Someone needs to give Chris Kobus a medal (heaven knows he'd deserve it more than Barack Obama deserved that Nobel). Kobus deserves a medal for coming up with a phrase that I hope gains as much currency as Sarah Palin's "death panels." In a headline yesterday at Right Wing News, Kobus referred to the Chevy Volt as a "coal-powered car."
Electric cars are always touted as one of those "green technologies" that are going to create millions of new "green jobs" in the auto companies that President Obama now controls. They're also supposed to help us clean up the air and save the earth -- but their promoters never, ever talk about where the electricity for those electric cars comes from.
Since our President likes to berate you and me for not paying enough attention to "facts and science," we here at West to the West Wing are going to do our part to correct that situation. Herewith, some "facts and science" about those wonderful earth-saving electric cars of which The Facts-and-Science President ™ is so fond.
First fact: 45% of the nation's electricity comes from coal-powered generating plants. (Interestingly, an environmentalist website places it at 57% -- but they're using figures from ten years ago. Maybe they should update their "facts.")
Other companies know this issue as "line losses." When electricity passes through conductors over a long distance, it generates heat and some of the electricity is dissipated. Put together 1,000 feet of household extension cords, for example, and the power from wall plug to lamp will weaken so much that it will no longer light a 100-watt bulb.
Large power plants sometimes are significant polluters and unwelcome neighbors, so they typically locate far from the urban centers that consume most of the power. That means power sometimes has to move hundreds of miles to its final destination, and that means line losses.
Third fact: Only about 40 percent of the thermal energy in coal can be converted to electricity in the first place -- i.e., 60 percent is wasted.
So here's what we've got so far. The electric car runs on batteries, which are recharged at electrical outlets, which deliver electricity from power plants. According to the Department of Energy's 2010 figures, 45% of that power, nationwide, comes from coal ("bad, bad! dirty, dirty!"); 19% from nuclear plants (which produce radioactive waste that we still have not figured out a way to dispose of long-term); 6% comes from hydroelectric dams ("bad! bad! let the rivers run free!"); and 24 % comes from natural-gas plants -- which I happen to like very much, because the stuff burns amazingly clean, and we have lots of it, but environmentalists condemn because the carbon dioxide given off supposedly causes global climate change.
Basically, for an environmentalist, there is no acceptable way to generate electricity -- and yet, they keep promoting these electric cars. Go figure. (Oh, but they, unlike us evil conservative hicks, are "facts-and-science-based.")
As long as we're laying facts and science on the environmentalists, how about this one:
Fourth fact: A typical 500 MW coal-powered electric plant annually produces 10,000 tons of sulfur dioxide (the main cause of acid rain) and 10,500 tons of nitrogen oxides, which cause smog and acid rain. Coal-burning also produces smaller amounts of mercury and other problematic elements, including radioactive ones. Oops. In all the hyped-up, ballyhooed hullabaloo about "man-caused global warming," folks seem to have forgotten about bad ol'-fashioned air pollution -- the real thing, which causes massive deaths in places like China, India and Mexico City, but which has been dramatically reduced in our own country because of advanced coal-burning technologies.
So, next time a U.S. president or his lackeys try to shove an electric car down your throat, hit 'em back with some facts.
Cross-posted at West to the West Wing 2012