In our wacky world where almost nothing makes sense any more, there is no shortage of examples of politicians, let alone self-important academics, journalists, and wealthy elites, looking foolish with incoherent and self-contradictory policy demands. My favorite among all of them is the demand for “climate justice” for the poor while simultaneously seeking action that will dramatically increase the price of energy and things derived from it (e.g., transportation, heat) — an increase that obviously will hit hardest on the poor. The contradiction is so stark that I have dubbed the situation a “looking glass world” and, in a piece this past September, promised a series of posts highlighting the craziness.
But then I have to wait for just the right news to give a perfect illustration of the absurdity. This week has provided an excellent example.
Undoubtedly you are aware of the Biden administration’s obsession with both “climate justice” and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. On the “climate justice” front, they are calling the big initiative “Justice40.” Here is a Memorandum for Heads of Departments and Agencies dated July 20, 2021, instructing them how to implement this important initiative. Excerpt:
President Biden is committed to securing environmental justice and spurring economic opportunity for disadvantaged communities that have been historically marginalized and overburdened by pollution and underinvestment in housing, transportation, water and wastewater infrastructure, and health care.
The basic idea is to make sure that 40% or more of the environmental spending in the blow-out Build Back Better plan goes to these “historically marginalized” communities.
In Executive Order 14008, the President directed [various subordinates] to jointly publish guidance on how certain Federal investments might be made toward a goal that 40 percent of the overall benefits of such investments flow to disadvantaged communities – the Justice40 Initiative. The Justice40 Initiative is a critical part of the Administration’s whole-of-government approach to advancing environmental justice.
But then another key part of Biden’s environmental agenda is sharply reducing so-called “greenhouse gas” emissions. A huge proportion of those come from automobiles, nearly all of which today have gasoline-burning internal combustion engines. And thus in August Biden announced his plan for a rapid forced reduction in internal combustion automobiles, and their replacement with what he calls “zero emissions vehicles,” otherwise known as electric cars:
[T]he President will sign an Executive Order that sets an ambitious new target to make half of all new vehicles sold in 2030 zero-emissions vehicles, including battery electric, plug-in hybrid electric, or fuel cell electric vehicles.
One small problem not mentioned in Biden’s press releases and executive orders: electric vehicles cost substantially more than do gasoline-powered versions. Plenty of lower-end new cars of the gasoline-powered types can be found in the range of $20 – 25,000, and some even for well under $20,000. By contrast, the cheapest electric vehicles are barely under $30,000 — and those have terrible range of under 150 miles. The price of the cheapest Tesla has recently shot up sharply to over $47,000.
It is therefore no surprise that electric cars appeal mostly to affluent consumers — and almost not at all to racial minorities. In 2018 a market research firm called Hedges & Co. did a study of the demographics of Tesla Owners. Average income of a Tesla owner was reported as $143,177 for a Model X and $153,313 for a model S. As to ethnicity:
The ethnicity of Tesla owners skews toward Caucasians, at 87%. Owners who identify with Hispanic ethnicity make up 8% of Tesla owners, leaving 5% to other ethnicities.
The 8% of owners who are Hispanic might seem decent until you realize that the majority of Tesla Owners are in California, which is 39% Hispanic. The 5% for “other ethnicities” includes both blacks and Asians, which for some reason they did not break out separately. My bet is that the figure for blacks was so low, probably less than 1%, that they were too embarrassed to report it.
Which brings us to the big Washington Post report just out on December 9: “Without access to charging stations, Black and Hispanic communities may be left behind in the era of electric vehicles.” (Ed Morrissey at Hot Air suggests that a more appropriate headline would have been “Come and see the systemic racism of electric vehicles.”). It seems that the WaPo has made the shocking discovery that there are next to no EV charging stations in minority neighborhoods in the major cities of the United States:
Look at any map of charging stations in the United States, and in most of the big cities, what is immediately apparent are big blank spaces coinciding with Black and Latino neighborhoods. Electric vehicle advocates call them charging deserts. While electric vehicle use is growing rapidly in well-to-do, mostly White communities, minority neighborhoods are being left behind.
Well, of course there are few charging stations in these neighborhoods, because the blacks and Hispanics aren’t buying electric vehicles. They aren’t buying them because they are too expensive. The internal combustion vehicles work just fine and they’re a lot cheaper. This seems to me like the blacks and Hispanics are making a perfectly rational decision.
But our betters in the Biden administration and Congress have a smarter idea: force the lower income members of minority groups to buy the far more expensive electric vehicles; or, if they can’t afford that, then they’ll just have to do without. Hey, it’s for their own good.