Emissions issues of electric vehicles

Emissions issues of electric vehicles

When I hear people calling plug-in electric vehicles “zero emissions,” I go through the roof. Don’t they realize that the majority of electrical power generation in this country is accomplished by burning coal? Don’t they also realize that power generation contributes just as much to airborne contaminants as does transportation?

The obvious answer is that they don’t realize much of anything, because they don’t take the time to learn the real facts. They just spout the sound bites they’ve heard. Although auto manufacturers embrace electric vehicles, their motivations are entirely different. I believe the equation used to calculate fuel economy of electric vehicles overstates mileage, so manufacturers will produce as many electric vehicles as possible to meet the new fuel economy regulations. I’m sure they get some healthy tax breaks as well.

The latest news item made me fall out of my recliner—Harley-Davison is scheduled to introduce a fully electric motorcycle, the Live Wire. Most Harley riders I’ve met purchase Harleys for either the look or the sound. The new Live Wire doesn’t look like a Harley, and the only way it’s going to sound like a Harley is with the help of a sound system.

Scientists still have not been able to develop an inexpensive, durable battery that doesn’t weigh a ton. Until a major breakthrough occurs in the battery industry, I don’t think electric vehicles, particularly plug-ins, make any economic sense. It will be 10 to 20 years before batteries can provide the energy density of gasoline, so electric power is long term. I think natural gas is the obvious alternate fuel for the near term.

I live near Springfield, Mo., with a city council that recently harped about solar power so much that the city utilities people installed Missouri’s largest solar facility. When City Utilities recently announced that power bills would increase by about $45 per month, all hell broke loose.

The Sierra Club thinks Springfield’s citizens should pay the same for solar power as they currently pay for power from coal-fired plants. Don’t these people think the rules of basic economics apply in “green” situations?

Evidently, some of our educators and politicians are trying to convince the general populace that perception is the same as reality. My English colleague referred to this kind of marketing as “all singing, all dancing.” I would like to think that the general public is smarter than that, but I’m beginning to have my doubts.

Ethanol producers are currently stating that corn-based ethanol is cheaper than gasoline as well as better for the environment. Folks, the facts just don’t support these arguments, but the ethanol people persist, and their followers continue to quote the party line. We also export a lot of ethanol to other countries. How is that conserving our nation’s energy? Even CARB and the EPA are beginning to realize the truth about corn-based ethanol.

Perhaps the biggest new farce is the marketing efforts of the wood pellets industry people. They’re promoting the use of wood pellets for everything, including power generation. They are also promoting the exportation of wood pellets to countries all over the world. Currently 25% of pellet content is old railroad ties, which are loaded with toxins.

To date, I’ve heard no mention of two very important facts about trees and other plant matter. First, plants absorb CO2. One of the best ways to reduce CO2 emissions is to plant more trees—not cut them down.

Second, we talk about energy independence, but the pellet people talk about exporting one of our most precious resources to other countries. Surely—to quote an old movie title—“The Gods Must be Crazy.” I’d like to see us use the facts to make decisions for once.

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