Are electric cars bad for the environment?

| October 15 2012
Christopher Cook

In Wrong on the environment, but so sure they’re right, I wrote the following:

I consider myself to be an environmentalist. I want a nice, clean planet. However, unlike the many in the environmental movement, I don’t believe that humans are a plague on the earth; I simply think we need to be better stewards. And the way to do it is not to go leaping after technologies that don’t work, just because they sound good, or to believe in self-serving dogmas masquerading as science.

Today’s environmental movement gets nearly everything wrong, and yet they claim the high ground on all of it.

Wind turbines are bird-chopping monstrosities that produce disturbing amounts of toxic neodymium in their production and very likely don’t put out as much power in their operational life as they and their transmission systems required just to be built. Solar panels have serious disposal issues. Climate-change is anti-scientific hysteria. And I have even seen more than one analysis that says that when you include all the energy that goes into production, a Toyota Prius uses more energy than a Hummer.

They claim the high ground on all this stuff, smugly, and they deride as Earth-hating monsters all those who question the facts. They are usually wrong, but since they are convinced of their own righteousness, facts do not actually matter.

All the evidence is not yet in, but it is looking like yet another one of the environmental left’s faddish holy grails may turn out out to be a net loser for the environment:

The team looked at the life-cycle impact of conventional and electric vehicles.

In essence, they considered how the production, the use and the end-of-life dismantling of a car affects the environment, explained co-author Prof Anders Hammer Stromman.

“The production phase of electric vehicles proved substantially more environmentally intensive,” the report said, comparing it to how petrol and diesel cars are made.

“The global warming potential from electric vehicle production is about twice that of conventional vehicles.”

In addition, producing batteries and electric motors requires a lot of toxic minerals such as nickel, copper and aluminium.

Hence, the acidification impact is much greater than that of conventional car production.

“Across the other impacts considered in the analysis including potential for effects related to acid rain, airborne particulate matter, smog, human toxicity, ecosystem toxicity and depletion of fossil fuel and mineral resources, electric vehicles consistently perform worse or on par with modern internal combustion engine vehicles, despite virtually zero direct emissions during operation,” according to Prof Stromman.

With electric car production being so damaging to the environment, these cars have already polluted a great deal by the time they hit the road, the report says.

I am not opposed to private interests looking to come up with technologies that are cleaner and better for the earth. I know they will sometimes succeed and sometimes fail; that is as it should be. I am not engaged in shadenfraude here. The problem comes in when environmentalists cast science and evidence aside in pursuit of miracle fixes, whether they’re proven or not—and castigate as hate-filled despoilers of the Earth anyone who is critical of their spurious conclusions. That problem is then compounded dramatically when—spurred by these same self-righteous, science-challened environmentalists—governments take huge amounts of taxpayer money and throw it at these technologies.

Of course, the government does not need help from outside forces to engage in environmental hysteria—they’re engaged in their own warped endeavors on behalf of the environment.

 

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BobPetrusak
BobPetrusak

Great article.  It makes us think about all of the repercussions of electric cars including the sources of their electric power.  If they have to rely on coal-fired utilities to charge up, they're likely more polluting than gasoline cars of the same size which efficiently burn fossil fuel in their own engines rather than needing a long transmission line to get coal- generated electricity to the home or garage. I also wonder if electric cars with their small size and light weight will cause more people to wind up in hospitals as a result of crashes. With medical costs soaring and hospitals using lots of energy for heat or a/c, this can't possibly be good for the environment. 

 

Bob Petrusak