Today, charging the battery in an electric auto is cheaper than the equivalent gasoline, plus there are NO gasoline taxes on electricity. Heavily subsidized Tesla owners fill up cheaply. The Tesla is now “filled up” using electricity from a fossil-fueled or nuclear power plant. That situation is to change as renewable sources replace electricity from fossil-fueled and nuclear power plants across the globe.

The press reports solar and wind electricity now cost less than fossil-fuel electricity, so all is well.

How, then, is it plausible that the countries with the most renewable electrical power are also the countries where electricity is the most expensive? The most advanced countries now produce up to one-third of their electricity by wind and solar, yet prices are TRIPLE those of the USA.

Mandated 100% conversion to electricity from renewables is variously a goal for 2040. The replacement of energy requirements of transport and fixed structures with renewable energy requires a 10-fold increase to meet today’s energy demands. The 10-fold increase in renewables implies that the costs of electricity will soon rise MUCH more, as seen in those countries with high renewable electricity fractions already.

An unintended but critical consequence of renewable electrical power in the EU is energy poverty. In 2017, studies found that 40,000 extra deaths in the UK occurred during the winter since people could either eat or heat, but not both. Millions across Europe are falling into the same energy poverty. That situation will quickly worsen in the years ahead, and will become a concern here in the USA as renewables in California and other states drive electricity prices to similar high levels.

Since production of one-third of the electrical supply by carbon-free, renewable energy has caused electricity to triple in price in Europe and Australia; mandated conversions to 100% production of the present electricity supply plausibly triples the cost again, to $1.50 per KWH. The economy of scale in the cost of PV and wind turbines has already been achieved, so installation and maintenance costs now dominate. An electricity cost of only $0.45 per KWH created ENERGY POVERTY for millions in Europe and the deaths of 40,000 in the UK. Imagine how many will suffer when the cost is $1.50.

Renewable power systems have another social cost which now becomes apparent. The required renewable power system for 100% decarbonization is nearly the size of the USA. Leaving room for people, farms, cities, and roads becomes problematic, especially for the disappearing middle class. This reflects the exceedingly high housing prices in large cities. In the coming decades, as our population swells due to immigration, the energy demand will follow, doubling again by 2040. The realization and cost of this expanded energy system is NOT included in most projections.

Mandating 100% electric autos, as already has happened in Europe, then becomes a major KILLER of human beings, not on the highway, but by creation of vast energy poverty!

Think of that when you proudly plug in your Tesla.

William Hayden Smith *66, Professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Washington University
St. Louis, Mo.