‘Clean cars’ will save us from climate change deniers

The world is turning to clean energy and so is the car industry, ignoring Trump and his climate change deniers.

Hydrogen Road Tour
Hydrogen cars have zero emissions [AP Photo/Richard Drew]

Donald Trump has, as we all know, withdrawn America from the Paris Climate Change Accords. The biggest, most promising international agreement since the founding of the United Nations.

It was to be expected. He said he would. When he took office, the official White House website removed every mention of climate change. Except for the promise to get rid of the Climate Action Plan.

It wasn’t just him. When he did that Republicans in the Congress united in praising him.

And he has surrounded himself with like-minded men. Scott Pruitt, his head of the Environmental Protection Agency, has a long record of working with polluters and battling hard for pollution, whether it’s from animal waste or power plant emissions.

Rex Tillerson, his Secretary of State, was the CEO of Exxon-Mobil, the largest private oil company in the world. He admits climate change is real, but when he was at Exxon he approved of the company releasing false figures about its costs.

Will Trump drag the US backwards? (Well, yes, as much as he can. That’s obvious.) And bring the rest of the world with it?

Must we despair?

Then, from out of the West, driving toward me, comes a car, leaving nothing but a trail of water vapour in its wake. It’s as if Mad Max was clean-shaven and fighting for civilisation.

It’s a car powered by hydrogen fuel cells. They combine hydrogen with oxygen, creating electric power on the way, and the only emission is water vapour. As recently as 2014 they were called a pipe dream, a fantasy too far.

They are being driven in California (of course). Toyota has 1,400 of them on the road there. Honda has just started to market a competitor and has sold more than 200 for the first five months of this year. California has 30 filling stations, which is actually enough to get around the state securely since hydrogen cars have a range of 300+ miles and can refuel as fast as a conventional car.

We're being rescued, in spite of ourselves, by liberal politicians in Europe, by China, by India, and, can you imagine this, the planet saved by General Motors.


Hydrogen cars are also coming to the Northeast. Twelve hydrogen stations are being set up, from Long Island to Brooklyn and the Bronx, in New Jersey, and on up to Boston.

Toyota and Honda are betting on hydrogen cars. So are Audi, BMW, Ford, Mercedes-Benz, Pininfarina (to 62mph in 3.4 seconds, goes 186mph, and refuels in three minutes), there’s a Welsh start-up, Riversimple, and General Motors has produced a monster military version.

Actually, all the major car companies are betting that the future will be something different from the straight-up internal combustion engine. Matthias Muller, head of Volkswagen, said “the future of driving is electric” and his bet is $10bn.

The auto wars for the future appear to be batteries vs hydrogen.

GM is actually much more invested in battery cars. They’ve been first to produce a mass market totally electric car, the Bolt, with a range of more than 200 miles, about $30,000 with the $7,500 federal rebate. Tesla sold more than 80,000 electric cars in 2016.

Volvo has announced that it’s going all electric or hybrid, by 2019. Just two years from now. Volvo will be owned by Geely, a Chinese company. A Swedish car maker going green is about as unexpected as spotting something trendy in Brooklyn. But when it’s secretly a Chinese car company, that’s exciting. And much bigger. Geely intends to produce a million electrified cars by 2025.

Norway plans to be auto emission-free by 2025. The Dutch parliament (the lower house) has passed a bill that no new gas or diesel cars will be sold after 2025. France has plans to end the sale of gas and diesel cars by 2040. What’s really important is that Peugeot-Citroen, their largest auto company, is on-board, already planning to be 80 percent hybrid and electric by 2023. 

While Donald Trump continues to go on about how the Climate Change Agreement would harm America – which he wants to put first! – to the benefit of China and India, 40 percent of e-car sales are in China and they expect to sell four million electric vehicles annually by 2020, and India is talking about selling only electric cars by 2030.

The politics over climate change, especially in the US, is a treacherous place of lies, confusion, and delusion, fueled by big oil, big money, and ideology. The deniers will still be calling it a hoax when Atlantic waves meet tides from the Gulf of Mexico and salt the greens at Mar-a-Lago.

Hopefully, it won’t come to that. We’re being rescued, in spite of ourselves, by liberal politicians in Europe, by China, by India, and, can you imagine this, the planet saved by General Motors.  

Larry Beinhart is a novelist, best known for Wag the Dog. He’s also been a journalist, political consultant, a commercial producer and director.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.