Electric cars will not cure environmental woes

December 18, 2008

diana-furchtgott-roth_great_debate

– Diana Furchtgott-Roth, former chief economist at the U.S. Department of Labor, is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute. The opinions expressed are her own. —

The world is falling in love with plug-in hybrids and all-electric cars. President-elect Obama wants to put 1 million on the road by 2015. GM features them, particularly the Chevy Volt, in its new business plan for a debut in 2010. The EU wants them to shrink greenhouse gas emissions in 2020 by 20% from 1990 levels. This week the Chinese auto company BYD began selling the world’s first commercially-available plug-in hybrid sedan.

No matter that these cars are not widely available; that they are priced far above traditional models; that many have a short range, making them useful only for local trips; that batteries may be prone to catching fire; and that many motorists park on the street, where charging is impractical.

For some, these issues pale in importance to saving the planet from harmful emissions of carbon, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide—all of which are released from internal combustion engine vehicles. If battery powered cars reduce emissions, environmentalists argue, they should be produced and consumers should be enticed to buy them.

But whereas electric cars don’t pollute when they’re running on batteries, they’re not pollution-free. Making the lithium-ion batteries is pollution-intensive and recharging the batteries uses electricity. And most electricity generation, from coal- and gas-fired power plants, still causes pollution.

Which means that pollution from the extra electricity for car batteries has to be weighed against savings from burning less gasoline. Whether battery power can trump the internal combustion engine, which is continually getting more efficient, depends on when drivers decide to charge their future cars, as well as how the electricity is made.

A 2008 study by the Oak Ridge National Laboratory projected U.S. power needs in 2030 if 25% of the car fleet used some form of battery power.

If drivers charged vehicles after 10:00 p.m., when household power consumption is at its lowest, then at most eight extra power plants would be needed for electric cars. In contrast, if drivers charged cars in early evening when household use is peaking, 160 new power plants would have to be built.

At issue here is the way that America will generate its electricity when Obama’s 1 million plug-in hybrids hit the road in 2015. Nuclear power plants do not generate harmful emissions, and are a far cleaner source of electricity than oil, natural gas, or coal. Yet America has refused to build them for fear of accidents and because of controversy about where to dispose of spent fuel. A third problem is long delays in winning government licenses for new plants.

Private companies don’t want to face litigious American consumers, trial lawyers at the ready, and so do not dare embark on nuclear power plants. Until Congress makes serious efforts to shield companies from liability, nuclear power won’t be viable. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has not licensed a new nuclear power plant in over 30 years.

France, on the other hand, does have nuclear power; it generates 78% of its supply from splitting the atom, far more than America’s 19% share. Electric cars in France, therefore, if they can overcome problems of range, safety, and price, would be more environmentally friendly than their American counterparts.

Until America can resume construction of nuclear power plants, it might be that the way to energy efficiency on the road is not through the electric car but by making improvements in the way cars burn gasoline. That would be a good use of the $25 billion that Congress gave to the auto industry last year to improve efficiency.

Call it a dual-highway route to saving energy on the road.

Diana Furchtgott-Roth can be reached at dfr@hudson.org. For previous columns, click here.

150 comments

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We can´t generate oil in our backyard, electricity we can, either literally at home or in power plants. Electric cars is an enabling technology. It sets us on course to charge the batteries with clean energy and to use them manage peaks, storing energy in the cars during low demand periods.
It is one step into the right direction and we need to go further. I believe a New New Deal where government spends on clean energy infrastructure with electric cars will pay itself off with the money saved from oil imports.

Besides it´s cool not to depend on petrodictatorships.

Nuclear plants, too, cannot cure environmental woes. In fact, nothing can cure environmental woes; what we can do is to lessen the impact that we make and electric cars are an alternative to gas guzzlers that are on the roads today. The building of more nuclear power plants is also very problematic due to factors such as nuclear safety.

Incidents such as Chernobyl still stay in the public’s minds, the consequence of a nuclear leak is far more devastating than the amount of carbon dixoide that is pumped into the air.

While electric cars may not be the perfect solution, it would be most unwise to criticize them because they are seen as “less efficient” than cars that run on gasoline. Moreover, the environmental impact of creating a lithium-ion would still be much less than a car burning gasoline for 3 years.

Posted by Maurice | Report as abusive

This article confirms my personal contemplations about hype behind promotion of ‘clean energy’ generated from the same ‘dirty nasty oil/coal’ source.
I still can’t understand why professionals do not like to promote idea of wider use of diesel engine that is very efficient, easy, and cheap – for those why say it is not clean enough, I’d recommend to make a trip to Europe

Posted by Simon | Report as abusive

The writer excels in a lack of imagination. More fuel efficient fossile fuel engines are a dead end street because of the deminishing oil reserves. The next economic boom comes from the development of green energy technologies. Batteries and solar panels are leading the charge, Consumers will expect a special deal on solar panels for their roofs when they buy their electric car. Batteries at home will store the energy that is fed into the car at night. Shopping centres will have recharge banks where cars can be recharged within an hour or batteries exchanged for those who can’t connect at home. Technological progress in these areas will go as fast as we have seen with the cellphone. Chip maker Intel has already been urged to use its considerable technological power to get into the fray. All this is not only about saving the planet. Cutting out the petrodictators also puts more money into the pockets of consumers, means more spending, more economic activity.

Posted by mike emerald | Report as abusive

I’ve heard this argument before, but you did a good job a framing it, backing it up with data, and relating it to the future Obama administration.

One thing I don’t hear often enough is the proportion of the vehicle emissions that come from heavy trucks. Lately I have been wondering about the pros and cons of switching just the heavy trucks to CNG (Compressed Natural Gas). It wouldn’t bring about a carbon-neutral utopia, but it is a cleaner burning fuel, much cleaner than the diesel they now burn. Retrofitting the trucks and would be a lot of work but we’re looking to create jobs anyway. Installing all of the CNG pumps would also be a big job, but at least the heavy trucks travel on less of the roads than regular cars.

I think this would be a net gain. What do other people think? I can’t exactly get a think tank to do a study for me, so I’m really curious about people’s opinions.

Posted by Ken | Report as abusive

Of course the shift from combustion engine to eletric one s requires much more than just produce electric cars ! The whole energy matrix must be reviewed ! But improve combustion engines is not a long term solution ! Petroleum extraction will not be viable in 10 to 90 years ( till the end of the century) !

But as an electronic engineer I agree that change the way cars produce energy is secondary much more important it’s to eliminate the use of any kind of fossil fuels (petroleum, gas coal and charcoal or even methane) in generation of electric energy !

Posted by Lucio Carvalho | Report as abusive

Excess mortalies due to auto emmissions in larger centres cannot be understated. A wholistic approach is required whereby distributed systems are employed (solar electricity generation at home). We cannot allow ourselves to be encumbered by outdated technologies that have served our short-term requirements.

Posted by Kyle | Report as abusive

What a pathetic article. How much did the oil industry pay you to write this? Forget global warming. There is an energy crunch coming. Oil prices from summer ’08 will seem cheap in a few years. That is the single biggest reason for going with electric cars. We are running out of cheap oil. Secondly, gasoline contains way more energe pound per pound vs batteries, so they danger of fire and explosions in gasoline driven cars is also a problem. Yet it does not deter us from driving them. The safety of battery technology will improve and is NOT a reason to condemn electric cars. People die from fires in internal-combustion engined cars every day. Thirdly, nucluear energy is not the answer. There is not enough nuclear fuel in the world to last a significant long enough time for it to be a long term solution. Renewables are the only viable long term solution at this point (cold fusion is still a dream unfortunately). Fourthly, carbon dioxide from coal burning plants (to supply electric cars with energy) can be sequestrated, and that is something we must be working on. However, the most important reason of them all to make the transition to electric cars is because we are running out of cheap oil. Wait till you pay $10 a gallon for gasoline. We’ll see how quickly you then believe in electric cars. Don’t be fooled by the respite in gasoline prices from the last few months. We might be able to enjoy it for the next year or even longer, but as soon as the global economy picks up, get ready for the return of bad news at the pump. Electric cars (about 90%) are way more efficient than internal combustion engines (only about 30%) which wastes most of it’s energy on heat. Lots of progress still needs to be made with battery technology, but electric cars are by far superior to internal combustion engines. Generating electricity from renewable energy is the medium to long term solution. Go to betterplace.com Shai Agassi’s research shows a much different picture of how many new coal plants the grid needs. There are lots of inefficiencies in the grid that can be improved which negates the need for new power plants.

Posted by habakak | Report as abusive

A nice superficial glance at the concept. NOTHING is the absolute solution! Safety problems? Other than saying the “safety problems” need to be overcome, zip mention. If shifting to electric-hybrid cars (which meet exactly the same safety requirements as any gasoline vehicle) and remotely controlling the chargers to do base-load balancing cuts our use of oil 15-20%, I see that as a net. The production of lithium-ion is far less of a problem than the author seems to think and the materials are recyclable.

Range? This has been addressed thousands of times. Do you run your cellphone until the battery is dead, then charge it? Most trips fall into the 40 miles range. Plug it in when you get home, end of problem.

Posted by david_42 | Report as abusive

Hi Diana,

There are more than one study showing that gas-hybrids are far less green than the simple gas engined version of the same car. The reasons include the battery issue you mention and the complexity of the combined engine systems in hybrids.

In any case, electric propulsion offers many other benefits, aside from promoting the development of alternative energy. Electric propulsion requires no transmission, reducing mass, lubricants, etc. Electric propulsion cars can be built with battery and generator compartments for today’s systems, that will, with emerging improvements in technology, be able to carry larger batteries or capacitors, and cleaner backup generators, if needed. An electric motor requires no spark plugs, no oil changes, ie. little if any dealer servicing, which is why GM shelved the EVO initiative years ago. gas or diesel generators for electrical backup operate at constant RPM, in the ‘sweet spot’ for the engine design, offering the highest efficiency. Fuel cells for backup can provide constant trickle charge when the batteries run low, and generate adequate power to extend range from 50 to 200 miles with a half gallon of methanol.

Now the true challenges are around the treadmill of consumption, and corporate control of agendas to keep people working the consumption mill to provide corporate profits. In a world with limited resources this is a recipe for disaster, and the reduction of the planet to feedstock for inefficient, unsustainable, and short sighted mismanagement by governments and corporations alike.

Posted by JR | Report as abusive

The solution is already here. I suggest you travel to California and test drive a Honda Clarity.

It uses a hydrogen fuel cell to generate electricty; the waste product is water.

The range of the car on a single tank of liquid hydrogen is approximately 280 miles.

It is expected once the car is in large scale production it will cost the same as a conventional 4 door saloon. A tank of hydrogen will cost roughly the same as your petrol.

I agree battery powered cars are a lame ducks but then so is the US auto industry (if not dead ducks).

Posted by Mark | Report as abusive

So are you against electric cars or for nuclear energy? Oak Ridge also stated that dropping incandescent light bulbs would turn off 10 power plants a year. Nuclear energy can be part of the solution, but it does not come without problems (a 1-million-year problem with waste disposal, especially as nobody, not even Yucca Mountain, wany it in their back yard, so it sits in above ground bunkers today). Other solutions, including solar, wind, microgeneration, and building a smarter grid would allow for distributed electrical supplies. Better metering and efficiencies would reduce demand. All work for a less polluting, more energy independent solution. Nuclear can’t provide the whole solution, and proposing to make more efficient internal combustion until we can make everyone nuclear converts is irresponsible. And the other unspoken question with nuclear: what about the inputs? If everyone goes to nuclear, where would we get all of the enriched uranium? Prices could spike, and the great geo-political game of procuring energy resources would replace our Mid-East dictatorships with those offering cheap uranium (most likely Africa).

Posted by Mike | Report as abusive

Your premise is that the case for electric cars is an environmental one. Even if there were NO net environmental benefit, there are compelling arguments for electric cars; flexibility of fuel production (nuclear, natural gas, PV solar cells, wind, etc.), freedom from future supply uncertainties (no dependence on petrodictatorships and Muslim fanatics), and no wars to protect our “strategic interests” in middle eastern oil. Combine that with the likelihood that we can improve our battery technology (assuming R&D commitments) in the future, and I’d want an electric car even if there were NO environmental benefits. That there are many is just “icing on the cake”. If we do not take this opportunity now, we will regret it later.

Posted by John B | Report as abusive

If we do not find forms of energy that can sustain us in ways we find acceptable, that is, in ways that help us maintain our current standards of living, while not destroying the environment, then we will inevitably return to some form of slavery. In effect, we will revert to a pre-industrialized economy, so the issue is not just cars.

Nuclear power has it problems, as Dr. Furchtgott-Roth lays out so well, but it does not cause greenhouse effects. Back in the 50s there was talk of thorium as a reactor fuel. It is abundant and does not produce elements that can be used in fission weapons. The beginning of nuclear weapons technology seems to have pushed the power industry down a uranium – plutonium path, which is more dangerous than a thorium one. Any nuclear industry will ultimately force subtle changes on society, particularly in terms of security and degree of regulation.

As to electric cars being powered from a central station, large scale power production is inherently more efficient than numerous small scale engines. This is because large power generators can be designed to operate at high temperatures and pressures with relative safety. This is a law of thermodynamics: the hotter the engine, the higher the pressure, the more efficient it is. So, electric cars would on balance be more efficient than internal combustion driven cars. The latter can only be pushed up the thermodynamic curve (with ever diminishing returns) toward greater efficiency by using higher pressures and temperatures. These features are dangerous. Such car engines would be potential bombs.

What ever happened to fuel-cell technology? The buses in Victoria, BC, ran for most of the 90s on fuel-cell engines and performed just fine.

As to trucks, they are flexible in where they can go and should therefore be used for short-haul delivery. For the long haul trains should be used. A switch over to more trains would yield a major savings in gasoline and in pollution, especially if the rail lines were electrified (again that central power source).

Posted by John Colarusso | Report as abusive

Please do due diligence on the current resurgence within the nuclear industry and you will get a different viewpoint.

Posted by Tom | Report as abusive

There is an affordable plug in electric car, but it is made in China, by what was three years ago a battery and technology company. Sales of the F3DM made by BYD began in China yesterday. The GM Volt ,a similar design,is three years away from hitting the streets. I wonder why we are so far behind? Well the answer is we are not behind, just repressed by “big oil”. We had plug in electic cars in the 90′s but all of the GM leased models were un-leased and crushed. Toyota made a plug in electric RAV4-EV that is still running today, many with over 100m miles on the original Nickel Metal Hydride batteries. I am sure it is just a coincidence that Chevron bought the rights to the battery and shelved the battery. Some of the surviving RAV 4 EV’s are being charged by solar panels and the owners love them. This article only propetuates the backwards thinking, misleading information that has allowed China beat to market by three years. Wonder why GM is going “belly-up”?

Posted by Alan F Butler | Report as abusive

Electric cars are not the only alternative vehicles out there. How about creating jobs by establishing a network of hydrogen filling stations? Emission byproduct – water.
Just a thought.

The reason why electric cars are the way to go is they are the ultimate flex fuel vehicle. The most important thing that I can do as a consumer to make foreign policy for the United States easier is to use less oil.

Posted by Rob Gully | Report as abusive

We need to get our transportation system off the dependence on (foreign) oil. Especially for economic and national security purposes. We need to stop the wealth transfer to rogue nations. Forget about the global warmig fairy tale.

Posted by James | Report as abusive

At last, some commentary on the energy costs of manufacturing. We don’t need to make a whole new car every year! all we need to do is improve its performance and repairability. We had cars that got over 30MPG in the 50ies and could be repaired by the kid next door. I was one of them who went on to repairing Airplanes. Hey people. Do you wonder how and why we still can use the B-52. We keep many airplanes in like new condition by rebuilding what wears out. Why replace the whole thing when all that is needed is replacing a few wear parts? John

Posted by ginsengjohn | Report as abusive

One additional question/thought. Why doesn’t the concept of hydrogen powered vehicles garner more discussion/research? It is true that current technologies make the production of hydrogen as pollution intensive as the refining of oil, the by-products generated at the point of consumption are far more environmentally palatable. And, there is an abundance of hydrogen rich resource available to tap.

Posted by Grant | Report as abusive

Electric cars are still a way better solution than gasoline run engines.
Especially as we find cleaner ways to produce electricity. Which we will and
we can. We need to make changes. The system we have right now is not working for the american people.
Right now we are funding big oil companies and the middle east. Both of
which do not! have our (the american people) best interest in mind. With electrical/hybrid
cars we would be funding more national energy companies, money that
is likely to be reinvested in the american middle class.
The fact that you don’t mention these major points in your article makes me wonder
what kind of “journalist” you are.

Posted by Johanna | Report as abusive

Tell me something I don’t know. You miss the advantage of power plants providing the electicity for battery charge. Those are large scale plants and more effective pollution controls can be used than on automobiles.

Why get upset about Lithium batteries? We’ve already dumped anough Nickel-Cadmium batteries in land fills to kill millions of people. Maybe batteries should be controlled like Freon?

Posted by David Allen | Report as abusive

The introduction of electric cars is a singular component of an overall transition, or shift, to alternative energy. Transitions are always rocky and require small steps upon which to build and perfect. The point of the elecrical car is to reduce production of co2. So, yes, the generation of electrical power must,therefore, be part of the entire picture. Given that electricity generation has more options for sourcing without co2 generation, this is a good choice for a vehicle. Electrical power generation may be done without the creation of co2, and may be done within a less risky mix of methodologies. To simply focus on nuclear alone is narrowing and limiting a the more useful and safer basket of electrical generation sources. You might say, putting all one’s eggs in one basket. Do we not learn from our mistakes? Wind and solar power are other methodologies that must be in that basket. Wind plants may be established on a large public scale, and private home owner solar may also be done to complement and reduce individual reliance on public electrical generation. Monies previously used for building public plants may be offered in form of tax credit for installation of personal solar equipment. Surely the great minds and leaders of our developed countries would not so limit us to nuclear alone based upon their own political inclinations, or narrow considerations. Particularly given the grave dangers to the continued existence of humanity if we do not get our act together.

Posted by Mick | Report as abusive

WOW!!! Like a lot of people do not know that. EVEN THE PLUG IN ELECTRIC CARS HAVE THE SAME ISSUE!!!! So what is the solution?!?!?

Posted by CG | Report as abusive

The title should have admitted that the article is primarily to advocate nuclear power. She seems to say that while there are problems with battery cars, nuclear power makes them worthwhile, so admit it. I wish this person would be more honest about the axes she’s grinding. I don’t value her columns much.

Battery cars are a great application for solar or wind power. If you accept battery cars, solar and wind are a better answer than nuclear. With a smart grid, you can automatically charge them at the least harmful times of day. And as far as parking on the street goes, the charging equipment isn’t very complicated, you don’t need any underground tank, and we can upgrade the power grid and charge them on the street.

Now, unlike her, I’m not sure battery cars are good because batteries go bad too often. I hate them, and so did my boss. That’s why I haven’t given up sympathy for cellulosic ethanol in internal combustion engines. We should be able to get to where cellulosic ethanol is carbon-neutral. Biodiesel is an idea, but I don’t know enough about it. The choice of “biological solar collectors” (green plants) is more limited if you want to get oil and not just cellulose.

Posted by Pete Cann | Report as abusive

Producing electricity for domestically run cars means lower trade deficit. NOT importing green cars means domestic GDP rise. You miss the idea that the economy is trying to self correct itself pushing us towards domestic manufacturing, to reduce the outflow of wealth.
That is the bigger picture for green technologies in USA, reducing emissions is actually byproduct.

Posted by Ananke | Report as abusive

Very valuable discussion and the topical umbrella (electric cars) is extremely important; but the key issues are not well clarified and elaborated, so my comments follow:

1. The primarily source of the renewable clean energy, which could satisfy ALL of our energy needs are Solar and Wind power. Btw, the Sun provides SEVERAL ORDER OF MAGNITUDE more energy that the mankind consumes.

2. Nuclear energy is not exactly “clean” due to tremendous issue of radioactive waste and incident risks. Most of traditional fission reactors are not “renewable” energy sources in a strict sense, because the splitting materials they use are subject for depletion in the same way as oil, gas, coal and other fossil fuel.

3. Problem with the Electric Cars is actually is a problem of Batteries, or more accurately stated, Electric Energy storage. The lack of efficient durable high-energy Batteries is a stumble block on the way to Clean Renewable Energy proliferation, especially in portable devices, cars, etc. UltraCapacitors (a.k.a. SuperCapacitors) is the answer to this problem. The author of these comments was a long time enthusiast, developer and promoter of the idea of UltraCapacitors (a.k.a. SuperCapacitors) replacing the electrochemical batteries and variety of applications, including commercial and military portable devices, ground vehicles, space technology. This concept was outlined in his “Green Electricity (GEL) Initiative, topping Google search list for many years.

What we really need is a political will and technological vision of our leaders to recognize this fact and make a strategic investment into Capacitive Energy Storage technology.

You can read more on this topic online: find the link to the text online in this comments or just Google on GEL Initiative. Thanks and regards,

Dr. Alexander Bell,
NY, USA

How does France deal with their nuclear waste?

Posted by Aaron | Report as abusive

“Electric cars will not cure environmental woes”— the title says it all and is right on target! The electric car is just a panacea for the ignorant! The schizophrenia of the electric car supporters is laughable; their mantra for more electric cars followed by their demand of no more power plants shows vividly their total lack of understanding of the problem! Hydrogen power is another boondoggle that takes more electrical energy than energy it produces, anyone of you dreamers ever heard of entropy —- there is no perpetual motion, folks. Clean burning natural gas anyone? Natural gas, the real 300 year solution.

Posted by mdg | Report as abusive

Diana nailed it. Instead of chasing the, lithium, rabbit down the hole; it makes more sense to use what is proven. Nuclear is the only viable option for electricity. Instead of mucking up the environment further, there has to be good ways to clean coal and turn it into fuel. We are sitting on one of the biggest coal reserves in the world. We should find a way to use it cleanly.
Natural gas is “natural” for hydrogen.

Here we go again. If it isn’t perfect we shouldn’t do it, huh? I can make electricity(non-polluting) at my house. Can anyone say the same for any of the alternatives? Can you make gasoline, diesel, ethanol, natural gas, highly compressed hydrogen in your garage? One of the main problems with renewable energy is that the sun may not be shining or the wind may not be blowing when we need the electricity. If only we had a place to store all this electricity when the sun is shining or the wind is blowing and then use it when we need it. What if we had thousands of batteries spread out across the country to store this electricity? Maybe we could put these batteries in cars so that people could use the electricity for the first 30 miles that they drive their cars. Over 70% of all vehicles in the US are driven less than 30 miles per day. So the same number of cars would never use fossil fuel. Also, power plants could use these batteries to level out the peaks and troughs of electric demand without having to power up and power down parts of their plants on a daily basis. This would make the power plants extremely efficient and therefore much cleaner. The downsides of plug-in hybrids are so tiny compared to the upsides but the press always seems to give the downsides a great deal of attention.

Posted by waubay | Report as abusive

Nuclear power plants use up something that is pretty darn valuable – water. If we add the planning and construction cost to the permanent cost of decommissioning – in an environment with practically zero discounting – electricity from nuclear power is actually expensive. Lots of folks just kind of focus on the cost for electricity once everything is up and running, which quite frankly is oversimplistic.

I agree Diana that people aren’t thinking about the true cost of operating an electric car. Everybody with an older laptop or notebook computer should check how long a single charge now lasts on their Lithium Ion battery. Not long, right. But on a car the battery has to work well all the time. The replacement cost on a car will probably far exceed all of the gasoline a person uses during the same period. We can extract electricity directly from hydrocarbons via fuel cells. Really the best bet would be natural gas or some form of gasified solid fuel.

However, I’m pretty sure people will do what they want regardless of what is most reasonable from a technical standpoint. All we can do is exploit their ignorance, take their cash and spend it.

Posted by Don | Report as abusive

Re 2 recent misconceptions: hydrogen can be made by smelting water with coal at high temperature, but this produces CO2, the most problematic greenhouse gas. (Not everybody is a cultic moron, but they can still be wrong.)

Natural gas is not clean. Its formula is CH4, and when it’s burned the C goes to CO2. The comparatively large amount of hydrogen (about twice as much as oil) means you do get much more energy for less CO2.

Posted by Pete Cann | Report as abusive

Bicycles for intracity, and buses and trains for intercity. Why even care about cars?

Posted by pelops | Report as abusive

Actually CH4 is the equation for methane. Natural gas is mostly made of methane, it’s true. It has to be purified like any other type of natural hydrocarbon. You folks know that with a natural gas microturbine operating in the winter you can generate electricity while capturing heat with an overall efficiency rate of about 98 percent? We can even create methane from compostable waste. Some countries extract it from landfill sites. But no-oooh, we like to tinker around with golf carts with expensive batteries.

Posted by Don | Report as abusive

Looks like nobody can make a logical connection, even though both parts of the equation were mentioned in this discussion. If we develop plenty of nukes (better yet, harness the power of fusion – but that’s a whole separate topic), electricity will be clean, plentiful, and as a result thereof, cheap.
The simplest and cleanest way to produce hydrogen (H2) from water is by electrolysis of water, yet it is so energy hungry (read:expensive at today’s electric power rates) that it’s not a viable alternative to fossil fuels, especially in transportation. But if electricity were dirt cheap (nukes!), making H2 and either compressing or liquefying it (both methods also are energy hungry) would be also cheap. And with H2 as fuel, internal combustion engine suddenly becomes viable both economically (who would care about oil price then?) and ecologically (the only exhaust is H2O vapor). Even older cars may be retrofitted to run on H2. Who then would care about those plug-ins and hybrids?

Posted by Anonymous | Report as abusive

I am pleased to see a critique of electric cars that factors in the pollution from making batteries and generating electricity. Perhaps you could take the same approach to the nuclear fuel cycle. It takes one ton of high quality uranium ore (a very limited resource, much of it not in the USA) to make a kilogram of nuclear fuel. The fabrication process is very energy intensive. There is for all practical purposes a ton of waste – everything from mine tailings contaminating water supplies (usually in arid areas) to high level waste that will be toxic for BILLIONS of years. Once the fuel rods go into the reactor, their practical yield is about 50% of their potential, due to embrittlement. Pipes in nuclear reactors are also subject to metal fatigue and embrittlement, a non-trival issue and one which cannot be addressed in licensing hearings because the NRC won’t consider “generic” safety concerns. Then there’s thermal pollution. You don’t need to heat water to the temperatures produced by nuclear reactors. Then yes, there is the issue of waste. Most countries that rely heavily on nuclear power have government controlled utilities and/or much stronger central governments than the US. Nukes can’t exist in the free market. They depend on heavy federal subsidy, and federally guaranteed liability insurance. Please, apply the same careful analysis to nuclear power that you have demonstrated in your critique of electric cars.

Posted by Joanne | Report as abusive

Nuclear is absolutely not the answer, just look at the numbers.

By 2050 estimates are the world will need 30 terrawatts of power per year. We could build a new nuclear plant every 1.6 days until 2050 and that would yield 8 terrawatts. We could cover every inch of earth with wind turbines, another 2 terrawatts. Or we can use solar which produces 800 terrawatts of harnessable power.

Solar is the only energy source powerful enough and plentiful enough to meet our energy needs. Anyone promoting other sources has a financial interest in the industry they are promoting. But math doesn’t lie.

Posted by Jason | Report as abusive

Amazing how anyone still listens to economists/business people instead of scientists. I’m sorry but NEXT! This isn’t exactly rocket science but most of these people are the same morons who were telling us that global warming didn’t exist and left us with gas guzzlers.

Posted by Frank | Report as abusive

Electric cars are the answer, but nuclear is not. There is too much cost involved, financially and environmentally. Electricity can be generated by using solar cells. The problem is keeping the electricity until we need it (storage). There is some promising work being done with ultra capacitors, but there is still work to be done. If we can make these ultra capacitors more efficient and affordable, then we will be on to something and you will see cars that can go 200-300 miles and charge in an hours time (while you eat lunch or dinner!)

Posted by Eric Johnson | Report as abusive

Your right to a degree. However I envision a system where aftermarket inventors will sell me a solar array and a battery system that will collect and store energy during the day I’m out driving about, then when I come Home I will Plug the car into the Battery array and charge my car as much as possible ( possibly fully ) from my rooftop array, INSTEAD of assuming the grid will be my primary energy supplier for the car. yes it may cost alittle more in the begining but I feel the aftermarket for solar Chargers for cars will explode and most of us will get most of the charge from the solar array/ battery system I own.

Posted by Wilson | Report as abusive

This article proves the maxim that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.

With a strategic investment in existing forms of electric energy storage to ramp up production and bring down costs, long-life, high power electric energy storage banks end up in household basements and garages which gets charged during the day by renewable energy and downloaded in minutes to the vehicle’s electron tank.

The author is obviously a shill for nuclear power and the existing energy establishment, which will go the way of the automakers soon, because of its dinosaur mentality and inability to understand that it is in the electron business.

Posted by Jonathan Cole | Report as abusive

I expect errors when journalists attempt to cover technology stories, and this one has plenty. “Inflammable batteries” is an absurd concern – this demonstrates basic ignorance about the basic technology. Her stats concerning power requirements wit the advent of electric cars is also muddled and without any mention of assumptions, etc. I do know that the grid has enormous amounts of off peak capacity and that off peak hour recharging will be the norm (even if enforcement is required). Other studies have demonstrated that the current grid can support a very large percentage of electrified vehicles – in most areas , the entire fleet can go electric and its power needs met by current production capacity.
Saying that one needs an extra so many power plants is meaningless – power plants come in all shapes and sizes. Nor is the notion that nuclear plants will not be built until private investors are shielded. Nor is the notion that they need to be sgielded from liability laws – any loand guarantees will cover construction, not future liabilities, which are highly unlikely. We already operate over 100 nuclear plants and have for the past 50 years. Right now over 30 new plants have ben proposed for the US, so I can’t fathom why this author seems to believe that nuclear plants can’t be built.
is required). Saying that the current grid emissions will not be reduced much be electric vehicles is rather meaningless – we won’t even produce enough electrics in the next 10 years to put much of a load on the power network and by the time we do, the network will be
less carbon heavy than now. One typical 1700 MW nuclear reactor can supply the power to run 7 million electric cars. Obama’s dream of 1 million electrics is pure BS. We have 264 million vehicles in this country. These million electrics will reduce oil demand by an invisible amount – less than 1/5th of 1 percent.

Posted by kerry bradshaw | Report as abusive

I am heartened to find the commentators of this article have their eyes open and see the future. The pundits of business and governments are akin to the high priests of ancient religion. Their vision of the future is that which maintains institutions and the accompanying positions of privilege. First and foremost conservation, then wind, solar, hydrogen cell and super conductivity development. We must build a 21st century green energy infrastructure to take advantage of all the emerging technologies. There is no point in preserving capitalism above all else if the price is humanity descending into one last war over land food and water. I shudder to consider the outcome.

Posted by Anubis | Report as abusive

Vehicle propulsion and energy production are two separate issues. Do not confuse them. Electric vehicle propulsion will be twice as efficient as the century old internal engine drive train. We will save on units of energy close to 50% and shut down dirty refineries.

The shift to electric propulsion will open a floodgate of energy saving innovation. I have no doubt the next decade will bring the same innovation to energy production.

Posted by William E. Beaumont | Report as abusive

Electrons can do most of the work. Either in magnetized steel (a perfect form of battery) see…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T8WZD11al b0

or solarized and stored in batteries.

Today, solar cars need to pull a solar panel trailer to take a trip. These could be rental units like U-haul.

We will still need fossil fuels to move goods. The Middle East would be too poor without some oil income.

Posted by Ken | Report as abusive

More of the same. First off, there are many new innovations in the works right now with regards to battery technology, Li-ion is only one of them. One advancement you may want to look at is from Zoomilife.com, and read the article about battery advances made by a South Korean team on improving li-ion battery charge capacity. They\’re stating a 10x fold improvement in battery capacity. Read about it.

Also, despite the manufacturing pollution created when producing batteries, no blood was spilled in their production, unlike oil. Batteries and their current make-up are recyclable, oil is not [with the exception of lubricating engine oil].

Despite all the stated downsides to electric cars, I would still take one over a regular gasoline car. Even though the technology is still emerging, advancements are happening all the time, assuming the powers that reside over us will allow them to presented.

Msg to Frank:

I completely agree with you.

Posted by Bruno | Report as abusive

I read this article with some trepidation by the title but when I got through it Im in agreement. Basically we need to look at timelines. If you believe the planet is in peril then electric vehicles are possible within ten years. The other no emission play is nuclear power. They can come online in masse in 10-15 years – but only with political power.

Cars designed on electric motors create a new platform that will become more efficient over the years. (Were the auto’s of 1910 clean compared to those of the 2008?). They will also be the logical store for micro generation such as home thermal, solary or wind units.

Nuclear power is very polluting in a different way – but a robust nuclear phase of 75-100 years should bridge us to the next viable power technology – several of which are in play.

Its just outlook – obviously anyone can agree that one day oil would run out and it is a bridging technology to the future – global warming has just moved up the date.

Posted by John | Report as abusive

The author misses the point that electric cars are viable through the replacement of coal and oil as a fuel source generation and transportation. Large scale developments in SOLAR thermal generation are indicating that this can be done. Looking back to generate fundamental changes usually fails, looking foward is needed to INVENT the future.

check the : Solar Thermal Electricity as the Primary Replacement for Coal and Oil in U.S. Generation and Transportation at

http://www.ausra.com/technology/reports. html

Posted by Felipe Pinto | Report as abusive

Making ANY car pollutes in the factory. Why argue against the only technology that has a chance? KEEP BEING A TOOL FOR YOUR CORPORATE SPONSORS.

Posted by joethedumber | Report as abusive

Ford’s Model T got around 21 MPG. That was the birth of cars. How much better are our car engines? They’re stronger, but not that much more fuel efficient.

Internal combustion engines are very inefficient by design while electric motors are around 90% efficient.

If it works, lets use it. It doesn’t eliminate green house gases, but it sure as hell will reduce it.

Posted by Dan | Report as abusive

What happens during power failures (no driving or limited) or attempting to charge at peak hours…more expense, higher cost, DIMMING LIGHTS, etc. Folks, a little common sense is called for here. The internal combustion engine continues to get more efficient, delivers more and greater benefit. Oil is plentiful (Good God the ChiComms are drilling off the coast of Cuba!), coal is plentiful. The US needs to tap these sources domestically, at critical speed, sending a message to the world, we will increase and develop new energy sources in the US. Solar, wind may eventually play a role, but don’t you think with all the VC money that was available in the last 20 year boom cycle we would have come up with an economically feasible method to capitalize on these energy sources?

Posted by mike | Report as abusive

Your points are valid when discussion the lithium-ion battery. Which is why our focus should be on hydron cell batteries instead. And the point is not just to reduce carbon emissions, but to also reduce our dependence on foreign oil. Batteries can be made right here in America.

Posted by Jennifer | Report as abusive

The author of this article is the first intelligent voice to be heard in the chorus of hype on electric. First, google “ELV europe cars” and learn why the TOTAL environmental impact of the electric, and hybrids, are a disaster because of the batteries. For us to measure only tailpipe emissions is as foolish as making biofuel from foodstocks. Second, only a power-train which can match the performance of gasoline will actually change the transportation paradigm. Try your 40 mile electric car commute in the next snow storm, with an electric heater (didn’t think of that energy hog, did you?), windshield wipers going, rear window defroster, radio on, 500 pounds of passengers and a couple of hills thrown in for good luck — because thats what you will need after the first 5 miles of driving. You really want an electric? Google “VW rabbit electric” and you can buy one today, just like we had 40 years ago. NOTHING has changed – they still belong on a golf course.

Posted by turismo | Report as abusive

There is a wealth on information that the journalist has not included in this article. One: when weighed against the pollution produced in a gas powered car, an electric car, even when the electricity comes from a coal-based plant, produces far less pollution. The reason is because an electric plant is far more efficient than a single car.
Two: When you factor in the chemicals produced by lithium ion batteries, it pales in comparison to the constant exhaust produced by cars.
Three: Cars can charge at work during the day, or at night, the peak-period payload is will be a small difference since the cars will probably need most of the night to charge. Charging a battery requires no moving parts, so the instant load is far less than say, a hair dryer or box fan.
Depending on the quality of batteries that you get, a reasonably weighted car can get hundreds of miles to the charge. Furthermore, there is a capacitor driven energy storage system that can charge that amount of energy in seconds. That technology, I concede, would require more electricity plants.
On the bright side, I am thankful that your article has inspired so many comments about the actual numbers of this technology. A close look is what this problem needs, and you have provided that.

Posted by Ryan | Report as abusive

Not much has been said about the infrastucture to support a large fleet of electric vehicles. It doesn’t take much imagination though to figure out what would happen to the electrical grid when 20,000,000 commuters get home at 5:00 P.M. and plug in their electric cars for a quick recharge. The power generation and distribution are not adaquate for the concept. Many residential electrical services are not adaquate. Waste disposal and recycling of massive quantities of batteries will have to be addressed as well. The mega billions necessary for these infrastructure upgrades may be better spent to develop a 100 mpg engine.

Posted by Don | Report as abusive

If only the USA would improve the Mass Transit Systems that travel from city to city by a TVG Train or Bullet Train that would travel at speeds of 186 mph or more and use the power from the grid well near a city and the same amount of diesel of 3 city buses were there is no power, well pulling 500 of more people. More trains would take more cars and buses off the roads and offer fast safe and with a highly subsidized government Transit System offer very low cost tickets

Posted by jeremy | Report as abusive

I drive a hybrid, but I admit they are not the solution. The most abundant element in the universe is hydrogen, and the automakers should be making the jump to hydrogen powered fuel cell technology. BMW, Chevrolet, and Honda are currently test marketing their vehicles in southern California, so the jump is not a large one.

I believe that with the proper incentive, they — the automakers — could all have hydrogen power fuel cell vehicles in production and in the dealer showrooms by 2012.

Posted by Joanna Clark | Report as abusive

Having spent forty years engineering a score of nuclear power plants, two score fossil power plants, led the first US independent spent fuel storage facility, and decades years assessing advanced energy technologies, I am dumbfounded by the dogmatic ignorance of viable options available for life sustaining electric power which are stated in these postings. Diana Furchtgott-Roth is essentially correct, the electric vehicle will fail as a mass transportation machine for the same reason that it failed in the early 20th century, puny energy density, both volumetric and mass, and competitive cost. It will have a niche market of enthusiasts. The determinative issues, for a sustainable energy policy, are the importance of global warming, GW, and the geography of oil reserves. Some scientists claim man made GW is the primary threat to survival. Others say man’s activities, e.g. the combustion product CO2, is a trivial influence on climate. Somebody is wrong.
The US is blessed with centuries of the only extant cost effective prime fuels for our base load: uranium and fossil fuels, particularly coal. No “green” technology can carry the load. There are hard technical and cost barriers to each technology. I have learned, here and elsewhere, that this truth engenders fury, not at the technology, but at capitalism, and large powerful hated corporations (e.g. I am a shill, rather than an expert Professional Engineer.) Some hate oil companies, but love ethanol (corn liquor) companies. This is odd; any human commerce can go bad. I look at the unit energy contents of corn liquor vs. gasoline, and find, just like Henry Ford, that one is superior. He bet on corn liquor and lost; he had to rework his carburetors, and seals.
Ultracapacitors must improve their energy density, and lower cost; both are formidable challenges. They will become ubiquitous as prime movers, but not main vehicular propulsion systems. The same is true, in general, for wide spread use of fuel cells, and hydrogen fueled ICEs.
Nuclear energy is a unique problem. Mankind will either learn to use it for peace, or it will kill uncountable millions. The US has used it continuously for sixty years; it is the safest energy technology in existence. And the most hated. (Our designs are fundamentally different from Chernobyl. Stalin wanted bomb fuel from his reactors; electricity was only a by-product.) Nuclear power does require educated people, with integrity, to build, and operate it. This robust talent pool no longer exists in the US. To me this is the greatest danger to our nation. We have so politicized technical issues, and demonized the experts, that we destroyed the energy engineering professions. Scores of engineering departments dropped the coursework decades ago. This nation no longer can make complex, large heavy equipment. I have rigged over 6000 tons of nuclear vessels, the largest, a 1200 ton reactor, was raised 24 stories. Why would any bright young student study this demanding, stressful work today? They do not; have not for decades. The US no longer can build a large nuclear power plant; most of the true experts are dead. This, not global warming, is the bottle neck to repowering America. The person who favored bicycles may get his wish, but he will not eat very well.

Posted by R. L. Hails Sr. P. E. | Report as abusive

Dear Diana,

Please visit this website:
http://www.betterplace.org

And please read this Stanford University’s study:

Résumé:
Wind, water and sun beat biofuels, nuclear and coal for clean energy, Stanford researcher says
http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2 008-12/su-ww121008.php

Diaporama:
http://www.stanford.edu/group/efmh/jacob son/0810EnergySeminar.pdf

Publication (draft):
http://www.stanford.edu/group/efmh/jacob son/EnergyEnvRev0908.pdf

Thanks

Andrea

Posted by Andrea | Report as abusive

It’s important to consider unintended consequences.
Consider what happened when corn ethanol was expanded.
So many solutions are simply business opportunities, and little else.

Posted by Bill | Report as abusive

I’m sorry. Lets all just watch Asia, because right now, they’re moving ahead with things. Japan, China, and South Korea are seemingly the only countries pulling ahead with technology – especially Japan. If the US needed to follow an example of how to move people from point A to point B, observe Japan’s method. We can bicker on all day here on whether a certain technology is viable or not; the typical case, however, in Asia, they always manage to find a way.

Posted by Orv | Report as abusive

Electric cars are not the sole solution, but it would be a major step forward. People is saying electric cars are still producing pollution, so what is the point of deploying it? Comparing them to our conventional vehicles, the overall pollution footprint would be a lot smaller.

Once we have the eco-system of electric cars and people are starting to realize the benefits. And they will start moving away from coal power plant to more eco-friendly power plant.

This article is shortsighted, and it would be a mistake to stall the advance of electric cars.

Posted by Alan | Report as abusive

What a folly this article portrays. Hybrids (preferably biodiesel burners) can recharge batteries, solar and wind power are on the way, and eventually fusion power will solve the worlds energy needs. Batteries can be shipped from electric generation areas without losing the 10% of power every 100 miles. Hydrogen is easily made at nuclear power plants from distilled water and can also be used as fuel. Fossil fuel for electric generation is the 20th century way, we are in a new era.

Posted by Jimbo | Report as abusive

The sun is a planet that burning, meaning that the heat will become lower or higher.
Considering that if something is burning, the flameable meterial will become less and less. Unless the type of flameable materials change, the heat will become less and less.
Petrol burning produces heat which can be a way to balance up the temperature of our planet.
Looking from this point, electrical car is not polluting, but it’s not completely environmental friendly as well.
And talking about pollution, oil is formed by fossils which were living creatures once. Considering that the foods we take in are a kind of replacement and addition to our tissues or body system, it can be said that taking out the oils and burn it is another way of not so bad ecological cycle.

Posted by KY | Report as abusive

While I agree with most of R.L. Hails discussion, his conclusion is misinformed. Mr. Hails will be happy to know that our government has been investing heavily in keeping, and most importantly developing, talented individuals in all facets required for future nuclear plant construction in this country. Go see the website http://www.waste2glass.com. While this $690M a YEAR project is not a nuclear reactor, it follows the same nuclear guidelines. It is in essence a training ground for the extremely stringent world of nuclear design, fabrication, procurement, and construction. This project has taken numerous commercial quality vendors in the United States and invested in bringing them into a nuclear quality standard (officially ASME NQA-1). The individuals on this project, and other DOE and commercial nuclear related projects around the US, are keeping the nuclear talent pool of engineers, designers, management, and vendors, very alive and active for our country. Get some commercial plants going (there are numerous licenses in with the NRC), and the government supplied talent pool will be able to swing into action training even more folks on how the nuclear industry works.

Posted by Nathanm | Report as abusive

We can’t burn all the oils at once. Controlling the volume is a way to control the earth temperature.
In order to save ourselves, we should keep a lot of oils from now on, just in case.
Viewing from this point, the oil price will likely to go up fast.
Electrical car, in this case, is not as environmental friendly and useful as conventional gasoline car.

Posted by KY | Report as abusive

This is an excellent article. It exposes two of the \”elephants in the room\” that alternative energy propulsion proponents will not address:
1. the cradle to grave costs of manufacturing batteries;
2. The latent impact of plug in hybrids.

Now don\’t get me wrong, I\’m all for improving the effiencies of automobiles, but let\’s not charge blindly into the night without a flashlight.

We must realize that it takes energy to move 3000 pounds from point a to point b and for the most part the overall energy requirement is the same regardless of the fuel source. If you don\’t get it from on-board hydrocarbon fuel it comes in the form of plug-in recharged batteries.

Really, hybrid cars are the ultimate implementation of America\’s true energy policy: NOT IN MY BACKYARD. That\’s what has been our policy for 30 years ever since Three Mile Island and the realization that we can avoid damaging our local enviroment by procuring our petroleum from overseas sources. Why drill here when we can damage someone else\’s environment? Same for hybrid plug-in cars: why should I pollute in my city, I can drive a hybrid and the pollution from the electrical generation occurs somewhere waaayy beyond my wall socket.

again, excellent article.

Posted by Mac | Report as abusive

“But whereas electric cars don’t pollute when they’re running on batteries, they’re not pollution-free.” Ucch! I won’t stoop to commenting about someone beginning a sentence with “But whereas….” How about the real issue: “Do you KNOOOW how much energy is used to recyle?” “Do ya know that it takes material to build windmills?” etc., etc. I do. And I also know that that we can make cars that wean our dependence from non-renewable, polluting petroleum. Green technology will improve, but only with investment. Nuclear energy? Great — unless something goes wrong — and it always does — and when it does with nuclear, let’s just say it’s nuclear! (By the way, not only US has committed to putting 1 million hybrids on the rd, but so have Spain and Germany! http://www.HybridsHybridsHybrids.com

Diana,
The final solution to future world energy needs will of course, be many-fold.
In place will be a mix of wind,wave,solar,bio,hydro,coal, nuclear, and last but not least, oil.
Oil will continue to be present within the mix for sometime to come because of the thousands of by-products manufactured using oil as feedstock (plastics etc).
The US should look to Europe and Asia as models and not beat itself up trying to ‘re-invent the wheel’.
Germany for example, is forging ahead with the production and installation of vast arrays of solar panels and has developed a submarine powered by hydrogen fuel cells.
The possibilities are endless, but sadly, the many ‘vested interests’ are just holding back any new enterprise.

Posted by Roy Davis | Report as abusive

I have difficulty taking this pronuclear power generation arguement seriously when France is taken in the comparison to the U.S. If you need to buttress your position allow a comparison of say the European Union (roughly the same) and the U.S. for your percentages of nuclear power generation/coal fired/wind generation capacities and future projections.

Posted by R. Finkenbiner | Report as abusive

A few points here.

@Mark – Hydrogen fuel cell cars:
While they offer real potential, hydrogen fuel suffers from one same problem as electric: Hydrogen is produced using electricity to break down water H2O into 2H + O. So we are left with the problem the author raises about the source of energy.

But let’s face it, the Hudson Institute is paid apologist for the Nuclear industry. So no wonder she writes that Nuclear is the solution. The conservative agenda has hidden the costs of the nuclear industry while subsidizing it heavily. At the same time, Ronald Reagan, in an orgy of short-sightedness, cut the very modest support that the government was providing to the solar industry.

Simply put – if you can build an infrastructure that will meet your needs and produce no harmful byproducts, or use a technology that produces radioactive products that will last for thousands of years, which is the logical choice?

(Mr. Halls – no disrespect meant to you. I appreciate your point of view, and your experience.)

The

Posted by jmmx | Report as abusive

I beg to differ,
Even the modern combustion engine can only achieve 30-40% efficiency. Contrast to that the efficiency of burning that same ammount of oil in a modern plant to produce electricity and you can achieve about 80% efficiency in an electric car. Also, you need to take to account the infrastructure to take the oil to the pump at 89+ octane, it needs to be transported, reffined, etc. Whereas electricity is everywhere. combustion engines also need to be lubricated and don’t have too long a life. A lot of parts will be refitted in the years it runs also. Electric motors should be able to withstand a lot more hardship. There is only also 1 moving part. Maintenance is very easy.

I think that the solution is a decentralised energy network powered by sustainable sources. This is what the world should be shooting for. All finite resources are obviously temporary.

Posted by jeff verellen | Report as abusive

and horses produce their own form of waste, unless we, not you, are prepared to go back in time, going forward is our only option and progress means trying something new like electric automobiles and clean coal and nuclear and solar and geothermal and whatever else scientists come up with

Posted by m7footMoose | Report as abusive

jmmx: hydrogen can be EASILY produced from solar and wind power.

hydrogen combustion engines offer all the power of gas powered IBE’s and emit zero pollution.

hydrogen is the answer for personal transportation.

Posted by wizard five | Report as abusive

Hydrogen (for fueling combustion engines as well as fuel cells) has been the obvious CLEAN answer for fueling –for years — It gets “blocked” by fossil fuel / others efforts. When we face this fact and the REAL / HONEST facts, we will have the solution to UNILIMITED / CLEAN FUELS.
Russ

Posted by Russ | Report as abusive

The lack of understanding of technology is frightening in this article. For a moment I thought there was in a time warp and reading how the horseless carriage will never replace the horse…especially since we need the fertilize for our gardens.
This article could sure help with the fertilizer problem.

Let’s get started.
1. Batteries are available now that have the capacity, reliability, and small size needed for the automobile. The only issue is how cheap will they be after five years of worldwide production and will China or Korea dominate their production. (Is there any product today, that isn’t orders of magnitude cheaper than when it was first introduced – personal computers, plasma TVs, compact fluorescent light).
2. The electricity for cars is available today during off peak hours from any source green or dirty (let the best source win). Battery cars can storage the surplus energy that is produced by windmills or solar today…sorry T-Boon. Chargers can be installed in any home garage (city dwellers that park on the street, may want to stay with the gas guzzler till the city puts electric parking meters on the street).
3. Hydrogen fuel cell cars are NOT the solution. They are inherently more complex. Substituting a complex and expensive fuel cell and a hydrogen storage system for a battery, can not be cost effective. Even when fuels cells became cheaper, due to mass production, you still need a massive infrastructure to deliver hydrogen to your car. If someone figures out how to make cheap hydrogen, and the expense to haul it to your neighborhood filling station, store it, transfer it to your tank. Think of the massive infrastructure to deliver gasoline to your tank today, now visualize it all replaced with hydrogen infrastructure, then just realize that you already have an electrical plug in your garage. The hydrogen economy is the petroleum industries wet dream, for what comes after gasoline gets scarce. A fuel cell car is an electric car, only more complex and expensive, if that makes sense to you…
4. The massive transfer of wealth for oil from our country to others that don’t like us very much, will be reduced when you choose electric cars. (Don’t want to use the global warming argument, rather stick to science…but it would go here.)
5. One downside, batteries take time to charge…but like my cell phone, it will charge at night when you’re not using it. Plug-in hybrids or Electric Range Extenders solve the problem of slow charge by using the existing gasoline infrastructure to run a small efficient internal combustion engine. Yes, that ads complexity, but at least it is well understood.
6. For those of you waiting to drive the Honda Clarity, remember this…there is no plan to actually produce it. (Since no one will buy it without a massive change in our infrastructure, which would have to be financed by your tax dollar). The Chevy Volt (2011) is the car of the future. A range-extender electric vehicle, it is getting 50 miles per gallon in gasoline powered mode, over 125 mpg in battery mode and the first 40 miles do not require Any gasoline. Yes, it will be expensive…for the first few years of production.

Posted by Hal in Houston | Report as abusive

I don’t quite understand the shortsighted attitude that so many people seem to have toward electric cars. “Electric technology is currently limited, so we should invest in more fuel-efficient internal combustion engines.” Great, but the fact of the matter is that oil is a finite resource that is going to run out. A more efficient engine, even a 100mpg engine as has been proposed in this discussion, is not a long-term solution, it merely delays the inevitable.

As someone else previously said, electric cars are the ultimate flex fuel vehicle. You can point to coal as a source of pollution now, but your electric car doesn’t care where the energy comes from. We’re going to stop burning fossil fuels at some point by simple necessity; when that day comes, your electric car will keep running on hydro, solar, wind, geothermal, nuclear, whatever, and your oil or natural gas vehicle will be done. Inevitably a costly transformation of our transportation infrastructure is going to have to take place — the only question is whether we start working on it now or we just keep putting it off and putting it off as long as possible until circumstances force us to deal with it.

Point to the current limitations of battery technology all you want, but let’s not be disingenuous here. Battery tech stalled for a hundred years after ICE won out over BEV (which was the result of cheaply available gasoline and the decision by Ford and others to mass produce ICE vehicles, making them significantly cheaper than BEVs, which continued to be manufactured on a smaller scale), and people have only really started working to improve battery tech again since the advent of laptops and cell phones. It’s quite silly to believe that we can develop a 100mpg ICE but we’ll never create a better battery than what we’ve got right now, and it’s extraordinarily shortsighted to point to nascent technologies like supercapacitors and dismiss them out of hand because we’re not ready to swap one into a Ford Focus and put it on the street today.

As far as hydrogen, I just don’t really buy it. You’re just wasting energy on a middle man. You need a great deal of electricity to create the hydrogen fuel, but you could just put that electricity directly into an electric car and be on your way. The only way hydrogen make sense to me is if battery technology really has hit an insurmountable wall — which seems to be more of an assumption made by those already opposed to BEVs than the reality of the situation.

I don’t have any specific problems with nuclear as a source of electricity, except for the fact that you are once again investing in a finite resource, and one that could run out very rapidly if adopted on the same scale as fossil fuels. It makes more sense to me to continue developing the capture and storage of solar energy — abundant, environmentally friendly, freely available, and a stable source of energy for the next five billion years. My idealistic vision of the future is a world run primarily on solar power, with electric cars that can be charged at home, at power stations, even on the street (coin-op or card-swipe outlets at every parking meter?). We’re not close to achieving that yet. It’ll take decades and billions, probably trillions of dollars. But that, to me, seems a wiser investment than a 100mpg internal combustion engine that will be rendered useless when oil is no longer available — a day that is inevitably coming whether you want it to or not. No amount of nay saying on electric (or hydrogen or anything else, for that matter) can change the fact that oil will be out of the picture within a hundred years and most likely much, much sooner than that. Betting on the internal combustion engine is like betting on the Cubs: they’re both old and familiar and you’re going to lose.

Posted by jh | Report as abusive

As a physicist, I am appalled by the ratio of emphatic enthusiasm in the comments above to the thermodynamic realities.

The problem with oil is not that it is finite, but rather that it is dirty. And coal is even dirtier and more plentiful. The goal should therefore be to reduce the supply of coal-generating power plants. It is counterproductive to increase demand for electricity and expect the supply to fall in response. A few points:

HYDROGEN IS NOT A FUEL. Hydrogen is just a battery, moving energy from one time and place to another. All the energy it releases needed to be put in when creating the hydrogen in the first place. That can be done today by way of metallic gallium-aluminum meeting water, but the life-cycle efficiency of the Hall process for creating aluminum metal from aluminum oxide with non-carbon electrodes is only 28% (compared to 33% for wall-plug electricity). Perhaps it will be possible in the future to engineer a microbe to produce copious hydrogen gas, but that could be many decades away. As for solar (photovoltaic or thermovoltaic), wind, and other renewable ways to generate hydrogen or electricity cleanly, cars are the last place to use that stored energy, because fixed facilities are a more economic place to use the power, and efficiency is thrown away by every conversion into a different energy form, e.g. into and out of hydrogen. Sorry, but that’s physics, not engineering.

ALL-ELECTRIC CARS ARE FILTHY. Electricity is the ultimate NIMBY scam because 2/3 of the energy content of the coal used to generate the electricity is lost in generation and transmission. That means that it takes the energy equivalent of 32 lbs of coal at the power plant to deliver the energy equivalent of 1 gallon of gasoline (3.8 kg of coal equivalent to 1 liter), emitting 3 times the pollution. Thermodynamics tells us that the cleanest and most efficient way to consume a fuel is to do so at the point of use (the car), and not convert into any intermediary forms (like electricity). Even if the electricity is generated cleanly, increasing demand for it keeps those dirty coal plants online where reducing demand would retire them sooner. Gas-electric hybrids make sense unless they plug into the wall, at which point they throw away all their environmental benefits. All-electric vehicles NEVER make sense environmentally, unless small enough (golf cart?) to avoid moving a lot of mass.

WHY DO SOMETHING STUPID NOW IN THE HOPE THAT IT BECOMES SANE LATER? Electricity is not a flex fuel. The car fleet turns over on a 5-7 year average time scale, whereas power plants are an investment for a good fraction of a century. Buying an electric vehicle increases demand for electricity when what you want to do is reduce the supply of electricity so the dirtiest sources can be taken off-line and retired.

JMMX writes, “Let’s face it, the Hudson Institute is paid apologist for the Nuclear industry. So no wonder she writes that Nuclear is the solution. The conservative agenda has hidden the costs of the nuclear industry while subsidizing it heavily. At the same time, Ronald Reagan, in an orgy of short-sightedness, cut the very modest support that the government was providing to the solar industry.” I wouldn’t know, but suppose JMMX’s charges are true: so what? The thermodynamic irresponsibility of all-electric and plug-in vehicles derives from physics, not politics. Deal with it.

SOME PEOPLE ARE IDIOTS: One comment claimed that the Sun is dimming and we should burn fuels to warm ourselves up. A number of people have made equivalently loopy, uninformed comments about electricity being a flex fuel, which would only be the case if you planned to keep your car for more than 50 years.

Seriously, the key point is a simple one: an all-electric vehicle is an environmental disaster, and the plug-in portion of a gas/electric hybrid is too. That’s because coal is filthy, and even if another source were used to generate the power, every conversion into another form of energy (battery, hydrogen, etc.) throws away a huge fraction of the energy content, so should emphatically be avoided.

Posted by David Salzman, Ph.D. | Report as abusive

David, a utility-scale, fixed electric power plant is far more efficient than the little engine in a hybrid. That’s about the only thing you said that I definitely take issue with. You didn’t seem to say where to get energy without global warming.

Posted by Pete Cann | Report as abusive

Pathetic. Even if we were to produce electricity for electric cars entirely from coal, it remains that, with about a dollar of electricity, they run for more than 60 miles. It means that the coal needed for that electricity is very little compared to the fuel used by a normal car. OK, let’s go ahead with oil, the next recession is behind the corner, when oil hits again $100. This article is tantamount to saying that wind generation is anti-ecological because it kills birds. But coal power plants kill human beings. It’s either you are not well informed, or you serve the world’s most powerful and profitable industry, oil.

Since folks are interested, according to the Energy Information Administration, USA Department of Energy, complete combustion of these fuels produces the following tons of carbon (as a component of gasses, we may assume) per billion Btu of energy (I assume based on 100% efficiency). (There are about 3.4 Btu per watthour, and about 2,500 Btu per horsepower hour. Note that as David says, every conversion to another form (e.g. chemical -> electrical -> chemical -> electrical -> mechanical) has an efficiency factor less than 1.0.

Coal ———— 26
Most Petroleum — 19-21.5
Natural Gas —– 14

David is probably right; I had food on the stove before and was anxious about it. Plug-in probably isn’t a green answer until we get a lot of solar on line. People will either need to charge swap-out batteries at home, or charge them where they park during the day, because there’s no solar at night. For night air conditioning, if we can’t make batteries work, it’s just possible that we’ll need nukes, but a lot of us are going to look really hard at that one! (And I’m still not writing off cellulosic ethanol for vehicles.)

Posted by Pete Cann | Report as abusive

To David Salzman, Ph.D. you are not much smarter than the rest. What we need to look at is the WHOLE picture not the small nitpicky items. What is the COST in dollars,energy,labor, and materials to build replacement gas cars every 5-7 years vs. electric which have fewer moving parts and have nearly ZERO GAS/OIL/GREASE components. The lifespan of a total electric car is far longer than a gasoline conterpart. Materials have energy costs too. Therefore we need a full side by side markup of costs and benefits from materials birth to death.
Recycling,overall Cost(A $50K car does not fly),
environmental,cost of fuel,a true accounting of subsidies, and national security(CONTROL of OIL and it’s TRUE COST) need to be added to the equation. When ALL these things are put on the spreadsheet the TRUE COST can then be stated. Until then this is all academic lip service. Who wants to sit down and run numbers?

David Salzman said: “SOME PEOPLE ARE IDIOTS: One comment claimed that the Sun is dimming and we should burn fuels to warm ourselves up. A number of people have made equivalently loopy, uninformed comments about electricity being a flex fuel, which would only be the case if you planned to keep your car for more than 50 years.”

You’re looking at it from completely the wrong angle. The strength of BEV as a “flex” vehicle is not in each individual car, it’s in the fact that the entire fleet can run on anything that produces electricity. I’m not planning to keep any individual car for fifty years, but I would certainly like to know that we aren’t going to have to keep replacing the entire auto infrastructure every few decades because we keep picking short-term fuel sources. You go with BEV and then you gradually take the electrical infrastructure over to renewable sources as technology allows. I’m not sure how the fact that oil is finite isn’t a problem — it seems like the single biggest problem to me. Switch to something that, for all intents and purposes, is “infinite,” at least insofar as there are going to be sources of electricity for far longer than there are going to be people needing it.

Posted by jh | Report as abusive

You are 1 of the most simple thinking persons ever seen.

Please look around you on other continents and see what they achieved on car- development.

Check this 6 persons car, costs +/- 4000 dollar made in South Africa, topspeed 135 km/p/h. during 4 hrs.

Link: http://www.optimalenergy.co.za/

These cars are being sold in Europe within 2 years.

How can G.M. and Ford and Chrysler compete to that ?

Tell me at weballeycat@zeelandnet.nl

Posted by Adakadabra | Report as abusive

New battery technologies are coming to market next year, specifically the ceramic EESU from EESTOR. they have a page on wikipedia and are working with ZENN Motors and Lougheed Martin.

the battery refills in 3-6 minutes and is much less damaging to the environment.

And electric cars will not stave off Peak Oil impacts.

Independent studies conclude that Peak Oil production will occur (or has occurred) between 2005 to 2010 (projected year for peak in parentheses), as follows:

* Association for the Study of Peak Oil (2007)

* Rembrandt Koppelaar, Editor of “Oil Watch Monthly” (2008 to 2010)

* Tony Eriksen, Oil stock analyst (2008)

* Matthew Simmons, Energy investment banker, (2007)

* T. Boone Pickens, Oil and gas investor (2007)

* U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (2005)

* Kenneth S. Deffeyes, Princeton professor and retired shell Geologist (2005)

* Sam Sam Bakhtiari, Retired Iranian National Oil Company geologist (2005)

* Chris Skrebowski, Editor of “Petroleum Review” (2010)

* Sadad Al Husseini, former head of production and exploration, Saudi Aramco (2008)

* Energy Watch Group in Germany (2006)

Independent studies indicate that global crude oil production will now decline from 74 million barrels per day to 60 million barrels per day by 2015. During the same time, demand will increase. Oil supplies will be even tighter for the U.S. As oil producing nations consume more and more oil domestically they will export less and less. Because demand is high in China, India, the Middle East, and other oil producing nations, once global oil production begins to decline, demand will always be higher than supply. And since the U.S. represents one fourth of global oil demand, whatever oil we conserve will be consumed elsewhere. Thus, conservation in the U.S. will not slow oil depletion rates significantly.

Alternatives will not even begin to fill the gap. And most alternatives yield electric power, but we need liquid fuels for tractors/combines, 18 wheel trucks, trains, ships, and mining equipment. The independent scientists of the Energy Watch Group conclude in a 2007 report titled: “Peak Oil Could Trigger Meltdown of Society:”

“By 2020, and even more by 2030, global oil supply will be dramatically lower. This will create a supply gap which can hardly be closed by growing contributions from other fossil, nuclear or alternative energy sources in this time frame.”

http://www.energywatchgroup.org/fileadmi n/global/pdf/EWG_Press_Oilreport_22-10-2 007.pdf

With increasing costs for gasoline and diesel, along with declining taxes and declining gasoline tax revenues, states and local governments will eventually have to cut staff and curtail highway maintenance. Eventually, gasoline stations will close, and state and local highway workers won’t be able to get to work. We are facing the collapse of the highways that depend on diesel and gasoline powered trucks for bridge maintenance, culvert cleaning to avoid road washouts, snow plowing, and roadbed and surface repair. When the highways fail, so will the power grid, as highways carry the parts, large transformers, steel for pylons, and high tension cables from great distances. With the highways out, there will be no food coming from far away, and without the power grid virtually nothing modern works, including home heating, pumping of gasoline and diesel, airports, communications, and automated building systems.

This is documented in a free 48 page report that can be downloaded, website posted, distributed, and emailed: http://www.peakoilassociates.com/POAnaly sis.html

I used to live in NH-USA, but moved to a sustainable place. Anyone interested in relocating to a nice, pretty, sustainable area with a good climate and good soil? Email: clifford dot wirth at yahoo dot com or give me a phone call which operates here as my old USA-NH number 603-668-4207. http://survivingpeakoil.blogspot.com/

Diana who are you working for? Unbelievable!
Listen to this crap people are saying below:

“No matter that these cars are not widely available; that they are priced far above traditional models; that many have a short range, making them useful only for local trips; that batteries may be prone to catching fire; and that many motorists park on the street, where charging is impractical”.

Look at all these pathetic excuses. They aren’t widely available because up until now the people and governments that have a financial interest in Oil & gas guzzlers have crushed this industry, and we all know it. So long GM, Ford, Chrysler.
Trying to scare people by saying they can’t afford them. We aren’t that stupid. We all know that when supply increases prices fall, simple isn’t it.
‘They have short range’. What crap. We are smart enough to figure out a solution to the battery issue. Put enough money on the table and the solution will magically appear.
‘Batteries catch on fire’. Last I knew so did gasoline. I also heard that the big 3 x US carmakers have just gone up in smoke, and guess what I think the Chinese have beaten you to the punch on the plug-in electric car.
‘Charging is impractical’. Really… I think sucking in toxic fumes, and paying through the nose to get around is a little impractical, but what would I know?

And what’s this arguement about Uranium is dangerous, and coal is polluting. Well the fact is we don’t need either. The keyword here is ‘RENEWABLE’. Uranium, Coal, Oil are not. We don’t need any of these for plug-in electric cars.
All you need to do is combine the renewable technology. Solar, Wind, Wave, Thermal, the list goes on. By combining these you cancel the arguements that ‘the sun doesn’t shine at night’, ‘the wind doesn’t blow all the time’. These are all BS arguements.
Then you have those that want to talk about ‘baseload power’. Another fools arguement. With all renewables combined, and adequate storage you will create excess energy.
See the great thing about an energy source being ‘renewable’ is that it doesn’t run out.
Their will never be a supply issue, like their is with Oil, Coal & Uranium. Leave that rubbish in the ground. We don’t need it for this revolution?

Posted by brad | Report as abusive

Diana who are you working for? Unbelievable!
Listen to this crap people are saying below:

“No matter that these cars are not widely available; that they are priced far above traditional models; that many have a short range, making them useful only for local trips; that batteries may be prone to catching fire; and that many motorists park on the street, where charging is impractical”.

Look at all these pathetic excuses. They aren’t widely available because up until now the people and governments that have a financial interest in Oil & gas guzzlers have crushed this industry, and we all know it. So long GM, Ford, Chrysler.
Trying to scare people by saying they can’t afford them. We aren’t that stupid. We all know that when supply increases prices fall, simple isn’t it.
‘They have short range’. What crap. We are smart enough to figure out a solution to the battery issue. Put enough money on the table and the solution will magically appear.
‘Batteries catch on fire’. Last I knew so did gasoline. I also heard that the big 3 x US carmakers have just gone up in smoke, and guess what I think the Chinese have beaten you to the punch on the plug-in electric car.
‘Charging is impractical’. Really… I think sucking in toxic fumes, and paying through the nose to get around is a little impractical, but what would I know?

And what’s this arguement about Uranium is dangerous, and coal is polluting. Well the fact is we don’t need either. The keyword here is ‘RENEWABLE’. Uranium, Coal, Oil are not. We don’t need any of these for plug-in electric cars.
All you need to do is combine the renewable technology. Solar, Wind, Wave, Thermal, the list goes on. By combining these you cancel the arguements that ‘the sun doesn’t shine at night’, ‘the wind doesn’t blow all the time’. These are all BS arguements.
Then you have those that want to talk about ‘baseload power’. Another fools arguement. With all renewables combined, and adequate storage you will create excess energy.
See the great thing about an energy source being ‘renewable’ is that it doesn’t run out.
Their will never be a supply issue, like their is with Oil, Coal & Uranium. Leave that rubbish in the ground. We don’t need it for this revolution

Posted by Bradley | Report as abusive

It seems “nuculer” energy is integral to the conservative agenda. Is this Bechtel or Haliburton or a similar corpration speaking? When conservatives are willing to stop excluding a necessary part of the solution to climate change for being insufficient, I’ll be willing to take their nuclear energy claims and any debate about them seriously. Until then, give me more solar and wind with all their deficiencies and shortcomings.

Posted by dkearney | Report as abusive

[...] Yes, you heard it from Diana Furchtgott, the former chief economist U.S. Department of Labor, via Reuters.  The gist? You know the drill, even though EVss don’t pollute when running on batteries, [...]

EESTOR doesn’t appear to be an abject scam, anyway, and if they deliver their capacitor it’ll just about save the world. It all seems to depend on their fancy ceramic holding off a few hundred volts at a 1-micrometer thickness. The Technology Review (MIT alum mag) article cited a lot of skepticism, but what’s exciting is that apparently the electrical math works, so from there on in it’s all materials science. In theory, the materials are up to it; they have to be manufactured in practice. Sooner or later, this is likely to happen. They’re talking about production in 2009, and yes, Lockheed is involved. An interesting point is that a fully-charged one of these things could probably go off like 10-20 pounds of TNT in an accident, so maybe they’ll need a housing like a post-9/11 subway trash can.

Posted by Pete Cann | Report as abusive

Diana’s 100% right. Dose anybody really believe we should fuel our vehicles from our mountain tops? Why would anyone want to plug in their car for six hours into a global warming, inneficient, coal fired power plant just to drive 20 miles. “Green Diesel” cars already go 600 miles on 10 gallons of oil from a hole in the ground gaining us over 100% more efficency, and run just like regular cars. We need to stop severing the tops off our mountains and install wind generators otherwise the only mountains left will be from all the discarded batteries. Once we start miking electrisity without fire we can shift to something else likely electric trains and light rail. The transistion away from oil and coal will eventually be mandated by supply. Use less coal and oil now so the transistion will be realitivly peacefull.

In five pages of responses an important trend in the discussion has been revealed.

We need a vision as broad as possible at this time of change, so that the direction we move toward, and the solutions we develop, are the most sustainable, least environmentally endangering, most flexible, and most liberating or empowering as possible.

The agenda is swaying between the corporate and government interests of the current power elites, and the vital interests of the ‘common’ people interested in maximum personal ‘bang for the buck’.

Systems and approaches chosen at a major crossroads like the present opportunity, will direct our development toward ‘Distributed’ power generation and ‘Flexible’ sources driving efficient electrical propulsion systems from personal vehicles to rapid rail,,, OR confirm the victory of major corporations and the political parties and representatives they pay with ‘donations’, in keeping ‘us’ the consumer units, treading their profit mills and paying their taxes to the maximum (unsustainable) levels.

The ‘petrodictators’ and their political front men, live in ‘Amerika’ too, and they would love to become uranium merchants, or purveyors of any limited resource.

Here is hoping we choose solar panels on the roofs, and wind and water wheels where we can, to hook into our common utilities systems and keep each other electric motoring into the future.

regards, Pacificolumbian

Posted by JR | Report as abusive

According to what I know of Obama’s intentions, his priority is set not on exclusively electric cars but on flex-fuel hybrid ones. These cars can run on fossil fuel, on non-fossil fuel like ethanol, and on electricity. Their purely electrical autonomy can be enhanced simply by adding more batteries.
A second point I would like to make: the security and ecological concerns about nuclear are legitimate. There is no multi-century-proof solution for the management of nuclear waste. This waste will remain harmful for much longer periods than the life-span of any known former country or civilization. Not thinking about the future and the consequences of out choices is what lead us to the present situation in the first place (and here we can add the current financial predicament to the ongoing ecological one as results of this attitude). This is the reason why I frankly don’t understand why you didn’t even mention any renewable energy source in your text. It is bizarre. No, the electric car – or even Obama’s intelligent solution of a flex-fuel hybrid – will not do the trick on its own, but it is not meant to. We can no longer think that way: changing a variable at a time: history and government doesn’t work that way. Electric and flex-fuel hybrids will have to work in conjunction with the introduction of new renewable sources of energy.

Finally I would like to comment on the “solution” someone presented in one of the comments, namely the hydrogen-powered fuel-cell car. Everyone who has ever looked at these questions knows hydrogen is not a solution simply because it takes a lot of energy to compress the hydrogen, more than 50% of the energy you will be able to take from the final product. To this you must add transportation… Electricity, on the other hand, flows through power lines and doesn’t have to be compressed… Also, hydrogen itself is not a source of energy, just a “battery”. However, as such it is much less efficient than the ones we have available nowadays.

Posted by Miguel Montenegro | Report as abusive

The electric car technology exists here and now, it is only a matter of time before it becomes commercially viable and competitive with internal combustion. The issue of power generation is crucial to reducing carbon emissions, if the bulk of the extra electricity used is generated through burning fossil fuel then emissions may actually increase. Significant and immediate investment needs to be made worldwide in hydro, wave, wind, solar and most importantly nuclear power. Already there is international collaberation on atomic fusion power and this needs to be given utmost priority. The world would be far better off if the billions handed over to reckless greedy bankers were diverted to this cause.

Posted by Chang | Report as abusive

“Mark” mentioned that Hydrogen is the answer. Good try. Hydrogen is technically not a fuel in the use that Mark describes… It is a form of energy storage AKA a “battery”. Hydrogen must be produced, usually from electricity, which usually comes from coal. If we could produce it from nuclear, then we would have something useful.

Posted by Brad | Report as abusive

1. The main issue is how do we replace gasoline in cars and diesel in trucks? That would reduce oil imports by 40% to 60% and break OPEC.

2. Assuming that this is our chief immediate goal, how can we do this fast and cheap?

3. Each alternative fuel has pluses and minuses and each is still developing.

4. History has taught us that the marketplace can make rational decisions. No one, however, is going to buy a car or truck if they can’t get this alternative fuel. Battery vehicles can use the power grid at night or, in hybrids, use an engine to generate electricity. Requiring (by law) that vehicles be built with flex fuel capability can also essentially solve this “chicken and egg” problem of creating the necessary infrastructure (i.e. if gas prices go up, all the gas stations will want and pay for pumps for methanol and ethanol.

5. This doesn’t solve every problem, but it does stop money to going to people who fix prices and endanger western security.

All of this seems to based on the false premise of Man-made
Global Warming/Climate Change/now Global Cooling on the false hypothesis that CO2 is capable of doing all of the above.

So, if the need to avoid CO2 production is removed from the “energy problem”,a good portion of it goes away and so does the opportunity to tax us and the excuse for more nuclear.

I want these decisions to be based on reality and not some mad scam thought up by globalists.
“In searching for a new enemy to unite us, we came up with the idea that pollution, the threat of global warming, water shortages, famine and the like would fit the bill…The real enemy, then, is humanity itself….Bring the divided nation together to face an outside enemy, either a real one or else one INVENTED for the purpose…”

– The First Global Revolution: A Report by the Council of Rome

“It is a blatant lie put forth in the media that makes it seem there is only a fringe of scientists who don’t buy into anthropogenic global warming.” – U.S Government Atmospheric Scientist Stanley B. Goldenberg of the Hurricane Research Division of NOAA.

“Even doubling or tripling the amount of carbon dioxide will virtually have little impact, as water vapour and water condensed on particles as clouds dominate the worldwide scene and always will.” – . Geoffrey G. Duffy, a professor in the Department of Chemical and Materials Engineering of the University of Auckland, NZ.

“After reading [UN IPCC chairman] Pachauri’s asinine comment [comparing skeptics to] Flat Earthers, it’s hard to remain quiet.” – Climate statistician Dr. William M. Briggs, who specializes in the statistics of forecast evaluation, serves on the American Meteorological Society’s Probability and Statistics Committee and is an Associate Editor of Monthly Weather Review.

“For how many years must the planet cool before we begin to understand that the planet is not warming? For how many years must cooling go on?” – Geologist Dr. David Gee the chairman of the science committee of the 2008 International Geological Congress who has authored 130 plus peer reviewed papers, and is currently at Uppsala University in Sweden.

“Gore prompted me to start delving into the science again and I quickly found myself solidly in the skeptic camp…Climate models can at best be useful for explaining climate changes after the fact.” – Meteorologist Hajo Smit of Holland, who reversed his belief in man-made warming to become a skeptic, is a former member of the Dutch UN IPCC committee.

“Many [scientists] are now searching for a way to back out quietly (from promoting warming fears), without having their professional careers ruined.” – Atmospheric physicist James A. Peden, formerly of the Space Research and Coordination Center in Pittsburgh.

“Creating an ideology pegged to carbon dioxide is a dangerous nonsense…The present alarm on climate change is an instrument of social control, a pretext for major businesses and political battle. It became an ideology, which is concerning.” – Environmental Scientist Professor Delgado Domingos of Portugal, the founder of the Numerical Weather Forecast group, has more than 150 published articles.

Posted by Judy Cross | Report as abusive

Diana, thank you for a well-reasoned article. Too many of our energy policy decisions are made from the assumptions of man-made global warming. CO2 comprises a very small part (0.02%) of the atmosphere, whereas water vapor exerts a much greater influence on climate. Count me as unimpressed and unconvinced with the AGW alarmists!

As you said, France is a leader in nuclear power production and spent-fuel recycling which diminishes the “waste” to a fraction of its original volume. Nukes are 24/7/365 producers whereas wind and solar are not and require backup storage to extend their availability.

Power must be generated somehow, it doesn’t just exist, and the most efficient source for the most number of consumers will (or ought to) win out. BTW, France has yet to send a man to the moon – we have the technology to match their nuclear advances but do we have the political will?

Posted by DocForesight | Report as abusive

To suggest to not move towards ‘renewable energy’ is the idea only of a greedy fool. The fact is ‘renewable energy’ is a renewable profit, a cash cow, a money tree, and at the same time it benefits us all.

Posted by brad | Report as abusive

For those who support Uranium it is not renewable, it’s limited, it’s a contaminant that we cannot clean up. Go to Chenobel if you dare(Google it).
For those who support Ethanol or any other so called Biofuel(nice green name), it is a limited resource and the price will only go up. Ethanol is derived from plants that are grown on some of the most productive land in the world, and we all know land is limited especially with increasing drought in most parts of the world, and increasing populations dependant on this land for fuel.
Did you know that the richer Western nations are now buying up vast racks of land in the poorer continents to grow their food because of this problem. Why do you think these nations hate the West and are killing each over over a patch of sand.
Did you know that the last remaining Rainforests(i.e. habitat of worlds bio-diversity and where medicines are found)are being slashed and burned at such a great rate because of the introduction of biofuels (Google ‘The Amazon Destruction’). At the rate these forests are falling your kids won’t even know what a rainforest is, and animals will only be found in zoos and on street corners dancing for a dollar. ‘Biofuel’ what a joke.

Do you not understand that most people are only peddling solutions that have a limited supply and not renewables because they stand to make a dollar out of it? The dollar they make comes from your collective pocket. The things they plunder and destroy are yours. If they use renewables(wind/solar/wave/thermal technology) we will still pay anyway one way or the other, but at least we will then have something left to spend our dollars on.
If you keep plundering poorer nations, do you think that they will just sit by and watch you enjoy it. I don’t think so. Do you all want to live like an Englishman in Zimbabwe?

Posted by brad | Report as abusive

Battery powered cars do have their drawbacks, however they are not alone in their imperfections. Let us take a look at the two popular alternatives:

Hydrogen

While the technology is undoubtably out there, hydrogen as a automotive fuel poses a few problems. Firstly, in the same way as lithium ion batteries, they are not pollution free. Current hydrogen fuel cells use platinum as a catalyst – a very rare precious metal, the mining of which is energy intensive and environmentaly unfriendly. The magic of hydrogen is that it produces water as a waste product, however the hydrogen is first produced by the electrolysis of water – another energy intesive process which, along with the energy needed to compress hydrogen gas, brings the fuel cell’s energy efficiency down to 24%. Compare this to batteries, which run at about 69% efficiency, and the impact of a hydrogen economy on future energy consumption becomes all too clear.

3rd generation Biofuels

The problems with biofuels as we are currently using them are numerous and well publicised. It may be foolish however, to discount all biofuels as a potentially sustainable fuel source. The benefit of biofuels is that they only emit as much carbon as they removed from the atmosphere during growth (they are carbon neutral). Algae can yield oil at up to 50% dry mass (hi-oil corn produces only 6.3%). This algae can be grown in vats in otherwise inhostpitable conditions thus avoiding land use conflicts and enabling self sufficiency of supply. Cellulose, the biproduct of bio-oil production, can also be use to produce bioplastics, reducing our dependance on oil even further. Whilst it it still relatively expensive, the the instability of oil supply and cost may make this an increasingly attractive option.

The fundamental environmental issue with battery power and hydrogen fuel is undoubtably the issue of electicity production.

It is interesting that the only solution put forward here is nuclear energy. As brad pointed out, uranium is neither a sustainable nor clean fuel. To compare the US to France is forgetting the huge amount of energy and capital required to build a nuclear power infrastructure. Energy and capital that France invested at the very beginning and that the US has already invested in other forms of electricity generation. To re-invest now it would seem much more sensible to do so in truely sustainable and cleaner technologies. The US has a vast land mass and an incredible array of renewable resources to exploit. Any anyway, wind power is far more economically viable than nuclear. Go build a windmill and drive to work with a cleaner conscience.

Posted by Rebecca | Report as abusive

Buy a clue!

So it seems the main stream has finally wrapped their head around the fact that electric cars need to get energy from somewhere. So now there is interest in hydrogen. Hydrogen, unlike batteries, gets energy with no pollution via magic.

Hydrogen is everywhere but it is not pure. To separate the hydrogen a process known as electrolysis. I hate to burst that bubble but electrolysis uses… electricity!! welcome back to square one!

So the discussion could be more accurately aimed at whether we want local power production, (internal combustion engine) or external power production (electricity/hydrogen).

Firstly, internal combustion is dirty and reduces air quality. So does most power production but at least it’s not it’s not in the town centre. Basically the same reason people don’t eat breakfast in the toilet. Separating the dirty things from the everyday things means at very least it’s out of sight, out of mind and out of our respiratory system.

Next we get the advantage of being portable. So we start with electric/hydrogen cars powered by dirty coal and gas. Since we are pooling our power usage it means that as we start putting renewable power sources into the grid, the vehicles are getting greener as well.

So there is no silver bullet. Electric/Hydrogen cars are a good step in the right direction. They set us up so that in the future any gains in efficiency in generation is automatically passed on to personal transport. It’s not the answer to climate change but it’s a part of the answer of how to remove our dependence on fossil fuels, which in turn is part of the answer to climate change.

-Pete

Posted by Pete | Report as abusive

Diana
What is really great about electric cars? The electric motor does not idle and spin when you dont need it.. When you stop at the intersection, train crossing, bumper to bumper traffic, coasting the electric motor stop spinning much similar to your electric drill, saw, or sewing machine.. They dont keep spinning whenever you dont need it.. So for gasoline engines, they cannot shut down at all and they keep spinning non stop until you get off the car. This is where the energy savings comes in play.. I suggest that you bone up a little in mechanics or something like that… alright, girl?

Posted by Gumby | Report as abusive

Diana
BTW, have you sold your oil stocks yet?? You better start doing it before the inevitable oil crash coming up! Oil prices is heading down to $20 a barrel now… Dont laugh… Also, you should have urged us not to return to buying SUVs and PickUps no matter how low oil prices is and will be… You are an economist for heaven’s sake!! You know better than to bury your head in the sands !! Silence is deafening and please be quiet about electric cars !! Also please stop lying to us!! Alrighty!?

Posted by Gumby | Report as abusive

I’m so glad someone raised the issue of “where does the electricity come from?” As far as hydrogen cars go – I want to know how the hydrogen and oxygen are collected/generated? It sounds like electricity will be required. Solar power required panels that typically have a modest lifespan – and I wonder what toxic chemicals are needed to make them. Wind power has potential, but we have to deal with the environmentalists fussing over migratory birds. I suspect the ultimate answer involves a little bit of everything, and a whole lot of conservation. Drive around the neighborhood and look at all the street lights, porch lights, and (this time of year) Christmas lights. We have TVs in every room of the house. We pay money to go to the gym but refuse to use reel lawnmowers. The ultimate answer is going to required major lifestyle changes for everyone.

Posted by Todd | Report as abusive

As always seems to be the case, the latest electric hybrid fad is very short sighted. Does the public understand that these battery systems seem like a great idea now, it may not be such a great idea when the out of warranty pack has to be replace for a cost of around $10,000 (manufactures cost). Or the increase in insurance costs to cover the replacement of these items in accidents. This pales compared to the cost of the environmental cleanup of the thousand or millions of these batteries ending up in junkyards after the serviceable live of these cars has ended…….let’s hope the so called experts slow the rush down and for once….do it right the first time.

Posted by Ben Davis | Report as abusive

CORRECTION OF QUOTE ATTRIBUTION

Quote posted 21 December:

“’In searching for a new enemy to unite us, we came up with the idea that pollution, the threat of global warming, water shortages, famine and the like would fit the bill…The real enemy, then, is humanity itself….Bring the divided nation together to face an outside enemy, either a real one or else one INVENTED for the purpose…’

- The First Global Revolution: A Report by the Council of Rome”

CORRECTION: the attribution should read “Club of Rome,” not “Council of Rome.”

COUNCIL OF ROME
The Council of Rome — and by inference, the Catholic Church — has NOTHING to do with this global warming/”invented enemy” quote posted on 21 December. The “Council of Rome” was convened in the 4th century and was a meeting of western Catholic Church officials to determine what historical scriptures “the universal Catholic Church accepts and what she must shun.”

CLUB OF ROME
“The First Global Revolution: A Report by the Council of the CLUB OF ROME” is the correct source of this quote. It is the title of a now out-of-print 1991 publication authored by Club of Rome members Alexander King and Bertrand Schneider. The “Club of Rome” is an international think tank organized by an Italian industrialist in the late 1960’s. http://www.clubofrome.org

Posted by CAH | Report as abusive

No one said Electric cars would resolve all of the problems in the world, so your arguments are against a straw man you set up. It’s obvious that using less petroleum would result in less green house gas and less dependency on foreign oil. It’s a shame that this push did not happen earlier, maybe the oil crunch of 2008 would not have has as negative impact on our economy as it did.

Posted by Rob | Report as abusive

Mark,
Where does hydrogen comes from??? Natural gas with CO2 as a byproduct. Please, try school again.
Before there are reliable fusion plants to supply relatively “clean” electricity there will be no relief in sight (especially with the …. american lifestyle that requires two vehicles per household). So sell your beach properties until you can and get ready for some real “fun”.

Posted by Vergil | Report as abusive

It’s much easier to find a clean source of electricity than a clean one for oil. Progress… What a concept!

Posted by Sheesh | Report as abusive

Being a former economist for the American Petroleum Institute, it’s no wonder that Ms. Furchtgott-Roth attacks both electric cars and trial lawyers.

http://www.hudson.org/learn/index.cfm?fu seaction=staff_bio&eid=FurchDian

While nuclear power is an option, there’s good reason why the American public is very wary of building new plants. Unlike coal-powered plants, the cost of failure at a nuclear plant can be catastrophic with very long-term effects. Also,I think we all know how nuclear power companies can’t be trusted to tell the truth about their plants.

Posted by John | Report as abusive

Why couln,t California, blessed with an abundance of sunshine, be developed as a model state where electric cars can get their power from solar energy driven power plants? Why no word from the expert on this opportunity?

Posted by Ger Wegener | Report as abusive

More ‘can’t do’s’ hey Ben. Listen to this BS from Ben.

“As always seems to be the case, the latest electric hybrid fad is very short sighted. Does the public understand that these battery systems seem like a great idea now, it may not be such a great idea when the out of warranty pack has to be replace for a cost of around $10,000 (manufactures cost). Or the increase in insurance costs to cover the replacement of these items in accidents. This pales compared to the cost of the environmental cleanup of the thousand or millions of these batteries ending up in junkyards after the serviceable live of these cars has ended…….let’s hope the so called experts slow the rush down and for once….do it right the first time.
Posted by Ben Davis ”

Ben Oh Ben, short sighted fad you think. You are kidding yourself. Google the major companies and you will see that there is now a race on to build these machines. This is no fad. Governments around the world are publicly and secretly trying to win this race.
Where do you get a ridiculous figure of $10,000. That’s ridiculous. If the cars aren’t affordable, no-one will buy them. Costs may be up now, but wait until this is mainstream. Remember when video, dvds, & flat sreen tv’s first came out. Now there a dime a dozen. Supply and demand is an amazing thing. Demand goes up , price comes down.
To the question of insurance. Have you ever noticed in any country in the world that the costs of things tend to mirror the average wage increases or decreases. Insurance will always be made affordable to the average earner, that’s just how the industry works. If it didn’t there would not be an insurance industry.
As for your fear of batteries becoming a pollutant. Have you ever heard of recycling, it’s a massive industry. Everything that we use these days can be reused in some way, and wouldn’t storing old batteries be a hell of a lot better than storing nuclear waste that never brakes down, and wrecks everything it touches. I know what I would rather have in my backyard.
So ,are there any more issues that you need solving?

Posted by Brad | Report as abusive

get your electricity from clean sources, aka wind, solar…if you don’t live in s state with a renewable portfolio, demand that your energy be “clean energy”; if your state doesn’t have wind resources, then you definitely have solar, geothermal, etc….it will still be less costly than shipping wyo. coal around the whole country on trains….this is the most inefficient way to transport energy…..put solar panels on buildings, windmills in backyards, except for NIMBYs there are all sorts of solutions, smaller neighborhood nuclear plants are even viable now…..france is entirely run on nuclear energy….americans are small minded in the important ways, yet can’t forget other silly things, such as three mile three decades ago……it should come as no surprise at all when we are a third world country….

Posted by Change NOW | Report as abusive

Diana, We can always burn clean coal but we have to first get the power companies to up-grade their plants. Also, consider re-newables as mentioned here. Have you looked at the cancer clusters around nuclear power plants?

When Tesla told JP Morgan about his free energy machines, Morgan said yeah but how do we meter it? We can’t do that! There’s too much money to be made! Oh yeah, and war over! And, pollute over!

It’s over for fossel fuels! We’re witnessing new a energy revolution and new ethic on our carbon foot-prints. Look at the CO2 in the air since the Industrail revolution. Don’t you think that we have had a negative impact on spaceship earth? Compare the diameter of the planet to the fraction of breathable air vertically. Small layer hey?

Posted by Marty | Report as abusive

Natures Blemish

To make convenience and make it feel good,
we take away from Mother to make it easy and understood…
To get fuel to power, keep warm and pass the time,
we extract black blood of a life gone-by, of a life gone-by…

The birds still sing and their song is unchanged
The only new addition to the sounds of the air is so called music, and the things we shape like birds and put there…

When the sky is clear we trim the grass to make it appealing, if only we could, we’d decorate the blue ceiling…

Mother will let us as she may, for only but a time, as she bares our curse until that great day…

We rape, burn, and pollute her to make it our ease, the only way to escape with comfort it seems…

The time is not full, Her promise to God is not yet complete – She waits until our last resource, and herb from the ground is gone, and vines crawl over D.C.

Marty Costello 4/18/94
The comedian and satirist George Carlin once said that future space explorers will discover earth and notice a thin black line. They will call it the Humanity Period. He goes on to say that if Mother Nature wanted to She would shake us off the planet like a “flea on a dog’s back.” Natures Blemish.

Posted by Marty | Report as abusive

Brad said, “Supply and demand is an amazing thing. Demand goes up , price comes down.”

Oh Brad. I think you need to go back to economics class. When demand goes up, prices do NOT come down. Prices come down when SUPPLY goes up, thus covering the needs of demand. Keep trying though Brad. You’ll get it right one day.

Posted by Dave | Report as abusive

You’re both right. Most simply, Dave is right; demand up or supply down means price up. However, when quantity is high, with a technological product, we’ve often seen prices come down. A cell phone used to be the size of a dictionary and cost $1,500.00. Now they give them away.

Re Tesla and J P Morgan, it was Tesla’s system of wireless TRANSMISSION of power, generated in an ordinary power plant, that he dealt with Morgan about, not generation of power from empty space. If he ever did the latter (which I doubt), the facts have been so burried under unscalable mountains of garbage by ignorant cranks that they’ll never be rediscovered.

Posted by Pete | Report as abusive

Coal- and gas-fired power plants produce their energy from the heat that is released from burning and cars get their energy from fuel exploding. The heat generated in the car engine has no other function than to make cars warm inside, everything else is wasted.
Becose of this, if all the electric cars used electricity made by burning coal, the net pollution would go down becose fossilfuel-powerplants are WAY more energyefficient than any presentday or future oil based car.

Posted by tom | Report as abusive

Nuclear power involves more than the fear of accidents or our ongoing inability to find a way to dispose of nuclear waste. To sign on for increased use of nuclear power in this country is to sign on to increased use of nuclear power throughout the world, and teh spread of nuclear technology – and nuclear weapons capability – to every nation – and every potential splinter group in the world. The thought of a pirate state with nuclear power is terrifying. The thought of every nation in the world with nuclear weapons is no less so.

Rather than move to nuclear, the potential for wind and solar to supply 100& of our needs is a current reality. My understanding is that 15% of Nevada allocated to solar power would be sufficient to power our entire national grid. Obviously there would be a need to spread capability, and build diversified wind and geo-thermal capacity so that all “alternative” energy sources could supplement each other.

Not only is nuclear not necessary, it is necessary that it not be.

The only power generation systems useable to make Hydrogen possible without polluting the world have problems themselves. The generation of hydrogen requires either chemical or electrical processes that in turn introduces inefficiencies of their own. Mark’s comment about hydrogen and “petrol” leads me to believe he’s not from California or the U.S. and may not have the same view on matters at hand.
That said, we both seek the same end – a pollution free world!

Problems with chemical generation of hydrogen are simple.
1. mining of required chemicals would surpass the mining of coal in volume to support our consumption rate. “Think strip mining whole states”.
2. Waste products of such processes would make disposal of trash seem simple.

Problems with electrical generation of hydrogen are myriad because of diverse methods of electrical generation.

The simplest statement is “You have to generate electricity first and then accept the inefficiency of hydrogen generation and electrical generation as a environmental loss second”.

Critics are already mumbling solar, wind, geothermal and god forbid nuclear.

You are right to a point.
Solar is clean when the manufacturing process is ignored. A great expense is factored when you have to build the solar cells, panels, control circuitry, batteries (think lead, cadmium, zinc, magnesium, all sorts of evil heavy metals) for storage of electricity. The efficiencies of solar cells currently are under 25% (sunlight energy to electricity) and consumer solar products under 15% average.
Wind is great when it blows and needs controls to level out the surge of power from varying winds. Huge tracts of lands are now falling into fights by NIMBY’s ( Not In My Backyard’s) who consider obstruction of their view more important than power. And many consider a small Radio Amateurs antenna a blight on the community, What will they think when huge towers that create sonic whoop-whoop sounds and blades that kill birds by the thousands nationwide appear? Will you ban them to only non-populated areas?
Geothermal is great if you are Iceland and you are blessed with lots of volcanic heat and water readily available. Here in the US we will have to drill (no problem, lots of jobs) and use lots of water to generate steam (huge problem in todays droughts). We can recycle the water if we are willing to have large numbers of cooling towers to condense the steam, but remember we are releasing a huge amount of heat into the atmosphere. Have you forgotten “Global Warming”?

All this makes complex choices and nuclear technology isn’t even a public choice, though it may make more sense to disassemble the bombs and make energy from effort already spent. Spears to Plowshares and make peace with this choice.

Our best efforts are to build communities that need and use mass or foot transit. Lowered climate control costs (heating/cooling) and recycling of water usage. Direct generation of electricity (solar, wind, geothermal, etc.) at the point of use to minimize large transmission networks and outages.

Consumption reduction is not optional – IT IS OPTIMAL! We are not individualy or collectively Millionaires, “We are caretakers of this Earth!” Let us begin as individuals and act responsibly. Collectively build short term solutions that are practical now and long term solutions as possible.

Posted by C. E. Bosard | Report as abusive

Dave,
Sorry to dissapoint you mate, but in the real world an increase in supply doesn’t always mean prices will come down if no-one wants your product or you can’t sell it. Massive demand will lead to an increase in supply, and then a flood of product. This is when prices will start to rapidly fall away.
It’s no good supplying me with an excess of SUVs when no-one is buying. I’m sure the big 3(car makers) have a massive supply of gas guzzling vehicles, but nobody wants them. The middle east has plenty of sand, but I don’t need that much sand.
See, the problem with economics and economics educators is that they fail to teach real life concepts, and the variables of emotion and reality. This is what has got the big hedge funds and stupid US politicians into so much debt and problems. In their economic modelling they forget about people as a dynamic and feed long-term average data into their computers. “Garbage in, Garbage out”. This is where someone like “Warren Buffet” excels above the pack because he never forgets the human factor and as we have seen with sharemarkets lately this is rather important don’t you think?
So dave I think I’ll be OK. You keep studying buddy.

Posted by Brad | Report as abusive

The initial article by Diana was so full of errors, misconceptions and errors or lies of ommission that the piece is at best propaganda and at worst political black propaganda.
The people replying to the article run the gamut of the knowledgible to ignorant.
I have done about a dozen google searches on this and have found more reliable information on the subject than the whole length of the article. I suggest everyone who reads this do the same and at least learn as much as Obama knows.

Posted by pete | Report as abusive

From sourcewatch.org:

While describing itself as “non-partisan” and preferring to portray itself as independently “contrarian” rather than as a conservative think tank, the Hudson Institute gains financial support from many of the foundations and corporations that have bankrolled the conservative movement.

I’d say Mrs. Furchtgott-Roth could be a little slanted toward the status quo.

Posted by Scott | Report as abusive

Don’t get sucked into the “global warming-we ain’t got no solutions” argument. The problems are easily resolved. However, it would mean loss of control by elite. Which is better, pollution free energy or making the public pay ransom for an inefficient polluting fuel? It depends on which side of the divide you stand on. See: “Who killed the electric car?” for more info.
http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid= 5871495968130273402&ei=QaBYSarCDoXQwgP7- tiODw&q=%22Who+killed+the+elctric+car%3F %22
Highlights include: GM takes over the battery company and sells the patent battery technology that Toyota and Panasonic were improving to Texaco Oil. GM refuses to sell the electric cars after the completion of lease period for $20,000/car and decides to pay $600/car to have them junked in a secret desert location. Hydrogen technology, which is 10 – 15 years away, is offered as a possible solution when Ford, GM and Toyota had supplied electric vehicles from the early 1990s to the early 2000s. We already have the solutions, but cooperative efforts by government and industrial and media corporations will ensure that these solutions never see the light of day.
For stats on electric cars see:
http://www.popularmechanics.com/automoti ve/new_cars/4215681.html?series=19
http://ecoworld.com/blog/2006/08/04/elec tric-car-cost-per-mile/
http://www.teslamotors.com/efficiency/ch arging_and_batteries.php
http://avt.inel.gov/pdf/fsev/costs.pdf
Ms. Furchtgott-Roth’s job is to convince us that the debate still rages. The facts speak for themselves as evidenced by the lack of statistics in her commentary. If she moved your thinking toward her side of the debate, she is worth the money the oil companies and their friends are paying to her institute.
Demand electric cars and plug in for a better world and a cheaper transportation.

Posted by Tom | Report as abusive

Ever heard of Hydro-electricity ? Wind and water ? Did you know that the Swedes are making electricity by burning garbage and using filters to prevent pollution ? And what about that new battery technology being developed in Texas that will allow highway speeds, 400 kilometers per charge and 5 minutes to fully charge the battery ?

Do you do ANY homework before writing this ?

This kind of doom & gloom propaganda lets us know who’s side YOU’RE on !

Besides, this is about stopping terrorism and gettin’ back our enemies who rely on our buying their oil, Capisce ?

Posted by Gregg&Brian | Report as abusive

It is a step in the right direction. As we move away from burning coal and move to wind energy, then we are doing a great thing environmentally. Do you work for Exxon?

Posted by James | Report as abusive

It’s laughable that you somehow think you are in an intellectual position to speak about energy solutions of scale and for you to even mention coal, or maybe even nuclear plants being built to satisfy any new energy demand these new cars may need is rediculous. it’s like you you belong to some corporatley funded think tank that does not want the real energy change solutions needed to faciltate the kind of change necessary to ensure the future is green. what about wind? what about solar? I think before you speak on the subject again you should research Dr. Chu’s work at Berkely. he is the new secretary of energy for a reason. a fully comprehesive plan is what the man has…not outdated neocon thought. i look forward to your next article and hope you do the homework next time.

Posted by andrew | Report as abusive

About one-third of the people in the US live in a area bounded by Boston, Buffalo, Cleveland, Pittsburg, DC, and east to the Atlantic from DC. We need a genius to come up with a renewable energy situation that works there. In the 5 months of COLD weather, it is icy and snowy and overcast…not good for turbines or solar cells. In the summer it is hot, sometimes overcast, and very often the air is stagnent. Perhaps ok (not great) for solar, but pretty sorry for wind. These folks are sitting on some of the oldest rock in the continent, so its a long way down to find geothermal. And just about every stream that can have a dam installed, does – and there are efforts to tear those down.

So I’m waiting for a solution to the northeast. A real one, not one that says well just use hydrogen (or whatever) without telling me how it will be made. If you are good enough to come up with a real solution with real costs and tradeoffs that works in the northeast, then you’re worth listening to. By those standards I guess I’m not worth listening to and will end this.

Posted by Gary | Report as abusive

QUOTE reported by Reuters Dec.8, 2008: Honda Executive Vice President Koichi Kondo says “the game is still open” as car-making enters a new phase in which alternative energy sources and power systems will become mainstream, re-writing the rules of a century-old business.

“So far, the majority of cars still run on internal combustion engines,” Kondo told Reuters in a recent interview.

“Sure, there’s all kinds of HYPE about electric vehicles and hybrids and fuel-cell cars, but no one has the breakthrough technology to bring them into the mainstream.”

HYPE is a long way from mass production folks. Fuel cells belong back at NASA. Electric cars and electric hybrids are a joke. Google “VW Rabbit electric” and you too can see this was all done back in the early 1980s, except that now the batteries are an environmental disaster. Until that BREAKTHROUGH TECHNOLOGY arrives, get out of your gas-hog SUV and by a VW diesel.

Posted by turismo | Report as abusive

Hydrogen fuel cells are great, but don’t forget that hydrogen has to be created with an energy source. this means electricity and distilled water(wich takes energy to distill), or the byproduct of making fossil fuels. Fuel cell powered cars are not going to save the world either. Remember there are only a few truly renewable energies, solar and wind power top the list.

Posted by joe miller | Report as abusive

For a short and sweet comment: this discussion focuses on converting products or by-products into fuel, and from what I’ve seen lately it simply boils down to growing our own fuel. To explain, growing algae or corn to convert into vegetable oil, which can both RUN a car (www.geocities.com/vegoilcar/).

Posted by Concerned Canadian | Report as abusive

So am I right in thinking that the lady is trying to say that in strctly gross polution terms energy generated at 55-65% efficiency (less transmition and conversion losses) will not be less polluting than ic engines running at maybe 25% efficiency (downhill with a following wind). There is no argument here. Why do dumb people never bother to look at the fundamentals.

Posted by Giles Candy | Report as abusive

Thanks to all who pointed out flaws in the original…
here’s a more radical solution, which is also THE solution to any number of environmental/social _secondary_ problems. Recognize that the _primary_ problem is a huge excess of human beings on the planet. The direct solution is to radically reduce the population. My guess: about 1/1000. Five million instead of 5 billion. I think that most people would agree with that, _if_ there were some magical way to achieve it humanely, painlessly… before we all assume that is impossible, we should at least be brave/honest enough to acknowledge the reality of the primary problem.
Then spend some effort to think about it– maybe there is a humane solution, even if it takes a few generations.. rather than the possibly-futile attempt to deal with all the massive secondary-problems in isolation. We must also consider the Gaia Hypothetical notion, that if we fail to address the primary problem directly, ‘Nature’ may finally and non-humanely do it for us. I vote for the attempt to find a humane, intelligent way to achieve a sustainable human population– in both quantity and quality. That includes accepting that humans are animals (maybe not ‘just’ animals, but ‘at least’ animals) and so, quality is to some degree predictable and manageable by genetic science (or in the old paradigm, ‘animal husbandry’).
OK, i reckon this post is inflamatory enough. Cheers!

Posted by tx | Report as abusive

The fist paragaph is full of errors.

It has been shown that a plug in hybrid car would have a lower carbon footprint than a gasoline powered car even if the source of electricity for charging is coal powered. Since the grid overall is cleaner than that, there would be a big savings in emissions. Couple that with getting 100 mpg overall and the emissions reduction are more substantial.

With a clean grid, electric cars and plug in hybrids will be much cleaner. Sure the batteries have a carbon footprint but so does everything we make.
As coal is phased out and clean energy is phased in the environmental benifits will rise as the cost of the clean energy falls.

And plug in hybrids do NOT have a short range. They will have unlimited range for as far as fuel is available. They cost more because there is no economy of scale yet. I learned that in high school economics.
Even so the premium paid now for a PHEV will mean that the cost of the car will be equal to that of a gasoline car over the life of the car at $1.75 a gallon of gasoline.
At $3 gallon you would save big. What do you expect the price of gasoline to be over the next 10-15 years?
Costs of the cars will come down like anything else.

Electric cars already have a market in urban city uses such as delivery, taxis, etc. and as light job trucks for farms ranches, mining and industrial sites etc.
None of these require long range. And many two car families might buy a small electric for everyday city use.

You are also wrong about the power plants needed.
California’s grid can handle 2 million PHEVs plugged in at night right now. The DOE says the national grid could handle charging PHEVs if they were 80% of cars on the road. Only then would we need more base load power.

Solar thermal power plants with molten salt heat storage sited in the southwest deserts can replace every coal plant in America. And they can do it using less land than now used for coal plants and coal mining. Using 1% of these lands would power the whole country day and night. Yes day and night, you read that right.
They can be built much quicker than nuclear plants, and provide cheaper electricity. They can even desalinize water at the same time. They can also be air cooled.
And they wont need any fuel ever. No fuel ever to prospect for, mine, refine, transport, store, burn or use in fission, clean up the mess from, fight wars over.
And no wild fuel price fluctuations

Nuclear is a partial solution at best and is not nearly as green as you make it out to be. In a world where we are currently in angst over Iran’s nuclear ambitions, do we realy want to encourage building nuclear power plants all over the world? How many countrie at the same time will we be fretting about nuclear ambitions and the possible follow through to nuclear weapons? Fissionable material will be everywere. And that makes it easier for terrorists to get it. Even the waste can be used in dirty bombs. Nuclear plants are also potential terrorist targets. Think the twin towers was bad?

There are better solutions with current technology.
Solar PV will be cheaper than nuclear before a single nuclear plant is completed. Energy prices from new nuclear plants will be 12-17 cents kWh and will rise as nuclear fuel becomes harder to mine when the low hanging fruit of rich ore is depleted, which will be soon.
Solar thermal can already match 12-17 cents kWh and will fall to under 10 cents kWh in less than 5 years and to 5-8 cents kWh shortly thereafter.

It is cheaper and faster to build wind and solar which are clean and safe and need no fuel ever.

articles on solar thermal.
http://www.salon.com/news/feature/2008/0 4/14/solar_electric_thermal/index.html

http://climateprogress.org/2008/04/14/co ncentrated-solar-thermal-power-a-core-cl imate-solution/

http://www.solarserver.de/solarmagazin/s olar-report_0207_e.html

http://www.theleaneconomyconnection.net/ downloads.html#Nuclear
Read this before you make up your mind on nuclear.

The solution proposed in this article still uses gas. I don’t get it: I thought we were trying to get away from gas. While this article does a good job of summarizing the problems pertaining to electric cars and their practicality, it ends up with an empty conclusion. The same conclusion we’ve been hearing from our congressmen for years.

Posted by Eric | Report as abusive

The benefit of switching to electricity has two main environmental benefits: Firstly, electromotors are more efficient in converting energy to motion (not to mention their smaller size and much less parts, that therefore require less maintenance). Secondly, we can use fuel from more diverse sources, such as solar, wind, tidal, geothermal energy, or nuclear for those who consider it environmentally friendly.

Posted by Simon Loverix | Report as abusive

Sure electric cars not a miracle, but a big step towards.
Visually EU average car is on 1 meter shorter than US. It gives 250km shorter traffic jam in the city with 0.5M population.
Visually bus in US is 100 times less common than in EU.
20 people in the bus reduces jam by 15 cars or about 130m or 13K km per 100K cars in the city.
US people has no habits go walk to the shops or to public transport, even walkings paths missing in many places. Bicycles not used for transportation in residential areas at all.
Air conditioners are usually ON in US. Driers are used instead of natural drying during the day or in the own garden.
Habits will not change voluntary, therefore taxes on energy needs to be increased substantially to keep thinking about the costs.
So solution is energy tax/price increase.

Posted by Simon | Report as abusive

As much pollution as the electric companies may generate, it pales in comparison to that of the average internal combustion engine, which produces approximately 19 lbs. of carbon per every GALLON of gasoline that is burned. Let’s all thank the greedy oil companies for killing the electric car! THANKS EXXON!!! Don’t spend your billions all in one place!

Posted by Ryan | Report as abusive

It’s true that electric cars will demand energy from a fossil fuel burning grid. However, a power plant is much more efficient than an internal combustion engine. Ever hear of a little concept called economies of scale? And yes, 1 million electric cars will place great demand on the grid but new capacity will be generated by solar, wind, geothermal, etc. 10% renewable is much better than none. Regardless, producing liquid hydrogen requires large amounts of electricity from the same dirty grid. Bottling, shipping, and pumping it for the same price of gas is nice but consider the alternative; a few solar panels on the roof or grid electricity for a few cents a mile. Consequently, we derive a decentralized consumer friendly grid. But wait we’re going to run into a problem… how do we charge for free energy?

Any step taken by US to cut down on emissions is most welcome. a million electric cars…how cool…that’s less emissions choking our athmosphere! It gives us at home in developing countries hope that one day we too may afford good electric cars. At the moment, if we can make our over utilised public transport system safe and efficient will be blessing enough. Learn from us poor developing countries.”Live simply so that others may simply live!”

He is a well-prepared dad, the way very few parents ever think of doing.

every single comment is smarter and better informed than the author of this article. Diana, seriously? are you for real. The age of Bush lies is OVER. Intelligence is the new cool.

Posted by veronica mutans | Report as abusive

“– Diana Furchtgott-Roth, former chief economist at the U.S. Department of Labor, is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute. The opinions expressed are her own. — ”

Before you make yourself sound like a stereotypical ignorant American, please, read the article.

She has an OPINION, which is stated for you at the beginning of the article.

For those of you who did not learn the definition in your brilliant public education, here it is, “a personal belief or judgment that is not founded on proof or certainty.”

Imagine that.

Posted by Dava | Report as abusive

all i hear from all u is meow meow meow electric car meow meow save gas meow honestly it would kill us even more alot of ppl would lose their jobs mech, car spec, ppl who work on assembly lines id love to live pollution free but i also would hate to b poor.

do work

Posted by phil | Report as abusive

Lets be honest. A world with electric cars is a vision. In my opinion there is a possibility (@phil) that we can replace jobs in the oil industry for example slowly to jobs in the solar industry or for example in the car industry that produces electric cars!? In Germany we subsidize alternative energies and we try a way out of the atomar energy production! You can read on different websites (e.g. http://www.solaranlagen-photovoltaik.net  / – it is in german, if anyone wants I can translate important phrases) what a big range of possibilities offer alternative energies. Im pretty sure that there will be sometimes solarcars as well. Its not a matter of when, its a matter of time. Same with the oil. We only have resources that end in a limited time. And if we dont take the jump to electric cars, alternative energies and so on, we will have a world full of chaos!

Have a nice day
Ben

Posted by BenKempel | Report as abusive

You are so gifted! Count yourself lucky