Are we becoming too reliant on electricity? Most of New Zealand is currently in the grip of a major cold spell and last night our national electricity consumption reached an all-time high – with the result that several areas were shut down completely for several hours to “conserve” power.
The use of electric and hybrid cars is being actively promoted here (with cash incentives to purchase, and the penalisation of ‘bigger’ petrol-fuelled vehicles such as those that most farmers rely on for their work), and I have been wondering about the long-term effects of all this.
A friend of my son’s owns an electric car and, because he reckons there will be continual power outages over the next few years, he has purchased a diesel generator so he is always able to charge his car!
So why own an electric car?
The manufacture of such vehicles involves the use of steel and other resources, the same as petrol and diesel vehicles. Which leaves the only point of difference being the fuel used. I watched a disturbing documentary recently about the effects of mining lithium for batteries, and I know from my experience with solar batteries that old used batteries are very difficult to dispose of, so are electric cars any more environmentally friendly than petroleum-fuelled cars?
In towns and cities I can see huge benefits in using these quieter, ultra-low-emission, vehicles, but most of our country is rural. We are a widely scattered population and public transport is not all that efficient, if not non-existent, outside of the major urban centres.
If we all switched to using electric cars the results would be catastrophic. Our electricity production is already at capacity – so much so, that the mothballed Huntly Power Station is now operating again and burning thousands of tons of imported coal to supply the national grid.
LPG Gas is soon to be banned, meaning no more domestic gas heaters can be used (oh, wait, I think they intend to replace it with highly flammable rock gas). All rental properties must now have high-wattage heat pumps installed in them. Many localities have banned home fires because of the smoke upsetting the air quality. The only way people have to keep warm is using electricity.
An electrician friend informs us he has been busy lately upgrading house supply lines as too many homes are now using more electricity than the lines supplying them can cope with. I didn’t even know they had a limit!
|Benmore hydro-electric power station is the second largest in New Zealand|
The over-reliance on electricity is becoming a major, yet still mostly hidden, dilemma. We may not be jumping from the frying pan into the fire with all our politically-correct environmental awareness, but I sometimes think we are often jumping from one frying pan into another.
I cannot see any easy answer for the future. Do you?
Wishing everyone a very happy week,