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In the July 7th Colfax Messenger Letter to the Editor (LTE), the writer referenced the 2014 National Academy of Sciences study of the entire life cycle of electric car emissions. It was noted that vehicles powered by electricity produced by coal are responsible for more emissions than gas-powered vehicles. What the LTE does not say is there are very few places where electricity is produced totally or mainly by coal. For instance, Xcel (a local electricity provider) uses 21% coal according to its 2020 figures. The authors of the 2014 Academy study wrote: “EVs powered by low-emitting electricity from natural gas, wind, water, or solar power reduce environmental health impacts by 50% or more.”
As the July 7th LTE points out some of the renewable energy components have been associated with forced labor in China. This is a good argument for assuring products we consume are produced in a humane way, this is not an argument to do away with alternative energy components. Unfortunately, the problem with appropriately sourced products is far larger than alternative energy components: “In Xinjiang, the government is the trafficker. Authorities use threats of physical violence, forcible drug intake, physical and sexual abuse, and torture to force detainees to work in adjacent or off-site factories or worksites producing garments, footwear, carpets, yarn, food products, holiday decorations, building materials, extractives, materials for solar power equipment and other renewable energy components, consumer electronics, bedding, hair products, cleaning supplies, personal protective equipment, face masks, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, and other goods—and these goods are finding their way into businesses and homes around the world.” (July 1, 2021 U.S. Department of State quote) The breadth of products that are produced through unacceptable labor practices is daunting. We all need to be aware and advocate for humanely produced products, including the very clothes we wear and the computers we use. We all need to consider how so many of our products came to be made in China.
As to cost of electric vehicles, according to an October 2020 Consumers Reports, “While electric vehicles (EVs) typically have higher up front purchase prices, they can save consumers a lot on operating expenses. . . . . results show that the latest generation of mainstream EVs typically cost less to own than similar gas-powered vehicles, a new development in the automotive marketplace with serious potential consumer benefits.”
Again referencing the July 7th LTE, if stuck in a 3 hour traffic jam, a car running out of gas is not going to fare any better than a car running out of electricity. And breathing in gas powered idling car emissions in a traffic jam has far more deleterious health impacts than an EV using alternative energy that can do frequent starts and stops with limited life cycle emissions.
There’s a lot to unpack in the July 7th LTE, the above is just a start.