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On July 14, the European Union unveiled sweeping climate change and emissions targets that would, according to Gulf News, mean "the end of the internal combustion engine":
The commission's draft would reduce permitted emissions from new passenger cars and light commercial vehicles to zero from 2035 -- effectively obliging the industry to move on to battery-electric models.
While biofuels are a less high-tech, cheaper and in many ways more effective solution to our dependence on petroleum, the United States and other countries are discussing similar plans to the EU's and California is already on board. But in a recent article in the Los Angeles Times and related video, Evan Halper argues that we may be trading one environmental crisis for another:
"The sprint to supply automakers with heavy-duty lithium batteries is propelled by climate-conscious countries like the United States that aspire to abandon gas-powered cars and SUVs. They are racing to secure the materials needed to go electric, and the Biden administration is under pressure to fast-track mammoth extraction projects that threaten to unleash their own environmental fallout."
Extraction proposals include vacuuming the ocean floor, disturbing marine ecosystems; and mining Native American ancestral sites and pristine federal lands. Proponents of these proposals argue that China controls most of the market for the raw material refining needed for the batteries, posing economic and security threats. But opponents say the negative environmental impact will be worse than the oil fracking that electric vehicles are projected to replace.
Not just the batteries but the electricity needed to run electric vehicles (EVs) poses environmental concerns. Currently, generating electric fuel depends heavily on non-renewable sources. And according to a March 2021 report from the Government Accountability Office, electric vehicles are making the electrical grid more vulnerable to cyber attacks, threatening the portions of the grid that deliver electricity to homes and businesses. If that is true at current use levels, the grid could clearly not sustain the load if all the cars on the road were EVs.
Not just tribal land residents but poor households everywhere will bear the cost if the proposed emissions targets and EV mandates are implemented. According to one European think tank, "average expenses of the poorest households could increase by 44 percent for transport and by 50 percent for residential heating." As noted in Agence France-Presse, "The recent 'yellow vest' protests in France demonstrated the kind of populist fury that environmental controls on motoring can provoke."
People who can barely make ends meet cannot afford new electric vehicles (EVs), and buying a used EV is risky. If the lithium battery fails, replacing it could cost as much as the car itself; and repairs must be done by pricey dealers. No more doing it yourself with instructions off the Internet, and even your friendly auto repair shop probably won't have the tools. Except for the high-end Tesla, auto manufacturers themselves are largely losing money on EVs, due to the high cost of the batteries and low consumer demand.
Off the Electric Grid with Clean Biofuel
There is another solution to the environmental hazards of gasoline-fueled cars, one that does not require sending all our combustion engine vehicles to the junkyard. This is alcohol fuel (bioethanol). Not only are greenhouse gas emissions from ethanol substantially lower than from gasoline, but as detailed in a biofuel "explainer" on the website of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology:
"As we search for fuels that won't contribute to the greenhouse effect and climate change, biofuels are a promising option because the carbon dioxide (CO2) they emit is recycled through the atmosphere. When the plants used to make biofuels grow, they absorb CO2 from the air, and it's that same CO2 that goes back into the atmosphere when the fuels are burned. In theory, biofuels can be a 'carbon neutral' or even 'carbon negative' way to power cars, trucks and planes, meaning they take at least as much CO2 out of the atmosphere as they put back in.
"A major promise of biofuels is that they can lower overall CO2 emissions without changing a lot of our infrastructure. They can work with existing vehicles, and they can be mass-produced from biomass in the same way as other biotechnology products, like chemicals and pharmaceuticals, which are already made on a large scale...Most gasoline sold in the U.S. is mixed with 10% ethanol."
Biofuels can be created from any sort of organic commercial waste that is high in carbohydrates, which can be fermented into alcohol locally. Unlike the waste fryer oil and grease used to generate biodiesel, carbohydrates are supplied by plants in abundance. Methanol, the simplest form of alcohol, can be made from any biomass -- anything that is or once was a plant (wood chips, agricultural waste of all kinds, animal waste, etc.). In the US, 160 million tons of trash ends up in landfills annually. Estimates are that this landfill waste could be converted to 15-16 million gallons of methanol.
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Ellen Brown is an attorney, founder of the Public Banking Institute, and author of twelve books including the best-selling WEB OF DEBT. In THE PUBLIC BANK SOLUTION, her latest book, she explores successful public banking models historically and (more...)
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