This piece in Bloomberg news, The Dirty Road to Cleaner Cars, captures well the conundrum of cleaning up vehicular emissions. 22% of US CO2 emissions come from the transportation sector. (This number is17% worldwide.)
Tesla set records when it launched its Model 3 in April, racking up more than 400,000 reservations for the $35,000 sedan since then. So it’s clear that there is a level of consumer awareness of, and demand for, reducing tailpipe GHG emissions.
But while electric cars are part of the solution – especially in sparsely populated locations, where mass transit is not feasible (like rural Vermont, where vehicular emissions comprise 26% of our carbon footprint) – they can only be as clean as the source of the juice that fuels them.
Eric Roston writes “with the solar, wind, natural gas, and (still potential) nuclear revolutions, the metabolism of the energy system is accelerating. Electric cars lead the parade.”
For Jeffrey Sachs of Columbia University, electric cars are just one of three ways of cleaning up the US energy system. He first points to improving the efficiency of fossil fuel-generated electricity while also increasing zero-carbon power as quickly as possible before plugging buildings and vehicles into this clean(er) electric power grid. His mantra? “Clean electricity, and electrify everything you can.“