Debunking The 50% Coal FUD

One constant criticism that I see every where about Electric Vehicles is that “Coal accounts for about 50% electricity generation”, with the implication being electrification of transportation is useless. Like this one today.

Behind the hype on Tesla

There’s a big problem, however, with the imagery. Wind power represents about 3% of electricity production in the United States. Coal accounts for about 50%. So while Tesla drivers may pat themselves on the back because their cars don’t emit foul greenhouse gases, half the electricity needed to charge the batteries that make the cars run comes from burning coal.

If this country were to embrace electric cars in a big way, we’d probably make our emissions situation worse, not better, for all the coal we’d need to burn — unless alternative forms of electricity generation suddenly put coal out of business, which isn’t going to happen.

Let us look at this from the point of view of CO2 emissions. We have two big sources of emissions.

– Transportation
– Power generation

To reduce emissions we need to cut down emissions from both these sources, as well as from other sources. It will take decades to actually do this transition from fossil fueled cars to electric cars and from coal power to nuclear/renewable even if we start the transition in earnest today. That is why we need to start both the transitions now.

We can’t wait for that 50% of coal power to get greened before starting transition to electric vehicles.

Ofcourse, the states where electric cars will likely become popular first, are also states which have much greener power. Like my state of Washington. Even in other states, as the power generation inevitably becomes greener, automatically the electric cars will get greener too. Not so with say, Prius.

Apparently even the bright minds apparently can’t grasp this simple idea.


~ by evnow on July 2, 2010.

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