Electric Cars Run On Coal, Whether You Like It Or Not
I love the environment, and that’s why I hate electric cars. Here’s why:
The whole point to driving electric cars is that they’re green—they don’t produce nearly as much carbon dioxide as do gas-powered cars. The problem is that this isn’t really true: electric cars aren’t going to save the environment anytime soon. In fact, they’ll probably make it worse.
The fact is fossil fuels are still used in manufacturing the electric cars. They power the machines that mine the elements that make up the battery, the chassis, the interior—everything. Mining is not green. According to Wired:
Rare metals only exist in tiny quantities and inconvenient places—so you have to move a lot of earth to get just a little bit. In the Jiangxi rare earth mine in China, Abraham writes, workers dig eight-foot holes and pour ammonium sulfate into them to dissolve the sandy clay. Then they haul out bags of muck and pass it through several acid baths; what’s left is baked in a kiln, leaving behind the rare earths required by everything from our phones to our Teslas.
This is all bad, but worse is the mass disposal of these car batteries. It’s an environmental disaster in its own right.
And this doesn’t even touch on the manufacturing. The power that factories use to assemble electric vehicles comes from the power grid, which means it’s (mostly) generated by burning fossil fuels.
Tesla’s giant factory? It’s powered by burning coal and natural gas.
Electric Cars Run On Fossil Fuels
The following video touches on another big problem when it comes to electric cars: fuel (or lack thereof). Electric cars run on (obviously) electricity. Therefore, they’re only as green as the energy they run on. As it turns out, gas-powered internal combustion engines burn cleaner than the power grid as a whole.
Therefore, electric cars actually have a larger environmental footprint than their competition.
Continuing along this vein, Scientific American explains:
But those smokestacks, many attached to coal-fired power plants, are the single-largest source of greenhouse gas pollution in the U.S., at two billion metric tons of CO2 per year. That source would grow as electric cars demand more and more electricity, unless tighter pollution controls are placed on power plants or electric utilities shift to less polluting sources such as solar. As it stands, a conventional Toyota Prius hybrid vehicle, which burns gasoline when its batteries are not engaged, and the all-electric Nissan Leaf produce roughly the same amount of greenhouse gas pollution: 200 grams per mile, according to data from the U.S. Department of Energy.
And as they later acknowledge, this argument applies doubly for countries that don’t have such tight environmental controls as the United States:
The same argument applies worldwide. Driving an electric car in China, where coal is by far the largest power plant fuel, is a catastrophe for climate change. And if the coal plant lacks pollution controls—or fails to turn them on—it can amplify the extent of smog, acid rain, lung-damaging microscopic soot and other ills that arise from burning fossil fuels.
This is the elephant in the room. China. Electric cars in China are an environmental disaster. In China, there is less than 1 car for every 6 individuals. With their economy growing and more and more people moving to the middle class this number is expected to boom in the next decade.
The main lesson here is that electric cars are about as green as the power grid that provides them. However, all this means is that electric cars are a pipe dream.
We’ve repeatedly written about the issues with a ‘green’ energy grid. Not only is it not viable in the long term, it also has the potentially to collapse Western civilization due to causal non-linearities, and systemic fragility.
So, if the only way to make electric cars truly environmentally friendly is to make the power grid ‘green’, then electric cars are a sham since the latter cannot (and should not) happen—at least not using the technology that “environmental advocates” would like. Nuclear, sure. Wind, not a chance.
Luckily for us, electric cars have not taken over the automobile industry quite yet. In fact, Tesla couldn’t sell any electric cars in Hong Kong without significant government subsidies.
Electric vehicles make up just two tenths of a percent of passenger vehicles in North America. Even with government subsidies on manufacturing and consumption, electric vehicles haven’t even reached a third of Barrack Obama’s prediction of 1 million electric vehicles on the road by 2015.
With fuel prices reaching historic lows and electric cars producing loads of carbon emissions during manufacturing, it bolsters the argument that green energy and electric cars are nothing more than another wealth redistribution schemes that help create welfare billionaires like Elon Musk.