While few are available yet, the electric plug-in car is viewed by many as a solution toward stopping climate change: a phenomenon frequently blamed on burning fossil fuels.
Electric cars are viewed and marketed on the idea of zero emissions which appeals enormously to someone wanting to halt climate change. While there are no tailpipe emissions on an electric car, considering how the electricity is created may be shocking.
In the US, approximately 50% of the electricity comes from burning coal: a huge greenhouse gas producer and emitter of toxic emissions.
With very few electric cars so far, electricity production in the US is already the largest greenhouse gas emitter. So are we better off with electric cars?
Based on a recent European study as long as we rely on fossil fuels for our electricity generation the answer is no. That’s without taking into consideration the vast increase in toxic waste generated by the still primitive battery technology we’ve created – the battery packs will only last 5-7 years currently and then they are junk, full of toxic chemicals. Fortunately there are solutions from clean power sources such as nuclear, solar, wind and hydro. The solutions for battery technology look to be further away.
Plus in Canada, we have another climate problem that currently precludes electric cars in major use; It’s cold in the winter! Batteries don’t work well in cold.
It must be remembered that there are no free lunches: wind and solar are unreliable and take up enormous land areas to generate their energy, hydro power damages rivers and fish habitats and nuclear has other issues.
And what of hydrogen? It’s the same as electricity: it must be created and to make a difference to climate change, it too must have a clean source. While electric cars will undoubtedly take hold in the future, if your wish is to help with climate change, lobby for clean electricity first.