The federal government recently released details around the mandate to eliminate emission vehicle sales by 2035 – a bold and naïve strategy that ignores the realities of Canada’s cold climate and vast geography.
For urbanites living in Toronto and Vancouver, the proposed change may have little impact. However, for Canadians living in rural settings, the far north or small towns, the impact will be meaningful. As is widely known – and blissfully ignored by this policy – the driving range of EV cars diminishes significantly in cold weather. At -20 Celsius, a battery range can fall upwards of 50 per cent and charge times can double or triple. Under this EV regime, folks needing to travel any meaningful distance in the winter will need to think critically about that decision; both in terms of charging logistics and safety.
Getting stopped on the highway at -30C for a few hours could quickly become an emergency in your electric vehicle. That ski trip to Golden or Revelstoke, which we now take for granted, could easily be out of the question after 2035 depending on certain conditions.
To facilitate this plan, governments and business will need to make significant infrastructure investments, which may ultimately drive up the cost of living for consumers to support it.
Make no mistake, when a government or business makes billions of dollars in investments, the consumer (taxpayer) will ultimately pay for it. There is no free lunch.
We are seeing higher energy costs in real time in many other jurisdictions around the world that are much further advanced in the green transition. Germany is an obvious example, where that country is budgeting half a trillion extra – yes trillion – in energy bailout spending, much of which is being used to buy petroleum, natural gas, and coal. While the war in Ukraine quickly exposed the holes in the European transition plans, the European Union has seen energy costs double from 2000 to 2020.
In the coming years we’ll hear more about the shifting to electricity from natural gas and other petroleum products. We’ve seen this more recently in the U.S. where gas stoves and conventional furnaces are now in the crosshairs of policymakers.
What is not being discussed in conjunction with these policies is the relative costs of these changes to consumers. In Alberta, for example, the cost of electricity was six to seven times more expensive than natural gas in 2022 on an energy equivalent basis.
While most of us want to push forward toward a greener future for our planet, some level of pragmatism is also required. Incentivizing and facilitating change makes sense but mandating a one-size-fits-all plan that ignores real world constraints is likely to fail.
It’s important that our society understands these real-world trade-offs as well as the costs that are ultimately before us. Perhaps these are sacrifices we’re willing to bear, but an open and honest dialogue about what’s ahead is needed.