Electric cars and rare earths

This is a bit hysterical.

If in fact the massive onset of electrical vehicles will lead to some sort of apocalypse, Colorado’s monster ~$42,000 tax break isn’t helping.


  1. Electric cars are useful in small doses, and can be beneficial for the environment. However, they cannot, and should not, be used to replace cars on the mass scale. We need more efficient long distance transportation systems for cargo and passengers, such as electrified rail.


  2. Thanks for the comment, Canada Guy. I like the idea of electric rail, particularly for cargo, although I haven't yet seen anyone really pressure-test the economics on a national scale - would like to see that before declaring it the answer. People picked apart Glaeser when he didn't come out that favorably on a Dallas-Houston high-speed rail link, but his numbers seemed reasonable to me, which makes me wonder if rail would really be cost-effective for connections between more marginal cities.

    I'm skeptical that American drivers will opt into less convenient rail-based solutions when we're so used to the freedom of cars, so if an electric car can mimic that freedom and reduce emissions (would need green electricity generation, etc.), I'm all for it.

    There's also a big role for fuel efficiency, which also applies to less-discussed (but still large) transportation uses such as flying and commercial shipping.

  3. R, good point, it doesn't have to necessarily be electric rail in all cases. Just regular rail is several times more efficient than cars or trucks, and some diesel train engines are *very* efficient. Just using rail, of any type, would be a big improvement.

    I agree getting people to change their habits is probably the hardest part. But then again, it's been done in Europe, so it's obviously not impossible. Maybe we need a "built it and they will come" attitude. The jobs angle would provide a good justification for building out the infrastructure. I do worry, though, that people will wait until the environment gets really bad before they are willing to change, and but then it will be too late.

  4. I worry about moving too slowly too… but I also worry when I hear things like “build it and they will come,” particularly for something built by the government rather than the private sector. There are plenty of ways to spend money that create temporary jobs but aren’t economically productive, and I don’t have a lot of faith in government’s ability to reliably pick winners. I strongly prefer a technology-neutral solution like an over-arching cap-and-trade program, which forces all parties to internalize the negative externalities of their greenhouse gas emissions; if rail (electric or otherwise) really is the most efficient transport solution, it will still come out on top and get built in that scenario.