The planning delusion again - this time it's electric cars

In the grand and larger sense we've Hayek's injunction, that we do not and cannot have enough knowledge to plan the economy in any detail. In a narrower sense we've the same point made by Lord Stern in his review of climate change. Given the externality of emissions then crowbar the costs into the price system and, as Hayek insists, use the only calculating engine we've got, the economy itself. Stern is really very certain, adamant even, that we should not be trying to deal with matters through plans, regulations and in detail.

At which point we get this:

Cars unable to travel 50 miles on battery power would be banned from sale from 2040 under plans being considered by the Government to improve Britain’s air quality.

The move is one of the proposals in an internal government review aimed at making transport in the UK more environmentally friendly bydriving motorists into electric vehicles.

However, the idea has been met with fury by the car industry, which called it “unrealistic” and based “on neither fact nor substance”.

If enacted, virtually all cars currently on sale would be outlawed – including hybrids such as the bestselling Toyota Prius which has a combined petrol engine and battery drive train.

No, no, and thrice no. Our third coming from the fact that we simply do not know the emissions of the various possible solutions here. What are the lifetime emissions of a battery powered car? How often does that battery need to be replaced, remanufactured? What are the production emissions of any car? Are we sure that lower emissions in use - if such is true - cover the emissions in manufacture? 

Even, are we certain that moving emissions from the tailpipe to the electricity plant aids in any manner? If we're burning wood in Drax it probably doesn't for example.

As ever when we're discussing climate change here leave aside any thoughts that it's not happening and all that. Engage with the discussion on their terms - and we still find out that they're doing the wrong thing.

We just don't know enough about the various possible technologies to know what will be the solution. Hybrids? Fuel cells? Batteries? Flywheels? Probably not that last but who knows? We also only have the one manner of finding out what that answer is. We can include the externality into market prices and see what happens. For the solution is something emergent from market processes, not something that can be known or calculated in advance.

Hayek tells us this, Stern tells us this, basic common sense about technology tells us this and yet they still try to plan.