The Zero-Emissions Electric Vehicle Alone Can’t Solve the World’s CO2 Emissions Problem


The zero-emissions electric vehicle can’t alone solve the world’s CO2 emissions problem.

Now That's Emissions

Now That’s Emissions

That’s the case being presented by John DeCicco, a University of Michigan researcher.

As DeCicco says, on average, electric vehicles emit half the CO2 of conventional automobiles.  That’s good, says DeCicco, but it’s not enough to really clean up the world’s CO2 problem.

DeCicco explains that two-thirds of the CO2 being released into our atmosphere comes from factories, oil refineries and power plants and so on.  What he’s saying is that 66% of CO2 emissions definitely don’t come from automobiles.

So, why spend so much money to clean up the automobile?  Well, as DeCicco says, it’s not worth it to have federal government and automakers dish out billions on electric vehicle when the root issue with CO2 emissions lies elsewhere.  Quoting DeCicco:

“It’s the cost that is more the issue – because you are reducing CO2 but at an enormously high cost relative to other things you could be doing.  Even if we’re no longer producing the CO2 at the tailpipe, we’re still producing lots of CO2 somewhere else.”

DeCicco would rather that money be directed towards power plants, which he says have no federal mandate requiring reduced carbon emissions.  He further says that the amount of money directed towards electric vehicles would have a substantially bigger impact on CO2 emissions if it went to refineries and power plants.

While DeCicco may indeed be right, we still need to “clean up” the automobile, so why not get that squared away while regulators and such drag their feet over how to fix the CO2 problems that exist elsewhere?

Source: Michigan Radio

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16 Comments on "The Zero-Emissions Electric Vehicle Alone Can’t Solve the World’s CO2 Emissions Problem"

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The electrification of the automobile will help dramatically with air quality in the cities we live in, even if it means a bit more pollution in rural areas where coal and natural gas power plants are. That is a huge deal for public health. And it will still result in net fewer CO2 emissions.

A typical oil refinery requires as much electric power as a city of 250,000 people– to make gasoline that goes in today’s cars. The ICE owes it’s viability just as much to the power infrastructure, as EVs do.

So it makes perfect sense to clean up EVERYTHING– instead of spot fixing the problem of releasing greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. To this report, I say, “Duh.”

Solar, Wind, and Thorium reactors, people…

Ahhh, thorium. I don’t know whether they make sense, but if you think you’re right, and you want to be properly remunerated for your wisdom (which informs your investments), then you want a carbon price. Global warming, the incredibly dramatic problem with the most boring answer.

Uh, duh!

No kidding the grid needs to be cleaned up – by buying an electric vehicle you eliminate half the problem and can focus on the other half.

It’s no surprise that a very significant percentage of electric vehicle owners also have solar PV!

Seems that there is agenda behind this article. Spewing fumes from car exhaust will never ever make a city air cleaner. My Leaf has NO exhaust. If a city only allows electric cars, the air endircling everyone wil be much cleaner, see what Zermatt has done in Switzerland. Pristine!

How simple is this?

This article is dishonest. Since CO2 is a colorless, odorless gas, stacks billowing visible smoke (usually just water but unknown what is coming out of the stacks in this article) are not CO2, and therefore such pictures are usually included to continue the myth.


You might be right, but who’s saying ther’s no CO2 in that smoke? It’s not like CO2 is the only gas being emitted when that happens 😉

Yet another nitwit. Why is this news

Duh. Nobody ever said that EVs would rid the world of CO2. What EVs do is make it possible to drive CO2 free if the energy source is non-hydrocarbon. ICEs do not give you that option.

Straw man argument.

1 liter of petrol is about 10 kWh of energy so Nissian LEAF travels 160 km on equivalent to 2.4 liters of petrol or 1.5 L/100km. The EU average is 5 L/100km, the US target is 6.6 L/100km by 2016. Even the most bigoted idiot must see that there is more energy required for an average ICE than and EV. Even the very best ICE cars like the Focus eco-thingy does 3 L/100km but, BUT! I hear you shout, electricity has to be made some where so that means EV’s are bad right? When was the last time you were digging in your garden and came across a puddle of petrol? Oil is not petrol and increasingly petrol is not coming from oil it is coming from tar, coal, shale gas and oil sands which take astonishing amounts of energy to turn into petrol. This is yet another example of poor research dramatized by the press that shows nothing. You want to cut energy use there are a whole lot of cheaper ways to do it than investing in new technology (either power stations or renewable energy). In fact the easiest way to do it is to cut income tax… Read more »

Saying that 66% of the CO2 doesn’t come from cars but from things like …oil refineries…? For what do we need oil refineries? To a large part for car gasoline and diesel I would assume. So at least some parts of 66% are also car-related.

From a CO2-perspective EV-Car incentives may not be the most efficient method to reduce CO2, but it’s a start and it has many positive side effects (like energy security, better air in the cities and battery price drops for home energy storage).

But getting power plants and the grid at all cleaner is very important to, right.

Cleaning power generation is really small an secondary issue. It would not increase dramaticaly electricity cost in US since power generation represents only 1/3 of final electricity price. Other costs are related to the transmission and distribution grid operations. During several years coal power generation have been reduced by 50% and replaced with natural gas with twice lesser carbon footprint. Renewable power generation doubled with astonishing wind power development and no real impact on electricity price. With nuclear power revival US power generation could be carbon free during several decades. Automobiles could not be electrified so fast.

This so called researcher does not know basics.

Oil refineries make many raw materials that go into many other things, besides just gasoline… They generate the raw materials for many forms of plastics, commercial fertilizers, pesticides, pharmaceuticals, and even edible food items, like artificial dyes.

Oil isn’t going to go away any time soon… But EV’s are a great place to start to clean up our global emissions problem.

EVs *are* a win for CO2 *and* for the economy. (The CO2 win is itself an efficiency win, a disruptor, which means money for most everyone involved, except of course petrol folks…hmm.) So, why not subsidize EVs? Because they won’t do it all by themselves? Neither will power plants.

Instead of arguing for an economy-wide carbon price, he’s arguing against EV subsidies and for power mandates. Very suspicious.

Global climate change has been cyclical and normal for millions of years.

CO2 is not a pollutant or a problem. It’s an essential trace gas that plants need to live.

I’m not sure if you’re trolling, but just in case; here is a rebuttal

While there are direct ways in which CO2 is a pollutant (acidification of the ocean), its primary impact is its greenhouse warming effect. While the greenhouse effect is a natural occurence, too much warming has severe negative impacts on agriculture, health and environment.