The journos – if that’s what they are – at Fairfax’s Drive.com continue to pollute the Internet with their confusion. The headline reads Plug-in cars no better for the environment and they go on to explain that in Victoria, where 85 per cent of electricity comes from power stations burning more highly polluting brown coal, the figures show an electric vehicle will produce the equivalent of about 130 grams of carbon dioxide a kilometre – about the same as small-engined petrol hatchback. No problem, except that they then completely and utterly expose their own headline as misleading.
How do they do this? By turning the story on its head: But recharge the same electric car in Tasmania, where almost all the electricity is generated using more environmentally friendly hydroelectric power plants, and the equivalent carbon dioxide output falls to about 13 grams. This is far better than any car on our roads today – including petrol-electric hybrids – and lower even than the next wave of ultra-efficient vehicles slated for Australia.
Bizarre. Why write a headline like that – except to get people to read it I guess. And of course its all true – if utterly self-evident. Of course hydro-power is going to be cleaner than brown – or even black coal. Same with wind or solar powered grids. It’s a no-brainer. Or is it?
They could have engaged their brains further and mentioned that hydro-power floods an entire valley, wiping out (in Tasmania’s case) substantial forest ecosystems and replacing it with cold, ‘dead’ water. Apart from the environmental vandalism, there has to be a carbon cost to building a dam in the first place. Now it could be that hydro in the right place makes great sense, but we need to do a comparison with the carbon cost of building an equivalent scale of solar cell or wind farms, or building tidal generators. Such a comparison would include actual carbon emitted in construction and maintenance, the expected replacement life-cycle (ie when do we need to build another one?) and the extra cost of building the connection to the grid (which could be a very long wire indeed). And then do a comparo with current black and brown coal (or even nuclear power) power plants.
Until we do that analysis we are just making stuff up and generating misleading statements.