Elon Musk has found a sure fire way to make money. Get men with guns (government) to mandate your product. Health care (Obamacare), windmills, and solar cells are just the start. Musk’s latest venture? A very large battery factory.

Musk is already making money from the zero-emissions laws. This year, the laws require that 1% of each car maker’s vehicle sales meet the zero-emissions standard (the percentage ramps up gradually to 15% in 2025.). If a car maker hasn’t done so, it must buy credits from a rival having a surplus.

Currently, Tesla is the go-to shop for emissions credits; since it manufacturers only electric cars, it is swimming in unneeded credits. Last year, each of its S models earned seven zero emissions credits, which sold for $5,000 each, earning Tesla $35,000 in added revenue for each car sold. The price is market-driven, but last year, Tesla earned $131 million from its surplus credits.

And that does not even count the laws coming out of California.

But the deck may be at least partly stacked in Musk’s favor. He appears to be banking not so much on a sharp swing in consumer taste as on a shift already underway in public policy. Over the coming decade, eight US states will begin to require carmakers to sell an estimated 3.3 million low- and zero-emission vehicles. In addition, California will require utilities to buy the capacity to store 1.3 gigawatts of electricity, enough to serve one million homes.

When combined, the required mobile and stationary battery capacity will be so massive that Musk would be scrambling not so much to find buyers as to meet the demand, some say. “Industrywide, you are no longer talking about 500,000 or one million vehicles, but millions of cars that have to be on the road,” Ann Schlenker, director of transportation at Argonne National Laboratory, told Quartz.

Musk says he will ante up $2 billion of the factory’s cost and raise the rest of the money.

Wonderful? Clean energy? Not so fast. The grid will have to supply the megawatts required to charge all those mandated batteries. Just look at what happened in Germany from government mandated “renewables”.

Success—Germany now gets 25% of its power from renewables—has turned out to be a disaster as carbon dioxide levels have risen, blackouts threaten, and electricity rates have tripled according to a Wall Street Journal commentary. Holman W. Jenkins, Jr. writes that money-strapped utilities have switched to burning cheap American coal to provide the necessary standby power when wind and sun fail. The sun and wind are intermittent and the power grid is poorly arranged to accommodate them, and Europe’s top energy official now speaks frankly of the “deindustrialization in Germany.”

Well some companies are making a fortune off the mandates. But ordinary citizens? They get a reduced economy and higher electrical power prices. I predict that this battery scam (any product that requires government mandates for profitability is likely a scam) will head the way wind turbines and solar cells have gone. Once government pulls the mandates the business collapses. It would be a real shame if such a collapse took civilization with it.

The experiment is being tried in Britain.

Lights are being turned off on motorways and major roads, in town centres and residential streets, and on footpaths and cycle ways, as councils try to save money on energy bills and meet carbon emission targets. The switch-off begins as early as 9pm.

They are making the move despite concerns from safety campaigners and the police that it would lead to an increase in road accidents and crime.

Just a British phenomenon? Not so fast. It is also being done in Rockford, Illinois.

Rockford officials are looking to cut costs and save money, and a recent vote by city council will literally put out lights on some roadways.

The public works department has been working with engineers to determine where street lights need to be and where they don?t.

“Street lights on main roads encompass putting them at intersections, or on curves, but other than that we don’t need anything mid-block,” said director of public works Tim Hanson.

In all, they want to take down 23-hundred of the city’s 14-thousand lights.

800 of which will come down in residential neighborhoods, prompting some residents to worry about their safety. But Hanson says the street lights are not up to protect the public.

“If you’re looking for safety for your home, you’re looking for a yard light, you’re looking for a light on your house, and that’s what you should be looking at, don’t be looking at a street light to give you that protection, because street lights are out there for traffic flow and safety,” said Hanson.

The city says it will save half a million dollars by reducing the number of street lights by 16-percent.

But Rockford resident Tim Roe says he worries the lack of light will lead to more crime.

Most studies show that more lights at night equals less crime. So will the net effect of these reductions lead to a lower or higher total city budget? Sometimes you have to sub-optimize one portion of a system to improve total systems costs. But typically politicians are not systems thinkers. How could they be? They don’t even know how current systems work. Electricity comes out of the wall and gasoline comes out of the pump is not too far off from the vast majority of political thinking. Couple that with “the system works really well so how much could a little tinkering hurt?” and we have a recipe for incipient disaster. And of course in hindsight it will all be obvious.

You will excuse me if I think “the future is so dark that there will be no need for shades”. And it all starts with men with guns in the service of power and control freaks.


I should add that this statement: California will require utilities to buy the capacity to store 1.3 gigawatts of electricity is meaningless in context. It is a measure of power. Would that be 1.3 gigawatts for a femto second? A hearing aid battery could do it. The number required for meaning is gigawatt-hours. Or better gigawatts-days.