Electric Cars Are As Green As You Want Them To Be
Stenquist of the New York Times attempted to educate us last Sunday by suggesting that pollution from electric cars is as clear as a sixth grade math problem. However, by 9th grade, we should begin to understand that although we can add any numbers together, it is the relationship between those numbers and something in the real world which gives us sensible results.
Programmers learn that many calculations can be made but that only when the right assumptions are used do we avoid the pitfall of: “garbage in, garbage out.” Mr. Stenquist is in pursuit of the “carbon footprint” for charging an electric vehicle. However, while the EV may have a carbon footprint that is related to its manufacture, the vehicle will never have a carbon footprint related to its operation. In part, this is because it is a zero emissions vehicle — while it is operating, there are no emissions. But will the vehicle produce emissions or, more to the point, be responsible for emissions while it is charging?
The Relationships Are Fundamental: EV / Owner / Power Plant
It is a convenient but inaccurate shorthand to say that an electric vehicle pollutes when, by definition, it is the human operator usage, not an object, that has a carbon footprint. We are used to simple answers for a petrol vehicle: Calculate the miles per gallon, add in that approximately 19 pounds of carbon dioxide are produced for every gallon burned, and you have a result. There is very little most operators can change. There is one engine and it takes one kind of fuel and the vehicle pollutes in its operation. We think of the operator as fixed, and the pollution from burning gasoline relatively fixed. Only the vehicle is a variable. So, we think of the vehicle as having a carbon footprint.
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