I’ve got something that bugs me literally every time I see a post idolizing Elon Musk for doing something green or praising some idiotic law, and it’s simply this: 98% of all of this effort is for nothing. I’m not being pedantic, or speaking from emotion here; I’ve run the numbers, and what we are doing isn’t, and never will, make an impact. Don’t believe me? Then let’s go on a journey, shall we…
Here in the US, we have a population of roughly 320 million people, out of a total world population of roughly 7.2 billion. Now, if you just extrapolate from those numbers, you would think that we here in the US are less than 5% of the total problem. However, that doesn’t take into account the rate of energy consumption per capita, of which the US is in the upper end (though, to be fair, we aren’t in the top 10). So, looking at how much of the world’s energy the US uses alone, we can see that for less than 5% of the world’s population, we actually use a staggering 19% of the world’s energy per year.
That seems pretty damning, until you stop and really think about it: If we completely switch to non-fossil fuel sources tomorrow, we still can’t really affect the outcome. Twenty percent is not enough to turn back the tide, people. Even worse, the contribution to this from the entire transportation sector (which includes jets, ships, trucking, trains, etc.) is only 28% of that number… A whopping 5.32% of the total emissions worldwide (I’m simplifying this a bit by assuming all energy emits the same amount of greenhouse gasses, but un-simplifying it makes my point even better).
So if everyone, including all planes, trains, and ships were to go electric tomorrow (which isn’t even feasible), we still would make a whole 5% difference in the problem. Except, it’s actually worse than that, because electric cars get power, predominantly, from coal-fired power plants which are worse for the environment than gasoline engines.
This is what drives me insane.
We are writing laws, like requirements to use ethanol blends and subsidies for electric vehicles without actually knowing shit about the realities of the situation. It’s all about feeling good about what we are doing. It’s horseshit.
The truth is, it doesn’t matter what we do in the US unless everyone, worldwide, does it. And even then, what we do had better be well thought out, because many of the directions we are pushing aren’t going to help things, they are going to hurt them.
If you want to really affect change, figure out a way to make it economically feasible for developing nations to use clean sources of energy predominantly. Figure out how to make using clean energy, worldwide, cheaper than using coal. Do those things, and then we can maybe turn back the tide. But driving a Tesla isn’t doing anything but giving you a warm, fuzzy feeling as you slide into the abyss.