As a foundation whose primary goal is ending our oil addiction both in the United States and internationally, you might think we’d be celebrating a rise in electric vehicle (EV) usage in the most populous country on Earth.
And in some ways, we are. More EVs means fewer gas-guzzlers, and subsequently less money going to terrorist groups and oppressive regimes around the world.
But because China generates a whopping 72 percent of its electricity from coal, it’s not quite time to break out the party hats. Why? Because greenhouse gas (GHG) reductions from EVs powered by coal generated electricity are quite modest and actually worsen air pollution by 2 to 5 times. You think air quality in China is bad now? Just wait and see what it’s like if EV proliferation continues at this rate and China doesn’t clean up its electrical grid.
Air pollution already leads to 1.6 million deaths every year in China. It also has been linked to a variety of illnesses and health problems in children such as asthma, and a decline in cognitive/neurobehavior— which I discussed more in depth in my piece on air pollution’s effect on the brain.
China continues to transition away from an oil-fueled transportation sector and toward alternatives, but it should be working furiously to generate electricity from cleaner sources. In tandem with that strategy, the country should also be focusing on other alternative fuels like ethanol, methanol, natural gas, and hydrogen. Fuels that can displace oil and also offer significant reductions in emissions — both toxic criteria pollutants and GHGs.
- Air pollution is going to kill an awful lot of us if we don’t act
- Ethanol could cut EU emissions, study says
- Meet the 4 countries trying to ban gasoline cars
- E85 can help California cut emissions now