For those of you who haven't heard the "Long Tailpipe" argument against electric / hybrid cars, I thought I'd mirror a post that Kit put up on it:
It really bothers me when people opposed to electric cars use the "long tailpipe" argument, which calls attention to the fact that switching to electric vehicles won't solve the energy requirement problem, since our power plants (most of which run on fossil fuels) will have to generate the excess energy for cars as well. In effect, this just shifts the source of pollution from the streets to the power plants; the amount would be roughly the same.
There are two problems with this assessment. Number one, shifting the source is the whole point. If there were some miracle new power supply that did not run on fossil fuel, or if we could make nuclear engines for every car, then of course they would run on electric motors utilizing this new energy anyway. As it is, most of our energy DOES come from fossil fuels, so that if our main concern is carbon production and other atmospheric problems (waste heat, particulate matter, etc), why not have the problem occur in a centralized, easier to maintain environment? It boils down to: which is worse, a million cars spewing a ton of CO2 into the air from a million tailpipes all over the place, or one big smokestack spewing a million tons from one location? Clearly, it is easier to put expensive filters, catalytic converters, etc on one exhaust pipe than a million, it is easier to clean the air/water/soil near one source of pollution than a million, utility companies can afford to be safer/more environmentally conscious/cleaner than a poor single person with a car, and the government can better regulate them. In all, I'd rather have to clean a quart of shit in my toilet than a quart thinly spread all over my house.
The second problem is that the amount of emissions is actually lower with a localized source. There are many ancillary carbon expenditures to maintain a fossil-fueled fleet of cars, such as the cost of fuel transportation to hundreds of gas stations instead of one power plant, and the fact that the land occupied by gas stations could be used for parks or homes or whatever else. It is arguably safer, too. Consider a coastal power plant (as many are): if it's near a refinery, the fuel can just be immediately pumped into the plants storage tanks. Even if not, an oil tanker could distribute it from a refinery to a pumping station and achieve the same goal. No tanker trucks, gas cans/tanks, or rail tanks needed.
So, even if it isn't THE solution to the problem, it makes it more manageable, and I think it's worth it. Crank out those electric vehicles!
For some reason, I just find the the mental imagery with "quart of shit spread thinly over the house" grossly amusing.
There might be an argument to make about the energy / carbon / etc costs associated with making the batteries with hybrid and electric cars, but those fall through so long as the marginal returns on energy production / localized CO2 emissions / etc can do better than break even over the lifetime of the battery per car. I'd be interested to see the costs associated with producing the batteries and the marginal returns — I'm curious how short the timeframe is.
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Saleh Stevens | 11/10/2014 12:56
Saleh Stevens | 10/10/2014 15:06