The new Plug In America public service announcement (PSA) may be a satire on Americaâ€™s addiction to oil, and it may be just a gimmick to get attention, but are the environmental benefits of electricity vs. gas power so clear? While the PSA raises valid discussion points about our choices, itâ€™s not so simple a matter.
What the PSA doesn't address is that the environmental benefits of plugging in are only fully realized when the generation of electricity is from a clean and sustainable source. Solar and wind power represent two clean alternatives to coal or nuclear power.
Coal-fired power plants are the largest source of CO2 emissions in the U.S.; they emit more CO2 than residential and commercial energy use; even more than surface transport. While hydroelectric and new renewable sources account for just over ten percent of energy generation in the U.S., they emit no CO2 once installed. Considering the correlation between CO2 and global warming, electric cars are better for the environment than gas guzzlers only when the electricity is generated from a clean, renewable source (as some readers have pointed out). By fully considering the impact of our consumer choices, we become more aware of ways to reduce our carbon footprint, which is what this PSA is all about.
Image source: EPA.gov 2010 U.S. Greenhouse Gas Inventory Report (April, 2010)
Â©2010 Jim Hathaway for Gather.com