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> That is picking nits

No, actually it's not. The source of electricity matters, and just because something doesn't directly emit pollutants does not mean its power is derived without emitting pollutants.

I don't disagree the source of electricity does matter. But who is to say where the electron coming out of the plug came from? Perhaps it came from one of their existing nuclear plants[1] ?

For me, when you get to the point where you can construct two valid statements that both are supported by available information, yet one disproves a statement and the other proves it, you have reached the point of 'nits'.

In this case :

"They are not zero emission because electricity can come from a coal fired plant."

"The are zero emission because electricity can come from a nuclear power plant."

Pedants could go a different way, they could say "the bus is zero emission but the infrastructure isn't."

We saw a lot of that with solar panels where people would argue that the energy to smelt the aluminum to make the frames and furnaces to grow the silicon ingots far exceeded any amount of energy that the solar cells themselves would provide.

But one has to wonder, what is the point of arguing at that level when, as the article states, the pollution where the buses are deployed is significantly less?

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_power_in_China

> But one has to wonder, what is the point of arguing at that level when, as the article states, the pollution where the buses are deployed is significantly less?

Pollution where deployed isn't the issue, overall pollution is (the main impact of CO2 is climate change on a global scale). Significant reductions in pollution are to be celebrated, but it's wrong - and takes away from your point - to emphasise something as "zero emission" when it isn't.

Pollution where deployed isn't the issue, overall pollution is

I think inhabitants of large Chinese cities that have to wear masks when they go for a walk would disagree.

Actually, both things are quite relevant. Pollution in cities poisons and kills people in the short run, climate change would kill us all in the long run.

It’s a toxic argument, because in practice it’s used to absolve diesel or gas cars entirely. It‘s also a way of missing the forest for the trees. Gas cars can never be clean, electric cars are in fact cleaner from the get go and have the potential to be (nearly) entirely clean. Building a world where that is possible requires a large investment in infrastructure and that will only happen if there is a large scale switchover to electric cars.

You are certainly not wrong when you say that also electric cars pollute, but you should be aware of how and when and why this kind of argument is usually deployed.

You can't say they're cleaner from the get go. They could rely on such a different set of polutant products that you can't compare them in general. Also building one electric car when the production chain doesn't exist is obviously going to pollute much more than one has vehicle with its existing infrastructure. It's because we consider the industrial evolution and the usage lifetime that we can compare the two and EVs might be considered less pollutant (even though once again you're comparing very different kinds of pollution). It's not because they seem much better in theory that you should give the EV industry any favorable bias—they need to be held accountable even more than the existing industry because they will probably shape the future of the automotive industry.

A thing that is pointed out is the life of a vehicle, especially a bus might be 15-30 years. During that time the grid will become a lot cleaner. Where with a diesel bus emissions wise you're all in.

There is also the long tailpipe, diesel buses produce toxic emissions where people are, coal fired power plants produce emissions elsewhere. (not necessarily, but likely)

Yes you are nitpicking. It's like if someone says "paper bags reduce wastes by 50%" and you retort "welllll you still need need factories to make those paper bags." It's literally the definition of nitpicking

In this case, you're doing so in an attempt to undermine the activity raised in the parent. Not sure what your intention is, but definitely not supported by logic

I think actual nitpicking would be "welllll paper bags reduce plastic waste by X %, but they also increase paper waste by Y %".

I flew across China last month ... Lots of open cast coal mines, each with a power station next to it .... But they're planning ahead, those power stations are surrounded by thousands of windmills, more than I could count leveraging the power distribution network

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