Solar-charging no better than coal? Part 2

plugging-in-to-coal3editors-blog-entry3Silly me. Here I was thinking how great solar-charged driving can be for our world and then along comes someone like “Glenn Doty.”

As those of you who read the first installment of “Solar-charging: No better than plugging into coal?” recall, “Glenn Doty’s” the guy over at RenewableEnergyWorld.Com who, in a comment string at the end of an article entitled “Why Electric Vehicles Will Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions”, insisted that replacing a gasoline car with a solar-charged EV is, environmentally speaking, a complete waste of time.

Here’s what he wrote:

“As for you plugging your EV into your home solar system, that STILL results in an increase in coal generated power equal to your demand, as that solar energy could have been sold to offset coal power production, but instead is being consumed by your car… hence even in your situation the reduction in petroleum consumption is directly countered by an increase in coal power. Your tailpipe is more convoluted, but your EV has the same effect on CO2 concentrations as every other EV driver’s does.”

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I couldn’t come up with a response to this comment that satisfied me right away, though I did post one to the comment string on this RenewableEnergyWorld.Com article, now at 114 comments and growing. But, me being me, I mulled things over all day yesterday, and much of today. I also enlisted additional support – yours – in an attempt to deconstruct “Glenn Doty’s” argument.

Socialist solar PV?
First, let’s unpack what’s at the core of “Glenn Doty’s” claim:

  • Solar PV electricity should be used for something else, rather than for a personal EV;
  • Solar PV should only be/is better used to power that which is already on the electric grid rather than something not currently on the grid;
  • In sum, “Glenn Doty” appears to be arguing for a socialist sense of solar PV, where the focus is not on covering total individual use with a home solar system, but is instead on covering as much as possible of the electric grid draw that’s already out there, collectively speaking. (Mine is not a criticism of socialism; I’ve got plenty of socialist tendencies myself, although I’m definitely not on board with “Glenn Doty” here).

So, how to respond to “Glenn Doty’s” argument?

Don’t worry, I’m not ditching solar-charged driving, nor my advocacy for it, though I’m guessing that’s what “Glenn Doty” would say I should do as, supposedly, the whole EV + PV synergy fails to significantly improve our global environmental situation.

A ‘tortured argument’
But before I go to my response, let’s go to a few of yours:

  • “To argue – as your antagonist apparently does – that your solar should have gone to the grid instead is nonsensical. You have met your goal of lowering net GHG emissions by fueling a vehicle from the sun instead of from OPEC or the coal companies.”
    –Jim Jenal
  • politcs-of-sun1“It was only because I started driving an EV that I bought a PV system. So the argument that my PV system would make the energy anyway is moot because it would not even exist.”
  • “If you are trying to minimize GHG emissions I think there might be situations where “Glenn Doty” is correct (but not in all situations). The flaw with this argument is that it is a very socialist view on energy — share your PV with everyone, because it’s better for us as a whole.”
  • “He seems to be making the argument that … since your solar panels already have a job to do reducing coal demand (?!) they cannot be used to charge your EV, therefore your EV is burning coal. Your solar is doing … something else. That’s a bizarrely tortured argument!”

For me, the biggest question is:

  • Why is it so much better to continue to drive a gas-powered car and use any extra solar PV capacity to power a neighbor’s fridge or dryer, or, if one does not have extra PV capacity, that one use home PV generated electricity to power one’s own fridge or dryer rather than an EV that replaces a gas car?

Circular logic
I still don’t get “Glenn Doty’s” circular logic, though maybe it’s simply because he’s smarter than me, and, apparently, everyone else too.

Why is it so much better to continue to drive a gas-powered car and use any extra solar PV capacity to power a neighbor’s fridge or dryer, or, if one does not have extra PV capacity, that one use home PV generated electricity to power one’s own fridge or dryer rather than an EV that replaces a gas car?

His argument certainly hasn’t persuaded me that solar-charging an EV, or advocating tirelessly for the EV + PV combination is a waste of time. Nor does it have me convinced that if 100-percent of the driving going on around me in the Denver, Colo. area were solar-charged we wouldn’t have profoundly cleaner air and significantly lower total CO2 output than we have now.

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I will admit that I can’t wait until we discover effective ways to store renewable energy generated power, as this is the weakest link in the EV + renewables equation. It’s one critics harp endlessly about. And I am very, very tired of hearing this critique, which, more often than not, is wrapped up in a desire to keep humanity tethered to its Achilles heel, fossil fuels. But that’s grist for another entry.

I’ll close this one with a response from an online friend and long-time EV advocate who puts “Glenn Doty’s” comments into perspective in a way I have not been able to do above:

“If I can personally continue my way of life and NOT use as many resources today as I did yesterday, I can’t find something bad about that. Yes, there is always more good that we can all do, but dwelling on that and ignoring the effort that is being made is truly making the perfect the enemy of the good . . . Thinking outside the box is one thing. But this isn’t that – this is more, ‘You only think you’re doing something good, but you aren’t doing enough good, so why are you even trying?’ ”


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