If Norway jumped off a cliff, would you jump, too?
I found myself asking this age-old question last week after reading that the Tesla Model S is now the best-selling car in Norway. Reuters reported that the "premium electric" North American-designed car, which went on sale in Europe in August, had a 5.1 per cent share of the Norwegian market. It relegated the former best-selling Volkswagen Golf to second place. In Norway, a new Model S costs between $110,000-$117,000 (U.S.).
"You get great value for your money with the Model S," Joar Tenfjord, the head of Telsa's Norway dealership in the city of Bergen, told Reuters. "It is a spacious car … and it is also environmentally friendly."
In Norway, this is what they'd call "ironisk."
It's ironic because the story implies that Norwegians are so committed to the environment they voluntarily buy electric cars (which are almost universally avoided by anyone who cares even a little about driving). In fact, Norwegians are so committed they buy really expensive electric cars. North Americans should all feel guilty and ashamed.
Here's where the ironisk part comes in. While Norwegians seem to love electric cars, Norway itself is far from oil-averse. In fact, if Norway had to pick a new national animal, it would probably be a giant hog rolling around in a vat of petroleum. Norway, a country with a population of five million, loves oil. Norway is Europe's largest oil producer and the world's second-largest natural gas exporter. It is the largest oil producer and exporter in Western Europe.
The petroleum sector is by far that country's largest. The rest aren't even close. According to the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate, "currently, 70 fields are in production on the Norwegian continental shelf." In 2011, these fields yielded two million barrels of oil per day. Thanks to this oil, Norway is an incredibly rich nation. Its Government Pension Fund, which is financed by oil profits, is worth more than $725-billion and is the largest sovereign investment body in the world.
In other words, Norway's present and future rest solely on everyone else in the world not buying Tesla Model S cars or electric vehicles of any sort. And their lust for the Tesla Model S? The Norwegian government drives this demand by offering Tesla buyers subsidies and other incentives such as free parking, toll exemptions and the right to use express lanes. All these are funded by oil money.
Kind of ironisk, don't you think?
It's easy to call Norway on its hypocrisy, but it's just a glaring Nordic example of the denial that our entire planet is trapped in. Our global economy rests on fossil fuels. If the world suddenly stopped using them, it would cause an economic collapse. The key lies in accelerating our transition away from fossil fuels in time to spare what's left of the environment. So while we're all doing our part locally – whether it's buying $110,000 Teslas or trying to drive less – we're still all avid oil addicts.
The announcement of Norway's Teslapalooza came a week after news broke on Oct. 1 that a Tesla in Seattle had caught fire after hitting some metal debris on the road. "Caught fire" is a bit of an understatement. It became an inferno. Elon Musk, the company's CEO, told the press that the fire was due to the debris poking a three-inch hole through the armour plate that shields the battery. The share price dropped and Tesla lost $2.8-million (U.S.) in valuation. That's an example of our global hypocrisy. Almost 200,000 gas-powered vehicles catch fire every year in the United States. One Tesla sparks up and we all lose our minds?
Still, today's hypocrisy is tomorrow's trend. Electric cars have made enormous gains in the last decade. According to the website Evobsession.com, electric car sales are up 447 per cent in 2013. The Tesla Model S is a nice car. There are more luxury electrics on the way. BMW is set to release its BMW i3 next year. It has a back-up gas engine (when you can't find a charging station) and only weighs 2,700 pounds. Electric cars will eventually go from oddity to ubiquity.
That's because, sooner or later, oil dependence will call us to account.
The best-case scenario has us driving electric cars or some other alternative. We need to find new ways to move people and things around our planet. Scientists are growing new teeth in dogs using stem cells. Surely we can make a dent in a problem that affects everyone around the planet.
Otherwise we're looking at a worst-case scenario that will play something like a Fox TV series based on the movies World War Z and Death Race 2000. Maybe David Hasselhoff driving the world's last Tesla through a post-apocalyptic future-scape. Something that depressing or worse.
Who knows, it may be time for us to all plug in.
Follow Andrew Clark on Twitter: @aclarkcomedy
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