John Stossel, writing at Real
Annoying Clear Politics, (which is not a terrible place except for John Stossel) quotes some guy named Bjorn Lomborg about electric cars, thusly:
Do environmentalists even care about measuring costs instead of just assuming benefits? We spend $7 billion to subsidize electric cars. Even if America reached the president’s absurd 2015 goal of “a million electric cars on the road” (we won’t get close), how much would it delay warming of the Earth?
“One hour,” says Lomborg. “This is a symbolic act.”
There are a lot of reasons that this is wrong. First, cars are not nearly the problem that buildings are. The vast majority of carbon released from fossil stores into the atmosphere (as CO2, mainly) has to do with buildings … heating them, cooling them, lighting them, and running the stuff we do in them. Vehicles are important but they are a smaller contribution. But they are still important. Anti-Earth people like Stossel and Lomborg seem to have an extra bit of hate for electric cars, and I think the reason for that is that the widespread deployment of electric cars can actually help with the buildings. One thing we need to make a smart grid work well is a lot of batteries. If there were charging stations at both home and work and most people who drove at all drove electric cars, the top 20 percent or so of the battery storage in all those cars (in the US there are hundreds of millions of vehicles) could be used to allow individuals to express their Liberties in the Free Market of Electricity, storing and supplying surplus juice at a profit. If you do this right you can probably drive your car for free this way, depending on your driving patterns.
Also, this is a very difficult number to calculate and is probably one of those things where you can make up any number and then find an equation that equals it.
Cars? Whose cars? Cars around the planet (one billion or so) or cars in the US (a quarter of that)? Which cars? The lower or higher milage ones? Who is driving them and how far? If we are only replacing hybrids, you wouldn’t get much. If you are replacing Ford F3000s, you’d get a hella lot. Also, these people are anti-global warming science. If you are anti global warming science, are you even allowed to calculate things using — global warming science? Can you insist that climate change is not real, or not related to CO2, or that important things like climate sensitivity (how much heat arises from how much CO2, simply put) are not known or not properly calculated, and still use those mathematical relationships to make up some dumb argument like this one?
No. You can’t.
Anyway, it probably can be calculated but I’d rather see the calculations done by someone who knows what they are talking about, so I asked atmospheric scientist and energy expert John Abraham about this and here’s what he said.
If you put 1 million clean cars on the road and have them last 15 years before removing them, and if you take the typical emissions of a vehicle (5700 kg CO2 per year), you have saved 8.6 e10 kg of CO2 in the 15 years. Now lets assume you don’t put any more clean vehicles on the road. How many hours is this worth of global emissions?
We emit about 36 billion tons of CO2 per year which is about 4.1e9 kg CO2 per hour.
Therefore, those cars, over their lifetime, would have saved 21 hours of emissions from all CO2 sources.
So, he was only off by 2100%
In addition, I asked my friend J. Drake Hamilton at Fresh Energy if she had a handy link to an article somewhere that would address this question, the question of the efficacy of electric cars and such, and she game met the following. Thanks J.
A new study from North Carolina State purportedly shows that electric vehicles won’t reduce pollution in the long term. A closer look at detailed results reveals that the study actually shows the opposite: that higher electric vehicle adoption can significantly reduce carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide emissions. That’s right–despite the confusing spin–the North Carolina state study confirms what the vast majority of studies have shown: electric cars are a key part of our longer-term strategy to cut carbon and smog-forming pollutants.