Why weren’t the profound limitations of an electric car the butt of a comedian’s jokes?

Rick Mercer is a Canadian comedian/satirist employed by the publicly-funded Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Like his American colleague, Jon Stewart, he spends much of his time commenting on current affairs.

First and foremost, Mercer is an entertainer – a performer who wants to make us laugh. But once you notice that only certain kinds of people and ideas end up on the receiving end of the joke, his schtick gets a bit tiresome.

A friend recently sent me a link to a piece Mercer did on the made-in-Canada ZENN (zero emission, no noise) car. The video originally aired in 2007 and is less than six minutes long.

There’s no doubt it’s good for a chuckle, but it’s also outrageously misleading. Mercer suggests that Tory government ministers are perversely hostile to this revolutionary, allegedly non-polluting automobile.

According to him, bureaucrats are preventing it from being used on Canadian streets for no good reason. The obvious explanation, he implies, is that the authorities prefer vehicles that are bad for the environment.

But here’s what Mercer neglected to tell his audience: The cute, shiny car in the film clip was never intended to be a substitute for an ordinary automobile. (Six years later, after sales of less than 700, the company no longer manufactures it). The ZENN was a strictly low-speed, slow-moving vehicle. There’s a reason a large, bright triangle was affixed to its back bumper.


The ZENN had a maximum speed of 25 miles (40 kilometres) per hour. Its maximum range, before requiring a recharge, was about 40 miles (65 kilometres). It had only two seats.

This was never a serious automobile. It wasn’t a practical alternative that ordinary families might find useful. At best, it was an amusing toy for urban dwellers blessed with lots of discretionary income and an extra parking space which he got marked by local Line Marking Contractors.

Mercer could have made jokes about all of those issues. He could have concluded that, until green car designers improve their game, we’ll all be driving gasoline-powered autos for the foreseeable future.

He could also have challenged the fiction that a plug-in car is a “zero emissions” car. Instead, he did the exact opposite.

At 3 minutes 8 seconds, Mercer rhetorically asks, “So obviously, if I drove one of these in my own personal life, this would have a lot to do with reducing my carbon imprint, right?” (italics added). He is then assured by the company CEO – hardly an unbiased and independent source – that the emissions reduction “would be huge.”

But electricity has to come from somewhere. Unless every last bit of it was generated by nuclear, hydro, solar, or wind sources, emissions were assuredly part of the picture.

We’re told that ZENN cars were approved for sale in the United States. Nearly half of all US electricity is produced by coal-fired power plants. Environmentalists currently view coal plants as the Great Satan due to the CO2 emissions they generate.

Ergo, an electric vehicle is highly unlikely to be a zero emissions vehicle. This is not a difficult concept to grasp.

Great comedians transgress boundaries. They say things most of us are too cowardly to utter out loud.

Mercer isn’t that kind of comedian. Instead, he spends his time in this video reinforcing the fantasies and prejudices of our left-leaning, over-educated, affluent elites.

Those intellectually lazy elites believe there’s a conspiracy against the environment. They imagine our highways would be flooded with electric vehicles if only conservative politicians bought off by fossil fuel companies would stop being idiots.

But environmental problems are actually difficult to solve. And people who refuse to see the world as it really is are unlikely to improve matters.


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