Electric CarsGeorge C. Marshall Institute
Although the debate over the role of human activities in causing climate change is nowherenear being resolved, there should be little debate over some very important facts. First,greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) will continue to grow as developing countries pursue higherstandards of living and the benefits of prosperity.
Second, drastic reductions in U.S. GHGs,along the lines of proposed cap and trade legislation, would have only a minor impact on globalemissions, but would impose a very high cost on our economy.
That economic cost is themajor reason why cap and trade proposals never gained much traction, publicly or politically.Third, the technology needed to stabilize global emissions and eventually reduce them does notexist and probably will not exist on a commercial basis until the second half of this century.
Finally, limiting the growth of domestic emissions should be pursued in a cost-effective manner.Electric cars do not now meet that standard.The potential contribution of electric cars to reducing carbon dioxide emissions is trivial, butnot cheap. According to the Congressional Research Service (CRS), cars and other light dutyvehicles accounted for 17% of U.S. emissions in 2007,
which translates into about 4% of globalemissions. Since electric vehicles will account for only a small percentage of the U.S. fleetanytime soon, under 5% until after 2020 or beyond, their impact on global emissions will beswamped by developing country emissions.Some cite continuing concerns about the security implications of U.S. dependence on importedoil as a justification for expanded use of electric vehicles. While the notion of
“energyindependence,” is an illusion
because the negative economic impact of a serious effort wouldbe disastrous, the U.S. can do a better job of controlling the level of imports, but not bymaintaining a self-imposed embargo on oil and gas exploration, as has been announced by theObama Administration. Concerns about dependence on oil imports from the Persian Gulf are
The International Energy Agency’s 2010 projections show global carbon dioxide emissions rising 21% between2008 and 2035. Their projection assessment asserts: “Non
-OECD countries account for all of the projected growthin energy-related CO2 emissions to
2035 … By 2035, non
-OECD energy-related emissions of CO2 are nearly two-and-a-
half times those of the OECD.” Emissions in non
-OECD nations will grow from 15.7 gigatons in 2008 to 20.8gigatons by 2020 and 24 gigatons by 2035, according to the IEA. See International Energy Agency,
World Energy Outlook 2010
, (Paris: OECD, 2010): 95-96.
Bryan Buckley and Sergey Mityakov.
The Cost of Climate Regulation for American Households
(Washington, D.C.:George C. Marshall Institute, 2009).
See, for example, Martin Hoffert
, “Advanced Technology Paths to Global Climate Stability: Energy for aGreenhouse Planet.”
(November 2002): 981-987.
Cars, Trucks, and Climate: EPA Regulation of Greenhouse Gases from Mobile Sources
(Washington, D.C.: Congressional Research Service, May 2010): 16.
For discussion of the illusory nature of energy independence claims, see William O’Keefe and Jeff Kueter,
TheIllusion of Energy Independence: An Assessment of the Current State of Energy Use
(Washington, D.C.: George C.Marshall Institute, 2006).