The Great Debate

Electric cars will not cure environmental woes

December 18, 2008


– 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.

149 comments so far | RSS Comments RSS

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:


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.


Posted by Pete | Report as abusive

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

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


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.”

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.”

“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

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

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
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

Posted by BenKempel | Report as abusive

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