What would you do to save the planet? What would you be willing to do to cut your carbon emissions to net zero? Those might seem like two very different questions, with completely different answers. But not to everyone. Which poses a very real threat, which I’m calling The Green Games.
You’ve probably heard of the TV series Squid Game. And maybe you’ve heard of The Hunger Games too. But you may not be able to avoid The Green Games, whether you like it or not. Because you may be a participant…
In this iteration of the dystopian genre, you are locked into a space the size of a sixth of Oxford and must buy a pass if you want to leave the zone in your car. But even with a pass, you may only leave for up to 100 days per year, maximum.
This is, admittedly, still preferable to the setup of Squid Game and The Hunger Games, even if it is Oxford…
In case you’re not familiar, here’s how they compare.
As I recall from The Hunger Games films, people are locked into so-called sectors where they live on a subsistence basis while sending the food they grow to their rich overlords in the cities. Every now and then, randomly chosen childhood competitors from each district fight to the death and the winner’s reward is a little more food for their district until the next Hunger Games.
Squid Game, which I haven’t watched, is just as relevant to today. In the series, overindebted South Koreans sign up to play potentially fatal games for the chance to win money to pay off their debt. The iconic game played in one episode is a version of Statues, where anyone caught moving by the camera when it turns around gets shot in the forehead.
This has not yet been proposed for those caught driving across Oxford more than 100 times a year, but you get the idea…
Yes, while Squid Game and The Hunger Games are fictional, I’m told, the Green Games are getting mighty real. The Truth About Cars summed up the Oxford scheme nicely:
In England, the Oxfordshire County Council has introduced a new traffic scheme it believes will clear up roadway congestion, improve pedestrian safety, and also address climate issues. However, the plan involves prohibiting where residents of Oxford can drive (unless they have the proper paperwork) by breaking the city into six zones. Predictably, the concept has proven to be wildly unpopular with some of the locals.
Over the last week, residents have been up in arms about the scheme and it’s not difficult to see why. According to the Oxfordshire County Council’s own website, “traffic filtering” involves stopping vehicles from moving through selected checkpoints by leveraging a network of preexisting automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) cameras. While locals will be eligible to purchase permits that will allow them to drive between the zones “up to 100 days per year,” exceeding this limit will result in fines.
The problem with claiming that you’re trying to save the planet is that it justifies anything. Yes, even this. After all, if you oppose it, you’re trying to destroy the planet.
But there’s a deeper reason I’m seriously warning you about the Green Games today. I’m getting worried that, should the green energy transition fail to live up to its promises, the solution will be to sacrifice everything else to cut emissions instead.
This sort of happened already to our economy this winter. When the government’s mad energy transition schemes failed to provide the energy needed by the economy, the solution was not to produce enough energy, but to restrain the economy. They called it “demand management”. And it took many forms.
In Europe, they shut down factories. In the UK, they paid households to power down at peak times.
But you probably still think I’m mad to suggest that governments will be “forced” to limit our mobility in order to cut emissions save the planet.
And yet, here’s Scientific American magazine:
Converting the existing U.S. car fleet to electric vehicles would require more lithium than the world currently produces, showing the need to move away from private cars as a primary means of travel.
I don’t know who they are, but Barbarian Capital said it best on Twitter:
“They” are telling you point blank: your individual mobility is problematic so we need to control it.
And why wouldn’t they control our mobility? They’re trying to cut emissions to save the planet for heaven’s sake!
Of course, there will still be enough diesel for us to use… to keep the wind farms warm in winter, as Scottish Power has apparently been doing.
But if you’d like to use diesel to travel across town, you will hear… “PAPERS PLEEZE!” And Mother Earth help you if you forgot to pay for your travel pass, or are over the 100-day limit…
Now you won’t be hearing about The Green Games from the BBC. It’s a little behind the times, with insightful headlines like these: “UK pays more for electricity than it costs to make”.
Yes, well done. That’s why anyone bothers making energy at all…
But I think we’re not far off a genuine Green Games. The reason is resource constraints. You see, it takes vast amounts of resources to make the green transition happen. A little too many, according to some analysts.
In a good speech by energy expert Mark Mills at the SKAGEN Funds New Year’s Conference, the claim was that the resources simply cannot be mined fast enough to make the energy transition happen at the speed committed to by governments. The lithium, copper, graphite, cobalt and copper just won’t be there in time. Not even close.
I don’t know if he’s right. The maths is inherently inexact. And the sources do seem credible. But the general point stands, especially in the UK, with petrol and diesel cars due to be on their way out in seven years.
So, what if there simply aren’t enough resources to provide enough electric vehicles to all the governments around the world who have pledged their people to buying only EVs?
Of course, it’s not just EVs that matter. It’s also the entire net zero concept. There’s no point powering all the EVs with coal, after all, is there? Is there?
So, here’s the bigger question…
If we can’t get the green energy infrastructure up and running in time for our net zero commitments, will governments choose to abandon their green pledges, or to destroy the economy?
Hang on, I got that wrong…
If we can’t get the green energy infrastructure up and running in time for our net zero commitments, will governments choose to destroy the planet or to engage in “demand management”?
I think that they’ll choose to volunteer you for The Green Games.
Before you go, here is a quick reminder that ridiculous government zoning laws created the problem of needing to drive everywhere in the first place…
In Japan, for example, mixed zoning is more common. In fact, people have the right to it, so the government can’t implement any stupid zoning ideas in the first place.
I used to live between a dentist and a bank in Japan. My daughter got to know the security guards who delivered the cash at the back door of the bank…
I rarely used a car because everything was walking distance. Except for government offices, like the local council…
Editor, Fortune & Freedom