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Culture Change print magazine issues: 20  19  18  17  16  15  14  13  12  11  10  9  8  index

Pedal Power solutions to petroleum dependence and polluting vehicles: Arcata Library Bikes, Pedal Power Produce, and more!

CAOE - Committee Against Oil Exploration - stop offshore oil drilling to protect sensitive habitats and cut petroleum dependence.

Culture Change through music! The Depavers eco-rock!

Take our Pledge for Climate Protection and learn about the Global Warming Crisis Council.

SEI hometown action!
Arcata city council's proclamation against war on Iraq and Kyoto Protocol proclamation.

Overpopulation has become a reality.  Overpopulation Resources and News Tidbits

Sail Transport Network

Fact Sheets
Press Releases

Long Distance


An Encounter with Tomorrow's Auto-crats
Ecological Cities "Yes"; Electric Cars "No"

by Richard Register

In the effort to transform our communities into some-thing healthy, electric cars change very little. They are a tempting and time-wasting diversion when wasting time is a real danger to the Earth's rapidly degenerating life systems. We need to focus on transforming the city itself.

Lesson number one: Batteries don't power electric cars, power plants do. A battery is a gas tank for electrons. The electric car does not magically create its own energy.

Lesson number two, the lesson of ecology: Transportation is but one of the many subsystems in a city that connect like organs in a living being. Only problem is, our present city, town and village are disastrously misshapen, thanks mostly to cars. Without understanding this, you will come up with more wrong answers to our environmental and energy problems, and many other problems.

The electric car will continue dealing death and destroying healthy urban arrangements. It is better than the gasoline car in one way only, and only if the new energy source really is healthier for us than the one we are using now, which is oil. But is it?

On Nov. 10, 1995, I went to the grand opening of Building 20 at Alameda Naval Air Station as a research, development and fabrication plant for four companies producing electric car parts and whole electric cars.

My organization, Ecocity Builders, had tried to influence the base conversion project, proposing that an ecological town be built there.

But rather than take on the challenge of transforming the way we build cities, they were off to change the power plant of the world's most effective destroyer of cities, from gasoline to electricity. Electric cars were on display between attack bombers and giant helicopters as dignitaries from the Defense Department, Energy Department, local government and so on celebrated the spending of millions of dollars helping the electric car companies get a foothold on Alameda Island.

After the ceremony I walked up to the U.S. Electricar technical spokespersonówho was standing next to an electric car that looked like just any other caróand said something like, "If automobiles went onto the electric grid, how much more energy would we need?"

He responded, "We wouldn't need any more energy at all because electricity for automobiles would be generated at night when the cars are in their garages and when electric demand is way down."

So I said, "You mean that would not require more water pouring over the dams, or burning more oil, gas, coal or nuclear fuel, more power lines from wind farms? You can't collect solar energy at night, can you?"

At that point he started looking a little uncomfortable and said, "Well, of course we would need more electric energy, but we would be using generating equipment more efficiently."

I persisted: "So, you mean power plants and turbines would wear out twice as fast? They would have to be replaced twice as often? Three times as often?" He went blank; I went back to the original question. "So how much more electricity would be required, then?" "We don't have any figures on that," he said.

I ended our conversation saying, "Don't you think that's the most important piece of information we need?"

Once again he had nothing to say.

Just then, another electric car slid up silently as a woman took a step backward, lost in a conversation. "Look out," someone shouted, and the woman jumped out of the way of the slow moving car, almost falling down. "Wow, almost got hit," said another. The driver said, "Oh, I'm sorry." Someone else said, "Boy, that car is really quiet," and a clutch of electric car admirers laughed briefly and nervously.

Richard Register is president of Ecocity Builders. He wrote Ecocity Berkeley: Building Cities for a Healthy Future and is a board member of the Sustainable Energy Institute.


Articles of interest:
Anti-globalization protest grows, with tangible results.  WTO protests page

Tax fossil-fuel energy easily
by Peter Salonius

UK leader calls War on Terror "bogus"

Argentina bleeds toward healing by Raul Riutor

The oil industry has plans for you: blow-back by Jan Lundberg

It's not a war for oil? by Adam Khan

How to create a pedestrian mall by Michelle Wallar

The Cuban bike revolution

How GM destroyed the U.S. rail system excerpts from the film "Taken for a Ride".

"Iraqi oil not enough for US: Last days of America?"

Depaving the world by Richard Register

Roadkill: Driving animals to their graves by Mark Matthew Braunstein

The Hydrogen fuel cell technofix: Spencer Abraham's hydrogen dream.

Ancient Forest Protection in Northern California . Forest defenders climb trees to save them.

Daniel Quinn's thoughts on this website.

A case study in unsustainable development is the ongoing crisis in Palestine and Israel.

Renewable and alternative energy information.

Conserving energy at home (Calif. Title 24)



Culture Change/Sustainable Energy Institute mailing address: P.O. Box 3387 , Santa Cruz , California 95063 USA
  Telephone 1-215-243-3144 (and fax)

Culture Change (Trademarked) is published by Sustainable Energy Institute (formerly Fossil Fuels Policy Action), a nonprofit, 501(c)(3) California non-stock corporation. Contributions are tax-deductible.