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Sat Jan 13, 2018, 04:34 PM

Graphic For Carbon Dioxide Loads for Some Electric and Fossil Fuel Cars.

I'm not a fan of cars at all, and I think the magical thinking that leads people who nominally identify as being concerned about climate change who express great enthusiasm for electric cars, in particular for the car (for billionaires and millionaires) built by crony capitalist Elon Musk is - good intentions notwithstanding - is unfortunate.

Many people believe that electricity comes out of a wall socket, or worse, and most obliviously, that significant amounts of it are produced by so called "renewable energy." The latter statement is definitively untrue. As I showed elsewhere in this space, by reference to the International Energy Agency's 2017 World Energy Outlook, in the period between 2000-2017 the fastest growing source of energy on this planet was coal, which grew by annual usage by 60 exajoules in that period, compared to 9.4 exajoules of wind, solar, geothermal, blah, blah blah's total energy output for all time, as opposed to growth.

The environmental impact of electric cars is largely dependent on the greenhouse gas cost of electricity, although other impacts related to manufacture also play a role.

In pure terms of only one form of environmental impact, specifically the release of the dangerous fossil fuel waste carbon dioxide the following graphic from a paper in the primary scientific literature, [link:Transportation Research Part D: Transport and Environment|Greenhouse gas emissions associated with electric vehicle charging: The impact of electricity generation mix in a developing country] (Onn, et al, Transportation Research Part D: Transport and Environment, Corrected Proof, Online June 2017) tells the story quickly and succinctly far better than I can:



Here is the caption for the graphic:

Fig. 1. Climate change impact VS car models per 100 km travel


The energy mix, which is not especially different from that in many countries in the developed world, including certainly many parts of the United States, excepting those with significant nuclear capacity (like where I live, New Jersey) is shown in this graphic.



Here is the caption for it:

Fig. 2. Evolution of generation mix by fuel type.


In the text he authors write in their conclusion:

The study indicates that Malaysia as a developing country is not ready for EVs as our electricity generation is still largely dominated by fossil fuels. Based on the well-to-wheel analysis, the GHG emissions produced through the usage of EVs are substantial and it will continue to be so if no change is made to the electricity generation in the near future.


The bold is mine.

Despite much horseshit going around about so called "renewable energy" the same statement, by reference to the World Energy Outlook cited above, is true of the world at large: "Electricity generation is still largely dominated by fossil fuels."

A zero sum game has been played by advocates of so called "renewable energy" whereby rather than being interested in attacking fossil fuels, they have chosen to attack the world's largest, by far, combustion gas free form of energy, nuclear energy, which has not grown by much since 2000, but is still cleaner, safer and more sustainable than any carbon free form of energy.

So called "renewable energy" has not worked, is not working and will not work to address climate change and in fact, because of material requirements, the word "renewable" as attached to solar and wind is an oxymoron.

I wish you a pleasant Sunday.

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Response to NNadir (Original post)

Sat Jan 13, 2018, 06:18 PM

1. Solar and Wind are not completely 'renewable' due to energies needed for manufacturing ...

And maintenance of the equipment, but still have a significantly lower CO2 footprint over the lifetime of the panel or windmill per unit of energy produced ... esp. if they are made locally vs where they are used ... but even ones sourced to US from China aren't THAT much different once all the 'numbers' are run, transport cost in terms of CO2 even from overseas is relatively small % of overall 'carbon cost' due to economies of 'scale'.

I think it's very reasonable to say that electric cars are very helpful overall if they're being charged up in the parts of the world where the % of power produced by hydro, nuclear, and/or solar/wind are relatively high, and less so (maybe much less so ... could even be a net-negative vs petrol/diesel car in some situations) in a part of the world where electricity is primarily produced via 'dirty' sources.

They are also probably less 'polluting' overall, though basically what's happening is we're keeping the areas near roadways (which is almost everywhere anyone lives) more 'clean' at the expense of making the areas directly upwind from power-producing plants (esp. coal-fired ones, but to some extent natural gas powered ones as well) ... dirtier. I think that trade-off is towards the positive overall.

Speaking of 'gas' ... natural-gas fired plants, while still having similar carbon problems as coal/petroleum-burning plants have, are overall less polluting than gasoline and diesel-powered automotive engines. So there's also that tangential benefit of electric cars in areas where, even if they aren't using 'renewables', are using natural gas to make electricity.

I do 'get' though, your overall point that electric cars are no panacea UNLESS we ALSO significantly reduce dependence on fossil fuels for electricity. And they're not really 'renewable' in the sense that they require maintenance and replacement, and thus require significant 'carbon' in order to bring them into existence in the first place, and to keep 'em running.

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Response to mr_lebowski (Reply #1)

Sat Jan 13, 2018, 06:30 PM

2. There are essentially no points on this planet where "solar and wind" are relatively high.

So it's a moot point.

Where I live, in New Jersey, roughly 50% of the electricity is nuclear, at least as in state generation. That will change when the Oyster Creek reactor is shut and displace by gas.

As an ancillary to the search that produced the paper cited in the OP, I picked up one of many papers on the subject of the LCA of electricity generation; I have lots of these in my files actually. This particular paper was unkind to solar, which is not a clean source of energy no matter how much marketing it gets. The paper in question only refers to the carbon cost, and does not include what may be (longer term) a significant toxicology cost.

To me, solar and wind are unacceptable since they depend on access to so called "natural" gas.

They will never be as sustainable or as safe as nuclear power plants for reasons of mass to energy density.

Natural gas plants are being built like wild fire on the planet, and the recent World Energy Outlook 2017 document predicts more and more gas.

No one builds a gas plant under the assumption that it will operate "just until solar and wind" takeover, the common fantasy notwithstanding. They are built to operate for a minimum of half a century.

I oppose all dangerous fossil fuels and in my view, natural gas is just as bad as coal and petroleum, and in some places may actually be worse than petroleum.

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Response to NNadir (Reply #2)

Sat Jan 13, 2018, 06:59 PM

3. Not even places like Germany? Thought they're doing like a really significant % with solar/wind?

Do you believe there's NO CHANCE that some relatively-clean process of manufacturing solar-energy-harvesting products might be developed? If not, why not?

When you say it's 'unclean' are you saying that, even NOW, with the scale panels are produced at, no matter what, the carbon-cost per energy unit produced over the products lifetime is still higher than that of fossil fuel burning plant? Are you accounting for US military costs associated w/protecting suppliers in the Middle East and Africa in the calcs? Even if we don't get that much oil from there, a lot of what we DO use would go elsewhere if we didn't protect those producers, so ...

If we cannot figure out a way to leverage renewable sources like solar, wind, geothermal, tidal, etc ... we're completely fucked as a planet, pardon my french.

I'm not an anti-nuke guy, btw, I think it has a very valid role as part of the mix, unlike many of our friends on DU.

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Response to mr_lebowski (Reply #3)

Sat Jan 13, 2018, 09:11 PM

4. Germany is, frankly, a disaster, another zero sum game.

They are not phasing out fossil fuels; they are phasing out nuclear energy and still digging and burning coal.

I posted this in another thread a while back: As Germany hosts green summit, an energy firm is razing a nearby forest

As I frequently point out, over and over and over, seven million people die each year from air pollution and yet Germany has declared nuclear is "too dangerous."

A comparative risk assessment of burden of disease and injury attributable to 67 risk factors and risk factor clusters in 21 regions, 19902010: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2010 (Lancet 2012, 380, 222460: For air pollution mortality figures see Table 3, page 2238 and the text on page 2240.)

They're phasing out nuclear, but they have zero interest in phasing out fossil fuels. Which do you suppose has killed more Germans in the last half a century, German nuclear plants or German air pollution?

The belief that the German energy program is somehow laudable is pure marketing and nothing else. And let's be clear on something, OK? Germany is one of the largest customers for Danish Natural Gas

I have spent thirty years in the primary scientific literature on energy, beginning as a nuclear opponent - stimulated to find out more about Chernobyl - and then as ambivalent about nuclear but still strongly in favor of so called "renewables" - and then extremely positive about nuclear and so called "renewables" and finally, beginning about 5 years ago, convinced that nuclear energy is the last best hope of humanity, however much maligned it may be and that the renewable adventure, an experiment that has proved to be a very expensive failure, is a tragedy of unbelievable proportion.

As I also frequently point out, updating with each year's new edition, the UNEP Frankfurt School Report, issued each year: GLOBAL TRENDS IN RENEWABLE ENERGY INVESTMENT 2017, indicates we are spending, on a planet where more than two billion people lack improved sanitation facilities, more than two trillion dollars every ten years on so called "renewable energy."

For the last ten years or so, I have been consistently been reporting that solar and wind combined do not produce even 5 of the 576 exajoules of energy humanity generates and consumes each year.

However, it appears I needed an update, as I discovered when writing this post: The Growth of "Renewable" Energy Has Exceeded 2007 World Energy Outlook Projections by 55%!

I'll quote myself, as clearly I must:

Now let's turn to so called "other renewable energy." In 2000, "other renewable energy" - which includes solar and wind energy provided 2.5 exajoules of energy; in 2016 it provided 9.4 exajoules of energy.


Now listen, two trillion dollars to increase the output by 6.9 exajoules over a 17 year period, a period where people were dying at a rate of 7 million per year from air pollution is not a worthy investment.

It's instead, quite nearly a faith based affectation, a ritualized form of suicide.

You write:

If we cannot figure out a way to leverage renewable sources like solar, wind, geothermal, tidal, etc ... we're completely fucked as a planet, pardon my french.


With sincere respect, because I certainly believe you are actually thinking and not sloganeering, as many of our friends at DU do when discussing so called "renewable energy," I must say that I very strongly disagree with your statement.

I would take you phrase and add clauses thus with my additions bolded:

If people who actually care about the environment continue to believe that if we cannot figure out a way to leverage renewable sources like solar, wind, geothermal, tidal, etc that... we're completely fucked as a planet, pardon my french, we will fail to do a shred of justice to all future generations.


You are where I was maybe five to ten years ago. It would be easy for me to join in the cheering for renewable energy and be praised for endorsing what I truthfully regard as the squandering of increasingly precious resources.

I'm not going to do that. I can't, because I could not live with myself if I engaged in the "bandwagon fallacy" in which what is popular is confused with being right. The popular opinion is often wrong, dead wrong, dangerously wrong, fatally wrong.

If we "needed" solar energy the world would end every evening, and few people would live through the winter solstice. We don't need it. It's useless, expensive and failed.

When I write these days, approaching the end of my life, deeply distressed by my part in the world I will leave behind.

I feel very much like the mythical Cassandra, who had the gift of prophesy given by a God she refused, but cursed in that her gift was such that no matter how truthful she was, she was never believed.

Ultimately, according to the myth, she was raped, enslaved and then murdered. I hope I don't go there.

I am sometimes known in this space as being somewhat brutal with my opinions. Please don't misinterpret me here, because I sincerely believe you mean well, but I strongly disagree with your belief in so called renewable energy.

Years ago, the rhetoric was, "if we spent as much money on renewables as we spend on nuclear, the world would be a better place!!!"

We are now spending more money than was ever spent on nuclear, and the results are in.

As I pointed out in the earlier post I linked here:

In the 20th century, there were between 1959, the year the data collection began, and 2000, a period of more than 4 decades, five years during which the annual increase exceeded 2.00 ppm, 1977, 1983, 1987, 1988, and 1998, the latter - an El Nino year. (The "rebound year, 1999, is one of only two years since 1980 to show increases smaller than 1.00 ppm; in 1999 the increase was 0.93 ppm.)

In the 17 years since 2000, there have been 11 such years, one of which, 2015, exceeded 3.00 ppm, with 2016 coming close at 2.98 ppm.

The average annual increase in the 20th century was 1.3 ppm per year; in the 21st century it has reached 2.2 ppm per year. Even if this 21st century average didn't increase - and it will increase - we will be at 450 ppm in less than 20 years, that is by 2047 (when happily, I'll be dead, so "we" doesn't apply to me) - if we're lucky, and we won't be, because there's no evidence that the second derivative - the rate of change of change - won't continue to increase, as it has since the 1960's when every year showed an increase of less than 1.4 ppm, and when 6 of the ten years showed increases of less than 1.00 ppm.


We are now in the position that as a culture, we care more about hyping so called "renewable energy" than we do about its effect on the environment, which is in the best case nil, and in the worst case disastrous. (I believe the worst case.)

I have looked carefully at the external costs of wind and solar. It's not pretty when compared to nuclear. I could spend hours on the subject, but I won't. I will refer to another writing on the internet on this topic that I wrote two and a half years ago, scratching the surface of what I learned. I will also say that my opinion on the sustainability of so called "renewable energy" has declined further since then.

Sustaining the Wind, Part I

No one alive today will ever see a carbon dioxide concentration of less than 400 ppm ever again, particularly if we insist on lying to ourselves.


Thank you for your sincere comment.

I wish you a pleasant Sunday.

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