What Would Be the Energy Cost of Electric Cars?

BY Business Desk  February 25, 2009 at 5:11 PM EST

Autoworker; AP photo

Question/Comment: Paul, I am wondering about the new restrictions that are being forced on the car manufacturers for bio-fuel/electric/ethanol cars. Why isn’t there any mention about the cost of producing the electricity for the car batteries and ethanol? In the hot seasons it seams many areas always run short of electric power. Where will all the electricity come from and what will be the cost to produce it?

Even if we start to build nuclear plants it will be years before they will be in service.

In addition to the above, the foreign auto makers are making larger cars that look like and copy the American larger cars/trucks.

Paul Solman: You raise a very important and often ignored aspect of the alternative energy debate, Jewell: the total energy cost or “carbon footprint” of creating the alternatives.

I gave a speech about the economics of global warming in Chicago last week at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum (which seemed like a wonderful place to take kids, BTW, and most especially those with an interest in butterflies). I was waxing hopeful and touting the work of Columbia University’s Klaus Lackner, whose carbon removal technology we’ve featured on the NewsHour in the past.

After the lecture, an obviously knowledgeable member of the audience approached me to say that while Lackner’s idea seems ever-so-promising, one must reckon the total energy cost before pronouncing it an answer. And a few days later, Harvard’s eminent environmental economist Rob Stavins noted that cost estimates of carbon sequestration technology (how to bury it) have actually RISEN in the past few years.

There are, in short, no easy answers or quick fixes. Not yet.