March 2012

Electric Vehicles Can Revolutionize America’s Energy Use

International Green Ideas Show March 17-18, Expo New Mexico


Business can become more competitive, profitable and resilient by leading the transformation from fossil fuel to efficiency and renewables. This transition will build a stronger economy, a more secure nation and a healthier environment.


Reinventing Fire: Blueprint to the New Energy Era by Amory Lovins



A detailed plan that could revolutionize America’s energy use is outlined in Amory Lovins’ new book. He shows how the largest gain could be made in the transportation sector. Americans burn 13 million barrels of oil a day, the majority imported, costing drivers $2 billion directly and $4 billion in additional hidden costs. Lovins shows how, by changing over to electric vehicles (EVs) and by using non-cropland biofuels, renewably produced hydrogen and environmentally conscious natural gas, $3.8 trillion could be saved in transportation, with $0.7 trillion net possible savings for buildings and $0.5 trillion net savings for industry— creating $5 trillion in savings, a 158% increase in our economy—with zero energy produced from coal, oil or nuclear by 2050.


In order to garner wide support, Lovins advocates targeting foreign oil imports from hostile suppliers through tariffs. He says that this would also help small local fossil fuel companies better compete and make it worthwhile for them to implement cleaner environmental practices. There is also need for an offset of the renewable energy (RE) short-term tax breaks and utility paybacks, which are winding down. By switching to RE-supported electric transportation, the payback time on RE investment will be less without any tax subsidies, creating a larger base of support for RE.


The current bottleneck for do-it-yourself EVs, commercially produced EVs and hybrid plug-ins is the lack of a network of convenient charging locations. These are now beginning to be installed nationwide at businesses, car dealerships and other sites. Some are partially powered by photovoltaics.


Recently, Monte Ogdahl, president of NM Solar Energy Association (NMSEA), and Skip Dunn, president of Northern NM Electric Vehicle Association (NNMEVA), along with about a dozen members from both groups, discussed how to best expedite plug-in charging stations in Santa Fe, Albuquerque, Los Alamos and beyond. They are planning future gatherings for further discussion of this topic. Email Ogdahl at or Dunn at for details.


The NMSEA, NNMEVA and many green vendors will be at the International Green Ideas Show (part of the Home Showcase Lifestyle Festival) March 17-18 at Expo NM in Albuquerque. The new commercial EVs and hybrids, various DIY-EVs, plug-in hybrids and other alternative-powered vehicles will be displayed, with presenters explaining how one may fit your needs. Nearby, there will be an area for kids to race model cars, including some youngsters who have designed and built model hydrogen racecars. Model solar and electric remote-controlled cars will also be demonstrated. The NMSEA will have displays and information on economical ways to green your life and habitat. NMSEA’s Spring Solar Social will be at the Green Street Park on Saturday afternoon.



Electric Vehicles – Some Hard Questions Remain


The Department of Energy estimates that the US will have about 1 million electric cars on the road by 2015. Is that good? Maybe.


According to a report released last month by the University of Tennessee, alternatively-powered vehicles may be worse for the environment and peoples’ health than gasoline-powered vehicles – at least in China. The researchers studied the environmental impact of the whole power chain there, where more than 75 percent of power is generated by coal, compared to 50 percent in the US. Unlike the US, China has a large population that lives near coal plants. Coal power plants emit many different fine particle pollutants that have clear health impacts.


While electric cars easily beat gas- and diesel-powered vehicles when it comes to carbon emissions alone, Chris Cherry, one of the UT researchers, says that electric vehicles are not emission-free. Also, they have to rely on an advanced battery, which eventually has to be replaced, requiring mining and fossil fuel expenditures. Cherry thinks it makes sense for the US to switch to electric cars for the energy independence factor, not necessarily for environmental gains.


An article in last month’s Christian Science Monitor asks, “Is an electric car a true alternative if its drivetrain is ultimately powered by coal, nuclear power and lithium strip mines? A more fundamental question has to do with the ecological impact cars in general have on suburban development. Cars enable people to spread out and create sprawl, a fact even efficient electric vehicles can’t resolve.


In many places, being truly sustainable would seem to require more durable options, such as making cities more vibrant, affordable, pleasant places to live by designing walkable neighborhoods, bicycling infrastructure, carpooling, traffic calming and comfortable public transit.





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