Rodney M Bliss

The Coal Powered Car And The Green Electric Dryer

Which is more ecologically friendly, a Tesla Model 3 Roadster or an electric dryer?

Did you know the United States CO2 emissions actually have been going down over the past few years? It’s not because we are so great at fighting climate change. No, there’s a much more mercenary reason. Natural gas is cheaper than coal. We’ve been switching our electric grid from coal powered power plants to natural gas powered power plants.

Natural gas (NG) provides more energy (measured in British Thrermal Units or BTU) with less emmissions than either coal or oil. It’s cheaper for energy companies to power our electrical grid. The lower carbon emissions are an added bonus.

Even Climate Skeptics are willing to reduce emissions if it saves money. But, not every change in the name of Climate Change actually reduces our carbon footprint. For example, that $50,000 Tesla not only looks cool, but it’s environmentally friendly, right?

Let’s skip the issues of lithium mining and the long term disposal of lithium batteries. The long term ecological cost of that is uncertain. Let’s just talk about the day to day cost of running your 0-60 in 3.5 second sportscar.

The big deal with Tesla, of course is that it’s an electric car. No smelly gas or diesel liquified dinosaurs for your car. Just pure, clean electricity.

Remember that discussion a little earlier about why the USA CO2 emissions are on the decline? Our electricity comes from a variety of sources.

– 45.50% from Coal
– 23.99% from NG
– 19.30% from Nuclear*
– 6.43% from Hydro*
– 2.10% from Wind*
– 0.95% from Petroleum
– 0.91% from Wood
– 0.42% from Biomass
– 0.37% from Geothermal*
– 0.03% from Solar*

Our electrical grid is only 28.23% renewables. The remaining 71.77% is those nasty dirty fossil fuels. (Okay, Nuclear might not be completely renewable, but it does have zero emissions. And Biomass and wood are not really fossil fuels, but they do burn. And, seriously, wood? Wood produces more energy than solar?)

So, you beautiful shiny new electric car is really being powered mostly by coal. And then some Natural Gas. Kind of gives a different look on the Tesla marketing.

Now, what about my nasty old electric dryer? I have five teenagers at home. Each is responsible for doing their own laundry. That’s a lot of loads of laundry each week. Given the choice, we’ve always had gas dryers. Not only does NG have fewer emissions and cost the electric complanies less, it costs consumers less too.

My current house didn’t come with a gas dryer. It came with a gas dryer. But, now I’m glad. In fact, my electric dryer has suddenly become more ecologically friendly than a gas dryer would be. Two years ago we installed solar panels.

When you install solar panels, you have to decide how many to install. The more panels, the more power you generate. Also, the more expensive it is. We had eight kids at home at the time and designed a solar panel setup that was 85% of our (at the time) current usage. That meant that we generated 85% of our electrical needs from the panels and we bought 15% from the power company.

As the kids grow up and move out, we use less and less energy. We are to the point where we are now producing most of the electricity we use, including all those loads of laundry in our “inefficient” electric dryer. In fact, had we gone with a gas dryer, we would still be producing CO2. Instead, we have turned our dryer into a green, zero emission appliance.

(Well, if we ignore all the related costs of producing solar panels. Nothing is truly free.)

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren.

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