Monday, April 16, 2012

So, What IS the Real Impact of That Electric Car?

I've never been a huge fan of plug-in electric cars.  While they make good press about being able to reduce the amount of evil imported oil we consume, they depend on power generated from the electric grid, which is mostly produced by coal in the U.S.  So instead of burning oil-based gasoline, we are burning coal.  Where is the benefit there???

The Union of Concerned Scientists is coming out with a report today about the environmental impact of electric cars.  The graphic below (from the New York Times) shows the relative carbon impact of fueling up a Nissan Leaf electric car in different cities.  It's a little hard to comprehend, but the number represents the greenhouse gas emissions, expressed as if it were fuel economy, you would get in different locations. The upshot is that where you see darker colors there is more coal used for electricity generation, and therefore the lower the benefit of the electric car.  Lighter colors mean more natural gas and alternative energy (mainly hydro-power).

The NYT article points to a great DOE web site tool that allows you to type in your zip code to find out the exact mix of power your utility uses to generate electricity.  It is interesting to see that in Shreveport, the heart of the Haynesville Shale, uses 56.4% coal and only 34.6% gas to generate power. Carthage, TX uses 56.4% coal and 34.6% gas.  Nacogdoches, TX uses 49.5% gas and 34.4% coal.  By comparison, New Orleans uses 44.7% gas, 25.5% nuclear and 23.0% coal.


Anonymous said...

Robert, please comment on the executive order from last Friday from Obama
Thanks and I reallyenjoy your blog

Robert Hutchinson said...


I'll post something about the EO later this afternoon.