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Union of Concerned Scientists report

Are electric cars like our Tesla really as green as we think. There is an interesting article from the NY Times. of COncerned Scientist&st=cse&%2359;s&scp=2

If this link doesn't work, go to the Times and search for "Union of Concerned Scientists."

They have looked at the "well to wheels" CO2 emission of an electric car using the Leaf as an example. I'm glad I live in the Seattle area (at least half the year) because we have a lot of hydro power.

I wonder if this study took into account the carbon footprint of a gallon of gasoline before it ever gets to the tank of an ICE. I have no idea how much, but it certainly requires a lot of electricity to produce gasoline. I wonder what produces the power used by the refineries. Not to mention transport of the oil as well as the finished product.

Reporter only hinted at the most important point. An EV is fuel agnostic. As the generator is made more efficient, your car becomes more efficient! No ICE or hybrid can make that claim.

And who funded these "Concerned Scientists" I wonder?

I have solar on the roof; my car will be running on 94% sunshine

I have 20 panels for solar on my home as well.

It's actually a pressure/advocacy group. Members are anyone who pays a membership fee. One blogger--Anthony Watts, a California weatherman--registered his dog Kenji as a member.

autobloggreen: How gas cars use more electricity to go 100 miles than EVs do

"Let's go over that again. If we simply count the electricity used to make the gasoline that gets burned in a normal vehicle, you need more juice than you do to move an EV the same distance. Of course, then you need to factor in the actual gasoline used (and the resulting CO2 emissions). Plus, don't forget, it takes a bunch of water to refine gasoline. Put this all together and you've got on hell of an energy efficiency argument in favor of plug-in vehicles."

Elon Musk: "[...] you have enough electricity to power all the cars in the country if you stop refining gasoline. You take an average of 5 kilowatt hours to refine gasoline, something like the Model S can go 20 miles on 5 kilowatt hours."

Chris Paine (the "Electric Car" filmmaker) adds: "It does not include transporting it from the Middle East or Venezuela. The more efficient your refinery is, the lower that number is. The lowest number in the DOE study I read was 4, and the highest was 7, it depends on what your refinery is."


"How much electricity is used refine a gallon of Gasoline?"

"Electricity Shortage in California: Issues for Petroleum and Natural Gas Supply"

BruceR, for the most part you are right especially if you are talking regular gas. Diesel, in the form of biodiesel especially biodiesel made from local algae is a different story. Algae is one of the most efficient ways to capture the energy from the sun. I can imagine diesel cars becoming more and more efficient and less polluting the better we learn to process the suns energy this way, especially when taking the whole life cycle of how we get the fuel.

As the cost of running a car goes up, I have no idea which form of moving a cars, trucks, etc from point a to b will become dominant, but for our planets sake, I hope regular gas cars become a relic of the past.

Pardon, but what an incredibly stupid article.

What is heavier? A pound of lead or a pound of feathers?

The car isnt a variable for CO2. Its not relevant. Its the generation of power thats the issue.

You hear that Kenji?

In France, where I live, you get a breakdown of your electricity with your bill. My last one says my electricty come from the following sources:

81,0 % nucléaire, 10,7 % renouvelables (dont 7,9 % hydraulique), 3,4 % charbon, 3,0 % gaz, 1,6 % fioul, 0,3 % autres

Or in English - 81% Nuclear, 10.7% renewables (of which 7.9% is Hydro), 3.4% Coal, 3.0% Natural Gas, 1.6% Petroleum, 0.3% others.

While the NYT article is kind of fatuous, it is true that all our countries need to get with the program, not just us!

Alastair (American living in France)

I alway find the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory energy usage charts of interest when trying to understand the well-to-wheel (or really just source to sink) question...


...hit submit to quickly...

If the electrification of transportation really happens, we are going to see a huge transfer of usage (and wealth) from big oil to electric utilities. The generation source will have to modernize and get more efficient in many ways - heat loss in the power plants, transmission line losses as well as the input energy source.

It is going to be a fun ride getting there!!!

Fascinating chart. Note that most of the energy generated/used is actually wasted -- "Rejected Energy" is 56 of the 98 quads!! Generation and transportation are the two biggies in the 56.

Brian H.

Yep - I just finished a 20+ year career in energy (jumped to health care) - there's lots of opportunity there.


The dog thing is amusing, but a red herring.

The deal with the Union of Concerned Scientists is no different than, for example, Consumer Reports.

I'm a "member" of Consumer Reports, which means I pay a yearly membership fee. The fee pays for their research, which includes a subscription to their published work. However, as a member, I'm not one of the people that tests the products.

The same is true of the Union of Concerned Scientists. I'm a "member" of UCS, which means I pay a yearly membership fee. The fee pays for their research, which includes a subscription to their published work. However, as a member, I am not one of the scientists doing the research. Neither is Kenji.

jbunn: unless I'm missing some sarcasm, what are you talking about?!? The car is a huge part of the equation. Well-to-wheel efficiencies are the critical point, and the car has a lot to do with it.

The gap between ICE vs. fossil-based EVs (excluding renewables in the extreme case) is already in the EV's favor from the "well" (drill hole, mine, etc.) to the car, but then, when you continue to the wheel, EVs put the last nail in the ICE coffin. Evaporative emissions, tailpipe emissions and waste heat in the ICE look silly compared to the EV (no emissions at all, minimal heat losses).

The car is even more important because of the individual nature of maintenance. Many US States currently do not have mandatory safety or emissions inspections. Some of those States have highly-populated cities and counties that have imposed such requirements on themselves, like in northern Virginia, but most of Virginia has no emissions inspections. The cars get filthier and filthier, and so the well-to-wheel efficiencies just keep getting worse, as does the air we all breathe.

The "Union of Concerned Scientists" started life as an anti nuclear advocacy group. They claim science but have a history of advocating positions that are politically motivated and slow to change like most institutions.

My main gripe would be their anti nuclear energy stance rather than a stance saying build newer safer nuclear. All other forms of energy generation have been demonstrated to be much worse than nuclear even if you include Chernoble and Fukishima. Count direct and indirect deaths per joule or devastated land or global warming.

There are reasons I disagree with you William. However, instead of debating the topic with you, it would probably be more interesting for anyone interested in the topic to read some of a foremost thinkers in energy debate the topic. Here is the link:


In the article they were assuming the same car. A Leaf. In the second paragraph the author states that the power consumption between the two cars is equal.

Given that, why not reduce the problem by removing irrelevant information? Since the power consumption between the two drivers is equal, we can ignore the identical Leafs and their identical drivers. It's info we don't need.

The source of power, IS important.

@mvbf thanks for the link. Interesting but like you reading that debate only reinforces my view which opposes yours.

Btw the pro nuclear side won the final vote.

I am not interested in the final vote as much as attempting to take my own and others blinders off and trying to see a problem from more sides. The problem is being human we will always heavily filter what we see to rationalize our views (me included). I will read the pro nuclear side with as an open mind as I can muster if you read the anti nuclear side the same way.

More BS. It's really really sad.

What is obvious however is how desperate the establishment is. What's distressing is how complicit the news media are. I understand they need headlines to make sales & get viewers but it seems to me, "Affordable electric car that gets 160 miles per charge" would be a pretty good headline.

But they are funded/underwritten by the system. One nut talks about a car that has bricked and it's all over the place. A Volt catches fire weeks after crash testing and it's all over the place.




Well, very little bad happens to the Roadster. In general, news media wants either bad news or something they can turn into bad news.

Oh, great... Now it's on MSN, and a bunch more people will get wrapped around the axle wondering if electric is clean or not....

Actualy, let me amend that. The MSN article omits the phoney hypothetical comparison, and is much more clear.


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