Whoops! Green Cars Not So Green

I, and others, have posted material showing that electric cars and hybrids are not exactly environmentally nor hotcoldwetdry friendly. Here’s another in the Wall Street Journal (h/t Dana)

Bjorn Lomborg: Green Cars Have a Dirty Little Secret

Electric cars are promoted as the chic harbinger of an environmentally benign future. Ads assure us of “zero emissions,” and President Obama has promised a million on the road by 2015. With sales for 2012 coming in at about 50,000, that million-car figure is a pipe dream. Consumers remain wary of the cars’ limited range, higher price and the logistics of battery-charging. But for those who do own an electric car, at least there is the consolation that it’s truly green, right? Not really.

For proponents such as the actor and activist Leonardo DiCaprio, the main argument is that their electric cars–whether it’s a $100,000 Fisker Karma (Mr. DiCaprio’s ride) or a $28,000 Nissan Leaf–don’t contribute to global warming. And, sure, electric cars don’t emit carbon-dioxide on the road. But the energy used for their manufacture and continual battery charges certainly does–far more than most people realize.

A 2012 comprehensive life-cycle analysis in Journal of Industrial Ecology shows that almost half the lifetime carbon-dioxide emissions from an electric car come from the energy used to produce the car, especially the battery. The mining of lithium, for instance, is a less than green activity. By contrast, the manufacture of a gas-powered car accounts for 17% of its lifetime carbon-dioxide emissions. When an electric car rolls off the production line, it has already been responsible for 30,000 pounds of carbon-dioxide emission. The amount for making a conventional car: 14,000 pounds.

Now, granted, the “carbon emissions” of an electric vehicle are half that of a standard gas vehicle, at least while run on battery power (wait, they have CO2 emission? That means they must be Evil like fossil fueled vehicles, and should be eliminated). The problem, as Bjorn points out, is that you have to drive it a lot on battery power to get ahead environmentally. Which also means stopping to recharge every 70 miles or so (depending on the vehicle, could be much less).

If a typical electric car is driven 50,000 miles over its lifetime, the huge initial emissions from its manufacture means the car will actually have put more carbon-dioxide in the atmosphere than a similar-size gasoline-powered car driven the same number of miles. Similarly, if the energy used to recharge the electric car comes mostly from coal-fired power plants, it will be responsible for the emission of almost 15 ounces of carbon-dioxide for every one of the 50,000 miles it is driven–three ounces more than a similar gas-powered car.

One would have to drive it considerably more and stay away from any coal fired charging points in order to save a tiny bit of CO2 output over a similar size 100% fossil fueled vehicle.

So, the obvious solution is for all Warmists to abandon not only their fossil fueled vehicles, but their EVs as well, and simply buy a bicycle to get to work and around town. Lead the way, Warmists!

Crossed at Pirate’s Cove. Follow me on Twitter @WilliamTeach.

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