One must pity the wealthy in Ontario. From Hydro One’s CEO only making a mere $4m last year to Wynne’s Chief of Staff Tom Teahen making more than Obama’s, how can we expect Ontario’s 111,400 people on the Sunshine List, which measures public employees making more than $100,000 a year, to possibly go green? Sure, we’ve paid Samsung $7B to brutalize Southern Ontario in the name of being green, but that doesn’t give those poor rich people any particular symbol of their excellence and wealth. We need a personalized, flashy way to wash the polluted consciences of Ontario’s wealthiest. What to do, what to do…
I know! Help ’em out with buying a green Porsche! That should dry those monied eyes. There there, rich people. Can’t quite justify buying a vehicle that’s totally inappropriate for Ontario’s salty winter roads at Porsche prices? Why not get a Tesla? If you do, you’re special – fewer than half of a percentage point of car purchases are electrics, and the subsidy scales up with the price of the car to make sure that the government is doing its part to make you feel like you’re doing good in the world. Never mind that you’re going to need another, probably gas-powered vehicle or risk either running your sports car into a salted, slippery grave or getting kneecapped with shit range and no heat. Forget how toxic and eco-unfriendly lithium-ion battery production is. Pay no mind to the myriad problems associated with the technology and how it interfaces with utility companies. Consumption is green, and consumption by rich people is the most greenest of all! Were you idly considering buying another car that you might not need? C’mon and buy one, fucker!
My favorite justification for this comes from the pollution angle – that is, the negative externalities of the motorcar are no longer because pollution is bad. Certainly, pollution is one of the personal motorcar’s externalities. But it’s not as if electric cars don’t contribute to congestion, encourage low-density sprawl that requires more consumption to get around (versus, say, being able to walk from place to place as is the case in civilized, bearable built environments), or require choking amounts of parking. It’s a typical greenwashing attitude to focus on the tailpipe and ignore the car’s role in prohibiting or otherwise damaging walkabilty. Walking, once again, neither requires consumption nor is restricted to wealth. Even I got legs when I started life.
Oh, and for the record – wheelchair and access for folks who have trouble walking is important too, and that doesn’t have to default to the motorcar either so long as you plan with all parts of a society in mind rather than making sweeping and untrue assumptions. Har-har, it’s the bad word so it won’t happen in Canada because planning is for heathens.
Those negatives are conveniently ignored in favor of helping the rich buy toys on the government dime. Obviously ensuring that the rich can drive with a clean conscience (but not in New England where electrics are actually more pollutive than gas-powered cars because of how power is generated there) is more environmentally-friendly than actually designing cities with far superior transit that avoids these other externalities – walking, biking, mass transit. The hated AmeriKKKans are even thinking that way! But we can’t not sprawl when developers are funding our municipal elections and those poor wealthy developers need to squander farmland en masse if they’re going to get the funds to buy an electric car!
The problem of regressive subsidy is a known quantity in the world of greenwashing. The fact is that rich people are more likely to be able to afford expensive, cutting-edge products while the poor aren’t. If you’re driving a `96 Corolla to your warehousing job you probably have more pressing demands on your funds than buying a Volt. Like, say, paying your power bill. But fuck those poor people, right? I bet they aren’t working hard enough to earn a green environment.