Thursday, April 30, 2015

Why Teslas are not green cars

I love Elon Musk (is there an Engineer who doesn't?)  and Tesla remains the biggest holding in my stock portfolio, but in this post want to show you that Teslas are not green cars at all.

Just because a Tesla run on electricity they can't be called green cars. In making the Tesla car itself, the company buys loads of metals and materials and components. How are they made? Unless they are all made by environment friendly (solar or wind) energies, a Tesla can't be called a green car at all! There is more though-you must consider the transportation of all these materials, the infrastructure involved (highways, ships, aeroplanes, trains, etc) involved in transporting them. You can't just look at the way the Tesla runs (electricity, clean energy) to decide whether it is a clean car; you must consider how the car is made, the materials involved, and how energy is supplied to make the car and it's components. Everything is interrelated in economics.

Unless Tesla the car itself can be made out of 100% clean energy, it can't be a green/environment friendly thing to buy it. A car is a giant piece of machinery, and a lot of energy is used to make it. If fossil fuels have been used to make the car, then by buying more Tesla cars, you may end up helping Exxon Mobil more than you can imagine, because almost every industry used large amounts of oil, directly or indirectly.

You must also consider the highway system and the streets which Teslas drive on-they are all made of and maintained by Energy, which is primarily derived from Oil and Coal. Highways are expensive to build, because there's a lot of Energy content in them (reverse Entropy, in thermodynamic terms, very crudely speaking). Unless Teslas can run on thin air, and as long as they will run on a Highway system which has a large Carbon full energy component to it, they cannot be called green cars. They need a lot of supportive infrastructure to run.

In many ways, Tesla is an option on the oil industry. If oil prices were to suddenly rise up and stay high (if for example the solar lovers were to suddenly shut down the oil industry), the costs of all the materials used to make a Tesla would become high as well, and you may find that producing a Tesla car would cost much much more. The reason the Tesla costs what it costs is because of the oil industry, which makes it cheap to wrought up the metals used to make it, to transport the materials and metals from all over the world to Tesla's factory, to run the factories of all the suppliers at a reasonable cost, etc. A scarcity of oil (or a rise in price, which is the same thing) would push up the costs of all materials. Because oil industry is still the biggest producer of energy in the world, by a very large margin (over coal and nuclear-wind and solar are negligible), any massive scarcity of oil will cause prices of all goods to increase considerably, and Tesla the car might become too costly to make. In other words, even if it runs on clean electricity using solar or wind, the car itself is really made by a massive help from the oil industry.

Some numbers. An average American spends about $1800 per year on gasoline. If cost of something is an indicator of it's carbon foot print (I believe it is), then you can see that a Tesla which costs $80,000 is a far more expensive item that the gas used in a gasoline car for 10 years ($18000). Therefore, the carbon footprint in making the car is far more than the carbon emissions in 10 years by burning fuel. However, the energy used in making the car is not very obvious.

Another example is of a massive high-rise in NYC or Dubai. Because it is not using any oil to run the building, can it be called it is an oil-free building??? The building itself is a standstill object, and clearly uses no oil to "run" if Teslas are green cars, so are all massive buildings in the world! Clearly you much consider how the building is made at the first place-how the materials are processed from the mines (ores, raw materials) to make the finished slabs of concrete and metal girders etc. which are used to make the building. If this were true, all static buildings, houses, etc. are all green, because they are not using "oil" to move! The making of a skyscraper used massive amounts of oil...and that's the most important part of a Tesla car as well. A Tesla is as green as a building, i.e. it isn't.

Another similar case is of hand dryers which are electric powered (they blow hot air on your hands)-they are supposed to be "green" because they eliminate the use of paper towels, which are from trees, and trees should not be cut down, etc. etc. etc. Well the hand dryers themselves are solid pieces of metal, and in making them, probably  a lot of energy was used. Most forests are renovated quickly by the lumber companies who sell cellulose (it makes sense, they sell the pulp, they will take care of the trees) and it is very difficult to imagine that using an electric blow dryer is less or more harmful for the environment/for the trees than using paper towels.

I like Teslas because they are a great machine, noiseless, fast, clean, easy to maintain, etc., but not because they are green or good for the environment, etc., because they are not.