San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Let the gas prices climb, but give us electric cars

The World Cup games are over, at least for Costa Rica, and we’re more than proud of La Sele. It’s been a landmark year for Costa Rica. But we never promised to win the mundial (although we were a hair away from doing just that). We did, however, promise to become the first carbon-neutral country in the world.

The first promise was that it would be done by 2021. The second promise was that it “likely [would be] around 2025.”

Now, the Broad Front Party is looking for us to ally ourselves with Venezuela’s Petrocaribe alliance as a way of reducing the price of gas at the pump. What?

We’re not going to go into the million reasons why we don’t want to be in an alliance with anything that includes Venezuela. Those are complicated.

What we seem to have forgotten is why we don’t want to reduce the price of gas.

It’s fine to be the No. 1 tourist destination, especially among ecotourists. It’s fine to continue to pretend we’re still in the Third World and throw out lofty goals that a new progressive government is more than happy to endorse. Surely it’s OK to adjust the due date to become carbon-neutral, if the original goal is simply unattainable. But how much of this is just chest beating? Why such hyperbole? Especially if a small country – which almost beat the rest of the world in the most popular sporting ever and which has constantly amazed anyone who knows anything about us – can’t do what obviously needs to be done to meet this very impressive environmental goal.

There is talk about how joining this alliance would boost the economy by lowering gas prices by over 20 percent. There is also talk about how we can’t afford to aggravate the national debt by reducing taxes on over-priced fuel. Yet some (few) still talk about how we can take serious steps to meet this amazing goal of becoming carbon-neutral. Reducing the price of gas is not one of them.

When countries try to reduce cigarette smoking, what do they do? Tax them. To the extent that most smokers simply realize they can’t afford it anymore. But smokers had an alternative: They didn’t need to smoke to get to work every morning. They didn’t need to light up to make it on time, they found out.

The problem is that we in Costa Rica – the progressive, environmental country with such lofty goals – haven’t established an alternative to the current hydrocarbon-based system of transport. If gas prices aren’t reduced, we’ll still go to the beach; we’ll still go into San José every day; we’ll still pollute the skies and harm the environment.

Personally, if there were a subsidy or some incentive to, oh I don’t know, buy an electric vehicle for a reasonable price, I would do so. And then, if the public sector mandated electric or at least LNG vehicles for all public transport, we would be on our way. If a tax were imposed on polluting vs. non-polluting vehicles, I would march in support of the measure in front of the Legislative Assembly.

If the price of gas goes down, none of us will do any of these things.

I think we all understand that the less privileged are hurt by high gas prices. In fact, they hurt me too. Give us an environmentally friendly alternative. Give us a way out of the hydrocarbon-dependent downward spiral.

I think President Luis Guillermo Solís needs to set his long-term objectives, and prioritize them. I’m glad I’m not president, because I understand this isn’t an easy task.

But of all the ways we might consider to ever become carbon-neutral – not to mention hydrocarbon independent – looking to form an alliance with Venezuela to get cheaper gas isn’t one of them.

Let’s blow the world’s mind again and actually do what needs to be done to be responsible global citizens.

We’re on a roll. Let’s not blow it now, don Luis Guillermo.

Jonathan Harris is a Costa Rican geologist and president of The Tico Times’ board of directors.

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In case anyone is interested, we WILL be building electric cars in Costa Rica, with an investment much less than “a mere $3mm” and thanks to the Banca Para el Desarrollo because there is NO climate of investing in such worthwhile projects in Costa Rica. (most advertised “investment opportunities” are the ubiquitous real estate type based on a bubble that burst in 2009). Yes it is slow and the bureaucracy is a headache, but we will do it. See our project at cambyocar dot com. Thanks Jesse Blenn, Technical Director 8372 4113. And yes you saw it first in the Tico Times months ago:

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Strangely enough I have an electric car Company wanting to expand to Costa Rica and looking for partners here with a mere $3mm investment.
Don Luis has yet to grant me an audience.
I guess it’s better to go to USA to beg for companies to invest. Rather than one ready and willing to come.
Do we want electric trucks, busses, and cars?? I guess not. 2 years waiting to show interest. There is none. No one has shown interest. Only if you give it away.
No work, investment. So they are now moving to Honduras. What a pity.

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Jon Harrington

I drive a hybrid. Why would the government not want to give incentives to bring in more hybrids? With the energy mix being predominantly renewable and the prospect for increased wind and solar to pick up more of the energy used, electric makes sense. For cars, it is definitely practical now.

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Claudio González-Solís

Hi Jonathan. I am agree in some points you mentioned. But I am little bit courious too. Are you geologist from Costa Rica? I am also a geo, with mining experience, I never heard before about you. Cheers, CG

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Bill Guthrie

Everybody needs to know , it is possible to build an electric car that doesn’t need to stop and charge. My patent pending idea is called air induction and charging system charges the battery or batteries as you travel down the road. You can go 500+ miles without stopping. If you build the car from scratch it’s possible to go coast to coast. This will work , but gas company won’t allow it, because gas would be worth $.25 a gallon.

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Colin Brownlee

Great to see someone involved with TT talking logic. It sure is refreshing.

No, no one said going to alternative energy was going to be easy, but it is a future worth investing in. Any alliance with a failed state like Venesula is hardly an investment for the future.

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John Morris

The poor ride the bus. The switch of several hundred thousand drivers to electric cars would drive the price of electricity so high that the poor would be left in the dark.

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The process to create the batteries is infinitesimally more toxic than the entire lifespan of a petrol car. That doesn’t even scratch the surface of the issue of recharging the electric cars.

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Mark Kahle

Oh that we could all be so whimsical and live in fantasy land. Get that semi over the mountains, that car to San Jose, the recharges that take 2 minutes and many more negatives when talking battery power. It is a nice dream but completely impractical at this time.

When electric is functional for society a simple 5 year phase out of gasoline/diesel would not be met with too much opposition. Just keep in mind all the vehicles, airplanes and cargo haulers that pass through that would need to be dealt with.

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Rick Nelson

Check out awesome speech by Ecuador President Rafael Correa. With great clarity he explains why his nation needs to develop Oil reserves partially within the Yasuni National Park. The international community is all hype and will support any initiative whereby a country is willing to maintain its’ people in poverty in order to supposedly save the planet (one more time) from Global Warming.

Unlike Costa Rica which is all too eager to give away anything within its’ borders in exchange for international claps, and personal benefits for the politician thirsty for recognition, Ecuador first explored and determined the worth of their resources to see if the world leaders were willing to put Other People’s Money where their mouth is. But no go, so the responsible leader that he is, he signed the decree to develop those resources, because people do not survive on promises.

Many Expats and foreigners living in Costa Rica are all for unconditional conservation, that is until they begin to realize the true cost of poverty and underdevelopment to their attempts to live in peace, security and prosperity in Costa Rica. Nothing is worse for the environment than the poverty inflicted on the population in the name of “conservation”.

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Pane Lawton

And we will charge the battery of the electric cars using fossil fuels?

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