Tesla CEO Elon Musk says we’ll need more electricity to power cars like his. A lot more.
Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk said on Tuesday that electricity consumption will double if the world’s car fleets are electrified, increasing the need to expand nuclear, solar, geothermal and wind energy generating sources.
Increasing the availability of sustainable energy is a major challenge as cars move from combustion engines to battery-driven electric motors, a shift which will take two decades, Musk said in a talk hosted by Berlin-based publisher Axel Springer.
There’s no unicorn energy source or free lunch. Currently, electric cars are primarily powered by coal, natural gas, and nuclear. Those are the sources we use to generate electricity, after all, according to the Energy Information Agency. Renewables are growing but still account for less than 20% of U.S. electricity.
There’s no free lunch when it comes to renewable energy sources, which may not even be all that renewable. Wind and sun are free, but the means of generating power from them are not.
They require batteries, which requires extensive mining and the use of toxic chemicals.
Mining is a dirty business.
Weighing those trade-offs — between supporting mining in environmentally sensitive areas and sourcing metals needed to power renewables — is likely to become more common if countries continue generating more renewable energy. That’s according to a report out Wednesday from researchers at the Institute for Sustainable Futures at the University of Technology Sydney in Australia. The report, commissioned by the environmental organization Earthworks, finds that demand for metals such as copper, lithium and cobalt would skyrocket if countries around the world try to get their electric grids and transportation systems fully powered by renewable energy by 2050. Consequently, a rush to meet that demand could lead to more mining in countries with lax environmental and safety regulations and weak protections for workers.
“If not managed responsibly, this has the potential for new adverse environmental and social impacts,” the report says.
Tens of thousands of aging blades are coming down from steel towers around the world and most have nowhere to go but landfills. In the U.S. alone, about 8,000 will be removed in each of the next four years. Europe, which has been dealing with the problem longer, has about 3,800 coming down annually through at least 2022, according to BloombergNEF. It’s going to get worse: Most were built more than a decade ago, when installations were less than a fifth of what they are now.
They’re so durable they’re practically indestructible.
Built to withstand hurricane-force winds, the blades can’t easily be crushed, recycled or repurposed. That’s created an urgent search for alternatives in places that lack wide-open prairies. In the U.S., they go to the handful of landfills that accept them, in Lake Mills, Iowa; Sioux Falls, South Dakota; and Casper, where they will be interred in stacks that reach 30 feet under.
Removing them and transporting them to landfills increases windmills’ energy footprint over time.
All of this is true, but Barack Obama still wants you to know that he disapproves of your wish to have a car you can use and that you can afford to drive. Because that means using gasoline.
On page 570 (of his second autobiography before turning 60 -ed.), the former commander in chief recounts a press conference he gave more than a month into the oil spill – now considered one of the largest in history – saying his comments did not adequately express the frustration he truly felt.
He then chastised Americans for not being willing to foot the bill for technology to “quickly plug the hole because it would be expensive to have such technology on hand, and we Americans didn’t like paying higher taxes—especially when it was to prepare for problems that hadn’t happened yet.”
The only way to truly prevent another catastrophe, like the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, Obama says, “was to stop drilling entirely.”
“But that wasn’t going to happen because at the end of the day we Americans loved our cheap gas and big cars more than we cared about the environment, except when a complete disaster was staring us in the face,” he writes.
“Paying higher taxes…stop drilling entirely…”
There’s no free lunch and that’s not even middle school-level realism from the former president. Energy comes at some cost and likely always will. Stopping drilling wouldn’t just stop gas-powered cars. It would eventually stop the whole economy. Natural gas, our largest source of electricity, is a byproduct of drilling for crude oil. Stopping drilling for crude means little or no natural gas as well. That would reduce our electric generation by about a third by itself. Even if America stopped drilling because Obama said so, the rest of the world wouldn’t. Russia and the Middle East would go right on drilling, and we would become far more dependent on them for our energy, in turn endangering our national security and making the world less stable.
Musk is being a realist, which is refreshing. He recognizes the simple fact that more electric cars will require more electric generation. Electric cars are seen by too many as some escape from the ways we currently run our cars. But they’re not. At best, electric cars currently just transfer where the energy gets created, from burning dead dinosaurs inside of the vehicle itself to burning them someplace else. But for the most part, something is still being burned somewhere to make Teslas move.
At this point, electric cars move — as long as the grid to support them is available. For the most part, it’s not. So, of course, electric car owners are calling on government to fund that, which would mean more taxes.
And let’s take a look at Barack Obama’s massive new home, shall well?
The (6,982 square foot) home features seven bedrooms, eight and a half baths and several stone fireplaces. There is a two-car garage, a detached barn and a pool.
The property also offers direct access to the pond, and includes a boat house and a private beach front with deeded rights, as per the listing on LandVest.
It’s on 29 acres and cost over $11 million.
But he wants you to pay higher taxes to fuel his unrealistic power plays while he enjoys his Netflix money.