Energy in Transporation: A Tricky EquationWritten by admin August 7th, 2011.
C. Elizabeth Smith for Ecofusion
Three years ago, Steven Chu, George Bush’s Secretary of Energy, pulled all the funding for the research and development of the hydrogen fuel cell car. We have also all heard that the miracle energy sources, biodiesel and ethanol, are not the solutions to the energy sources requirements our automobiles as we had hoped or expected. So, what’s next?
Electrically powered cars have already had quite a lengthy period of time on the roads in the form of Hybrids. They still use gasoline, just less of it.
More recently the all-electric care has joined the hybrid as “alternatively fueled” automobiles. It has no tailpipe from which noxious emissions are emitted. There are no loud engine noises and, better still, no need to pump gasoline.
I can’t help but think, however, about how electric cars aren’t exactly the fix to all the problems concerning our transportation issues. Electric cars are powered by batteries that require charging stations either in the home or in special stations peppered all over the country and cities. In a sense, we would need to reproduce the same fueling infrastructure as we have with gasoline fueling centers. These stations would be powered by the electric grid that uses one or all of the “big three” energy sources, Coal (45%), Natural Gas (22%) and Nuclear (19%). No matter how you cut it, our ‘clean’ electric cars are being powered by dirty sources, some dirtier than others. All of these energy sources have waste disposal and air/water pollution issues… Your electric car may not be emitting harmful gasses but the grid where your energy comes from, does.
My main question is this: Are electric cars still the answer to our personal transportation needs, even if we change the energy source for our electric grid?
When discussing the grid, we must center it around, not just the sources of the energy, but how that energy is transferred from place to place. Efficiency in production of energy, types of travel and choice of vehicle are the big issues that need consideration before the United States looks at taking our entire transportation energy structure and puts it on the already stressed electric grid.