GAO: Electric cars won’t reduce carbon emissions
posted at 9:22 pm on July 9, 2009 by Ed Morrissey
The push for conversion to plug-in electric cars will do nothing to stop carbon emissions, a report by the GAO warns, throwing cold water on a push by Democrats to get more plug-ins on the road. In fact, the problem could be made worse as demand goes up at coal-fired electrical plants. Plus, the need for batteries may just have the US changing the dictators to which we’re chained, as IBD reports:
It’s a beautiful theory — highways full of electric cars emitting no greenhouse gases or pollutants after being plugged into an outlet in our garages overnight. The problem, according to a new Government Accountability Office report, is that the effort may only shift the problem somewhere else.
“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?” asks Mark Gaffigan, co-author of the GAO report. The report itself notes: “Reductions in CO2 emissions depend on generating electricity used to charge the vehicles from lower-emission sources of energy.”
The GAO report says a plug-in compact car, if recharged at an outlet drawing its power from coal, provides a carbon dioxide savings of only 4% to 5%. If the feeling of saving the environment from driving an electric car causes people to drive more, that small amount of savings vanishes entirely.
This misses another point as well, one I mentioned during the campaign. Obama wants the US to decrease its electrical demand over the next several years as a means of conservation as we switch away from coal and other fossil fuels as a source for power. Transferring cars from gasoline to electricity would vastly increase demand for power at the outlet, which would conflict with the decrease Obama wants to mandate. The result would be prices skyrocketing even higher, and people unable to use their vehicles from a lack of ability to pay for recharging them.
Of course, we have a source for electricity in abundance: nuclear power. IBD suggests that a program to rapidly expand our nuclear-power generation could fill the gap while generating zero carbon emissions. The Obama administration and the Democrats don’t want that, though. They shut down the Yucca Mountain nuclear storage facility, which would have recycled used fuel rods into material for more nuclear power, giving us an almost-completely renewing resource for decades into the future.
The GAO also points out that electric cars would have the US trading one set of dictators for another in order to power our cars. The batteries for electric vehicles are lithium-ion, and for the experimental production levels in the US at this moment, we have enough lithium resources to keep pace. However, once we start building electric cars in mass numbers, we will quickly run through our proven stores of lithium. We would most likely have to do business with Hugo Chavez lackey Evo Morales of Bolivia, where half of the world’s proven stores of lithium reside. Even if we didn’t buy directly from the leftist leader, Morales has the ability to set the global price — just as Saudi Arabia and OPEC do with oil.
Plug-in electrics just trade one carbon source for another, one dictator for another, and deliver a lower-standard vehicle. It’s about as lose-lose as it gets, at least without nuclear power to fuel it.