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Study: Midwest stands to gain more than California in transition to clean power

Air pollution by industrial chimneys _ MGN_Pixaby.jpg
Air pollution by industrial chimneys (Image courtesy of MGN / Pixaby)

The Midwest, not smog-plagued California, may realize the most health benefits from a pivot to cleaner energy, according to a new study geared toward exploring the impacts of converting America's power grid to future-proof sources of electricity.

The two regions that would stand to gain the most are the Great Lakes/Mid-Atlantic area and the Upper Midwest, not smog-heavy California, Energy News Network reports. While the study itself, supported by the Harvard Climate Change Solutions Fund, focuses on the environmental and health benefits of deploying renewable energy sources throughout the U.S. grid, the findings have implications for those who care about the carbon footprints of their vehicles.

The results of this study dovetail perfectly with well-respected data updated in 2018 by the Union of Concerned Scientists, which showed that electric vehicles driven in the same regions noted above are responsible for greenhouse gas emissions similar to a relatively efficient gasoline-powered car on a per-mile basis.



Meanwhile, in California and some Northeastern areas, EVs produce emissions equivalent to a fuel-burning car that gets better than 100 miles per gallon. In Upstate New York, that figure reaches almost 200 mpg. Conversely, in cities such as Chicago, Cleveland, and Detroit, driving an EV is not much more climate-friendly than driving a Honda Insight or Toyota Prius.

The qualifier to be placed next to an asterisk on the above statement is, of course, "now." With coal and older natural-gas plants being retired in favor of plants with cleaner emissions profiles—and more sustainable sources—the electricity you use to charge a plug-in will keep getting cleaner, whereas a car with tailpipe emissions will probably pollute more as it ages.

In the meantime, cleaning up the grid in the regions where it's the dirtiest could make electric cars cleaner by the year and be one of the smartest investments in the future health and well-being of Americans. That was one of the goals of the now-defunct Clean Power Plan; let's hope utilities and ratepayers come to their own senses.

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