17 Oct 2010
THE GREAT GREEN CAR CON
*The Green Car Con* Electric Evasion
By MICHAEL DAWSON
For any product that gets produced, green-ness involves four questions:
1. Material Intake: How much and what types of material does making the
product extract from the environment?
2. Material Output: How does the product end up putting materials back into
the environment, in the form of manufacturing, product operation, and
3. Energy Use: How much total energy does manufacture, use, and recycling of
the product require?
4. Alternatives: How does the product in question perform in the above three
areas versus available alternative means of performing the same type of work
facilitated by the product in question?
You may have already noticed that capitalists never publicly admit the
existence and complexity of all four of these questions. That is for the
obvious reason that capitalism is virtually impossible if these questions
are taken seriously. Making big money almost always requires ignoring one or
more of these questions, and the capitalist system as a whole is as heedless
of ecological limits as just about any dystopian fantasy one could concoct.
Doubt this? Then I would invite you to consider the emerging overclass
proposition that cars with electric motors are green.
In order for this to be true, the manufacture, use, and eventual trashing of
electric cars would have to:
1. Sharply reduce both the overall amount of materials and the level of
non-renewable materials presently going into the making and use of personal
2. Sharply reduce both the overall amount of materials and the level of
toxic materials coming out of the making and use of personal transportation
3. Sharply reduce the overall amount of energy required to make, use, and
eventually trash personal transportation machinery; and
4. Score better in all the above areas than alternative forms of personal
transportation machinery would, if given the chance.
Electric cars, of course, could never satisfy that fourth criterion. The
laws of physics are very strict, and they dictate that each household or
person using a 3,500-pound, 95% idled item to accomplish what could
otherwise be accomplished with 1-pound walking shoes, 25-pound bicycles, and
the use of shared, constantly operating public transit infrastructures is
simply criminally harebrained.
Yet, despite this point, I think it is also very important to consider just
how woefully electric cars will, if they ever achieve planned levels of
distribution, perform in relation to all three of the prior questions.
Take, for instance, the claim that electric car batteries are somehow green
For starters, the $36,000 battery in the $115,000 (counting the charging
equipment) Tesla Roadster contains 6,831 separate lithium-ion battery cells
and weighs 992 pounds, or as much as 35 modern, medium-quality
bicycles.Lithium is a non-renewable resource, and is extremely likely to be
desperately needed in the future for non-transportation energy storage
purposes, in a post-fossil-fuel age of greatly diminished and much more
intermittent electricity generation and use.
But, meanwhile, what about the recycling of this 992-pound object at the end
of its expected 7-year useful life? Battery recycling is a process touted by
Tesla’s propaganda arm as being wondrously efficient and “non-toxic.”
Let’s take a gander, shall we?