NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Benefits of Biofuels and Electric Vehicles Questionable

March 2, 2011

Cars remain the primary mode of personal transportation for much of America and account for a large proportion of greenhouse gas emissions.  However, promoting electric vehicles like the new Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf could actually cause more harm than the perceived good it provides, says Amy Kaleita, a senior fellow at the Pacific Research Institute.

Both biofuels and electric vehicles are highly incentivized by federal actions; yet, the environmental benefits of both remain questionable.  Policymakers must look beyond tailpipe emissions and consider economic sustainability, performance and functionality, and overall environmental health.

Dr. Kaleita's research debunks several myths fueling the push for more biofuels and electric vehicles.  It shows:

  • Many biofuels, namely those sourced from corn and soybeans, can have significant negative environmental impact.
  • Electric cars are only beneficial when the electricity is generated on-board or when the car is charged with electricity generated from no- to low-carbon sources.
  • Plug-in hybrids are only cost-competitive and more environmentally sound than other options when they are short-range vehicles charged every 20 miles or less.

Source: Amy Kaleita, "Car-tastrophe: How Federal Policy Can Help, Not Hinder, the Greening of the Automobile," Pacific Research Institute, February 14, 2011.


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