New Book Calls Out 'Greenwashing' of Electric Cars
Author says environmental impact of producing alternative-fuel vehicles outweighs benefits.
According to a new book titled "Green Illusions" (University of Nebraska Press), hybrid and electric cars are not any cleaner or greener than traditional fossil-fuel vehicles. Author Ozzie Zehner, a visiting scholar at the University of California, Berkeley, points to the environmental side effects of hybrid and electric cars from Fisker, Nissan, Tesla and Toyota: their energy use and carbon footprint during production, the mining impact to obtain materials and even their infrastructure requirements. Zehner notes that many of his conclusions about so-called "green" cars are backed by a National Academy of Sciences report.
“Shifting from gasoline to electric vehicles is like switching a smoking habit from cloves to menthols,” Zehner said in a statement. “It isn't acceptable for doctors to promote menthol cigarettes; should environmentally minded people promote alternative-fuel cars?"
While being interviewed for a radio program yesterday, Zehner asserted that the higher price tag on electric cars is not just the result of cutting-edge technology, but reflects the fact that more fossil fuels are required to build them. He also argued that electric cars do not diminish the negative environmental impact of driving, but simply shift the problems elsewhere. And he suggests that the government subsidize other forms of transportation -- such as biking and mass transit -- rather than sinking tax dollars into alternative-fuel vehicles.
Most studies that compare traditional gas-powered vehicles to electric cars are based on charging the batteries of the latter with power produced by coal, natural gas and nuclear reaction. But Zehner posits that fueling a car represents only a fraction of its total environmental impact, and that the larger impact comes from manufacturing the vehicle. He points to the added copper, aluminum, rare-earth metals and other materials required to produce an electric car as offsetting any advantage gained throughout the entire charging life cycle.
Zehner also argues that even if mining suddenly becomes cleaner and engineers develop methods to increase battery capacity, a larger problem looms that even the greenest cars can’t solve. The author believes that green, alternative-fuel vehicles -- and the new charging and traditional road infrastructure they require -- are red herrings that divert attention away from other forms of transportation that are more sustainable and environmentally friendly.
“Alternative-fuel vehicles stand to define … patterns of 'sustainable living' that cannot be easily sustained without cars,” the author said. “Suburban infrastructure maintenance and road construction induce ecological consequences beyond the side effects of the vehicle itself."
Zehner advocates that lawmakers instead support better urban design that encourages walking, bicycling and public transportation instead of subsidizing electric cars. It all sounds good -- unless, of course, you live in a rural area without access to such infrastructure and have to drive miles to work or the supermarket. Or actually enjoy driving.
You do realize the article points to the fact that Hybrid vehicles are included in the "not being green" and your argument that the Prius is selling well contradicts your statement that the majority of people are already aware of it. If individuals were aware of this, there would be more Diesel powerplants being sold than the Prius, world wide.
In addition.. In many parts of the county and elsewhere the electricy charging those "Green" battries isn't necessarily green either. Most it's coal fired electricity.
Many of today's "green" products whether it be green cars, green wind, green solar etc. have a down side that many choose to ignore or beleive.
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