Germany has a goal: Introduce a million electric or plug-in hybrid cars into the transportation mix by 2020. But a recent study by the German branch of the World Wildlife Foundation projected the impact: If successful, carbon dioxide emissions would decrease 1 percent in the transportation sector, 0.1 percent in Germany, total.
That’s not much.
The trouble with switching to so many electric cars is that they rely on increasing amounts of industrially produced electricity. Which would bring additional coal-fired plants online, thereby increasing carbon dioxide emissions.
Maybe the only way for electric cars to really impact carbon emissions is to increase nuclear power production at the same time. Nuclear power is the only practical, real-world-right-now way to increase energy and reduce carbon dioxide production by an appreciable amount.
Barring such a move, switching to electric cars expending energy gained from burning coal doesn’t offset our alleged global greenhouse problems. It is true that centralized coal-burning emissions can be scrubbed for pollutants, and we might expect progress here better than progress in auto-emission scrubbers. But that helps with problem of dirty air, a very different issue.
Even big steps addressing complex ecological problems tend to produce small gains, at best. One should question how much wealth to sink for nearly infitesimally small gains.
This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.