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Wild Green

Former Utne Reader senior editor Keith Goetzman on environmental issues from climate change to composting.


The Electric Car Paradox

 by Keith Goetzman


Tags: climate change, carbon emissions, electric cars, electric vehicles, energy, China, Sweden, environment, Common Dreams, Dot Earth, Keith Goetzman,

Electric car in Sweden

Electric vehicles are creating a lot of promise in the green world, but they don’t necessarily lead to lower greenhouse gas emissions. Consider the cases of China and Sweden, which have both heavily encouraged electric car ownership among their citizens but have failed to enjoy an attendant drop in transportation-sector carbon emissions.

What’s going on here? Firmin DeBrabander reports in Common Dreams on the Swedish experience, in which greener cars are being driven more miles:

China is encountering a different problem: Its huge numbers of electric vehicles aren’t leading to greatly reduced emissions because of their power source, dirty coal. Andrew Revkin reports on the Dot Earth blog at the New York Times that “in all but three grid regions in China, electric vehicles produce more CO2 per mile because of the coal source for the power than the equivalent gasoline-powered car.”

The researcher behind these numbers, Lucia Green-Weiskel, takes care to point out that “electric vehicles are still a key (if not central) part of a low-carbon future in any country” and that her study shouldn’t be seen as anti-EV. But she notes that EV development must be accompanied by a move to cleaner energy sources if it is to make a dent in carbon emissions.

There’s a surefire step both the Swedes and the Chinese—and you and I, for that matter—could take to cut emissions: Drive and consume less. Writes DeBrabander:

Sources: Common Dreams, Dot Earth 

Image by Håkan Dahlström, licensed under Creative Commons.