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Electric cars are no silver bullet

SO, according to the Minister Eamon Ryan and your journalist Clare O’Sullivan (Irish Examiner, April 14), electric cars are the latest silver bullet to solve the problems of global warming and dependence on imported fossil fuels. This follows hot on the heels of now-discredited biodiesel.

Strangely, they both fail to mention the only real benefit — reducing exposure to pollution from exhaust fumes.

Because of losses in batteries, generation and transmission, electric cars actually consume far more energy than ordinary cars.

Since this energy has to come almost entirely from fossil fuels, we are no better off in tackling global warming and reliance on energy imports.

If this energy comes from peat, coal or oil we are far worse off.

Natural gas is cleaner and produces less greenhouse gases, but then why not simply run cars directly on butane or propane? This would be much simpler and far more efficient.

Also, since road transport consumes about as much energy as total electricity generation, twice the number of power stations and transmission infrastructure would be needed to switch over completely to electric cars.

It is all very well to claim that this energy could come from wind power. This is theoretically possible, but since wind power represents only about 4% of Ireland’s energy generation this is quite impossible in practical terms in the foreseeable future.

Just as biofuels are subsidised at every stage from production to consumption, no doubt the same policy will be followed for electric cars, but despite this, biofuels have had little success, not even counteracting traffic growth.

Such subsidies only encourage traffic growth and will not reduce greenhouse gas emissions or fossil fuel dependence.

It is nonsense to claim that electric cars are sustainable or green transport. Anything that consumes non-replaceable natural resources, increases pollution, and destroys the environment is non-sustainable in the long term.

The only truly sustainable transport is the horse and the sailing ship. These have been around for tens of thousands of years and could continue for ever.

Indulging in denialist political hyperbole and media/publicity fantasy is dangerous because it avoids facing reality, and digs us into an ever-deeper hole.

Michael Job



Co Cork


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