So Uber and Lyft drivers are supposed to buy electric cars now?

Updates

  1. Originally published, March 8, 2020, 9:35 am.
  2. March 9, 3:17 am:
    • I have updated the citations in my self-quotation in the section on coronavirus to reflect the articles that have been published[1] since I originally wrote that passage. My claim hasn’t changed; there’s just more evidence supporting it.

Gig economy

Previously, a Union of Concerned Scientists study found that Uber and Lyft vehicles emit 70 percent more pollution per passenger mile than if the gig economy didn’t exist.[2] The states of California and Washington are looking to regulation to address the problem.[3]

I wonder how many Uber and Lyft drivers in the states of California and Washington face a similar dilemma to my own: It’s extremely unlikely a new electric car can pencil out financially. Where I presently drive a 2007 Toyota Camry Hybrid that I bought for cash, I would have to make car payments and higher insurance payments—this before we even get to depreciation costs on a new car. I have no charging station for an electric car nearby and no place to plug one in where I live, even though I rent a garage.

And I really need to wait for the next generation of batteries. The range with lithium-ion is really much too short, especially for the occasional cross-country trip; and to take care of the battery, I should only charge to between 20 and 80 percent, slowly, which reduces both range and availability. I don’t know how I’d even manage that in my present situation.

The battery technology that General Motors is still developing, with a range of 600 miles,[4] would meet my criteria if it can be charged to full capacity quickly. I would still need to make it work financially.

Hydrogen—as with the Toyota Mirai that costs nearly $60,000—would be attractive except there are no hydrogen stations in Pennsylvania.[5] Cross-country trips would be a problem, and again, this would need to work financially.

All in all, I’m once again feeling like the world presumes I’m made of money. I’m not. I’m poor.

And there are very few Uber and Lyft drivers who aren’t poor. We wouldn’t be subjecting ourselves to this abuse otherwise.

Tony Barboza, “Taking an Uber or Lyft pollutes more than driving, California finds. Next stop: Regulations,” Los Angeles, March 7, 2020, https://www.latimes.com/environment/story/2020-03-07/uber-lyft-ride-hailing-air-pollution-greenhouse-gas-emissions


Coronavirus

Coronavirus is officially a fuck-up. More people are getting sick and dying because of this.[6] And its spread is out of control.[7]

It may seem callous to discuss implications for Donald Trump in an election year. But the delusional raging narcissist-in-chief’s presidency is already vicious, lethal, and incompetent. Coronavirus adds to the toll.

As I have noted, however, this is largely a structural problem (citations updated):

  • Capitalist medicine hinders rather than helps.[8]
  • Neoliberal employment policies, in which “efficiency” is defined as low labor cost, such as those the gig economy depends upon, hinder rather than help.[9]
  • People in charge should care more about taking care of people than about taking care of the stock market.[10][11]

Yes, Trump is incompetent. Yes, his administration is incompetent. And no, there’s no excuse for it.[12] But the structural factors predate him, in some cases, by millenia.

Since the Neolithic, we have organized ourselves for greed and acquisition, principally for the few, principally at the expense of the rest of us (I would include non-human animals here) and of the environment.[13] Now, we are overrunning the planet, facilitating the spread of disease. Trump is almost entirely a symptom of that; from a position of power, he contributes to it, but he is certainly not an original cause.

Trump will be blamed nonetheless, as indeed the Washington Post does[14] and as indeed others do.

But the Democrats are now highly likely to nominate their own dementia case. Joe Biden is who the party powerful want to nominate[15] and Bernie Sanders faces a now nearly insurmountable challenge in overcoming that.[16]

And from what I can see driving around southwestern Pennsylvania, Trump’s base sees him as heroic. They will blame the bungling—and yes, they’ll acknowledge it is bungling—on “bureaucracy” and applaud Trump’s efforts to trim it further.

That’s how coronavirus plays out in November.

Colby Itkowitz, Ashley Parker, and Seung Min Kim, “Coronavirus continues its rapid spread, confounding efforts by global leaders,” Washington Post, March 7, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/2020/03/07/coronavirus-continues-its-rapid-spread-confounding-efforts-by-global-leaders/

Ashley Parker, Yasmeen Abutaleb, and Lena H. Sun, “Squandered time: How the Trump administration lost control of the coronavirus crisis,” Washington Post, March 7, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-coronavirus-response-squandered-time/2020/03/07/5c47d3d0-5fcb-11ea-9055-5fa12981bbbf_story.html


  1. [1]Sara R. Collins and David Blumenthal, “Without universal healthcare, coronavirus puts us all at risk,” Los Angeles Times, March 5, 2020, https://www.latimes.com/opinion/story/2020-03-05/op-ed-time-to-ramp-up-medicaid-to-pay-for-universal-coronavirus-care; Mariel Garza, “Why aren’t we paying people with the coronavirus to stay home?” Los Angeles Times, March 6, 2020, https://www.latimes.com/opinion/story/2020-03-06/opinion-why-arent-we-paying-people-with-the-coronavirus-to-stay-home; Ashley Parker, Yasmeen Abutaleb, and Lena H. Sun, “Squandered time: How the Trump administration lost control of the coronavirus crisis,” Washington Post, March 7, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-coronavirus-response-squandered-time/2020/03/07/5c47d3d0-5fcb-11ea-9055-5fa12981bbbf_story.html
  2. [2]Andrew J. Hawkins, “Uber and Lyft generate 70 percent more pollution than trips they displace: study,” Verge, February 25, 2020, https://www.theverge.com/2020/2/25/21152512/uber-lyft-climate-change-emissions-pollution-ucs-study
  3. [3]Tony Barboza, “Taking an Uber or Lyft pollutes more than driving, California finds. Next stop: Regulations,” Los Angeles, March 7, 2020, https://www.latimes.com/environment/story/2020-03-07/uber-lyft-ride-hailing-air-pollution-greenhouse-gas-emissions
  4. [4]Peter Valdes-Dapena, “GM’s new electric car battery tops Tesla’s,” CNN, March 5, 2020, https://www.cnn.com/2020/03/04/business/gm-electric-car-battery-400-miles-of-range/index.html
  5. [5]Department of Energy, “Pennsylvania Transportation Data for Alternative Fuels and Vehicles,” n.d., https://afdc.energy.gov/states/pa
  6. [6]Ashley Parker, Yasmeen Abutaleb, and Lena H. Sun, “Squandered time: How the Trump administration lost control of the coronavirus crisis,” Washington Post, March 7, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-coronavirus-response-squandered-time/2020/03/07/5c47d3d0-5fcb-11ea-9055-5fa12981bbbf_story.html
  7. [7]Colby Itkowitz, Ashley Parker, and Seung Min Kim, “Coronavirus continues its rapid spread, confounding efforts by global leaders,” Washington Post, March 7, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/2020/03/07/coronavirus-continues-its-rapid-spread-confounding-efforts-by-global-leaders/
  8. [8]Sara R. Collins and David Blumenthal, “Without universal healthcare, coronavirus puts us all at risk,” Los Angeles Times, March 5, 2020, https://www.latimes.com/opinion/story/2020-03-05/op-ed-time-to-ramp-up-medicaid-to-pay-for-universal-coronavirus-care; Amy Goldstein, “Worries about medical bills and lost pay may hamper coronavirus efforts in the United States,” Washington Post, March 2, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/worries-about-medical-bills-and-lost-pay-may-hamper-coronavirus-efforts-in-the-united-states/2020/03/02/75825be0-5c9c-11ea-9055-5fa12981bbbf_story.html
  9. [9]Mariel Garza, “Why aren’t we paying people with the coronavirus to stay home?” Los Angeles Times, March 6, 2020, https://www.latimes.com/opinion/story/2020-03-06/opinion-why-arent-we-paying-people-with-the-coronavirus-to-stay-home; Amy Goldstein, “Worries about medical bills and lost pay may hamper coronavirus efforts in the United States,” Washington Post, March 2, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/worries-about-medical-bills-and-lost-pay-may-hamper-coronavirus-efforts-in-the-united-states/2020/03/02/75825be0-5c9c-11ea-9055-5fa12981bbbf_story.html; Nitasha Tiku, “Gig workers face the spread of the new coronavirus with no safety net,” Washington Post, February 29, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2020/02/29/gig-workers-face-spread-new-coronavirus-with-no-safety-net/
  10. [10]Dana Milbank, “For Trump, a reckoning has come,” Washington Post, February 28, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/02/28/trump-reckoning-has-come/; Ashley Parker, Yasmeen Abutaleb, and Lena H. Sun, “Squandered time: How the Trump administration lost control of the coronavirus crisis,” Washington Post, March 7, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-coronavirus-response-squandered-time/2020/03/07/5c47d3d0-5fcb-11ea-9055-5fa12981bbbf_story.html; Paul Waldman, “How coronavirus has deeply flummoxed conservative media,” Washington Post, February 28, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/02/28/how-coronavirus-has-deeply-flummuxed-conservative-media/
  11. [11]David Benfell, “Coronavirus shows how Joe Biden is the wrong answer,” Irregular Bullshit, March 3, 2020, https://disunitedstates.com/2020/03/03/coronavirus-shows-how-joe-biden-is-the-wrong-answer/
  12. [12]Ashley Parker, Yasmeen Abutaleb, and Lena H. Sun, “Squandered time: How the Trump administration lost control of the coronavirus crisis,” Washington Post, March 7, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-coronavirus-response-squandered-time/2020/03/07/5c47d3d0-5fcb-11ea-9055-5fa12981bbbf_story.html
  13. [13]John H. Bodley, Victims of Progress, 5th ed. (Lanham, MD: AltaMira, 2008).
  14. [14]Colby Itkowitz, Ashley Parker, and Seung Min Kim, “Coronavirus continues its rapid spread, confounding efforts by global leaders,” Washington Post, March 7, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/2020/03/07/coronavirus-continues-its-rapid-spread-confounding-efforts-by-global-leaders/
  15. [15]FiveThirtyEight, “The 2020 Endorsement Primary,” March 8, 2020, https://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/2020-endorsements/democratic-primary/
  16. [16]David Benfell, “Four more years,” Irregular Bullshit, March 5, 2020, https://disunitedstates.com/2020/03/05/four-more-years/

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