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Sometimes green isn’t what it seems

Can we be honest with each other?

I ask that because we often are not. Not on the subject of being green.

People increasingly agree that we have to, literally, clean up our act to prevent global warming. To do that, humans have to slow the growth of greenhouse gases in earth’s atmosphere that trap the sun’s heat. That means we stop pumping fresh carbon into the ecosystem.

The carbon cycle (at its most basic “animals turn oxygen into CO2 and plants turn CO2 into oxygen”) is naturally balanced but humans are overwhelming the ecosystem by burning fossil fuels – reintroducing “retired” carbon.

Automobiles are a big part of the effort. And dozens of different ways to make cars less polluting are popping up.

And here’s where the problem arises. As these technologies compete for acceptance and support, their proponents sometimes exaggerate, or neglect to mention disadvantages.

My pet peeve is “zero emission” vehicles, typically pure electric vehicles. “Zero emission” implies no pollution and no CO2 emissions at all. Now, I think EVs have some excellent virtues, and not spewing toxins harmful to humans into the air in large cities is a biggie.

But an EV is no cleaner than what generates the electricity that runs it. And if that juice doesn’t come from nuclear, solar or wind or geothermal, then it’s emitting a lot of fresh carbon.

Biofuel is a promising technology, but how much fossil fuel is used producing it? Some biofuels are far greener than others. Crop-based biofuels produced in quantity drive up the cost of food.

Other green technologies have big downsides to them, too. Some EV batteries tend to combust. Other batteries use highly toxic chemicals. Fuel cells are expensive. Hydrogen is explosive, hard to transport and store and most of it is generated from fossil fuels.

Hey, we have to change how we transport ourselves. And finding useful technologies is complicated enough without fudging the truth.

Again, are we being honest with each other? Unless we are, we’re wasting valuable time and the real debate on how we’re going to stop poisoning our own well can’t get started.

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