• 94
We forget where we heard it first, but we've always liked the argument for plug-in vehicles that they are able to get cleaner over time. Whether it's through installing solar panels on your roof or taking advantage of Tesla's solar-powered Superchargers, with an EV it is possible to make the electricity you use to power your EV cleaner. It's much harder to do with with a gas guzzler – and that's why an announcement by President Obama today about a new climate change strategy that would put limits on pollution being spewed from coal-fired power plants could be a boon for plug-in advocates.

There are no limits on carbon emissions. "It's not right. It's not safe. And it needs to stop," Obama said.

Cleaner electricity reduces the power of the long-tailpipe argument. That's the argument that says that just because an EV doesn't emit any CO2 doesn't mean there is no CO2 being sent into the air when an EV drives down the street. Nissan has had its own clever response to those who try to make EVs sound as dirty as gas cars, and this sort of response will only get stronger if Obama convinces the country that "[America has] a vital role to play," in leading the world on climate change and we clean up our electric grid. Details were not discussed, but the President did say in 2009 that the US would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 17 percent (based on 2005 levels) by 2020. The President said that there are currently no limits on carbon emissions and that, "It's not right. It's not safe. And it needs to stop," which means some are already calling today's speech part of a "War on Coal." What the President's speech wasn't was a war on fossil fuels, since Obama said the transition fuel we should be focusing on is natural gas, which comes with its own set of issues. President Obama's 21-page Plan to Cut Carbon Pollution is available here.

In related news, the Supreme Court agreed today to hear to hear a case that could revive a rule from the Environmental Protection Agency that would limit emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides from coal power plants in 28 states where the pollution blows into neighboring states. In short, you could say, the long-tailpipe argument is getting national attention.


I'm reporting this comment as:

Reported comments and users are reviewed by Autoblog staff 24 hours a day, seven days a week to determine whether they violate Community Guideline. Accounts are penalized for Community Guidelines violations and serious or repeated violations can lead to account termination.


    • 1 Second Ago
  • 94 Comments
      2 wheeled menace
      • 1 Year Ago
      I'm sure that the Oil and natural gas industries will like this. It will make coal energy more expensive because scrubbers for coal plants are mind blowingly expensive. They will have to shut down the coal plants, which will likely be replaced by gasoline and natural gas plants. If he did not lay out a plan to invest in renewables, then ultimately the plan is to swap one fossil fuel for another... here in Utah, despite being a great place for solar power, we have been swapping out our coal plants for gasoline plants. The price of electricity has gone up as a result, but emissions have gone down.. My guess is that this will happen elsewhere.
        2 wheeled menace
        • 1 Year Ago
        @2 wheeled menace
        To both of you: yes, they really do burn gasoline. ( refineries are close by )
          ElectricAvenue
          • 1 Year Ago
          @2 wheeled menace
          Not. http://www.eia.gov/state/?sid=UT#tabs-4 http://www.eia.gov/electricity/monthly/pdf/epm.pdf Look at, for example, table 1.1 "Petroleum Liquids includes distillate and residual fuel oils, jet fuel, kerosene, waste oil, and beginning in 2011, propane. Prior to 2011 propane was included in Other Gases." I don't think any utilities anywhere burn gasoline to produce electricity. The closest you'll get is diesel-powered backup power generators. And even the use of petroleum liquids is tiny. 0.34% over the last 12 months, by my calculation, whereas 86 times as much natural gas is used, amounting to 29.2% of all electricity generation. Even renewables produce nearly 17 times as much, amounting to 5.6% of all electricity generation.
        2 wheeled menace
        • 1 Year Ago
        @2 wheeled menace
        The lady at the city's office ( right across the street from the plant ) told me it was gasoline-fired. I suppose she could be wrong and they could be using natural gas. I'll look into it again..
          ElectricAvenue
          • 1 Year Ago
          @2 wheeled menace
          Please see my post above. She's wrong.
          GoodCheer
          • 1 Year Ago
          @2 wheeled menace
          I'm almost certain she is wrong. Bunker oil maybe, natural gas much more likely. No reason to think 'The lady at the city's office' knows a BTU from a MWh when it comes to energy, unless it's a city run utility with its own generation.
          Jesse Gurr
          • 1 Year Ago
          @2 wheeled menace
          When plants are referred to as "gas fired", they don't mean gasoline. I bet she heard gas fired and assumed it was gasoline. It's natural gas they are talking about.
        DarylMc
        • 1 Year Ago
        @2 wheeled menace
        Hi 2WM What do you mean gasoline power plant? Natural gas?
        EVnerdGene
        • 1 Year Ago
        @2 wheeled menace
        she is wrong
        JP
        • 1 Year Ago
        @2 wheeled menace
        You really have power plants that use gasoline? I'd figure they'd use a less refined fuel such as bunker oil or at least fuel oil, not gasoline.
        Spec
        • 1 Year Ago
        @2 wheeled menace
        There is no way they are burning gasoline. That is MUCH too expensive. There are very very few liquid fuel burning electricity plants in the USA because liquid fuels are far too valuable to waste in an electricity plant. Pretty much the only liquid fuel burners are in places like Hawaii where there is no coal or natural gas such that expensive liquid fuels make sense because they are high energy density. And some places may burn the crap fuels that can't be refined into valuable things like diesel & gasoline.
          ElectricAvenue
          • 5 Months Ago
          @Spec
          Re: Hawaii. You are correct, a stunning amount of electricity generation in Hawaii is petroleum-fired. http://www.eia.gov/state/?sid=HI#tabs-4 Probably not coincidentally, Hawaii "had the highest electricity prices in the Nation." But note also: "Solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity increased 150 percent in Hawaii in 2011".
        Jesse Gurr
        • 1 Year Ago
        @2 wheeled menace
        I would think that gasoline is too expensive to be used instead of natural gas or propane. I know some islands use diesel because that is the most cost effective even though its expensive to import. I don't know of any places that would burn gasoline. That makes no sense to me.
      toyolla2
      • 1 Year Ago
      Natural gas can be easily consumed in residential and many commercial premises using conventional natural gas powered generators and perhaps 4Kwhr storage in a typical Combined Heat and Power setup. Perhaps it is time to review our dependence on central electricity generating plants. For the benefit of those who are not versed in the operation of thermal plants; they are built deliberately close to lakes or rivers for convenient access to a supply of cooling water which is used to condense the exhaust steam from the turbines. The amount of heat squandered in heating these large bodies of water represents as much as 70% of the input energy ! Steam turbines have only one advantage over reciprocating engines, since they have approximately the same efficiency, and that is they are good for generating electricity at the mega-scale. Local electricity generation, on the other hand, would allow that waste heat to be more usefully employed for space heating.
        Nick Kordich
        • 1 Year Ago
        @toyolla2
        Local electricity generation is a paradigm shift, but one worth evaluating. It seems like it would result in a more stable grid and better integration of solar, if only because a shift toward local generation would mean a substantial redesign of and reinvestment in the grid presenting opportunities to do a better job than the current approach. I think the following chart is relevant (from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Energy_in_the_United_States): http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/6c/LLNLUSEnergy2011.png The most remarkable thing I found about this chart was the amount of "rejected" energy - about two thirds of electricity and three quarters of petroleum in transportation. It's amazing to have an energy sector almost entirely based on generating heat be so inefficient when it comes to using residual heat energy after electricity is generated.
      EVnerdGene
      • 1 Year Ago
      NAS, NSF, DOE, East Anglia University is as biased as any "right winger" (your words - you just have to call people names that disagree with you, don't you?). Smell the $$$
      GoodCheer
      • 1 Year Ago
      "what happy horseshit A biased editorial with a warped agenda; not "facts" or a statistically significant study." Why do you say that? The linked article is an editorial to be sure, but it is an editorial reporting on a study that is behind a paywall. Why do you say it has no statistical significance? If the results were not statistically significant, they would have been reported as 'no difference'. Like this, from page 9317: "Participants were significantly less likely to purchase the CFL bulb if it came with an environmental label when their score on the linear ideology composite ranged from 0 to 0.8 (P < 0.03; both −0.2 and 1 were marginally significant). All other values were not significant (P > 0.20)."
      Harry
      • 1 Year Ago
      Gene, I think you need to add the sarc tag on posts like this...
      Jim
      • 1 Year Ago
      FACT: The abundance of cheap natural gas due to new fracking technology is the overwhelming cause of coal's recent loss of market share. All over America, power companies are replacing coal-fired plants with gas-fired plants, or converting coal-fired plants over to natural gas. This is apparently very very hard for many on the Right to understand, but it is quite simple; All that new gas drilling is the root cause of coal's demise. You can't advocate for the former while lamenting the latter. Who's waging the "War on Coal"? Look in the mirror.
        mylexicon
        • 5 Months Ago
        @Jim
        Because "the Right" are against fracking? You seem confused. Noboby told Obama to tell the US that electricity rates would "necessarily skyrocket", and no one told him to push cap-and-trade, a pork-barreled nod to commodities traders in Chicago. He was re-elected b/c he didn't actually target coal miners. Instead, he convinced Germany and China to buy more US coal while the USD was weak. Perhaps you've been watching to much TV or reading too many rags. Wendy Koch at USA today has gotten the coverage right. She seems to know what's going on.
        EVnerdGene
        • 5 Months Ago
        @Jim
        Tell us something new. Utilities have been converting coal-fired plants to NG for 40 something years. We also had many oil-fired plants; also converted to NG. I think you have your head up your butt. Nobody here is advocating for coal. We have to compete in the world. Industry makes decisions based on economics. When it is based on emotion; we usually make poor decisions (like ethanol, like virtually shutting down new nuclear development for the past 30-something years). Put your money where your mouth is. Put solar panels on your house like I did, and $19k in the best most energy efficient windows I could find. My car gets 40+mpg and its a AT-SULEV. Short-range EV in my garage, and I work in EV development. What I hate most is people that stick their finger in my face and tell me what I should do while not doing what they preach (like AlGore's private jet, and stretched Escalade limos, and BO using two 747s to fly to NewYork for date night).
        2 wheeled menace
        • 5 Months Ago
        @Jim
        You're forgetting some factors. This administration has made legal maneuvers over the years that do not directly target coal in language, but are designed to target coal. The last administration signed exemptions to the clean water act that specifically helped the nat gas industry pull off fracking, allowing them to dump whatever substance they wish into the wells. There is not a damn thing natural about natural gas's dominance over coal. Without the use of government force, this would have not happened. The result of the policies set forth today is that we switch to natural gas and do not fix the regulatory problem with fracking. When those frack well casings develop cracks over time, they will likely fill up with groundwater and/or rain water, and all the highly toxic substances that were pumped into them will mix or rise to the top of the water and then mix with the ground water or surface.. Politicians will shrug their shoulders and pretend that the problem doesn't exist - that using legal maneuvers to switch from coal to natural gas sounded like a good idea at the time, and thank god, they prevented global warming by doing so.. the politicians and nat gas companies that were responsible for doing this will no longer be around decades later after the problem shows up, thus there will be nobody around to be held accountable. It is the next generation that will have to pay the price for this.
        DaveMart
        • 5 Months Ago
        @Jim
        The burn of coal and natural gas in the US for electricity depends on the price. Recently gas prices have been higher than previously, and so burn has been lower. Check out the figures for the first three months of 2013 compared to 2012linked here: http://www.eia.gov/totalenergy/data/monthly/pdf/sec7_5.pdf Coal burn rose in that period from ~350 bn kwh to ~395 bn kwh Gas decreased from ~275 bn kwh to ~255bn kwh So coal burn rose around 13%, gas decreased by around 8% Of course if you pick different dates, the figures alter. But that shows that it is far from the straight line process you depict of a switch from coal to gas. In a rather complex financial bubble, producers were under pressure to produce gas and sell it for what they could get, even far under production costs. As the bubble unwinds prices are now rebalancing to more realistic levels, although I would argue that the process still has some way to go. So at current prices in many areas coal is more economic than gas and so the 'dash to gas' has ceased, or even gone into reverse.
        CoolWaters
        • 5 Months Ago
        @Jim
        Germany has cut by 50% it's black coal burn, and that's caused by wind.
      lord.phaggle
      • 1 Year Ago
      Wind, hydroelectric, nuclear. "Clean coal" is a waste of time.
        archos
        • 1 Year Ago
        @lord.phaggle
        Wind, solar. "Clean coal" and "nuclear" is a waste of time.
        Spec
        • 1 Year Ago
        @lord.phaggle
        "Clean coal" is an oxymoron. The latest scrubbers make it cleanER but it is still dirty. And the CO2 emissions are high. (And the carbon capture systems are not financially viable.) Plus mercury, other heavy metals, the radioactive ash, Sulfur emissions, etc. All in all, it is a TERRIBLE energy source that we should move away from. It really belongs at the bottom of the list below oil, gas, and nuclear.
          Dave R
          • 5 Months Ago
          @Spec
          I'm beginning to think that "Clean coal" is just a way to placate the coal miners out there. By the time you make coal clean, it's far too expensive compared to the alternatives...
      S
      • 1 Year Ago
      Does that mean he will take fewer trips in Airforce 1 as well, and M won't take separate aircraft on vacation?
      EZEE
      • 1 Year Ago
      But most of the hippies below seem angry as well. My point was, no one is happy with this, it seems.
      purrpullberra
      • 1 Year Ago
      Talking about climate change like this is ridiculous. First of all too many people who need to get on board with change are disinclined to do anything 'about climate change'. But most importantly is the fact that it is stupid beyond belief to try to affect climate change without an ENERGY POLICY. If the government were put to effect in securing a high level of energy independence by all means available then we would be doing a lot more than this rather lame speech leads me to think Obama wants to do. And all we'd have to do is make it about paying less for energy for everyone. One way we could do that would be to require that energy/mining/forestry companies pay taxes on every bit of natural resource they now get for free and profit from. It would be taken from oil/timber/mining company profit only raising prices of those goods a tiny bit. Subsidize people who are willing to spend their own money to go renewable, 50-50 and with zero tax on parts and labor. I think if it were put out there that this is for everyone to lessen their electric/gas bill whether you believe in climate change or not this has a lot of appeal. Different people would love different things about a project like that like job creation, energy independence etc. Then we need to put people to work making buildings more energy efficient. Jerry Brown had a great idea (in '88 I think) to build glass 'shells' around skyscrapers in LA. Done right it would save so much energy that the project would've paid off in a decade or so. The need is even greater today. People want these jobs and want lower power bills and less oil money going to terrorists. It wouldn't be hard to implement any of this. It may get uncomfortable with Saudi Arabia if we talk about things so frankly but they can't really stop selling oil. And if they did that in response to our energy policy I think the public would want to go for it even more to not be beholden to such atrocious people. I am confident that this will mean nothing, change nothing and better nothing. Wasting so much energy in trying carbon sequestration is such a stupid move. It's meant to appease the moronic coal industry and its paid tools all of whom will always oppose anything that might change the way they work now. So why not just kill it all off? It would be wiser to put every miner in all these foreclosed on homes with $100k a year for life per family and just close every mine and kill every coal mining company. All the money we'd save from the lessened disease an environmental degradation and remediation and all the legal fights and lobbyists. Imagine a dirty, diseased prostitute and doing all sorts of things with her and right before you're done you put on a condom. You what? At THAT point this small gesture means something to you?!?! We have been doing dirty things, filthy and toxic crap is the end product. This is such a lame gesture as far as undoing damage done. An energy policy on the other hand, well....
        EVnerdGene
        • 1 Year Ago
        @purrpullberra
        You mention climate change. Please decide if you are against global warming or global cooling. You can't be against both. Take a stand. It's like having a limp handshake.
          GoodCheer
          • 1 Year Ago
          @EVnerdGene
          China just launched a regional CO2 trading scheme in Shenzhen, the first of 7 that will be expanded to span the country. That whole 'what about China' lament is now officially dated.
          Jim
          • 1 Year Ago
          @EVnerdGene
          Regardless of of the pros/cons of CO2 emissions, burning coal is horribly dirty. It puts massive amounts of heavy metals such a mercury into the environment, creates soot and particulate that leads to respiratory disease, and creates devastating acid rain. And by the time you get done installing all of the environmental controls at the power plants to address these issues, natural gas and renewables are cheaper.
          EVnerdGene
          • 1 Year Ago
          @EVnerdGene
          hey Jimbo, we can agree on that one Now if we could just talk China and India into shutting down their coal-fired plants. A coupla years ago, read a reliable source that said China is averaging a new CFplant about every 4 days. Should we hobble our economy? What difference would it make to global CO2 or coal-soot production. Just askin' BTW: JohnKerry did just that last week in India. Wonder what India's leaders thought? I could guess
          purrpullberra
          • 1 Year Ago
          @EVnerdGene
          If your reading comprehension is so bad that youu didn't get my gist then I feel like you aren't really trying. A sensable energy policy will necessarily cause a great reduction in emitted CO2. With an advanced we'd have some world class tech to sell to the world for clean energy and cleaning the environment and it is all done because it's the cheapest way to go when ALL costs are considered. Climate change doesn't have to be the reason everyone does their part. Can I clear anything else up? I really thought this was clear from my second sentence. I sense we'd agree on a lot but we are probably speaking past each other.
        Harry
        • 1 Year Ago
        @purrpullberra
        Purrpullberra, I would be satisfied with a white roof initiative and higher albedo roads as a start. Urban areas don't have to be as hot as they are now, relatively cheap changes could ameliorate some of the warming, and considering how most of the worlds population lives in cities, the energy benefits use would be huge.
      bluepongo1
      • 1 Year Ago
      ....or you could just build solar / steam turbine power plants in the unoccupied desert areas. :-(
        2 wheeled menace
        • 1 Year Ago
        @bluepongo1
        And harm the endangered wild yellow tailed speckled derp? what are you, some kind of monster? ( i'm joking - but seriously - that is part of the reason why California's big desert solar project has been stalled since 2007 and won't be finally built until about 2015 )
          2 wheeled menace
          • 1 Year Ago
          @2 wheeled menace
          ^--- ok, you win!! :)
          lord.phaggle
          • 1 Year Ago
          @2 wheeled menace
          Endangered? There are plenty of wild derps commenting on autoblog every day.
        Jim
        • 1 Year Ago
        @bluepongo1
        In the absence of a modern national "smart grid", power plants need to be built relatively near the end users. But if the US were to wisely invest in building a modern long-distance distribution system, then we could start doing exactly this, along with using the Great Plains' massive wind power to power the population centers nearer the coast.
      mylexicon
      • 1 Year Ago
      I don't necessarily disagree with Obama's proposal, carbon capture, to reduce CO2 pollution. CO2 is actually a very valuable commodity, but it is valuable for algal biofuel industries that haven't really grown yet. If CO2 is useful for biofuels, which could be used to clean industries like shipping or aviation (especially shipping), why would the White House spook the markets with cryptic regulatory remarks? If CO2 has some value to nascent bio industry, why not provide loans to biofuel companies so they can build facilities right next to major power plants? Wait, the proposal DOES provide loans and grants to "innovators". The real question: How does Obama manage to spook the markets with his mangled rhetoric? Is he misunderstood? Or is he a lame duck who likes to throw red meat to the liberal base? I don't know, but it's been going on for four years, and you'd think he would have fixed it by now.
        skierpage
        • 1 Year Ago
        @mylexicon
        You're confused beyond comprehension. CO2 is necessary for plant growth, but it's available free in the air in ever-increasing concentration. Algae growth isn't limited by CO2, it's limited by energy and water. There are efforts to find algae strains that thrive in high CO2 environments, but from my cursory scan of the literature none are in production. When scientists and economists talk about the value of CO2 in algae production, it's the value of carbon credits for *removing* CO2 from the environment, not the cost of buying CO2 for your plants. The CO2-heavy exhaust emitted by burning hydrocarbons isn't remotely valuable as a commodity, otherwise power plants would have a bag on top of their smoke stacks! Demonizing CO2 (correctly since it's one of the main drivers of global warming) makes bio production MORE valuable, because biofuels are less carbon intensive than fossil fuel, and biomass is a carbon sink if you just leave it as plant matter. Really, think it through.
    • Load More Comments