Think your all-electric car is good for the environment? You may have to think again, according to a recent University of Minnesota study which shows that, even by the green lobby’s own metrics (such as California’s “Well to Wheels” approach), electric cars can produce higher emissions than conventional gasoline cars.
How can that be possible? What matters is where the electricity for this car comes from. As Ken Caldeira of the Carnegie Institution of Science says in this report about the study, “when a wire is connected to an electric vehicle at one end and a coal-fired power plant at the other end, the environmental consequences are worse than driving a normal gasoline-powered car.”
The report shows that running an electric car in Ohio or Illinois (among other states), where the majority of the energy is generated by coal, would be more harmful to the environment than a conventional gasoline vehicle – and ethanol also results in higher emissions.
Actually, the report highlights two important points about America’s energy supply. The first, as described above, is the need to take a holistic approach to energy: using an electric car does not necessarily result in lower emissions. The second point this study makes is to highlight the necessity of fossil fuels in maintaining our quality of life here in the U.S.
This second point is spelled out clearly in the report. The study highlights the need to mine rare earth minerals, and other metals, to make some of the key components for all-electric (and hybrid) vehicles. Yet again, this shows the need for fossil fuels and other industrial technologies to maintain and advance our quality of life.
As study co-author Justin Marshall says, “A lot of the technologies that we think of as being clean … are not better than gasoline.” The electric car you are driving still relies on the fossil fuel energy that has built this country into one of most prosperous nations in modern history.