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EVs Get Greener as US Electricity’s Carbon Emissions Reach 25-Year Low

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Toyota hydrogen fuel cell wind turbine

One of the most persistent and annoying arguments pushed in online comments sections against electric vehicles is that, although an electric vehicle may not put out emissions from its own tailpipe, it is consuming power from the electrical grid, and therefore puts out more emissions than a typical gas car since the power is generated by a powerplant. Well, according to a new report from the US Energy Information Administration, there is one more reason that it is wrong: energy-related CO2 emissions in the first half of 2016 are the lowest they have been since 1991.

There are two reasons for this. The first of the two causes is that the US has enjoyed milder weather this year than usual, resulting in fewer days when people have used electricity to heat their homes. Overall, total energy consumption was down 2% over last year.

The second cause is the changing mix of fossil fuel consumption to renewable energy. Both coal and natural gas consumption to generate power dropped compared to last year—natural gas fell 1%, but coal plummeted a full 18%. On the other side of the coin, renewable sources of energy produced 9% more power in the first half of the year compared to the same period last year. This increase was mainly due to growing wind power, which saw the largest growth of any fuel source in 2015 and accounted for about half of the increase. Following that was hydroelectric power, which rose following the easing of droughts on the West Coast, and then solar energy, which accounted for 13% of the increase and is expected to be the new growth leader for 2016.

This is good news for electric car owners, whose vehicles become even greener as fossil-fuel energy production is replaced by renewable sources. By Green Car Reports’ measure, in terms of emissions an electric car in California now has about the same CO2 impact as a 90-mpg gas car.

News Sources: Green Car Reports, EIA