
At some point in time new and vastly improved nuclear power options will become available as energy sources. Some of those are fairly close at hand even now to supply energy. Who knows, maybe there will even be a breakthrough in battery technology which would allow solar/wind to become truly feasible.
 
Further out in time, it is going to become essential that mankind solves the problem of supplying the world's energy needs as the inevitable return to renewed glaciation sets in. We better be ready for that, or there will be a substantial negative change to quality of life for many billions of people.
Will Meek Added Dec 4, 2018 - 10:06am
The continued use of fossil fuels will lead to "a substantial negative change to quality of life for many billions of people" if we do not stop. Fortunately, market forces are on humanity's side for once. Wind and solar are already cheaper than new fossil fuels or nuclear, by 2025 new wind and solar plus storage will be cheaper than maintaining old fossil fuel generators. By 2030 we will be vigorously retiring any remaining fossil fuel plants and we will all be better for it.
goldminor Added Dec 4, 2018 - 11:03am
@ Will ...you believe that there will be a substantial negative change, but there is no evidence/proof that there would be such a negative change. Wind/solar being stated as cheaper in cost than fossil fuels is just another Big Lie from the alarmists. Common sense tells us that if renewable products were truly cheaper, then there would be a stampede by all who could afford the switch to make that switch.
 
On the other hand, there is no doubt as to the negative consequences of disrupting the national energy grid, or the negative consequences of expensive or unreliable energy for most people. Look at the riots in France to see how mainstream people feel about the new fuel tax which would further impoverish many. Interesting to note that in today's news Macron has had a change of heart on the fuel tax issue.
Will Meek Added Dec 4, 2018 - 2:20pm
Let me address your points one by one
Miami already sees fair weather ocean flooding at high tide due to rising sea levels which is itself due global warming. It will only get worse with time. They is no scientific debate on this. That there is any debate on this is a Big Lie.
New wind and solar contracts are coming in at 2 to 4 cents per kilowatt-hour. Much cheaper than even gas. If you can't accept this kind of documentation, you are completely deluded.
There is a stampede to wind and solar. It's growth is exponential, which is why the IEA keeps underestimating it with linear growth predictions.
As we have seen with the last few natural disasters, it is centralized fossil fuel that is unreliable and as previously noted, expensive. 
Once people realize how they have been fleeced and poisoned by the fossil fuel industry and there is a cheaper, more reliable alternative, people will likely attack those companies directly like we saw in France .
Kristen Foley Added Dec 5, 2018 - 11:49am
There is no deliberate limitation of choices.  The choices we have are product of market forces.  If green cars made financial sense, there would be no need for subsidies to get people to buy them.  By offering subsidies, if anything, we intruded on market forces to offer more choices than people should have.  In addition, I would argue the green car industry is guilty of far more misinformation then the fossil fuel industry.  After all, the greenest thing we can do is repair our old fossil fuel cars versus buying new cars.  Not to mention the fact battery waste is a major concern in the electric car industry. Oh and by the way, most of our electricity is generated from the dirtiest fossil fuel of all. 
TreeParty Added Dec 8, 2018 - 1:07pm
"Oh and by the way, most of our electricity is generated from the dirtiest fossil fuel of all."
Stay tuned, Kristen. "The dirtiest fossil fuel of all" is also the electrical energy source that is shrinking the fastest...
Will Meek Added Dec 8, 2018 - 3:15pm
Kristen Foley,
When a company buys a disrupting startup competitor and buries the new tech or option, that is a conscious decision by the company executives to limit market choices. When I company cancels its own product (like in my GM example), that is a conscious decision by the company to limit market choices. When a company decides to hide damaging information from the public, that is a conscious decision to limit market choices. When a company actively lies about its product to make it look better than it actually is, that is a conscious decision to limit market choices.
Companies make the decision to limit market choices all the time. It is not solely market forces.
Yes, subsidies always distort the market. This is a good thing when the market pushes in a direction that is harmful to society. That is one of the basic functions of government, to regulate the market to resolve problems like those outlines in the tragedy of the commons. Including introducing distortions to the markets that push society back to a safer path.
One of the fundamental misconceptions that many free market proponents make is that a free market always produces results that are beneficial to society. As can be seen with tobacco, pharmaceuticals, and oil is that "free markets" are being manipulated to the detriment of society. 
 
To get to some specific points you bring up...
On misinformation. No, that is another lie from legacy auto and big oil.
On cars, it depends. If your car is at the end of life or gets poor fuel economy then the "greenest answer" would be to convert it to electric. Kits are available for this. If you can't, the next greenest thing would be to buy an electric.
If your car is less than five years old and not a complete lemon, then yes, keep it running for another five years if you can. After that I expect EVs will be cheaper anyway.
If your lease is up then going electric for your next one is the obvious choice.
On battery waste. No, this is yet another piece of misinformation from legacy auto and big oil. Lithium tractions batteries (ie. EV batteries) are designed to be recycled. And this is likely because the materials in them are valuable. The idea is similar to the recycling of 12v car batteries, which are recycled at a rate of better than 99%.
 
And last on Coal. No, coal only makes up 19% of US electricity generation.