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Air Quality

Published on February 5th, 2013 | by Zachary Shahan

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EU Cars Put Up To $493 Billion Of Costs On Others, Study Finds

February 5th, 2013 by  


Average external costs from cars per 1,000 vkm by country. Click to enlarge.

If you’re not familiar with “externalities,” you really should be (click that link). The quick summary is that externalities are costs (and sometimes benefits) imposed on others but not included in the price of a good. As soon as you learn a bit more about them, you’ll learn than cars, trucks, and fossil fuel power plants are some of the worst culprits when it comes to externalities. As an example, take a look at the findings from a recent EU study:

A recent study from Technische Universität Dresden (TU Dresden) commissioned by the Greens/European Free Allianace (EFA) in the European Parliament concluded that the cars used within the EU-27 externalize up to about €373 billion (US$493 billion) per year (high estimate) of costs on to other people, other regions and other generations. The low estimate is external costs of €258 billion (US$341 billion).

The study focused on the larger environmental costs of car traffic (plus accident costs not covered by insurance)—i.e., air pollution; noise, upstream and downstream effects (covering all effects before and after the actual trip is performed); smaller other effects (land use, separational effects etc.); and climate change (focused on avoidance costs rather than damage costs). Neither infrastructure costs (area purchase, construction, maintenance, demolition, administration of infrastructure) nor congestion costs were included.

Costs for nature and landscape (water and soil pollution, resealing of land, habitat fragmentation and restoration, scenic beauty, biodiversity, etc.) were covered under “smaller other costs”, as were costs due to fragmentation of space and land use costs.


For more info on the study, read the study or this summary from Green Car Congress.

But the bottom line is this: cars cost much, much more than what we pay for them (and to run them). If we were an intelligent people, we would find ways to adequately price all of the externalities above, so that we don’t overvalue their benefits. That’s a difficult task politically… despite the fact that it would greatly benefit society. Funny world we live in, isn’t it.

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About the Author

Zach is tryin' to help society help itself (and other species). He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director and chief editor. He's also the president of Important Media and the director/founder of EV Obsession and Solar Love. Zach is recognized globally as an electric vehicle, solar energy, and energy storage expert. He has presented about cleantech at conferences in India, the UAE, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, the USA, and Canada. Zach has long-term investments in TSLA, FSLR, SPWR, SEDG, & ABB — after years of covering solar and EVs, he simply has a lot of faith in these particular companies and feels like they are good cleantech companies to invest in. But he offers no professional investment advice and would rather not be responsible for you losing money, so don't jump to conclusions.



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