Megan McArdle is filling in over on Instapundit.com this week and, although I admit I know little about her, I was surprised to see the following:
ON GLOBAL WARMING Let me clarify a little my position. I think there
are a lot of questions about global warming: how much, and what, should
be done. However, I regard two questions as basically no longer worth
debating, at least by people with my level of science education:
1) Is AGW happening?
2) Should we do something about it?
The first is a technical question that seems to be largely settled;
when you’ve convinced Ron Bailey it’s happening, you’ve convinced me.
The second is a moral question that seems obvious: should I drive a
huge, empty car many miles when doing so will help flood Bangladesh,
merely because the comfy leather seats are right here where I can see
them, and the dead future Bangladeshis aren’t? . . . this is a question
that seemingly only has one right answer. I say this as one who is
conscious that I could use less electricity, and should, and am trying
to but not as hard as morality should require. But I digress.
Unfortunately, I think that politics renders the questions that are
worth arguing, pointless; we won’t find a political solution to the
problem because . . . mmmmmm, leather seats. I’m hoping instead for a
technological breakthrough that renders the question largely moot.
Meanwhile, I’m buying real estate in the Canadian hinterlands.
I wouldn’t be surprised in the least to find that this is how most Americans think. No problem is as pressing as the present one, and usually that’s how you’re going to get the kinds to soccer practice and have time to stop for a latte. And no, that’s not a reference just to soccer moms. I enjoy my 27mpg Audi and once the Cobra is done I’ll be blissfully dumping all kinds of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
What really needs to happen is for electric cars to get affordable. I think I’m developing a bit of a mantra. “Nothing happens unless there is a financial motivation” I know that’s overly simplistic, and there are truly altruistic people in our society. But society as a whole doesn’t move unless there’s a financial incentive. Financial doesn’t necessarily mean hard cash but it does always come back to net worth. Very few people actually recognize this so many of you might think I’m nuts but ask yourself this. Why do you go to work? Some will say they enjoy it and that may be true. But would they still enjoy it if they did it for free? Every day?
The Prius and other hybrids have approached that net-zero level of affordability. They still haven’t crossed that threshold and that’s why you don’t see everyone getting a hybrid. Sure, they’ve been all over the news for the huge growth in sales but they are still a small fraction of the total cars sold. Many of the people buying hybrids are somewhere between altruistic and financially motivated. Still, in raw dollars a hybrid is more expensive today.
The first company to build an electric car where the cost of ownership is equal to or less than convential cars, and the capabilities are close to on par, will have a huge success story on their hands. It’s not that people don’t want to save the planet, it’s just that they don’t want to pay anything extra to do it.