Saturday, July 31, 2010

The Chevy "Volt": more "Brown" than "Green"?

Like so many things that claim to be "green", when you look at the facts, it can actually be the opposite:

Why the Volt?
[...] They (the ubiquitous “they”) tell us it’s green. Look no tailpipe! No gasoline! Is good, right?

No, Brainiac, is not good. Is bad! I’ll explain why.

First of all, the natural base price of a product is a fair guide as to how many resources went into manufacturing that product. So to make a $41,000 car consumed about 3 times the resources of making a $14,000 car. If you want true green, you should first and foremost consume less. Right out of the gate, this monster consumes more. A lot more. To say the Volt is green, you’d have to argue that, over its lifetime, it used enough less energy to make up for the disparity. Even if it ran for free, I doubt it could close the gap.

The foregoing argument could be invalidated if eventual economies of scale will bring down the price of a Dolt. But that doesn’t seem to be in the cards.

Another argument in favor of the Dolt would be that, as a plug-in device, its fuel is whatever they use at the local power station. In other words, a Dolt might be coal-powered or hydroelectric or nuclear. A conventional car is limited to gasoline. Yes, it would indeed be good to shift away from our inflexible dependence upon gasoline, which is in domestic short supply (and will continue to be, whether we drill in Alaska or not). However, we can’t afford to buy enough $41,000 cars to escape this dependency, with or without subsidies.

Let me repeat that I’m very enthusiastic about true green projects, and I’m also deeply concerned about America’s dangerous dependence upon foreign oil. But what passes for “green” is all too often wasteful and “brown”. This subsidized boondoggle will prove to be just another payoff to cronies and special interests. There will be no benefit for the taxpayers’ dollars other than a photo op for Obama and new toys for cash-laden yuppies, who will then cruise around town proclaiming how virtuous they are. [...]

If the power plant is using coal or oil to generate the electricity to charge the Volt, then it's still responsible for creating pollution, just not doing it in the immediate vicinity of the car. And how MUCH pollution is created making electricity each time the Volt is charged up, when compared to the pollution of gasoline for the same mileage? It's an important question.

I did a post previously, about the Chevy Volt. The technology is interesting, but how green is it really, for all the reasons mentioned above? Are our tax dollars are being wasted to subsidize another "feel good" project? Does it cost so much because it's being subsidized, removing the motive to make it less expensive?

I ask the last question, because the Ford Motor company is going to release an electric Ford Focus model in 2011, and it's expected to be considerable cheaper ($25,000 to $30,000). Ford didn't get a bailout. It's solvent, and it's making a less expensive electric car, but has to compete with a government subsidized competitor.

Rewarding failure and punishing achievement. How fair is that?

Also see:

Electric Ford Focus car due late next year

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