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New report touts benefits of electric automobiles

It remains questionable whether electric cars will save the planet.

But they can save the air quality in some of the Southwest’s biggest cities, including Las Vegas, according to a new report.

“There’s a real opportunity in Nevada to take advantage of the clean electricity there,” said Will Toor, co-author of a report saying Nevada stands to benefit as electric cars become more common.

Toor and co-author Mike Salisbury are with the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project, a Colorado-based nonprofit research group known by its initials, SWEEP.

The report focuses on the source of electricity in each of six Western states: Arizona, Nevada, Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming.

It concludes that Arizona, Nevada and Colorado are well-suited to electric car use, while the other states may not be.

“There’s an enormous difference state to state,” Toor said.

Most of the electricity used in Nevada is generated by relatively clean natural gas-fired power plants, while the main source of power in Wyoming is coal.

“Electric vehicles are the most efficient vehicle type in Nevada,” according to the report.

It says an electric vehicle can travel 100 miles in Nevada using the same amount of energy required for a gasoline-powered vehicle to travel 76 miles.

Travis Johnson, NV Energy’s electric transportation program manager and an electric car devotee, said Nevada’s growth led to the building of new plants in recent years.

The new plants are more efficient and cleaner than older plants.

According to the report, more than 80 percent of the electricity in Nevada comes from natural gas or renewable energy, while the rest comes from coal-fired plants. It is nearly the opposite in Wyoming, with 88 percent coming from coal.

Nevada’s power sources are due to get cleaner, too, with the coal-fired Reid Gardner generating station near Moapa set to begin being taken offline next year.

Overall, there is much debate about whether electric vehicles offer a solution to the fossil fuel problem that experts believe is contributing to global warming.

The federal government offers tax incentives of up to $7,500 for people who buy electric cars. The purpose is to get more electric cars on the road, which, in theory, would lead to less pollution.

But it’s not that simple. Because of the coal issue, and because of a quirk in federal gas-mileage requirements for automobile manufacturers, there may be no environmental benefit at all from the tax break.

A 2012 report from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office concludes as much, noting that manufacturers who sell more electric and hybrid vehicles are, as a consequence, then allowed to sell more gas-guzzling vehicles. These are known as the CAFE standards, short for Corporate Average Fuel Economy. In the end, it equals out.
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