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Cars’ Environmental Benefits are Overhyped, Mostly Shifting their Pollution and Greenhouse-gas Emissions from the Tailpipe to a Smokestack.

Environmentalists fancy zero-emission cars as an essential tool to save the planet. But the cars’ environmental benefits are overhyped, mostly shifting their pollution and greenhouse-gas emissions from the tailpipe to a smokestack.

And their special subsidy is a budget-buster, increasing the federal deficit by an estimated $7.5 billion over the next five years, and regressive, primarily benefiting Americans with incomes over $100,000 a year.

Under current law, the existing subsidy will mostly disappear by the mid-2020s, thanks to a provision that ramps down the credit’s maximum amount in stages once a manufacturer has sold its 200,000th vehicle.

Renewables today supply about a third of the nation’s electricity supply. Solar contributes a mere 1 percent, wind about 6 percent. Neither technology is cost-effective, compared to traditional sources. Much more efficient are nuclear and hydro, but they represent only 20 percent and 7 percent respectively. And none of these sources is likely to grow its share quickly.

Fossil fuels still provide 68 percent of our electricity supply (coal 30 percent, natural gas 32 percent). Happily, natural gas, which is twice as clean as coal, is growing while coal is shrinking.

Think about that. Our clean-car future, if there is to be one, won’t be built on solar and wind but rather on nuclear, hydro, and natural gas, sources enviros tend to hate.

So what should Congress do? Let the Tesla tax credit die — or better yet, kill it. After all, it’s unnecessary, no longer needed (if it ever was), and junks up the tax code. Senator John Barrasso, R-Wyoming, has suggested going even further. He’s introduced a bill entirely replacing the regressive subsidy with a new tax on electric vehicles, to make up for the highway-upkeep fees BEV owners are currently avoiding.

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Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Dec 9, 2019 4:34 pm GMT

Noam, where do I start...

"Renewables today supply about a third of the nation’s electricity supply."

Wouldn't 16.9% be closer to "a sixth of the nation's electricity supply"?

"Happily, natural gas, which is twice as clean as coal..."

"Happily"? Guess I should be happy natural gas is only responsible for 40 million unnatural deaths each year, but 😊 seemed less appropriate than 🤢.

"Think about that. Our clean-car future, if there is to be one, won’t be built on solar and wind but rather on nuclear, hydro, and natural gas, sources enviros tend to hate."

Enviro-charlatans certainly hate nuclear. About hydro, they have mixed (confused?) feelings - it's certainly as renewable as solar and wind. But because it's taking so much of the clean energy pie, SEIA and AWEA are desperately trying to find something wrong with it. Plus, the fact it's sort of dependable drives solar/wind/battery supporters nuts.

Nuclear is capable of providing a steady, reliable supply of electricity, plus it emits no CO2 - a fact that drives natural gas vendors nuts. After the Fukushima accident they mounted an effort to shut down nuke plants, cutting utilities in on fuel sales to sweeten the deal, but the effort has had mixed results.

True environmentalists recognize nuclear electricity, coupled with electric transportation, represents the only viable path forward on climate change. Though they support continued EV subsidies, they also support state taxes to force EV owners to pay their fair share of road maintenance costs.

Did you get a chance to download the GREET model? Here's what a comparison of IC vs. EV emissions looks like in Excel. As you can see, with a predominantly coal/gas generation mix the total GHGs are nearly identical.

With 100% nuclear electricity, electric transportation would be 100% clean. That's where we need to be.

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