Electric cars cause more pollution than standard cars. LOL!

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  1. Cassie Smith profile image59
    Cassie Smithposted 12 years ago

    You have to laugh.  You've got our president pushing electric cars and here come's a TIME article siting a new study in Environmental Science & Technology saying that those electric cars aren't so clean after all.  Apparently when they looked at the use of electric cars in China, the Chinese burn fossil fuels to produce electricity at the power plants.  So now the pollution from those power plants "is spreading exposure to potentially harmful particulates in the air from urban populations to those in more remote rural regions."


    1. Evan G Rogers profile image60
      Evan G Rogersposted 12 years agoin reply to this

      Everyone knew this was true.

      The government uses "let's help the environment" to justify giving your money to their friends.

      It's called mercantilism.

    2. Doc Snow profile image88
      Doc Snowposted 12 years agoin reply to this

      Your heading is a bit of a fail, though--electric cars really only cause more pollution *when the electricity comes from dirty sources.*  That is kind of a "Duh!"

      Fortunately, as Ralph points out, the use of coal is declining here and in many jurisdictions.  Even in China, new and efficient coal plants are supposedly only being built to replace old, dirty ones.  (Of course, it's hard to tell if that's really what's happening without a truly free press to check.)

      Ralph's weight tax is intriguing but I think a carbon tax makes more sense, as it is essentially economy-wide.  And before knee-jerk reactions to the word "tax" kick in, let me add that I think the revenue should be offset by direct rebates to all taxpayers.  That's close to what the province of British Columbia did; they calibrated their carbon revenue to an income tax credit.  It's actually turned out to be a slight tax *reduction* in practice, as citizens get more back on average than the carbon tax raises.

      Meanwhile, those who are least efficient in their use of fossil fuels have incentives to find ways to burn less, so that they don't subsidize their more carbon-efficient competitors (or even just neighbors.)

    3. SimeyC profile image86
      SimeyCposted 12 years agoin reply to this

      Can't blame the president for this one - the whole Green initiative is supported on both sides - the problem is that no one is telling the whole truth, and as always it's about money!

      As an example - we're all using those new lightbulbs - not many people realize you should not put them in regular trash as they contain mercury - they should be disposed of properly at a recycling center.

      So while we solve one problem we end up causing a new one.....

      1. Doc Snow profile image88
        Doc Snowposted 12 years agoin reply to this

        Not such a problem, given that the small amount of mercury in CFLs--much smaller than the conventional fluorescent tubes found in so many offices, schools, stores and other institutions--is much less than the mercury released by the coal burned to generate the amount of power they would use.  Kind of the reverse argument to the electric car battery argument Cassie posted.  And of course, LED lights are the coming technology, though they are still quite expensive.  (I have a few.)

        By the way, if your jurisdiction is like mine, there is no "official" recycling program to accept the CFLs.  However, Home Depot will accept them for recycling--they've been doing so for a couple of years now, as per their national corporate policy.  I'm not sure all the employees actually realize it yet, though!  But I had no problems walking into my local HD and handing a dead 8' fluorescent tube to the Customer Service lady.  I think Lowe's does the same thing, but I haven't actually tried them myself yet.

  2. Ralph Deeds profile image63
    Ralph Deedsposted 12 years ago

    In case you haven't noticed an increasing percentage of our electricity each year is being produced with natural gas, and various green methods. It's true that faster progress is needed on supplanting dirty, coal-fired electric power plants AND on improving motor vehicle fuel efficiency. Electric cars are much more fuel efficient than gasoline powered cars.

    A good way to improve motor vehicle fuel economy would be to impose a weight tax on non-commercial motor vehicles. This would provide an incentive for people to buy smaller, lighter more fuel efficient cars of all types. Moreover, it would leave the car companies free to build and sell whatever they think best serves their customer's needs, and a weight tax would not negate the right of anyone to buy whatever type vehicle they wanted so long as they would be willing to pay the cost of the externalities associated with their decision (high emissions and low gas mileage. A weight tax could be phased in gradually over several years to give car buyers and car producers time to adjust.

  3. Cassie Smith profile image59
    Cassie Smithposted 12 years ago

    Natural gas is another fossil fuel which basically replaces oil.  That's fine with me but since the goal of many green advocates is to eliminate fossil fuels then electric cars are a fail.  It seems that we will continue to rely on fossil fuels for our energy.

    1. kerryg profile image82
      kerrygposted 12 years agoin reply to this

      Electric cars are only a fail if you power them with coal or other fossil fuel powered electricity. If you power them with clean energy such as wind or solar, they're a win.

      Additionally, it's unclear how you got "we will continue to rely on fossil fuels for our energy" from a study discussing how electric cars are powered (in China no less) now. Especially when the author of the study specifically states that "electricity generation in the U.S. is cleaner than it is in China, which means that the impact of electric car use in the two countries can’t be compared." Convenient how you left that out.

      You can't even reliably predict that China "will continue to rely on fossil fuels" for its energy, given the massive push it's doing on clean energy. China added 18 gigawatts of wind alone last year, nearly three times more than the US, plus 2.9 gigawatts of solar. They're on track to get 20% of their energy (total, not just electricity generation) from renewables by 2020 and have even talked about aiming for 40%, counting hydro.

      1. Cassie Smith profile image59
        Cassie Smithposted 12 years agoin reply to this

        I wasn't comparing the US and China nor was I conveniently leaving anything out.  I trust that people would read it since it's easy to find the TIME article.  My point is that since electricity is generated with fossil fuels in both places, then using electric cars does not lessen our reliance on fossil fuels and therefore doesn't make electric cars that much less polluting.  The burning of fossil fuels is much cleaner in first world countries and will continue to get cleaner in developing countries and it's still cheaper and more reliable than the alt fuels.

        1. wilderness profile image93
          wildernessposted 12 years agoin reply to this

          That should not be the case (electric cars don't lessen our reliance on fossil fuels) even when the total energy is from 100% fossil fuels.

          The reason is that cars are inherently very inefficient.  Much more so than power plants, even when the inevitable loss from hundreds of miles of power lines and charging of the batteries is added in.  The sum total of fossil fuels used is less when a large, efficient power plant is used instead of a small plant (car engine) operating at many different loads and speeds.

  4. Evan G Rogers profile image60
    Evan G Rogersposted 12 years ago

    Don't worry, no one on the forum has yet to refute your point.

    In the US, electric cars cost more money AND more environmental pollution than regular cars.

    Plus, year after year, the batteries get worse and worse, needing more and more energy.

    Plus, more of your money - which you could be spending on anything - is being taken from you to give to someone else who can afford the electric car.

    1. Doc Snow profile image88
      Doc Snowposted 12 years agoin reply to this

      She didn't show that--she showed that in China, they spread the pollution load from city to countryside.

      Batteries may degrade over time, of course.  But they don't need 'more and more energy'--they lose capacity to hold charge, which is not the same thing.

      You are referring to the subsidies on electrics, which Rush and co. are making hay over just now.  Well, let's assume that the subsidy per vehicle does go to $10,000, as proposed.  If 10,000 units were sold, then the Treasury would be out $100 million.  Why, that's huge! That's--

      Roughly 33 cents per person per year.

      Still, subsidies are distortions of the market and should be used conservatively (no pun intended!) as policy instruments.  So, how about we lose the subsidies to oil companies, which are roughly 100 times larger than the subsidies on electric vehicles?

      1. Evan G Rogers profile image60
        Evan G Rogersposted 12 years agoin reply to this

        If you have to recharge a battery 4 times a week instead of 2 times a week, then you're using more energy.

        I stand by my argument.

        1. wilderness profile image93
          wildernessposted 12 years agoin reply to this

          Incorrect.  A lead acid battery in good condition might hold 250 amp hours of current but only 150 amp hours after being abused for two years.

          In that condition it will need recharging more often, but will not accept the amount of energy it would when new.  It will not require as much energy to charge it now because it won't hold what it should.  It's like having a gas tank that is half crushed; it would hold 20 gallons when new, but now only holds 10 gallons.  You have to fill it twice as often, but with only 1/2 the gas that it used to hold.

          1. Doc Snow profile image88
            Doc Snowposted 12 years agoin reply to this

            Exactly.  Thank you.

  5. CHRIS57 profile image59
    CHRIS57posted 12 years ago

    A good state of the art Otto-engine gets to an efficiency of some 25% on the road. Diesel engines are closer to the ideal Carnot process, so they get to 30%. A modern fossile (coal, gas) power station should operate at 50% thermodynamic efficiency.
    Any comparison between electric and gas driven cars has to take into account those differences. So if there were no energy losses for transporting electricity through the grid, storing electricity in batteries, extra dead weight in an electric car..., there would be an advantage for electric cars.
    But there are losses on the way from power plant to the electric motor in a car. At the end of the day, there is no benefit for the carbon footprint, if you burn fossile fuels to generate electric energy for cars. Even more, there may be some talks about environmental cost for batteries, their production, maintenance, replacement.
    The picture changes if you use renewable power sources (wind power, photovoltaic, hydropower) or nuclear power to produce electricity. Then benefits are clearly on the electrically driven cars.
    So much for the technical explanation, what peak oil and rising cost for exploitation of fossile fuels does to gas prices, is worth another discussion.
    I think the topic deserves more unbiased attention than simply bashing this technology.

    1. recommend1 profile image61
      recommend1posted 12 years agoin reply to this

      As you point out so clearly, there is much more to this than can be contained in empty rhetoric and oil industry spin.

      This is like the lying hypocrites of the UK who claim relatively green energy in loud public pronouncements - but get a huge amount of their power from nuclear power stations in France through the cable that I helped to install ! 

      The bottom line is that motor vehicles must burn oil,  electricity can be generated in lots of different ways including those that do not require burning fossil fuels.  The more electricity consumption relative to fossil fuel burning, then the more technology and energy sources will improve efficiency and generation.

  6. Doc Snow profile image88
    Doc Snowposted 12 years ago

    By coincidence, this story came out today.  It seems an enterprising Canadian monitored the performance of his electric Mitsubishi, comparing performance during the year--including the harsh Manitoba winter.  Range on a charge went from 100 km to about 76--still OK for most commuters.

    One wonders how much was due to battery characteristics, and how much was due to a heater that's presumably electric?

    http://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/story … ather.html

  7. Doc Snow profile image88
    Doc Snowposted 12 years ago

    Also came across this study today.

    According to the 2009 analysis, adoption of electric vehicles at predicted levels in the US would result in reductions of 11% to 63% in greenhouse gas emissions.  (The range reflects different policy choices, mostly relating to how clean or dirty the electrical generation used to power the cars might turn out to be.)

    http://cet.berkeley.edu/dl/CET_Technica … 2030_f.pdf

  8. John Holden profile image59
    John Holdenposted 12 years ago

    And of course, if you are on the street in, say, New York, which would you prefer, the waste from the power generation three feet away from your face or in some distant isolated spot?

  9. I am DB Cooper profile image75
    I am DB Cooperposted 12 years ago

    I'm still trying to get my head wrapped around this. Coal-burning power plants cause a lot of pollution, therefore electric cars are bad because they use electricity that might come from coal-burning power plants. Blame the electric car for the pollution caused by power plants that are using 100-year-old technology. I would hope we're working on ways to improve our methods of power generation, since we (should) know the "dig it up and burn it" method is not only dirty, it's unsustainable.


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