There was a time in this country when things actually made sense. A beaming entrepreneur comes up with a new idea, follows his vision, and ultimately prevails. America has a rich history of brilliant minds who had the freedom to pursue their dreams of a new product or service, worked hard, took risks, and found success. Isn’t this the Great American Dream? Sadly today in many places, this is no longer the case. Busybody bureaucrats, social engineers and government dictators meddling in our daily affairs have turned this process upside down and now tell us what to think, what to do and what to make. Government tinkerers now are smarter than market forces and freedom of action, and know what is best for us. Just ask them … no, don’t bother, they will tell you.

One hot topic of the day that comes to mind here is climate change. Funny thing, this started out as global cooling, but since the ‘experts’ couldn’t even agree whether the climate was getting hotter or colder, they just dub it now as climate change - that way whatever happens, presto, they’re always right! This point, alone, should tell us how much we ought to believe these geniuses.

Never-the-less, the green train rumbles on and now touches nearly every aspect of our lives. Solar and wind power are the talk of the town now and governments small and large are mandating shutting down coal and gas fired power plants . Even many utility companies, who should know better, are falling all over themselves to switch over to a portfolio of more and more green energy.

In their headlong dash to do so, many questions remain unanswered. Coal and gas fired plants, with abundant local resources to fuel them, have reliably powered our factories, homes and towns for decades, and newer technologies have drastically reduced emissions from them. Does it really make sense to shutter highly efficient coal and gas turbines and replace them with solar and wind power that have respective efficiencies of 20% and 32% ( according to Dr. George Erickson of the Thorium Energy Alliance )? Even some places, like California, are finding out that their Green Deal sure is not a good deal. With only something like 20% of their energy coming from renewables, their propellers and sun panels couldn’t keep up and they were having rolling blackouts lasting days or even a week last summer. Even their Governor Newsom, whose judgment on his best day is questionable, thundered that this is not acceptable! And they plan to double their dependence on green power next year? Should be a helluva summer.

Texas, too, had a wakeup call last winter when the mercury dipped a little and all their wind turbines and solar panels ground to a frozen halt, throwing the whole state into a frosty chaos. Even a couple warmer days this summer, right here on the Range, some of our mining companies had to shut down a production line when everyone turned their air conditioners on and put the power grid on life support. If there’s anything that gets the attention of the chiefs in charge at these mines, it’s when a line goes down, but in a world of politically correct green fantasies, I guess this is just the way it goes. I hope the power companies are giving these mines a rebate for production lost because of their enchantment with novel green experiments that don’t work.

For a real radical change to our lives, our governor decrees that we all need to drive an electric tin lizzy. We gotta do it, he says, if we’re gonna save our planet. He goes on to boast about all the money we’ll save at the gas pump. Heavens, where did this guy go to school? I hate to break the bubble of his dream world, but all the power for these electric jalopies isn’t free - it comes from the smokestacks of Boswell and other power plants across the state. He’s evidently never read the report, either, that if everyone drove a voltmobile, there would be a 40% shortfall of electric power across this country. Even in California this summer, alerts have gone out for owners of electric cars to not plug in their toys so the power grid doesn’t blow up. And our governor wants Minnesota to have the same vehicle standards as California? His brilliance is, well, nothing short of amazing. You’d think he would know that we have darn near six months of winter in Minnesota, and winter is cold. Unless you’re an Eskimo, you need a heater in a car around here. With a real car, you have an engine with lots of hot water, so this is not a problem. With an EV, you jump in your tub to go visit Grandma at Christmas when it’s 20 below, so you turn on your electric heater which gets power from the battery. Heaters gobble up power faster than Pac Man, so if Grandma lives more than a hop and a skip away, your little electric dream may die right in the middle of the road before you get there. So now what do you do? You call the service station, whose driver climbs in his diesel truck, comes to your rescue, starts up his diesel generator and blows exhaust in the air for an hour or two to pump some life into your electric bubble. I have heard reports that this is what’s already been happening in Alaska - where they also have winter. So this is how we’re saving the planet? Or maybe you could do like some operators of city buses that are electric. To keep the riders from freezing to the floorboards, they install diesel fired heaters to keep the passengers warm. This is from a zero emission, battery powered bus … still with a smokestack belching out clouds of smoke from their fuel oil heater. Isn’t this just hilarious?

An even bigger question I haven’t heard ANYONE answer yet is, where are you going to charge up your little electric runt? Now for those who have a job not too far away, can plug in their e-car in the garage at night, drive to work and back and plug it in again, this might actually work. For the rest of us who do serious general driving … I’m real curious how this is going to pan out. Now around here, there is a charging station in Virginia, Ely and Hibbing. Do you think that’s enough? In the real world, with real cars in real towns in this area, this is the way it is: According to my count, in Virginia alone ( which is an average small town in the state ) there are nine gas stations with 39 pump standards that have 122 individual hoses to fill your vehicles. There are also multiple stations with many more pumps in the cities of Mt. Iron, Eveleth, and Gilbert, all within just a few miles away. There are at least 150 places to fuel up your vehicle around the Virginia area right now. Anyone who wants gas can surely find it. And then there’s ONE charging station in the whole Virginia area. Does anyone see a problem here? Besides that, anyone competent enough to drive can get a full tank of gas in two minutes flat. To get even a partial charge for your electric dune buggy takes at least 45 minutes to an hour; a full charge takes eight hours, they say. Now with real cars, drivers start to get antsy with a line three or four cars long. Can anyone imagine how many MILES the lines would be at these charging stations - even if there were 150 of them in this area - when it takes 25 times as long to fill up your buckboard battery as to get a tank of gas. It would be mayhem, Armageddon - with irate drivers jumping up and down everywhere. Even the Pope would not sit in line for six hours and then another one to charge up his Popemobile. Mr. Governor, can you please explain to the good people of this state how this is supposed to work?

As for the illusion that theses electric cars will be maintenance free, there may be some surprises ahead too. Having a 30 year career spent mostly working on electric drive vehicles, I know how this works first hand - especially with the snow, ice, slush and salt found around here. Bouncing across our bumpy roads ( good news; Biden wants to spend more on EVs than roads to drive them on - so this isn’t going to improve ) and sparks start to fly, things begin to sputter and pretty soon the whole thing goes up in smoke. GM just had a recall on 73,000 electric Chevy Bolts costing a whopping $1 billion and, friends, this is just the beginning.

It used to be if you built a better mouse trap, people would buy it. Electric car companies are building a rattletrap that doesn’t work and costs too much, and then wonder why they’re not selling. But government to the rescue, they take $7000 of my tax money to pay you a subsidy to buy a car that neither of us really wanted. Doesn’t this make everyone feel good?

Defying reality, the battle cry still rings out, “This climate crisis is an existential threat, there’s no time to waste!” Did we forget the warning of James Madison, “Crisis is the rallying cry of the tyrant”? Or do you remember in 2008 the ‘sky is falling’ screamer who predicted, that if we all didn’t take immediate action, Manhattan would be under water by 2015? It’s now 2021...hmm.

For now, forget all the crises and hand wringing and save the billions Washington and St. Paul want to throw at a green ghost. Electric vehicles will find their place when companies build things that work and we can afford. Even Twin Metals, hoping to establish a copper mine near Ely has committed to using electric machinery. With mine permitting processes running an astonishing 20 years, maybe the technology will be such by then that this will actually work. Until then, all these solar panels, propellers and electric hotrods remain not only a bad and expensive idea whose time has not yet come, but a green solution in search of a problem.

Jim Hofsommer



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