EV use is skyrocketing in China. That’s terrible news.

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.

coal evs

Air pollution in China

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.

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3 replies
  1. Steve Withers
    Steve Withers says:

    China is leading the world in building renewable energy generation and implementing grid-scale battery storage to smooth it variations in power supply from wind and solar.

    Yes, they have a long way to go, but at least they have started.

    At the rate they are going they will be able to power the EVs and clean up the grid.

  2. Rob
    Rob says:

    I can’t for the life of me understand why intelligent people can’t see that the majority of the plumes in the picture are actually water vapor coming from the cooling towers. I see maybe 2 small stacks emitting smoke. Makes reporters look rather stupid.

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