Published: 12/30/2022 11:01:02 PM
Modified: 12/30/2022 10:58:08 PM
I suppose in the interest of free speech, the Gazette does not fact-check its letters. I am therefore fact-checking the Dec. 27 letter “Electric vehicles bring slew of challenges.” The chief weakness of the letter is that it fails to address the question: “Compared to what?” The writer talks about the environmental burden which comes from the production of batteries, which store the power for EVs. Although this is true, it overlooks the environmental burden involved in obtaining and refining gasoline, which provides the power for internal combustion engine (ICE) cars.
The writer then discusses the source of the electricity to power EVs. I don’t know where he gets the “6% more greenhouse gas emissions” that he claims for an EV in West Virginia, and that number may be muddled because he is conflating manufacture and disposal (of the battery? of the vehicle itself?) with operating the vehicle. Let’s compare apples to apples. The Union of Concerned Scientists actually has a nifty map (https://blog.ucsusa.org/dave-reichmuth/new-numbers-are-in-and-evs-are-cleaner-than-ever/) which demonstrates the EV equivalent of miles per gallon (mpg), based on where the electricity is produced. Interestingly, in the West Virginia region that number is 44 mpg. Can your ICE vehicle top that?
To the comments about the environmental distress of obtaining cobalt from the Democratic Republic of Congo, I again ask: “Compared to what?” Compared to the rape of Alberta in the quest for tar sands; the ecological damage from the recent spill from the Keystone Pipeline, or from the Exxon Valdez, or from the BP rig in the Gulf of Mexico, or from … ?
The issue of the “power requirement on the grid” is a favorite trope of those defending fossil fuels. Did people cry doom and gloom when Edison introduced his light bulb? My history books tell me that he and Nikola Tesla/Westinghouse went ahead and built the grid. I am confident the grid will expand to meet the demand not only of EVs, but also of air and ground-source heat pumps. Since the cheapest way to develop new electricity-generation capacity today is wind and solar, the grid will also get greener as it expands.
I do agree with the writer that there is no free lunch. But I also think that the lunch offered by EVs is already healthier on balance than that offered by ICE vehicles — and it’s getting healthier all the time.