Electric vehicles not so Green after all

The Australian, via The Week —

ELECTRIC cars could produce higher emissions over their lifetimes than petrol equivalents because of the energy consumed in making their batteries, a study has found.

An electric car owner would have to drive at least 129,000km before producing a net saving in CO2. Many electric cars will not travel that far in their lifetime because they typically have a range of less than 145km on a single charge and are unsuitable for long trips. Even those driven 160,000km would save only about a tonne of CO2 over their lifetimes.

The British study, which is the first analysis of the full lifetime emissions of electric cars covering manufacturing, driving and disposal, undermines the case for tackling climate change by the rapid introduction of electric cars.

I can’t say I am surprised by the study.  After all, the entire “Green” movement is alarmist in nature; act first, question later.  Not only alarmist, but forcibly so.  Advocates of global warming seem to be very defensive of their movement.  Anyone who may question the legitimacy of the claim that man is responsible for any aberration in climate is considered a “denier“.

What shall we call those advocates for electric vehicles in the name of saving “Mother Earth”, now that they are presented with information that their ideology is somewhat misguided.


  1. This is what I’ve read, too. Which is why I still favor walking and biking over any motorized vehicle.

    I remember seeing the Prius advertised as “The FIRST GREEN CAR!” which is, of course, laughable. At best, it was LESS HARMFUL than other cars, but being less harmful is not the same as being green.

    • I find the entire “green” enterprise to be highly suspect.

      • John…

        I find the entire “green” enterprise to be highly suspect.

        Well, being human and all, probably any time that someone/some entity gets into creating products with a profit/greed motive, you have the potential to have some who are ONLY doing it for the money and that is something wise moral consumers will always want to be wary of.

        Having said that, in my experience with LOCAL green enterprises (ie, people and operations I can know at least a little bit), it has been my experience that most are involved for pure reasons of sustainability/love of humanity/love of earth/concern for justice FIRST and to make a living/make money second.

        But by all means, ALWAYS try to get to know your producers and people/companies who are trying to get you to buy stuff. Beware advertisers. Beware big groups who tell you they’re “green” and who stand to profit from it.

  2. I don’t know that developing the requisite technology for electric vehicles is misguided, though I actually knew that electric vehicles require a “carbon surplus” during the production process before reading this. I used to have a magazine article (I might try to dig it up for you) that showed that you would have to drive a Prius for 3 years before it was “carbon neutral” with a Hummer H2.
    That does not bode well for electric technology today.
    The promise of electric cars is really, to me, in the future. As technology improves, batteries will go further on a charge and cost less (both environmentally and economically) to produce. There were electric cars almost 100 years ago, and if we had have followed the technology then, and pushed the limits, who knows whether we might have a viable electric vehicle today.
    Let’s ignore the whole “Global Warming” issue. You and I will never agree on the issue. If you can agree to these points, then you have to agree that pushing electric technology now is the best thing for our long term energy prospects:
    1. Fossil fuels are a finite resource. Agreed?
    2. As fossil fuels become more scarce, our economy will be adversely impacted. Agreed?
    3. It is important to support and promote emerging technologies that could potentially dissipate future energy shortages. Agreed?
    4. Non fossil fuel electricity is an integral part of our future energy requirements. Agreed?

    So what then, is your issue? Is it that we shouldn’t be exercising foresight? That we should be only interested in the short term benefit of investment?
    I think that some people like to use facts like this to try and forward an unrelated agenda.

    • I understand, George. I just have seen the last 7 years or so explode with alarmism when it comes to global warming climate change. The enterprise has been rushed, dissent is shouted down (in this respect, I see many similarities between climate activists and hard-core common descenters), there have been many flaws exposed which have been dismissed with ad hom attacks.

      I mean, really, incandescent lightbulbs need to be illegal? Really?

      On a tangent, you are from Canada, if I remember correctly? Would you consider canadafreepress.com to be a legitimate news source, whether you might agree or disagree with the political bent?

    • 1. Agree.
      2. This is presumptuous.
      3. I support research into alternative energy technology within the private sector. This is not the government’s business.
      4. Distant future, agree.

      • David,
        1. Glad to hear it.
        2. How is it presumptuous that an economy inextricably married to fossil fuels will face ramifications from the price increases of reduced supply and static/increased demand?
        3.I support this as well. Why shouldn’t society?
        4. I don’t know how distant that future is, given the cost and supply of known fossil fuel resources.

        • Fossil fuels are not going to run out in our life time, or our grandkids life times. The environmentalists have a hold on politicians, unfortunately. They’d ratherr see the economy collapse than have a beetle displaced. We need to treat people like people, and animals like animals. We take priority.

      • 2. It is presumptuous to assume some sort economic collapse or adverse effects just because we know circumstances will change. Yes, we use fossil fuel and are dependent on that energy source now, but you can’t assume that the end of oil is the end of the economy. “Experts” have been saying for over 100 years that we would be running out of oil and, just like the people that think the world is going to end, it hasn’t happened. Instead, we have explored and found more oil reserves. Not only that, we have found ways to use the resources more efficiently over the past century without the benevolence of government. You can thank the free market for that.
        3. Market prices and competition are the best incentives towards solving problems. For example, copper wire was used for telephone communication exclusively. As copper was being consumed at a rapid pace, the price rose. This told the market to a) look for more copper and b) research alternatives. The result was more copper mining and the discovery of fiber optic cable. Copper, like oil, is a finite resource. To use your logic, the government back then would have had the responsibility of funding research and mandating inefficient alternatives to solve the perceived problem.
        4. As oil prices have risen over the past many years, oil exploration has expanded too. We have started looking for and finding oil in harder to reach places. The higher price for crude allows for such reserves to be explored in the first place. There is certainly a predictable end point if you look at the “known reserves,” but that number is it exactly what is says. It does not account for the all the oil we have yet to find.

      • John…

        Fossil fuels are not going to run out in our life time, or our grandkids life times.

        I’d suggest that many wise folk would disagree with that assessment, based on research, rather than emotions. The US Dept of Defense, for instance, have issued much publicized reports saying as a matter of nat’l defense, we need to migrate towards a more sustainable energy supply…

        “The days of inexpensive, convenient, abundant energy sources are quickly drawing to a close….

        Historically, no other energy source equals oil’s intrinsic qualities of extractability, transportability, versatility, and cost. The qualities that enabled oil to take over from coal as the front-line energy source for the industrialized world in the middle of the 20th century are as relevant today as they were then. Oil’s many advantages provide 1.3 to 2.45 times more economic value per MBtu than coal (Gever, Kaufman et al. 1991). Currently, there is no viable substitute for petroleum.

        In summary, the outlook for petroleum is not good. This especially applies to conventional oil, which has been the lowest cost resource. Production peaks for non-OPEC conventional oil are at hand; many nations have already past their peak, or are now producing at peak capacity.”


        The US military has warned that surplus oil production capacity could disappear within two years and there could be serious shortages by 2015 with a significant economic and political impact…

        “By 2012, surplus oil production capacity could entirely disappear, and as early as 2015, the shortfall in output could reach nearly 10 million barrels per day,” says the report, which has a foreword by a senior commander, General James N Mattis.


        Yes, coal will likely last another century or two, but coal is no substitute for the massive amount of energy created by petroleum, which IS peaking in accessibility in the coming decades (all the while demand is continuing to increase) – probably in our lifetime, certainly in our children’s lifetimes.

        Now, I KNOW some people would say that those tree-hugging hippies in the DoD can’t be trusted, but they’re not the only ones making such claims/predictions. The US Dept of Energy, for instance, says…

        World oil demand is expected to grow 50 percent by 2025.4 To meet that demand, ever-larger volumes of oil will have to be produced…

        Past predictions typically fixed peaking in the succeeding 10-20 year period. Most such predictions were wrong, which does not negate that peaking will someday occur. Obviously, we cannot know if recent forecasts are wrong until predicted dates of peaking pass without incident. With a history of failed forecasts, why revisit the issue now?…

        Even the most optimistic forecasts suggest that world oil peaking will occur in less than 25 years.


        Just a bit of informed research to light the way a bit…

      • David…

        we use fossil fuel and are dependent on that energy source now, but you can’t assume that the end of oil is the end of the economy.

        Well, we can’t “KNOW” much about what “MIGHT” happen – or not – in the future. MAYBE, we’ll find a way to drill for oil on the moon and build a pipeline to that… MAYBE that drilling will cause the moon to collapse into pieces and our tides will go crazy, destroying the world… MAYBE we’ll find a way to create petroleum in massive amounts from mosquitoes… who knows what MIGHT happen.

        I think the cogent question, though, is:

        HOW WISE/PRUDENT is it to build an economy that is WHOLLY dependent upon cheap petroleum, knowing that cheap petroleum can’t last forever (or even more than dozens of years) and NOT knowing of ANY viable alternate fuel source to replace that cheap petroleum?

      • To address your rephrasing, I’m not sure I could say exactly how wise or prudent it is to build an economy on cheap oil for energy, but I can tell you it is certainly less wise/prudent to build you economy on expensive alternatives. You also kind of answered your own question. If we don’t know any viable alternatives, it makes sense to use oil.

        Further more, I still contend that the market is the best place to solve these problems. When scarcity drives the price higher, the market will seek alternatives, whatever they may be. Private entities risking their own resources and capital create the best incentives for innovation and economic growth.

      • Dan Trabue says:

        Re your last comment, first…

        Further more, I still contend that the market is the best place to solve these problems.

        I’m not opposed to market solutions. BUT, I think that prices need to reflect something closer to TRUE costs of a product for the market to work correctly. It has been estimated that the actual “real” cost of gasoline, for instance, is closer to between $7-20/gallon. IF we were paying something closer to real costs, the market could have done its job and other alternatives could be more obvious.

        As it is now, between tax breaks, incentives, motorist and oil company welfare and pushing off costs on to the poor and future generations, our gas prices are way under actual costs.

        But, having said that…

        If we don’t know any viable alternatives, it makes sense to use oil.

        I’d posit that it would make most sense to live within our means. IF a family had a temporary boost in salary, say 100x or 1000x their normal salary, and they then began to set up their lifestyles so that they are DEPENDENT upon that temporary boost, well, choosing to live at 100x what they actually can afford is not a viable solution at all. It’s just a sham that WILL come crashing down upon them.

        We’ve had a “temporary boost” to our “income” that has lasted ~100 years, but won’t last another 100 years. We’re writing checks our children won’t be able to cash.

      • Dan,

        If the oil companies are on welfare, then the rest of the economy must be on welfare on steroids. The oil industry pays noticeably higher tax rate than most other companies. This aside, even if you are correct that the true cost of gasoline is between $7-20/gal (if you have a link to some article, I’d like to read that) because of market distortions, then we seem to be in agreement. Let the market be free in order for price signals to reflect the true situation.

        I’m all for living within your means. If i got a temporary pay boost, I could spend more for a time and then go back to my old ways. Your analogy assumes that we will regress to horse and buggy times when our oil boom is over. I will admit this is a possible scenario, but I wouldn’t put my money on it.

        I don’t see how we are writing checks our children can’t cash, unless you are referring to our national debt. In that case you are correct.

      • Dan Trabue says:


        because of market distortions, then we seem to be in agreement. Let the market be free in order for price signals to reflect the true situation.

        I would say that you’re trusting too much in the good will of businesses. Consider: IF a widget maker was making his widgets for $10 each. That was what it cost to make it, pay for his workers and clean up the waste responsibly afterwards. However, IF the widget maker could skip the “clean up responsibly” part, dump his waste into the stream behind the factory, and SAVE $5/widget, then Market forces (ie, greed) would tend to encourage him to make “cheaper” widgets by dumping the waste, IF he could get away with it. Of course, the widget wouldn’t actually be $5 cheaper, it’s just that he would have pushed that $5 off on someone (everyone) else, artificially lowering the cost.

        Now, if you’re assuming that, YES, we would still have laws that protect the environment, workers, etc and help account for actual costs, THEN beyond that, let the market be free to decide prices, I’m fine with that. But too often, when I hear, “let the market be free,” what people are actually saying is, “remove pesky regulations and rules that hinder businesses,” which are exactly part of keeping the market free. If we can agree on that, we can perhaps agree.

        As to a source for the “real” cost of gasoline, there are many sources for that, but I think one of the best thought out and complete is from the ICTA website (Int’l Center for Technology Assessment). That pdf is over ten years old and puts the “real” costs of gasoline at between $5-15/gallon, in 1998 dollars.

      • In your widget making example, you mention the widget maker would dump waste to make something cheaper. When you dump waste on another person’s property you have committed a crime. You are infringing on the property rights of that person. I do get your point about cutting corners though.

        The presence of “pesky regulations and rules that hinder businesses” is exactly what makes the market not free. We already have laws that protect personal liberty and property rights. These are good. The pesky regulations I would be referring to are rules that tell businesses what they can and can’t do outside the realm of personal liberty and property rights. A free market is a network of voluntary interactions. Let the businesses decide how they operate and let the consumers decide with whom they will voluntarily engage in commerce.

  3. Here is a report on the issue., and an article form 2007.
    This is not really news.

  4. If you need to ask me if Our Toronto Free Press, or canadafreepress.com, as it is now called, is a reputable news source, then the world is in trouble indeed! If you want to read a real Conservative voice in Canada, I suggest The Western Standard. I don’t agree with most of what they say, but at least they are sane.
    Just to contrast two headlines on the main page today:
    Western Standard: Soldiers of Expression:Hate speech, censorship & ethics (with a picture of Ann Coulter)
    Canada Free Press:Nazi Homosexuals and the Slow Steady Seduction of America (with Hitler and a pink swastika)

    I report…..you decide!

  5. I’m not arguing that oil is going to be a spent resource in our lifetime, or even our children’s lifetime. Oil should last a little more than a century when all known resources are accounted for, coal just slightly longer (assuming current consumption remains within projected growth guidelines), natural gas less than either of these two- at roughly 80 years, and the potential for other underused fossil fuels as well. I;m not playing Chicken Little here.
    What I am saying is that much of the known fossil fuel deposits that are counted in those statistics are in hard to reach areas or less economically viable forms. The Alberta Tar Sands, which is in the country I live in, has only become economically viable in the last decade or so, because of the increased refinery costs of extracting bitumen from sand and then refining it into oil. Many of the deposits that we count in our world supply are in the Arctic Ocean and under the tundra of Arctic Canada and Siberia, none of which are presently viable based on current oil prices. The cost of oil will need to double from present levels in order to make much of our reserves workable. If doubling the cost of an energy that holds a near monopoly in our economy is not a very real danger to our future, I don’t really know what is. Who will pay for those costs? The oil companies, through reduced profits? Or the consumer?

    With this in mind, we can all agree that the private sector should be, will be, and is the driving force of innovation in our economy. I disagree that the government has no place in jumpstarting and promoting technologies that will in the future reduce our demand on this finite resource, especially in light of the fact that it has an impact on the economy and global security. I also find it amusing that we are willing and ready to hold our governments feet to the fire over oil prices, as John has done in the past, yet we complain when they invest in solutions to the problem.

    I admit that there is polarization on both sides of the issue which frames the debate in ways that are unhelpful. I think that the issue deserves more than a brushing aside because it is not yet a “do-or-die” problem…


  1. […] Via Electric vehicles not so Green after all « Truth in Religion & Politics: The Australian, via The Week […]

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