One of the last commandments Jesus laid upon the believers was to go and preach the good news to every creature (Mark 16:15-18). We are to reach all the unsaved before the world ends, and the more time we have, the more people we can reach.
Thus, Christians would do well to reject the theology of James Watts, Secretary of the Interior for Ronald Reagan, who believed aggressive mining and drilling hastened the end times and Jesus’ return. Rather, the message may be better received if it was not from one whose reputation bears one of the names of Satan (Destroyer), but came from someone who took the role of stewardship laid upon us by God seriously.
This is the challenge for the environmental Christian in the modern era. While it is common to hear sermons on why and how we can ensure that the impact we have on the world around us is more positive than negative, few of these encroach on our carbon footprint because the Church is overrepresented by those who are politically conservative and have a stronger likelihood of distrusting such a message. But it is hard to logically deny that our lifestyles, especially as it pertains to the abundance of cars and lack of alternatives, not only pollute the air we breathe but maintain a dependence on the substance that funds those nations that foster extreme elements of the Muslim faith bent on the destruction of infidels.
Enter the 2006 documentary film, Who Killed the Electric Car?
The film has an obvious liberal bent, but that does not make it inherently untrue. For instance, the film did examine the limitations and environmental impact of the increased electricity needed for such cars, and the potential of other alternatives. It also talked about how little was done on the matter during the Clinton Administration.
Indeed, there was not one thing flying in the face of facts presented in the film, and the answer to the title question did not fall entirely on corporate America. The film examined the following suspects as though they were investigating a murder…
- Consumers: It was obvious that consumers were skeptical about purchasing electric cars and primarily unaware they existed. Lack of education falls at least as much on individual responsibility as that of the manufacturer and government combined. This is all the more the case when consumers like one Volvo driver interviewed say they would need to know more about the cars before considering purchasing them, but did no research of the information readily available.
- Battery Technology: There were some claims that batteries were inadequate to provide power for the vehicles, either sufficient for speed and acceleration or for distance driving. However, original models were released with inferior batteries even though better and comparably-priced ones were available. Recharging either was simple, the cars could typically run over 100 miles on one charge (the average driver goes 29 miles in a day), and were as fast as almost any others on the road.
- Oil companies: This is a no-brainer. They did not want the competition for their fuel on the road and lobbied heavily under the guise of consumer groups to prevent the creation of electric stations. Then when their efforts were discovered, they bought up the battery manufacturers and got into the business of providing other fuel alternatives such as hydrogen that are simply not anywhere near hitting the market and threatening their monopoly on car fueling. Cost of a hydrogen vehicle is currently around $1 million, would require tens of thousands of stations to be built in California alone. It is less efficient than an electric car and more polluting even in comparison to electricity coming entirely from coal plants once you factor in the environmental impact of building the stations.
- The Automobile Industry: Manufacturers claimed a lack of demand even though there were waiting lists; considering the demand that followed with hybrids, this can be seen as more of a manifestation of the lack of advertising than anything else. (In the Bay Area, the waiting lists for a Toyota Prius were months long.) General Motors leased out its electric cars instead of allowing consumers to buy them. Once the leases expired, they would not allow lessees to renew them and threatened legal action on those who did not return them. Then they crushed perfectly good cars, even though a group of owners promised to buy the last 78 cars for a combined $1.9 million, or about $25,000 per used car. Other manufacturers took similar action with their cars, ignoring what consumer demand there was. One reason given for this was the cars were too efficient to be profitable: Auto-makers could not make the same kind of profits off maintenance parts they could off internal combustion vehicles more in need of upkeep.
But ultimately the responsibility lies with the government. With the power to shape policy through incentives and mandates, little was done and what was done was counter-productive. As we enter the upcoming elections, we must remember that it was the government that brought about the catalytic converter, unleaded gasoline, seat belts and other safety devices. But instead of encouraging good policy, the following actions laid a foundation for destructive ones…
The Reagan Administration lifted fuel economy standards put in place after the OPEC embargo. The Clinton Administration worked out a deal for the hybrid over the electric car, even though it is less efficient and maintains dependency on foreign oil. (From this, the Japanese companies became worried enough to create them. American companies scrapped plans once Bush took office and removed that funding.)
The State of California created a zero-admission mandate requiring an increasing percentage of cars sold within the state to have zero admissions over the years. Eventually, the state was sued (with the help of the Bush Administration) and brought to submission; the death knell of the electric car was essentially signed by Alan Lloyd, director of the California Air Resources Board, who was chairman of the California Fuel Cell Partnership (a clear conflict of interest with the competing hydrogen car), allowed auto-makers unlimited time in a hearing and cut proponents to a few minutes a piece. With the mandate killed, the auto-makers scrapped their plans.
Tax breaks of up to $100,000 offered to small business owners for the purchase of Hummers through the Bush stimulus plan in 2003 (compared to $4000 for the electric car). Government research money was spent toward hydrogen instead of electric.
The result: The average car is less fuel efficient than 30 years ago, when it peaked because of the mandates that Reagan lifted. (He promised that deregulation of oil would reduce dependency on foreign oil, but instead that has doubled; he even took the solar panels off the White House–what possible reason would anyone have to turn down free energy?) American hybrids average 25 miles per gallon compared to 42 for Japanese models.
It is the government that can make disasters like the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico less likely with actions that run counter to what has been done over most of our lifetimes. We must demand fewer special interests and more common interests be made a priority.
If American companies would be ahead of the curve, the jacked up gas prices of the summer of 2008 would have been a boon to the auto-makers who would have been the targets for fuel-conscious consumers. Is it any wonder the taxpayers had to bail them out?
But if we consumers demanded more fuel-efficient cars instead of gas guzzling SUV’s, they would provide them. They may be professionals at getting us to buy what they want us to, but we still have the capability of making an informed decision…maybe it starts with the Christian consumer.