Monday, February 15, 2021

The Long March to Peak Stupidity

The first month of the Biden (Jo/Ho) administration has seen proposals, executive orders, and proposed legislation that's staggeringly out of touch with reality.  From the absurd ideas of making middle and lower class taxpayers pay for the college of the doctors and lawyers (let's be real, the highest amounts of college debt aren't from Starbucks Baristas with a degree in aggrieved minority studies, they're from professional schools) to killing off America's energy independence and lots of good paying jobs, to today's gun control nonsense, they just keep going farther and farther down the road to unreality.   

I tell myself that they can't possibly be at peak stupidity yet because they've hardly started. Today, I see the latest bright idea is give a refundable tax credit of up to $1,500 on the purchase of a new bicycle.  Not just any bike, this is for an electric-motor driven bike, also known as an e-bike. 

If you're a long term reader, you probably know I'm a cyclist; I don't talk about it much, but have posted on occasion.  While I've looked at e-bikes now and then and know a guy who rides one all the time, my bike is low tech: if I don't push the pedals it doesn't go anywhere.  My friend's bike is the kind that is electric assist.  If he doesn't pedal, it doesn't assist, and he used it to much benefit preparing for hip replacement.  Even coming from the bike world, this is a stunningly stupid policy proposal. 
Authored by Congressmen Jimmy Panetta (D-Calif.) and Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), the Electric Bicycle Incentive Kickstart for the Environment (E-BIKE) Act supports the use of e-bikes as a zero-carbon transportation mode. Compared to other transportation modes, the bill recommends e-bikes because they are more affordable and accessible.

“E-bikes are not just a fad for a select few; they are a legitimate and practical form of transportation that can help reduce our carbon emissions,” Panetta said. “My legislation will make it easier for more people from all socio-economic levels to own e-bikes and contribute to cutting our carbon output. By incentivizing the use of electric bicycles to replace car trips through a consumer tax credit, we cannot only encourage more Americans to transition to greener modes of transportation, but also help fight the climate crisis.”
Where to start?  How much do you want to bet that Congressmen Panetta and Blumenauer come from districts that have e-bike manufacturers, or have other incentives?  Second, e-bikes are not "zero-carbon" transportation.  The energy that charges the batteries is coming from the power company.  Is it natural gas?  Is it coal?  Owners have no control over that.  But look a little deeper.  Even my bike, powered by me, isn't zero-carbon.  I give off carbon dioxide all the time, and more when working harder riding the bike.  An e-bike would be lower in carbon emissions than a car, but it's not zero. 

Although I've seen many tables of calories per hour a cyclist burns, depending on speed (and a host of assumptions), I've never seen numbers for the energy supplied by the rider and the e-bike to compare to the car.  When I first returned to riding as an adult in the early '90s, there was factoid spread around that the average bike rider riding 15 miles would burn around 600 calories, while a car would burn about 15,000.  That implied the car would burn about 1/2 gallon of gas to go 15 miles - 30 MPG around town - a pretty efficient car.  My 11 year old Explorer doesn't get 15mpg around town, more like 14.  It would use over 30,000 calories to go 15 miles. I'd use more like 690 on my bike.  

The bill would create a refundable tax credit up to $1500 for 30% of the purchase price of a new e-bike (that maximum credit is on a $5000 bike).  Note that says e-bike and specifically does not include tax credits for a human powered bike.  An e-bike isn't carbon-free, it's just lower carbon.  The energy to get someplace comes from somewhere.  It either comes from petroleum products, those same petroleum products converted to electricity, or it comes from the rider's body, converted from food.  They're trying to bribe people to give up using their cars by giving them some cash.  For a more modest bike, like this one, a quick check tells me the credit would be $780.  That check starts looking less good when it has rained, or snowed or any other sort of inclement weather.

A Townie Go! now from Trek Bikes, one of the most popular brands and models of e-bikes (although I gather this picture is an older model.  Just grabbed a stock photo.)  The battery pack (where it says "townie") is less obvious than the models that have a large, black plastic battery pack there.

It's a dumb idea based on the concept of a Weather Tax that I've dismissed years ago.  The only thing the idea has going for it is that the real cost will probably be low.  There will be a few people who take advantage of it but I can't imagine it will be many.


  1. Making taxpayers pay the student loans of doctors and other professionals isn't what happens. Professionals generally end up with jobs that pay.... often high pay. The student loan administrators MAKE these people pay their loans.....ask me how I know. The loans that those in power want taxpayers to cover are the ones for useless degrees where the recipient graduates and goes BACK to working as a barista or some other low wage job where thy CAN'T afford the payments. It's just another form of vote buying by the left. Steal from the productive to buy votes from the less productive.....while skimming a percentage of that money for themselves and their friends.

  2. I have a serious problem with most greens. They're going to break civilization in their religious crusade against energy use, and when the lights go out, most of us will die.

    I don't care how cool your battery bike or car is - without a constant *river* of semi-trucks going from the countryside to the cities, the cities starve. Without powered pumps, the water stops flowing. You can't paper over the poor energy density of batteries when you have to haul mass, push mass, pull mass, drive mass, or drive chemistry. Without a wide range of gasoline powered equipment, the food isn't planted or harvested. Without powerplant (hydroelectric-mostly thankfully) driven production of ammonia, we can't nitrogenate the soil fast enough to continually farm food crops and have to go back to crop rotation. Divide yields by 4.

    This level of population cannot continue on animal-powered subsistence farming. And the world isn't so resilient that the greens can't jam the gears. These reckless maniacs are playing Russian roulette with the continued existence of industrial civilization.

    By all means, *research* other sources of energy. (I have a bit in my career). We can use everything we can eventually get. By all means play around with engineering alternative storage means. But don't pretend you have what you plainly don't. You can pry my engines from my cold-dead hands, because without the engines my hands will be cold and dead anyways.


    1. The points you make about the energy density of batteries or windmills vs. gas or diesel are undeniable. The greenies have never understood that energy density is be-all and end-all of energy. Would you rather have square miles of intermittent power from solar panels or a couple of acres of small, 24/7 availability of a nuclear power plant? I know which one I'd take. I've never met an engineer who thought nuclear power was just inherently unsafe.

      I read Michael Shellenberger's book, Apocalypse Never, where he talks about going from strong greenie to advocate for nuclear power because he actually goes to the places and talks with the people the average greenie thinks they're protecting. Those people want nothing to do with the world the greenies want. They want prosperity.

      It's clear why he has become someone the greenies hate. He shows repeatedly that the greenies' motivation is to keep the world the way they think is pretty, and screw everyone that doesn't agree. Plus, he talks about how the IPCC summary reports lie to get media coverage and there is nothing in the IPCC "science" that says the world is going to end. Not "end in 10 years", not end at all.

    2. Nuclear power is very much like flying......both are undertakings that are extremely unforgiving of any error in design, engineering or implementation and use. And like flying, which is VERY safe but NOT 100% foolproof eventually if you have enough nuclear power plants operating long enough you WILL have a disaster of some sort. What separates nuclear accidents from all others is the incredible time scale involved from the isotopes produced by fission. A single accident at Fukushima has rendered many many square miles of habitable land unsafe for human habitation......for decades. We need to find a way to get power from the atom in a way that is safer because accidents are inevitable.

    3. the cities starve

      Environ-mental-illess is self-limiting. Hey, let's make it cool to relinquish both toilet paper and silverware, because fingers are greener than imperialist European manufactured items.

      when the lights go out, most of us will die

      If the lights go out for long enough in a dense enough area, then the tax collection apparatus will cease being able to operate. With government logistics removed, the voters who are demanding the lights go out will no longer be able to pay government soldiers to make the lights go off. Then the lights will be turned back on by deplorable linemen. Same result from a hyperinflation. But during that time, don't live in a big city. City density seems to be a violation of information sanitation practices. We don't have the data equivalent of sewers yet, and we've tightly closed the human-brain-computer-virus feedback loop by dumping our data chamber pots out in the street. If I have a disease, we're careful to destroy the transmissible disease items in my poop. Similarly, if I watch a porn movie, then no one else should be exposed to the records of my having done that, lest they catch the mental illness of collectivism.

  3. I noticed the other day that steel has gotten absurdly expensive. The greens must be screwing with the steel mills. (I'd like to see a solar powered blast furnace!) Without steel, almost nothing else can be made. No other common metal is suitable for tooling, machine-slides, or any other number of uses.

    Copper has gotten ridiculously expensive too.

    I'm a little surprised that aluminum hasn't - it's more energy intensive than most to refine.


    1. Ooops - meant to tag this on the end of my other comment.

      I think the price increases in steel, copper, brass and some others are pricing in the inflation everyone sees coming from the Fed printing trillions of dollars. Steel is a real commodity, like food or anything else that's not printable in infinite amounts. Food is going insane, too. Commodities can't just be declared to be in stock.

    2. The price of all affected by lots of factors. Inflation drives up the cost of the ore, the cost of transporting ore, the cost of energy to smelt ore, the cost to transport the refined steel, the cost of every aspect. We have seen an almost 25% increase in the cost of fuels since the election....and that cost is going to do time to rise did to the EO's signed by Basement Biden. These cost increases apply to almost everything produced by industry.

      We are about to see an inflation rate that will rival if not surpass what we saw during the Carter era. But during the Carter era interest rates were very high rewarding savers and hurting profligate spenders. Today we are poised to see negative interest rates...encouraging debt.

      And debt is a form of slavery. It eventually strangles productivity, innovation and economic growth. And that is a goal of the left....enslave us economically so they can enslave us completely. Everything they are currently doing is part of a plan....a plan they have been following for decades.

  4. For both MadRocketSci comments, greenies are just watermelons, green on the outside - (communist) red on the inside. Their goal is the destruction of civilization to put themselves in power. They just don't realize that if they go too far there will be nothing to rule.

  5. Very few bikes are now made in USA. Many, many bikes are made in China. Except for some small boutique USA brands all these e-bikes will most likely be made in China factories for brands like Trek. And that's where your tax monies will go.

  6. I can hardly wait to see what's next. Like you said, it's unlikely this will cost too much money - not a lot of people are going to chomp onto a $2100 toy.

    Peak stupidity? That will be glorious!!!

  7. Leave it to left coast politicians to insure that peoples of ALL economic levels can take advantage of the tax credit. Could they explain how the students, street people, or the ghetto will have an income that reaches the level of taxation problems? They obviously haven't been on the streets in Portland, Seattle, San Francisco, or most any university campus of late.