Electric cars will not save us

| 24 Feb 2020 | 01:43

    The column from Bill Weightman from Hardyston covers a number of points about climate change and claims that electric cars will help thwart this seemingly ominous threat. In light of his uncited and super subjective historical narration of past climate catastrophes, as well as his assessment of electric car “efficiency”, let us review some pertinent information.

    As a chemist and physicist, I am intimately familiar with energy cycles, in particular the ability to make electricity. While electric cars are remarkably engineered vehicles, they are far from “zero emission”. Let us review how energy gets into an electric car as well as our houses. First off, a power plant produces electricity as evidenced by your electric bill. It does not magically flow from your wall socket. In the US, the fuels used for electric production consist of natural gas and petroleum (~60%), coal (~13%), nuclear (~8%), and green (balance of remaining; hydroelectric and wind), this from US Energy Information Administration in 2019. For this discussion, let us assume most, if not all, of our electricity in NJ comes from burning something (carbon combustion or nuclear reactions). The liberated heat from these reactions turn turbines, which turn inductors, which push electrons through an immense and quite amazing infrastructure of power lines and transformers, and ultimately into your “green” electric car. So, in summary, your “zero emission” electric car is powered by combustion emissions (in the case of carbon fuels to yield dreaded carbon dioxide) or radioactive waste that is buried for our children to take care of (in the case of nuclear fuels). In the overall scheme, yes, an electric car is indeed somewhat more efficient than gasoline powered cars, but not greatly so. Don’t forget about the manufacturing process for batteries; just ignore the copious amounts of toxic waste and mining required for battery materials. What I just described is the complete lifecycle of a product, and is often not taught in schools. It is the inconvenient truth. There is no free lunch in nature. So please stop the rhetoric that I must stop driving my pickup truck to save the planet, and especially the smug attitude that if one drives an electric car it will prevent a climate disaster.

    As for natural earth history, recent findings from NASA published in the Geophysical Research Letters suggest that the change in sea levels is a response to the actual ground rising and falling. Other papers in the same journal clearly show the sun does indeed contribute to major earth climate forcing mechanisms. The sun and its various forms of energy output is largely excluded in many climate models used to whip up a frenzy and steer funding to such causes, often at the expense of the public. What the research illuminates is that we live in an extremely dynamic earth, solar system, galaxy, and ultimately universe. Our educational institutions still assume the “present is key to the past”, and ignore our ancient ancestors’ first hand visual and written accounts of earth and celestial catastrophes. The sooner our collective consciousness accepts that we are helpless to change earth’s natural cycles and “climate change”, the better off we are. Let us rather collectively utilize technology to prepare for and cope with events such as super solar flares, which would destroy the ability to charge your electric car, as well as decimate our society as we know it. Additionally, we can do much to battle pollution and make certain processes more efficient. But such pursuits are only enhanced by the use of free markets and the ability to compete, which leads to ingenuity and creativity. Thomas Jefferson said it bluntly: “Liberty is the great parent of science and of virtue; a nation will be great in both always in proportion as it is free.”

    Paul Anderson