Planet Gore

Are Plug-In Cars the New Ethanol?

A good piece by Tim Carney over at the Washington Examiner. An excerpt:

But what would happen if electric cars and these batteries gain wide use?

Before we even get to the batteries, recall that although all-electric, plug-in cars emit nothing, somebody needs to burn something for the car to move. Here, the burning happens at the power plant instead of under your hood.

The Department Energy estimates that coal provides half our electricity. A recent Government Accountability Office study reported that a plug-in compact car, if it is recharged at an outlet drawing its juice from coal, provides a carbon dioxide savings of only 4 to 5 percent. A plug-in sport utility vehicle provides a CO2 savings of 19 to 23 percent.

If the cleaner and cheaper fuel of a plug-in causes someone to drive even a bit more, it’s a break-even on CO2. GAO co-author Mark Gaffigan raised the question to; “If you are using coal-fired power plants and half the country’s electricity comes from coal-powered plants, are you just trading one greenhouse gas emitter for another?”

Back to the lithium: The GAO report warns that “extracting lithium from locations where it is abundant, such as in South America, could pose environmental challenges that would damage the ecosystems in those areas.”

Those more concerned with energy independence than green fuels also have reason to doubt electric cars: About half of the world’s lithium reserves are in Bolivia. A major shift to lithium-powered cars “could substitute reliance on one foreign resource [oil] for another [lithium],” the GAO writes.

And here’s a link to something we posted previously on how Bolivia wants to control its lithium much like the Middle East controls its oil.


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