The Guardian • Issue #2060

Electric vehicles

Part of a sustainable future

Electric cars charging while parked on street.

Photo: Anna Pha.

Individually, Australians hold the dubious distinction of being the world’s biggest polluters, on a per capita basis, among nations of the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development), even ahead of the US, Canada, and the UK. Although in comparison to larger nations Australian greenhouse emissions in total may seem relatively low, their impact significantly rises when fossil fuel exports are taken into account, without considering the associated profiteering that also occurs.

Without doubt Australia can do much better, both collectively and individually, if not simply by analysing and applying policy developments that have been proven to make a difference elsewhere.

One choice that a very small minority of Australians have made so far has been the purchase of an electric vehicle, but an uptake at less than one per cent of the new vehicle market means that Australia trails far behind Norway, and China, just to choose two much more progressive examples.

In 2022 an encouraging 20 per cent of Norwegian vehicles (electric and hydrogen) had zero emissions as will the total of all new cars sold in Norway in 2025.

With the local free market approach obviously failing the environment, if not the nation, in the transport area alone, strong government policy intervention is paramount. Models and proven experience are readily available indicating the need for a much more far-sighted, socialistic interventionist approach.

Norwegian successes have resulted from direct, multipronged market place intervention into vehicle sales, while at the same time Chinese citizens who want to breathe fresh air have welcomed government subsidies to facilitate purchases of more expensive but more environmentally friendly electric vehicles. As the cost of subsidies has grown,  the Chinese government now plans to use mandates instead. These will involve penalties for car manufacturers who fail to meet much lower or zero emission standards in their production vehicles.

The Japanese have made vast improvements to their public transport system, particularly in Tokyo, to achieve significant gains in their reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. At the same time they are purchasing electric vehicle batteries from China to facilitate the production of economical and environmentally friendly battery electrical vehicles.

India, now with the world’s largest population, offers with government assistance, $10,000 electric motor cars to complement an abundance of two and three wheelers, such as e-rickshaws.

In the same way, Australia’s larger cities need to accelerate their progress by making train, tram, and bus services free and more user friendly, especially for the more elderly. Although not the whole answer, electric vehicles certainly can contribute immeasurably to a more sustainable way of life.

While the vast majority of Australians continue to be wedded to using their own motor transport because of the convenience involved, the public sector could well set an example by introducing battery electric vehicles into community bus fleets, for example. The approach on a national scale would serve as a much wiser investment than nuclear polluting submarines.

Without doubt, green electricity will play a mammoth role in powering humanity’s future, just as electrification accompanied by literacy secured the success of the Russian Revolution under Lenin’s guidance. It is hoped the leadership of today can grasp a similar vision to propel us into a greener and safer socialist future of peaceful and genuine progress.

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