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Environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) is the newest faith, and we all know who practices it. People who drive electric vehicles (EVs) sing "Hallelujah" when they leave their sheds. The ESG evangelists in the investment class think that the new belief is just getting started. Investor Harris Kupperman thinks that whatever the Biden EPA does, it's probably just the Church of What's Happening Now.
Maggie Lake of Real Vision called Kupperman "Kuppy." He told Lake, "Well, I think we're nearing peak ESG, which is probably a good thing, honestly." He told them,
Kuppy thinks that all those fancy Teslas that cut you off in traffic without making a sound and whose drivers think they are saving the world are going the way of the T. rex. “No. I think EV will be something you'll see in a museum with my kids and say, "Wow, that was an evolutionary dead end, and we always waste trillions of dollars on this." No, I don't think EV is going anywhere.
And it’s like religions kind of come, they peak, they die out. No one practices Roman religions anymore. I can name three of the gods and I’m a Roman history major.
These things, they peak, they crest, and this little religion of ESG, it’s been around for a while. It peaked. And now there’ll be some die hard adherence, but I think the vast majority of investors want to make money. And it’s great if they’re doing something that has a social good, but most of them just want to save for their retirement.
"Really, why?" Lake asked in shock.
Next, Kuppy talks about the hard facts that most amateur activists and law enforcers don't think about.
Because it [the EV] destroys energy. You have this concept called EROI, which is the return on energy you put in. An EV, you put more energy in than you get out. And so as a result, it’s just like a thermodynamic rule—it won’t work unless you subsidize it.
What’s the reason for EVs? It’s because it supposedly produces less carbon. But through the full life cycle of owning an EV, because so much carbon has to go into the stupid thing, it doesn’t use less carbon. You’re better off having a gas guzzler.
Yikes. Maybe EV owners are not as heroic as they believe.
Kupperman says that without government subsidies, consumers will stick to internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles. In fact, even with subsidies, most people, like Kupperman, will buy ICE vehicles. But there will always be snobs.
[If] you kind of want to be a snob and say you’ve got an EV, then be a snob. It’s a nice thing to have if you want to show off that you have a thing. For me, I have a truck. Doesn’t bother me at all and I’m proud of my truck.
However, “if carbon is the thing you’re caring about, you’re caring about the total cost of using the car or the energy in versus energy out. Almost any component you look at, you’re better off just having an internal combustion engine. And those engines have actually gotten very efficient over the last couple of years.”
Kupperman points out that as these EVs age, owners will see
what happens to battery degradation with lithium ion batteries, and the fact that the lithium ion battery is such a large component of the total cost of a car, and when you’re at year five or six [and] have to replace 30% to 40% of your car’s initial cost, people are going to realize the lifetime cost of owning an EV is astronomically high.
So, Kuppy thinks that the number of EVs will go down, and owners will have second thoughts and understand that their cars are terrible.
Kupperman says that ESG is nothing more than a tax on humanity. "And that's a big problem for the 6 billion people who want a better standard of living if they can't afford the things that will really help them get out of poverty."
Kupperman thinks that people will always want more energy and that the government will only make things worse.
They’ll try all sorts of stupid things. Governments historically do really dumb things that make problems worse. That’s the history of governments. I assume they’ll try all sorts of things that’ll fail. And all that it will do will be to destroy the supply response because of the government’s interfering in your ability to do your business.
When Lake asked about potential government interference, Kupperman replied,
Yeah, they’re probably going to try excess profits taxes. They’re probably going to try export bans, and price caps, and all sorts of other things. And the net result is that guys will take their dividends and go to the beach. They’re not going to drill for oil. No, I think it’s almost inevitable that the government will take a problem and turn it into a crisis.
Yes, an energy crisis is on the way, courtesy of Uncle Sam.