Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh CLXX

Steve Bull (https://olduvai.ca)
7 min readDec 18, 2023
Pompeii, Italy (1984). Photo by author.

To EV Or Not To EV? One Of Many Questions Regarding Our ‘Clean/Green’ Utopian Future, Part 1.

Today’s Contemplation has been prompted by my recent thoughts regarding the debate around the uptake of electric vehicles (EVs), their place in a world experiencing the predicament of ecological overshoot (and its various symptom predicaments but especially atmospheric sink overloading), and the competing narratives as to whether EVs can address in any way the environmental/ecological concerns and/or resource constraints/depletion that is at the forefront of discussions.

I’ve seen a recent array of arguments by proponents of EVs highlighting the increase in sales over the past few years[1], with some even using these relatively short-term trends to suggest that the end of the internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles is nigh[2] — and, for a few, that the world is ‘saved’[3]. I have my doubts and the following are some of the reasons why.

While the eventual ‘end’ of ICE vehicles is increasingly probable, it will likely be due to the ever-increasing impact of waning liquid, hydrocarbon fuel supplies and associated cost increases, not the burgeoning transition to EVs its cheerleaders are crowing about. Even government mandates[4] will unlikely create the widespread adoption of EVs advocates are demanding/encouraging as these directives will likely be cancelled or pushed further and further into the future as increasingly economically-challenged citizens rebel against them and various headwinds arise[5]. What we may experience is a curtailing of personal ICE vehicles for many as fuel supplies dwindle and are overwhelmingly taken up by the privileged sitting atop society’s power and wealth structures who can afford/access them — particularly in nations that control hydrocarbon resources. Of course, only time will tell how this all plays out both spatially and temporally.

The first thing to consider is that uptake on the margins by those with the financial ability to be early adopters of EVs does not a long-term trend make. This is especially so with smallish numbers of new purchases having outsized impacts on percentage increases in the early stages of availability. Early trends can be quite misleading and not truly representative of long-term ones. Bubbles happen in technology adoption and the initial euphoria can quickly peter out[6]. This may be what we are seeing with EVs; again, only time will tell.

It is estimated there were 1.4 billion motor vehicles on the roads in 2019[7] (excluding heavy construction equipment and off-road vehicles). In 2022, approximately three out of every twenty new car sales were EVs[8]. And while these vehicular sales can be marketed as monumental based upon comparisons carried out over a short-term perspective, it would take many years of such growth in sales to replace even half of the more than a billion ICE vehicles on the road[9]. Should this early sales growth slow (as some have argued — see below), then replacing over a billion ICE vehicles will take decades; if it happens at all.

Leaving without much comment at all the resource constraints that exist regarding the energy storage components that would be needed for this stupendous feat[10] — and the strain on existing electrical power production and its infrastructure[11] — there exist a number of impediments to a continuing increase in EV adoption suggesting the claims by their cheerleaders to be hopium-laced predictive tales rather than a reflection of on-the-ground reality; especially for a world experiencing diminishing returns on its investments in complexity and well into ecological overshoot — particularly with regard to finite resource depletion and associated shortages.

Perhaps one of the largest deterrents to the mass adoption of EVs is the cost[12]. Cost is a huge factor for many (most?) individuals/families when considering the purchase of a vehicle. This is as true for the purchase of an ICE vehicle as it is for an EV but there exists a variety of cheaper, used vehicles that allow more affordable price points in the ICE realm. Even given these less expensive options, the reality is that purchasers are struggling to afford personal transportation vehicles.

As a recent Zerohedge article highlighted for American car purchasers, an Edmunds analyst told Bloomberg News that: “We’re in this situation where combined with the cost of the vehicles being so high and the interest rates being so historically high, you have a lot of people who are in bad car loans.” As a result, “…the percentage of subprime auto borrowers at least 60 days past due in September topped 6.11%, the highest percentage ever.”

This may change with time but it’s not the current reality, and for potential EV purchasers there are growing concerns over battery degradation leading to declining range ability and more rapid cost depreciation for used EVs to consider[13]. Not only can EVs be substantially more expensive at the outset[14], reports of much higher repair costs[15] are beginning to surface and inhibiting purchases. Again, this may change over time if their uptake continues to grow but it’s a significant concern for cash-strapped families/individuals.

More and more families/individuals are struggling with price inflation of basic goods and services, let alone having to replace high-cost items such as increasingly ‘encouraged/mandated’ ‘low-carbon’ home heating appliances and transportation vehicles. In addition, government economic support via various incentives for EVs is beginning to be withdrawn[16].

‘RealClear’ publications have a fairly obvious bias/bend to them, but this particular article highlights a not so ‘hidden’ aspect of the ‘electrify everything’ narrative: the substantial government subsidies/incentives that has been driving the growth in non-renewable, renewable energy-based technologies (NRREBTs). These financial supports are quite widely publicised by our virtue-signalling politicians looking for brownie points with the public giving credence to the argument that without such incentives by governments (using taxpayer funds and hidden price-inflation taxes) the growth in these products would not be anywhere close to what they have been in recent years.

Countering this point has been the assertion that the main reason NRREBTs have not been widely purchased and sought after is due to oil and gas-industry subsidies[17] (and their massive negative propaganda), a practice that must stop — except for NRREBTS, and these should be increased in one form or another[18].

Digging further into recent data and policy changes (and despite counter-narratives bestowing the incredible recent increase) it would appear that growth in the pickup of EVs is/or is expected to stall/fall as these incentives/subsidies are removed[19]. Once again, only time will tell since it’s difficult to make predictions — especially if they’re about the future.

One other aspect of supposed EV sales records is the emerging evidence of channel stuffing[20] that is occurring. This is a deceptive sales practice that sends products to retailers in quantities far beyond their ability to sell them, but count the inventory as ‘sales’ thus influencing statistics. This has occurred for some time with regard to ICE vehicles[21] and is now being seen with EVs[22].

On top of the considerations described above, there are others who are extremely skeptical of the much ballyhooed benefits of such technologies from an environmental perspective. The production of both EVs and ICE vehicles have tremendous negative impacts upon our ecological systems. Perhaps the most salient differences being discussed are the fuel sources and the impacts of these. It’s not as simple, however, as one being much less destructive than the other and therefore the obvious choice to pursue and mass produce.

I will explore this further in Part 2…

If you’ve made it to the end of this contemplation and have got something out of my writing, please consider ordering the trilogy of my ‘fictional’ novel series, Olduvai (PDF files; only $9.99 Canadian), via my website or the link below — the ‘profits’ of which help me to keep my internet presence alive and first book available in print (and is available via various online retailers).

Attempting a new payment system as I am contemplating shutting down my site in the future (given the ever-increasing costs to keep it running).

If you are interested in purchasing any of the 3 books individually or the trilogy, please try the link below indicating which book(s) you are purchasing.

Costs (Canadian dollars):
Book 1: $2.99
Book 2: $3.89
Book 3: $3.89
Trilogy: $9.99

Feel free to throw in a ‘tip’ on top of the base cost if you wish; perhaps by paying in U.S. dollars instead of Canadian. Every few cents/dollars helps…

https://paypal.me/olduvaitrilogy?country.x=CA&locale.x=en_US

If you do not hear from me within 48 hours or you are having trouble with the system, please email me: olduvaitrilogy@gmail.com.

You can also find a variety of resources, particularly my summary notes for a handful of texts, especially Catton’s Overshoot and Tainter’s Collapse: see here.

It Bears Repeating: Best Of…Volume 1

A compilation of writers focused on the nexus of limits to growth, energy, and ecological overshoot.

With a Foreword and Afterword by Michael Dowd, authors include: Max Wilbert; Tim Watkins; Mike Stasse; Dr. Bill Rees; Dr. Tim Morgan; Rob Mielcarski; Dr. Simon Michaux; Erik Michaels; Just Collapse’s Tristan Sykes & Dr. Kate Booth; Kevin Hester; Alice Friedemann; David Casey; and, Steve Bull.

The document is not a guided narrative towards a singular or overarching message; except, perhaps, that we are in a predicament of our own making with a far more chaotic future ahead of us than most imagine–and most certainly than what mainstream media/politics would have us believe.

Click here to access the document as a PDF file, free to download.

[1] See this, this, this, and/or this.

[2] See this, this, this, and/or this.

[3] See this, this, and/or this.

[4] See this, this, and/or this.

[5] See this, this, this, and/or this.

[6] See this, this, and/or this.

[7] See this.

[8] See this.

[9] See this, this, and/or this.

[10] See this, this, and/or this.

[11] See this, this, and/or this.

[12] See this, this, and/or this.

[13] See this, this, and/or this.

[14] See this, this, and/or this.

[15] See this, this, and/or this.

[16] See this, this, this, this, and/or this.

[17] See this, this, this, and/or this.

[18] See this.

[19] See this, this, this, this, this, and/or this.

[20] See this.

[21] See this, this, and/or this.

[22] See this, this, and/or this.

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Steve Bull (https://olduvai.ca)

A guy trying to make sense of a complex and seemingly insane world. Spend my days pondering our various predicaments while practising local food production...