Emissions-free? Not quite | AspenTimes.com

Emissions-free? Not quite

Dear Editor:As if Aspen’s many Hummers, vehicles that are emblematic of so much that is wrong with our society, were not annoying enough, we now have a fleet of electric-powered “mini-Hummers” tooling around town. To add insult to injury, the local dealer selling these abominations, Shae Singer, appeared before City Council last Monday claiming that these vehicles were “emission-free.”Although I was at the meeting for an entirely different purpose, I was moved to raise my hand and address council to remind them that electric vehicles are anything but emission-free. Electric vehicles simply displace their emissions elsewhere. The electricity has to come from somewhere, and in Aspen’s case that is likely to be from a coal-fired power plant in Craig or down in the Four Corners.After I spoke, Jennifer Hall then addressed council and told them that her brother’s company is retrofitting cars to be solar-powered “so that they are emissions-free.”Well, sorry to rain on anyone’s parade, but even a solar-powered vehicle would be far from emissions-free. Silicon wafer-based solar cells are built on a wafer sliced from a silicon boule (hence the name). To make such wafers, a seed crystal is lowered into a molten vat of elemental silicon and then slowly extracted. A tremendous amount of energy is required to melt the silicon which has a melting point around 2500 degrees Fahrenheit. And, the process itself is far from efficient as each wafer must be sliced from the boule using diamond saws (more energy to make the saw blades and more energy to run the saws.) For more information, see: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boule_(crystal).Solar cells are great for providing electricity in remote locations, but the laws of economics dictate that they are far from an energy panacea. Were this not true, they would no doubt be ubiquitous.Beware the electric Hummer; ya can’t get something for nothing!James MarchAspen


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