We’re buying an electric car. Or, as they call them, an EV1. We have our eye on the Nissan Leaf, as they are among the top rated EV’s on the market. We drove one on Sunday, and it was actually quite fun. It has some zip to it and felt quite smooth. We didn’t test the stereo (though we should probably do that when we pick the one we want to get). Everyone we mention this to talks about how great it is to give up fossil fuels. And it is.
But we need to be clear about something: some of the electricity that powers our new car may very well be generated by fossil fuels. Coal would be the most likely culprit. I cna’t say for sure if that’s the case here in Washington, but it certainly is in some other parts of the world. If it’s not coal, then it would likely be generated at a dam, which bring their own environmental issues.
What I’m trying to get at here is that there are costs. Trade offs. Unless you have solar power at your house and draw all of your car’s electricity off of that, you are having an environmental impact. Buying an EV to get off of fossil fuels is a bit of smoke and mirrors. It’s okay. It’s likely far superior to having a gas powered car. But it’s not going 100% off of these fuels.
So what’s the point? Believe it or not, it’s not to be “that guy.” You know the one. He’s what Merlin Mann would call a “turns out” guy. I’m not here to “turns out.” What I want to point to is that it is good for us to have as much information as possible in front of us. We shouldn’t avoid information. We should embrace it, and them use it to inform our decisions. All while recognizing the trade offs.
Trade offs are a part of the deal. But we’ll never be able to fully understand our impacts in the world if we don’t acknowledge the truths that are, well, a tad uncomfortable.