Update: Ironically, this post has been censored by Facebook and other social media co’s, despite it containing no factual errors.
Greenwashing, in case you don’t know, is the “disinformation disseminated by an organization so as to present an environmentally responsible public image”.
You know, this sort of thing:
This is taken from the time of the now infamous Volkswagen emissions cheating scandal.
Since then, other large car companies have faced similar controversy — jumping on the green band wagon. It’s because these days, it pays to be “green” (for more information, see Elon Musk).
But here’s the thing that otherwise intelligent people seem to fail to comprehend: Greenwashing extends way beyond false advertising in consumer goods. It’s made its way into politics, investment products, journalism, and now mainstream opinion in “the West”.
Greenwashing is actually now the norm, which we’re now going to get into after I fire off an early warning trigger alert:
This warning is if you’re a current believer in the generic clean energy revolution. You know the one — it goes something like this: Unless we “decarbonize” and move from fossil fuels to so called “clean” energy, within the next decade or so the world suffers irreversible and catastrophic changes that will:
- Lead to increasingly warmer temperatures
- Kill off swathes of wildlife, causing mass extinctions
- Cause untold starvation and hardship for us bipeds
- Increase inequality
- And so on…
Well, today we’re dissecting this popular narrative that has virtuous intentions, but — like many things our governments have been mandating these days — are doomed to fail and actually make things worse than if nothing was done at all.
“That’s a little hyperbolic,” I hear you say.
Well, let’s see…Here are some cold, hard facts, regardless of how controversial they might seem by today’s standards.
Sticking with cars after the example of our friends at VW, let’s look at the large electric vehicle trend and start with this commendable premise:We should replace pollutive gasoline-fired internal combustion engine automobiles with clean electric vehicles powered by renewable energy.
This is a countenanced sounding ambition and an easy sell to the public. It also represents a behemothic financial opportunity ($1.22 trillion by 2027), which is predicated on a half-truth, as we’ll see.
Now, the first part of this premise — replacing fossil fuel cars with clean cars — would be great.
Passenger cars are responsible for greenhouse gas emissions (less than 6% of the total, but still a large contributor).I bet you thought it was higher, but it’s less than 6%.
Here’s the math:
- Transportation contributes to 14% of greenhouse gasses.
- Passenger cars are 41% of transportation.
- That works out to 5.74% of all greenhouse gasses.
It’s the next part of this premise — powering these EVs with clean energy — where the gratuitous and irresponsible greenwashing comes in.
EVs run on electricity and that, unfortunately, means CO2.
Electricity generation (all uses) is the largest single source of greenhouse gases (~25% of all emissions). Only 17.1% of electricity comes from renewables. Renewables are not green, and some renewables are not even bloody renewable.
Other “renewables” are far more damaging to the planet than passenger car emissions, as we’ll soon see.
Electricity must come from somewhere, and coal is the largest generator of electricity in the world by a long shot. Coal-generated electricity is vastly more pollutive than gasoline powered engines when it comes to carbon dioxide (CO2) and nitrous oxide (N2O).
Coal mining produces methane and sulphur dioxide (SO2). It damages the earth’s surface in mining and contaminates water supplies. Coal creates acid rain and is responsible for 41% of the world’s mercury poisoning.
So really, when you’re thinking of EVs… you should be thinking about coal. Everyone should. These are the facts, just the reality of the situation – however an inconvenient truth it might be.
“Wait!” you say. “How about other sources of power? Hydro, for example…? We could use hydro”
Good! Hydro power is also a great reference for greenwashing.
Hydroelectric power generation is among the most efficient, and is the best of the bunch when it comes to renewables, but it comes with its own limitations or outright cons that seem to be swept under the rug when discussing the energy needs of the future.
For starters, hydro destroys entire riparian ecosystems (check out Three Gorges, for example).
It has also led to:
Photo credit: Capitalist Exploits