Do Electric Cars Just Facilitate Unsustainable Lifestyles?
California passed a ruling on Jan. 27 requiring that 15 percent of new cars sold in the state meet a strict emissions standard of zero to near-zero emissions by 2015. Many environmental groups are praising the decision, which will require Californians to buy more electric, hybrid, and hydrogen vehicles. I was once enthusiastic about these cars, too.
About 20 years ago, CNN showcased an alternative-fuel vehicle that I built with my own hands. I drove back and forth in front of the camera, smiling from behind the wheel of my two-seater electric and natural gas hybrid. I thought it was an especially beneficial solution to our environmental challenges. I was wrong.
What counts as an alternative-energy vehicle and what doesn’t is hardly a straightforward reckoning. For instance, is an electric car a true alternative if its drivetrain is ultimately powered by coal, nuclear power, and lithium strip mines rather than petroleum? When the Royal Society of Chemistry ran the numbers, it found that fully adopting electric cars in Britain would only reduce the country’s CO2 emissions by about 2 percent.
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