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Ireland and global warming – electric cars, but colder winters

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In April 2010 the Irish government announced a whole series of measures that would ensure that battery‑powered electric cars gained a significant share of the car market here. Like Dylan at Newport, Ireland is going electric.

The government's plan includes significant investment including: tax breaks to cut the price of electric cars, charge points provided by the government-owned Electricity Supply Board {photo} and other incentives to encourage the purchase and use of electric cars rather than the gasoline/diesel models we're all used to now. The goal was that 2,000 electric cars would be on the road by the end of 2011 and 230,000 by 2020.

I've indicated before that I'm not totally averse to the idea of a battery-powered car, especially as a second car, but I'd forgotten all about the government's plans for electric cars until last week. I had just parked my car in Dublin Airport's new parking garage when I noticed that the three spaces next to mine were reserved for electric cars, that in fact such cars' batteries could be charged there.

The very next day I saw my first new-generation electric car, a Toyota Leaf. It was in front of me as we headed down the highway. And, although I haven't noticed them yet, the ESB has installed charge points all over Dublin. That's probably my fault because I haven't been looking, from what I hear they look like parking meters and would be easy to overlook.

Charge points around the capital city, dedicated spaces in a public parking garage and electric cars on the road, the government's plans are probably progressing just fine, right?

Maybe, but Dublin Airport and ESB 100% government-owned. They'll do as their owner instructs. The one car I saw still had dealer license plates. I haven't seen one for which a buyer has shelled out $43,000 (after tax breaks) or so.

Will the government's targets be met?

I don't know, but ESB's web site says the plan now is only for 1,500 charge points nationwide by the end of 2011. I'd love to know how the sales of electric cars are going and how many people have had charge points installed at their homes.

More important than the targets, however, is whether this is money wisely spent?

All of the incentives and investment from the government are for one reason: to combat global warming. Maybe the earth is warming up and maybe it's not, but last winter Ireland experienced its coldest winter in 40 years and the long range forecast is that the coming winters will be even colder. Our climate seems to be changing for the colder.

All of which begs the question: is all this taxpayer-funded investment in electric cars the best use of funds if our winters are getting colder? Using the same funds to properly insulate our homes and offices seems more sensible.

In fact, it's possible that the money spent in getting electric cars on the road will seem like a a colossal waste of money if we still don't have the necessary equipment to keep the roads clear when it snows. The fact that a few happy electric car owners can charge their cars for free at Dublin Airport will seem like a sick joke if the airport shut for days on end again due to the lack of proper snow-moving equipment.

Even our European overlords, who are heavily promoting the 'green agenda', will be none too happy if our national coffers suffer another let down due to the fall-off in productivity caused by a few inches of snow. It could be a chorus of boos for the government just as it was for Dylan at Newport all those years ago.

{Photo thanks to ESB.ie}

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