This commentary is by Tom Evslin of Stowe, an entrepreneur, author and former Douglas administration official. It is republished from the Fractals of Change blog.
Russia is now throttling back the supply of natural gas to Europe. Because gas is mostly delivered by pipeline, it is more difficult for Europe to source elsewhere than either oil or coal. Europe uses natural gas for heat (not critical at this time of year), to run factories (some of which are shutting down), and to generate electricity.
A new electric vehicle on the road means new demand for electricity. New renewables come online in years, not days. Germany shouldn’t have shut down its nukes; but it did — and became even more dependent on Russian natural gas for generating electricity. Now Germany is planning to restart old coal plants — perhaps the most polluting energy source of all — to make up for the high price and short supply of gas for power generation.
For at least the next year, each new electric car — or appliance or heating system — means more coal must be burned. Coal emits at least twice as much greenhouse gas as natural gas per kilowatt hour of electricity generated besides lots of other unhealthy stuff like sulphur dioxide and nitrous oxides. Running cars on gasoline or diesel is far less polluting than running them on electricity generated from coal.
Each new EV increases the demand for electricity and helps push the price of natural gas even higher. Higher prices for natural gas mean that Russia makes more and more by selling less natural gas. New EVs in Europe increase the money Putin has for war.
The only ways to decrease Russia’s revenue and leverage and make energy affordable again are to cut back on use (price is forcing that) and to increase energy supply. Money spent on electric cars is money not spent on new renewable energy sources, new nukes (yes, we need them), and drilling for more natural gas and oil in both the US and Europe. Europe made a terrible mistake outsourcing production of fossil fuels to Russia in order to appear greener. There’s plenty of good reason to add more carbon-free generating capacity as well as more relatively clean natural gas. There’s no reason to increase the demand for electricity by adding electric cars to the grid until coal is not the only short-term alternative for increasing electricity supply.