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CO2 Fool’s Errand, Part II

May 25, 2012

CO2 emissions from gasoline used in our cars accounts for approximately 20% of all CO2 emissions.

Gasoline and CO2 Emissions

CO2 emissions from gasoline

Population is forecast to increase to around 420 million by 2050, which is approximately a 35% increase. There’s little reason to believe that the number of vehicles won’t increase by the same percentage, along with CO2 emissions, without taking specific actions to reduce the use of gasoline.

An increase in the number of vehicles would result in CO2 emissions of 1,560 MMT.

Aside from stopping or restricting the use of automobiles, there are basically three ways to cut CO2 emissions from the use of gasoline.

  • Replacing gasoline-powered vehicles with pure electric vehicles (EVs).
  • Increasing the miles per gallon without increasing miles driven.
  • Replacing gasoline with ethanol or hydrogen.

A study by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory determined that 43% of existing cars and light trucks could be EVs before new generation and transmission infrastructure would be required.

If 43% of 223 million vehicles existing at the time of the study were EVs in 2050, it could cut CO2 emissions from gasoline by around 500 MMT – assuming that all the electricity used to recharge batteries came from nuclear, wind, solar or CCS enabled coal-fired power plants, which might not be the case.

Under this scenario, there would be 95 million all electric EVs on the road in 2050.

If mpg of remaining vehicles was doubled, another 600 MMT could be cut.

These two actions, if they were possible, would cut CO2 emissions by 1,100 MMT, which would still require cutting another 300 MMT from the use of gasoline.

With respect to using ethanol instead of gasoline, it appears as though a consensus is emerging that ethanol doesn’t cut CO2 emissions.

With respect to the price of gasoline, if the price was $10 per gallon the miles driven might decrease, but most people wouldn’t find this an equitable answer.

With respect to hydrogen vehicles, the fuel cells required for them still cost several times more than an internal combustion engine. Until the cost of fuel cells is dramatically lowered, it is doubtful that hydrogen-powered vehicle will be a serious factor. There is also the question of building hydrogen fueling stations. If hydrogen powered cars are used in quantity, however, they could help cut CO2 emissions dramatically since they have zero emissions.


Whether it will be possible to have 95 million EVs on the road by 2050 is highly problematic. Only 38 years remain before 2050, which means that 2.5 million BEVs must be sold every year between now and 2050. The closer we get to 2050 the greater the number of EVs that must be sold every year.

There is also the question of whether billions will be spent on building charging stations.

The track record to-date on the adoption of EVs isn’t encouraging in these respects.

Doubling the mpg is possible, assuming nearly everyone will be satisfied with a compact vehicle or there is some revolutionary technology for improving gasoline mileage.

Even accepting that these alternatives are possible, there is still another 300 MMT that will have to be cut to achieve an 80% reduction in CO2 emissions from the use of gasoline.

While it’s not impossible to cut CO2 emissions 80% by 2050, it’s a fool’s errand to try.

And then there are the other segments that account for 40% of CO2 emissions that will have to be cut 80%.

More on those in the next article.



EVs or BEVs, but not PHEVs.

Carbon Folly available at Amazon contains additional information.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. ovidiuspn permalink
    May 29, 2012 3:18 am

    Even if electric vehicles today are the equivalent of a 35MPG vehicle for CO2 emissions, that will not be true tomorrow. There is a very good explanation about why we want to go all EV now regardless of the CO2 equivalence today at Electric Vehicles are the Equivalent of a 34mpg Gas Powered Car – Do They Have a Future? Very good points.

  2. May 29, 2012 10:57 am

    The link is broken so can’t see the message you are trying to get across.
    Thanks for your interest.

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