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The Danish Way

Last week's episode of NOW was pretty great.

I think the whole 'electric cars can save the world' attitude can be easily misinterpreted, because the reality is that in a city like Copenhagen, there will still be a sizable number of people who never own one. It's a unique city in the sense that it's both very expensive to drive and very reasonable to get by without ever driving. That's not true of most American cities.

So you could replace every SUV in America with an electric vehicle; for that matter you could replace every internal combustion engine vehicle with an electric one, and we'll still have a plethora of problems. Electric vehicles won't solve traffic or congestion, they won't slow sprawl, they'll still cause tens of thousands of deaths every year and they'll still need a place to be parked for 95% of their lives. Even this completely unrealistic "best case scenario" isn't really very progressive in the scheme of things.

Lastly, I've been skeptical of Shai Agassi in the past, and his interview with David Brancaccio doesn't inspire any new confidence. For instance, he makes this argument in defense of his electric vehicle business idea:
The thought process of ‘we need money for health care, so let them drive the cars that emit the gases that cause health care costs’ is the same as telling people, ‘force them to smoke, so we can collect the taxes on cigarettes so we can pay for the hospital afterwards’. That logic is convoluted in it’s design.
But it's Agassi's logic that is actually flawed. Who actually thinks that an excise tax on cigarettes amounts to the government forcing people to smoke so the state can collect revenue? If the state spends the money they collect from cigarette taxes on programs to help people quit smoking, that's a socially responsible action. Similarly, if government uses excise taxes on cars and gasoline to provide alternative means of transportation, that's not backward thinking, that's what makes a city like Copenhagen such a progressive city.


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