USA Today Gets it Wrong – The Benefits of EVs Are Real

, research and deputy director, Clean Vehicles | February 20, 2015, 10:29 am EST
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USA Today recently published a misleading opinion article on electric vehicles. The author, Bjorn Lomborg, claims that electric car benefits are “just myths” repeating many arguments he has made before and to which we at UCS have responded. Through a combination of cherry-picking data, bizarre assumptions and just plain false information, the author asserts that electric vehicles (EVs) produce more air pollution and similar global warming compared to efficient gasoline cars today and dismisses the potential to clean-up the nation’s electricity grid in the future.

Our own analysis shows the opposite. EVs do in fact provide climate benefits today, and electric vehicles powered by a cleaner electricity grid are a key strategy in cutting our nation’s oil consumption and reducing the threat of climate change.

bjorn-lomborgElectric vehicles aren’t running on 100% coal generated electricity

The global warming emissions from using an electric vehicle vary depending how the electricity used to recharge the vehicle is generated. UCS has investigated these emissions in our “State of Charge” report. Using electricity generated from coal does mean more emissions from an EV, however no electric grid in the U.S. is 100% coal. Many electric grids are much cleaner (in terms of global warming emissions), such that the majority of Americans today (more than 60%) live in regions where driving the average EV produces less emissions than even the most efficient gasoline car – a 50 mile per gallon Prius. In California, where over 40% of the nation’s EVs have been sold, driving an EV produces emissions equal to a gasoline car that achieves 95 mpg.SOC 2014

In Mr. Lomborg’s article, it’s not clear what assumptions were made about the emissions from electricity to support his claims. In the case of the Nissan Leaf, he cites a research paper that examined emissions in the European Union, using E.U. electricity. When comparing a Tesla against an Audi, the link to “results” points to a page on Nissan’s website about charging a Leaf and doesn’t provide any relevant information. In both cases, Mr. Lomborg’s evidence is missing to show the true global warming emissions from EVs and conventional vehicles in the U.S.

The effects of EVs on air quality are similar to global warming emissions: electricity from coal has negative impacts, natural gas is better, and renewables are much cleaner. The research cited in the USA Today article shows significant health and global warming emissions benefits from EVs that use electricity from natural gas or renewables. In the words of one of the report’s authors, “These findings demonstrate the importance of clean electricity, such as from natural gas or renewables, in substantially reducing the negative health impacts of transportation.”

electricity mix

Electricity data from the Energy Information Administration.

The trend in the U.S. is clear: we are using less coal and moving to cleaner electric power. Since 2004, coal use has dropped from half of electricity generation to under 40%, while renewables grew to 13% of power in 2013—a transition that’s likely to continue. EVs are also different from gasoline cars, as an EV sold today will likely get cleaner over time as the electric grid gets cleaner.

Building EVs produces a fraction of the emissions compared to using a car

Building an electric car produces more global warming emissions than a conventional gasoline car, largely due to battery production. However, these emissions are dwarfed by those from using a gasoline car. Including the impact of manufacturing on our “State of Charge” emissions analysis doesn’t change the conclusion: the average EV in the U.S. produces less global warming emissions than the average gasoline vehicle. The peer-reviewed literature largely agrees: EVs produce more pollution than gas vehicles in the production of the vehicle, but then save emissions while driving which results in a net savings within the first couple years of driving.

UCS is currently working on an analysis to better quantify the emissions from producing EVs, so keep an eye out for our upcoming report release.

Cars last more than 50,000 miles

In a bizarre claim, Mr. Lomborg claims that electric cars will only last for 50,000 to 90,000 miles, with no supporting evidence. In the opening section of the article, he states a Nissan Leaf has a 90,000 mile lifetime. However, later in the article he claims that if it’s purchased as a second car, it will only be driven 50,000 miles! Why are these obviously false claims important? Reducing the lifetime assumption of the vehicle exaggerates the emissions from manufacturing, lowering the projected benefits of EVs.

The Nissan Leaf has only been available for 5 years, so it’s impossible to know the true lifetime. However, since the average Nissan Leaf is being driven almost 10,000 miles a year it’s likely that their lifetime miles will be much higher than 50 or 90 thousand miles, since cars last on average about 15 years.

Electric car benefits? No Myth

Lomborg’s claims don’t add up. Electric cars produce less global warming emissions than the average gasoline car, no matter where in the U.S. you live. For more than 60% of Americans, the emissions of an EV charged on the regional power grid are lower than the best gasoline car.

Can EVs get cleaner? Yes, and as we switch to cleaner electricity they will only get better. It is not a pie-in-the-sky hope that electricity, and therefore EVs, will get cleaner. The EPA is in the process of developing national power plant standards (which can and should be stronger than proposed), Governor Brown in CA recently committed to 50% renewables by 2030, and more than two dozen states have existing renewable electricity requirements.

We absolutely need to do be ramping down our use of coal (Mr. Lomborg suggests cleaning it up). But to meet our climate, air quality, and oil savings goals we can’t just phase-out last century’s technology—we also need to be investing in clean technology for the future, including EVs and renewable electricity.

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  • c1ue

    Hah, I applaud the excellent sleight of hand! Using California with its relatively large hydropower supplies to create a larger than US average comparison of CO2 emissions savings for electric vehicle there – nicely done.
    Sadly, the series of lies of omission are transparent for anyone who actually knows the facts:
    1) California hydropower has been stable to declining for decades – thus additional electricity consumed by electric cars is generated by new fossil fuel plants, not hydropower
    2) Sourced electricity from central utilities for the US in general is still almost entirely fossil fuel generated
    3) The impact of increased electricity consumption means building new fossil fuel electricity plants and extending lifetimes of older plants
    4) The only decreases to central electricity generation plant CO2 emissions has come from fracked natural gas replacing coal
    So – excellent PR job.
    Not so excellent facts.

    • criticalthinker47

      Even if that were true, natural gas is much cleaner than coal and also an improvement over gasoline.

      • c1ue

        Sure, if you like fracking and methane releases.

      • criticalthinker47

        I don’t like fracking or methane releases. I especially don’t want to see fracking in California where we already have a drought and can hardly spare the water. I worry about the methane being released as the permafrost thaws. At least if we can use the fracked methane for power, we get some benefit. My point was that EVs, which are not powered by coal in California, are an increasingly better option for the environment than combustion engines.

      • c1ue

        EVs in any city including California will be powered by whatever additional electricity is produced in order to meet the higher demand. California imports more electricity than any other state, and a significant percentage of that is coal fired electricity generation. Increased EV use = increased electricity demand = increased electricity imports = increased coal burning. The only difference is that the coal burning occurs in other Southwest states rather than in California.
        The natural gas isn’t without its issues either – California produces very little natural gas, and so most of its natural gas comes from pipelines ranging as far as Canada.

      • criticalthinker47

        Again, California does NOT use much of any coal in its power mix. I understand about energy imports. I’m not an idiot. Here’s a link to the most current Power Content Label I could find (2013): http://sites.uci.edu/energyobserver/2014/10/04/southern-california-edison-2013-power-content-mix/

        California has legislation demanding the mix meet certain markers by 2020 and then more stringent markers in 2030. This of course includes the imports. As you say, the dirty energy is part of the imported energy, but there are also projects in Montana that help us meet the clean energy requirement. I’d love it if we had more wind and solar farms in our deserts (and rooftop solar), but at least we are promoting the investment in solar/wind somewhere. Gov. Brown hopes to up the ante on that progress
        https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=4&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0CDMQFjAD&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.greentechmedia.com%2Farticles%2Fread%2Fcalif.-gov.-jerry-brown-calls-for-50-renewables-by-2030&ei=lAnyVPyxAsXjsAS57YDgDQ&usg=AFQjCNFOHcaz_gwwp6XAum_aI4YAylIavw&sig2=FHYfIn2VqcOg-tgnjXwu4w&bvm=bv.87269000,d.cWc

        Long story short… EVs are a great thing for the environment if they are powered within California where our energy mix is cleaner than most.

    • Mark Renburke

      There are plenty of holes and lies of omission in your points:
      1) There are twice as many other renewables as hydro in CA (see link) you fail to mention. And hydro contributes to baseload, off peak overnight, that IS when most EVs charging.
      2) “almost entirely fossil fuel generated” is an exaggeration, when the genearation is already just over 1/3 non-fossil fuel (and 19% Nuclear which is 1/5) and since natural gas generation is on the rise and makes EVs cleaner than gasoline cars, it’s still a net positive. The majority of electricity (over 60%) in fact comes from cleaner than oil for transportation sources. see eia dot gov for CA and US grid nix info
      3) Pacific Northwest Labs study concluded 80 million EVs could be added using overnight charging and 140 million total throughout the day on the current grid. It would be decades before any increased consumption would have rhe inpacts you claim, and at that point both cars and other appliances would also have increased efficiency (as is shown historically)
      4) Natural gas is the relative good but no not the perfect. It is domestic but damaging in its own way. It is also at least 50% cleaner as generation source for an EV than gasoline powering a car, life cycle (Source: PNAS/UNM study)

      • c1ue

        Response to 1) The additional renewables are the massively subsidized residential solar PV – which are far too little to actually power significant numbers of EVs particularly on a per household basis.
        Response to 2) You keep assuming EVs are “cleaner” than gasoline cars. That only holds up if you ignore the massive energy expenditures in creating the lithium battery packs for the EVs, rare earth manufacturing for magnets as well as other niggling things like transmission and rectification losses. In particular, the vast majority of batteries are manufactured in China using coal fired energy.
        Response to 3) Pacific Northwest Labs – I’d be interested in seeing a link, but the smell test comes back highly negative. The average American car drives 15K miles a year. An average electric car goes 2 miles per kwh. 80million new EVs would increase overall household electricity use by a shade under 44% – you don’t think that will have an effect on the transmission grid?

      • criticalthinker47

        Here’s a calculator for you:
        http://www.casteyanqui.com/ev/ghg/index.html

        This takes into account the upstream energy used to build the EV (and its battery). The EV is the clear winner.

      • Mark Renburke

        With your latest response, you dig yourself deeper into the hole of misinformation.
        1) That’s just not true, you can look for yourself on eia dot gov. Other renewable in CA (which must also include not just solar but wind, biomass, etc) is 22% of generation, or over 1/5. That sigificant, as is that mant EV drivers themselves in CA have solar. Complain politically all you want about subsidies, it doesn’t change facts.

        2) Red herring. Multiple studies (including the recent PNAS sponsored one) are life cycle studies and conclude manufacturing emissions are not significant. An EV charged from 100% natural gas is *life cycle* at least 50% less polluting than a comparable gasoline only car (70%+ for renewable, also life cycle of source creation emissions included). It’s right there in the summary of the study. It used today’s manufacturing methods; BMW, Tesla, GM (Volt 2), etc are already improving on those materials and methods.

        3) When you start to question professional research data (like that from PN Labs) simply because it disagrees with your (uninformed) bias, credibility sinks further for anything else you claim as fact. For example, “An average electric car goes 2 miles per kWh” is an untruth, you are off by 50%+. A Volt is EPA rated at 2.9 mi/kWh and a LEAF at 3.4, both include charging losses. Those are the best sellers in their plug in classes (PHEV & BEV) The BMW i3 and several others do even better.

      • c1ue

        1) Sorry, your utter lack of familiarity with actual numbers and how electricity actually is generated and used shows. If every single residential solar PV installed in California were 100% devoted to charging Chevy Volts, the result would barely be enough to power 250K such vehicles. The numbers you throw around leave out entirely the electricity imported from outside California – some of which is hydro and a significant part of which is both coal and natural gas – in fact, 30% of California’s electricity is outright imports which the EIA’s numbers do not reflect: http://www.energyalmanac.ca.gov/powerplants/index.html
        2) PNAS studies are amusing – please provide a link. I note already more positioning by looking at the life cycle which attempts to hide manufacturing CO2 output vs. operating – and in turn is a function of the utility generation form. Lithium batteries are overwhelmingly made in China – surely you don’t dispute that nor presumably do you dispute that China doesn’t use much clean power. Be that as it may, I expect the usual sleight of hand where the replacement of EV battery packs is conveniently left out of the calculation by choosing a short lifespan, but slap up the link and I’d be happy to look at it
        3) Even if you use the larger numbers from the soda cans on wheels mentioned – we’re still talking increasing of overall residential consumption of electricity by 30%. That’s STILL a big number and STILL a big problem.
        Of course, in reality a pure EV CANNOT drive 15000 miles a year as they literally don’t have the range to meet the usage patterns of the average American driver. Only short distance driving urban dwellers can use what’s there now.
        The vast majority of alternate energy vehicles are hybrids which really are just a form of selling tiny engines to people; a similar soda can frame plus tiny engine can as easily produce commercially comparable mpg vehicles such as the turbodiesel VW Golf.

      • Mark Renburke

        1) Those are the EIA official numbers, not mine. So take up your amatuer analysis with them. And even if 30% of California electricity is imported and a small percentage coal, you be dishonest if you didn’t acknowledge it would have negligible impact on the overall emissions result. Again, the 95 mpg equivalent is from UCS, take up your issue with them, more professional scientists and engineers, not me. It’s their data, and I’ve cited my sources, what are yours?
        2) PNAS sponsored life cycle emission study:
        http://m.pnas.org/content/111/52/18490.full.pdf
        3) Black/white logical fallacy that it’s pure Gasoline cars vs pure battery only cars. PHEV (plug in hybrids) do the job of an EV 70-90%+ of the mileage and typical a ~40 mpg hybrid the rest of miles. No compromises. And the average driver commutes just 32 miles round trip, and ~90% of driver 50 miles or less on a typical day.

      • c1ue

        I posted a link to California’s own data – and yet you still try to rely on the EIA’s numbers which clearly are in conflict. You then try to downplay that imported electricity would have no effect on emissions profiles – which is a load of crap since any electricity from other Southwestern states WOULD include coal fired.
        Your agenda is quite clear, as is your unwillingness to entertain data which conflicts with said agenda.

        The PNAS article is garbage. It is entirely based on simulations.
        And lastly hybrids. I’ve seen these arguments before – and they’re moronic. What you’re basically saying when you endorse a hybrid is that diesel or gasoline generated electricity is “clean”.

        The reality is that getting people to drive lighter cars with smaller engines would reap the exact same benefits as the hybrid – with the tradeoff of drivers of these cars getting killed far more often in collisions with the many large SUVs still on the road.
        Equally your “average” driver argument is simply my urban tree hugger demographic dressed up in different clothes. Said urban tree hugger can safely offload his/her goods transportation on 18 wheelers moving goods to warehouses which then are last miled to tree huggers via smog billowing UPS/Fedex trucks.

      • Mark Renburke

        Yep you did post a link to the main site but not to the data that proves you incorrect. Here it is:

        http://www.energyalmanac.ca.gov/electricity/electricity_generation.html

        Coal imports were 11,824 GWh or 12% of total imports and just 4% of total electricity consumed in CA in 2013.Probably even less last year but the numbers arent out yet.

        Read carefully, I did not say “imported electricity would have no effect on emissions profiles” as you claim I did, I wrote and I quote “it would have negligible impact on the overall emissions result”. (negligible means insignificant, in case you aren’t familiar with the word;)

        That’s assuming that UCS didn’t already include the 4% coal in their calculation, in which case we are double-dipping negatively. 4% coal, since coal powered EVs still equate to a ~30 mpg gasoline car for 4% of the total emissions IS negligible, when 96% of generation IS coming from 50% or less emission sources than a gasoline only car. Run the numbers, it’s pretty easy math to show that the emissions are still going to be WAY less than even the best gasoline only hybrid.

        Just so all can clearly see the raw data, I’ve included a screen shot from the site so you can’t deny it from your own referenced source, showing 296,560 total minus 199,723 in-state (with zero in state coal) equals 96,837 or 32.6% of energy in CA was imported, but only 11,824 of the imports were from coal, or 12.2% of imports and just 3.99% of the grand total of consumption.

      • c1ue

        Nice try, but you ignored the “Other Imports” Category which comprises 28.7% of total California electricity generation. The “Other Imports” category is unlabeled “These plants include Intermountain Power Plant (coal) in Utah, Mohave
        Generation Station (coal) in Nevada (now closed), Terra-Gen Dixie Valley
        plant (geothermal) and Desert Star Plant (natural gas) in Nevada,
        Termoelectrica de Mexicali Plant and InterGen’s La Rosita Plant (natural
        gas) both of which are in Mexico. Power generated by these plants is
        not reported by Balancing Authorities as imports, hence their inclusion
        in this methodology. Finally, imports reported by Balancing Authorities
        do not include associated fuel source information. Fuel sources for
        out-of-state power are only reported by load serving entities under
        Power Source Disclosure and Power Content Label reporting requirements.
        As presented here, imports are only known for their geographic origin
        and not their fuel source origin.

        Given that there is a specific coal fired plant mentioned, it is quite safe to say some significant amount of that power IS coal fired.
        Nice try though.

      • Mark Renburke

        c1ue wrote “The PNAS article is garbage. It is entirely based on simulations.” So that’s your dismissal of their thorough life cycle analysis using well-established methodology and well-accepted source data? Coming from someone who has produced such lies as “An average electric car goes 2 miles per kwh” and “a pure EV CANNOT drive 15000 miles a year” your opinion of actual well-conducted scientific study is pretty worthless. Moving on.

      • Mark Renburke

        c1ue wrote ‘And lastly hybrids. I’ve seen these arguments before – and they’re moronic. What you’re basically saying when you endorse a hybrid is that diesel or gasoline generated electricity is “clean”.’

        What on god’s green earth are you talking about?! I get it now. You actually don’t even understand what a PHEV aka “plug in hybrid” is, do you? How cute. You are probably one of those people that thinks a Chevy Volt is a pure EV with a short range. It’s not, it’s a plug in hybrid type car, an advanced one that acts as a pure full powered EV for ~40 miles (50 for the new model) then if ever needed has the *hybrid* gasoline mode for a full gas car range of ~400 miles.

        Google “plug in hybrid”, you might learn something as a good half the plug in cars sold are just that. Or just look at this photo. (Note: there are no “gasoline miles” needed today because even in temps of the low 30s F, there was still 1/4 of the battery range remaining. That’s how a PHEV is properly used, sometimes stays on electric for days, weeks, even a month but then can take a longer trip whenever needed. In the end it gets 70-90%+ EV miles, which for ~80% over 15,000 miles a year is no different than driving an EV ~12,000 miles a year and a gasoline-hybrid ~3,000 miles a year. (I’m at 92% and do over 20k miles a year, by the way;)

        Hence the debunking of your ongoing black/white logical fallacy about it’s just comparing EVs versus gasoline cars.

      • c1ue

        I understand what a PHEV is just fine. It is 2 engines in a single vehicle – an electric one with hundreds of pounds of batteries combined with a small gasoline engine.
        And as I’ve noted before – the gas mileage achievable with PHEVs is no different than that of similarly small engined, light framed vehicles – only at a much higher cost.

        How well is your battery pack holding up? I’ve owned lithium powered personal vehicles for 7 years – and I definitely see the deterioration that repeated cyclic charging causes. As an engineer, I also understand quite well what the impact of additional weight is on mpg.

  • Bill

    USA Today. If I had a bird I wouldn’t line it’s vcage with that rag.

  • gvel

    Some people buy electric cars for reasons having nothing to do with saving the environment, just like some people buy Hummers for reasons that have nothing to do with the environment.
    I got a new Leaf for about half list price and electricity in my town costs 1/5 of gasoline for the same drive. And I like the smooth, quiet drive and never going to the gas station.

  • Mark Renburke

    Here’s a link to an excellent tool, “What’s Your CAR’bon Footprint” that quickly calculates your current car’s emissions, and compares it to an electric and plug in hybrid car’s using info on your area’s electric generation mix. Very cool!

    http://bit.ly/1ijjA0n

    • criticalthinker47

      Thank you for the info.

  • zlop

    Despite no evidence, Pretending that greenhouse gases warm,
    Bjorn Lomborg is part of the controlled deception.

    Electric vehicles are convenient for short trips,
    but not for long excursions or cold weather.

    • ivyespalier (Randy)

      Electric cars are MORE reliable in the cold than ICEV. You can drive coast to coast for free in the Model S. I drive my car 65 miles every day, it gets below -10F and I do perfectly fine, without gas. Electric cars are better than ICEV.

      Anthropological climate change is accepted as reality by 97% of the scientists and 99.7% of peer reviewed studies. There is NO debate, it is real. Denying this is like denying evolution, denying vaccines, denying gravity, denying 2+2 = 4, it is reality.

  • Jacques Lemiere

    i am not sure tou simply understand lomborg s point…

    on one hand a guy who tries to fond out the best place where to put public money to get the more benefit from it on the other hand electric car advocates…

    simply don’t ask for money…just do it , show people it is cheap …

  • danairUCS

    There are a few other issues raised in the USA Today piece that we can address, some of which have been raised in the reader comments.

    Incentives: One is a critique that incentives for EVs are less cost effective for reducing emissions than buying emissions credits . This is a very short term point of view. The federal tax credit for purchasing EVs is intended to help spur technology innovation and deployment, helping EV technology overcome initial hurdles of higher cost and infrastructure challenges. Similar credits have been used in the past, including for hybrid vehicles like the Prius when they first came to market. These types of temporary tax credits naturally have a higher cost per ton of CO2 reduction if only the immediate benefits are evaluated. The benefits of these policies are further undervalued if one uses assumes a relatively low value for the social cost of carbon. (A topic my colleague has written on at http://blog.ucsusa.org/social-cost-of-carbon-costs-of-climate-change-benefits-cutting-carbon-pollution-429).

    As the technology matures, such incentives enable much greater reductions, and lower costs in the future. If you accept that electric drive vehicles powered by clean electricity are an important part of meeting our long term climate goals, making such near-term investments in EV technology makes sense and shouldn’t be arbitrarily weighed against other policies and programs that also reduce emissions.

    Incentives like credits for solar installations in California and for energy efficient appliances have also proven successful for consumers, businesses and technology deployment. Additionally, policymakers and the public support such policies not just for reducing emissions, but also for reducing oil consumption, diversifying our energy supply, and reducing consumer energy costs, other benefits that not captured if only looking at carbon.

    Criteria pollutants: Another point made was more speculative — that deploying millions of EV’s by 2040 might result in massive increases in air pollution, as a result
    of continued reliance on coal. The claim was based on EIA projections of the
    average grid mix in the future. These projections neglect changes that would
    occur under proposed carbon policies, or future climate policy, that will make the grid cleaner and less-coal dependent. Secondly, it ignores other policies that are
    in place that limit air pollution emissions from power plants.

    EIA’s predictions of the future electricity grid mix are certainly not a given. In fact, in 2005 EIA predicted coal would provide 49% of electricity generation in the US in 2015 while actual coal use has dropped to below 40% and renewable production is
    higher today than EIA’s projections as well. Further, EIA does not include the impact of newly proposed greenhouse gas standards for power plants. Perhaps most importantly, EIA also does not project energy use based on the need to reduce emissions on the order of 80% or more by 2050 compared to 1990 levels to avoid the worst consequences of climate change, a goal scientists have long endorsed.
    We’re already outstripping EIA’s projections when it comes to shifting our
    electricity supply away from coal and we can and must do so even more in the
    future.

    Finally, there are other policies at work that will also reduce air pollution from power plants. So while it might be tempting to analyze EVs in isolation for the purposes of an op-ed, it doesn’t make sense to those of us who study their role in the energy economy. We can and must do more to clean up the electricity grid at the same time we are moving forward with electric vehicle deployment. We need to look at a future that has both, not one or the other.

  • Richard Solomon

    One should read Merchants of Doubt for a clear review of the various ways that Lomborg and his predecessors have been cherry picking data and using other methods to try to discredit what science has found regarding climate change, the dangers of using DDT, the ozone hole, etc. Under the guise of ‘balanced reporting’ news outlets like USA Today, other newspapers, and TV have given these purveyors of lies and distortion much more space then they deserve. I hope UCS will write a letter to USA Today to counter Lomborg’s efforts.

  • Dan

    You forgot to put the energy consumption to extract, refine and distribute the oil. If you put this on the count it looks ridiculous burn gas on our cars
    .

    • ivyespalier (Randy)

      If gasoline was free it would be crazy to use it. Very dirty, unreliable, and unhealthy. Electric cars are far cleaner, more reliable, last longer, better experience, and cheaper to own.

  • The author is missing Lomborg’s main point. Electric cars are getting huge subsidies that bring microscopic benefits.

    • Anthony Vigil

      Just like Big Oil gets huge subsidies that bring microscopic benefits.

    • criticalthinker47

      And what have we been doing in the Middle East for the last 50 years if it isn’t subsidizing oil? Clean energy and EV technology show promise for our future needs. Fossil fuels keep us on the highway to hell.

    • Mark Renburke

      The cost/benefit analysis he provides is a straw man, because it claims the purpose of the $7,500 tax credit was primarily to reduce carbon costs via each specific plug in car. Not the main purpose of credits and subsidees, which was a much more intangible ROI: to get consumers, manufacturers, and infrastructure to square one, because there’s no progressing to square 2 without that. And tax credits phase out after 200k vehicles per manufacturer (which Lomborg conveniently omits) so they are working for their INTENDED and limited purpose, just look at the state of the market and adoption versus 4 years ago.

    • ivyespalier (Randy)

      What subsidies? The tax credit? In less than a week, direct oil subsidies cost more than the entire EV tax credit program, since it began.

  • How could it have been missed?

    The simple proof
    that change to the level of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) does
    not cause climate change has been hiding in plain sight. Here it is:

    CO2 has been considered to be a forcing. For a unit area, the units of a forcing are Joules/sec. Energy change for that same unit area has units Joules. Average forcing times duration equals energy change (analogous to average speed times duration equals distance traveled). Energy change divided by effective thermal capacitance is temperature change. Thus equivalently, the appropriate scale factor times the time-integral of the CO2 level would produce the average global temperature (AGT) change attributable to the CO2 change.

    According to widely available data from Vostok, Antarctica ice cores, during previous glaciations and interglacials, CO2 and AGT went up and down nearly together (as so dramatically displayed in An Inconvenient Truth). If CO2 is a significant forcing (scale factor not zero), temperature could only increase and it would increase with the time-integral of the CO2 level. Because instead AGT and CO2 go up and down nearly together, this actually proves CO2 change does not cause significant average global temperature change. Because CO2 is only a trace gas in the atmosphere, if CO2 change does not cause temperature change, it cannot cause climate change. THUS THE CO2 CHANGE FROM BURNING FOSSIL FUELS HAS NO SIGNIFICANT EFFECT ON CLIMATE.

    Application of this analysis methodology to CO2 levels for the entire Phanerozoic
    eon (about 542 million years) (Berner, 2001) proves that CO2 levels up to at least 6 times the present will have no significant effect on average global temperature.

    See more on this and discover the two factors that do cause climate change (95% correlation since before 1900) in Energy and Environment, vol. 25, No. 8, 1455-1471 or search “agwunveiled”.

    • Chris

      That is consistent with the theory of Earths natural climate cycles; The milankovitch cycles tip the scales and start the shift… THEN changes in CO2 concentration DRIVE that shift. The math only works if you include the radiative properties of CO2. It’s expected that CO2 and temp would BOTH rise. There’s a feedback and a slight lag. Warmer oceans release more CO2, more CO2 causes warmer oceans.

      • Apparently you do not understand the proof. Even if what you say were true (and it isn’t) it is not relevant to the proof.

      • Chris

        That’s MATH and PHYSICS… the only way to explain interglacial warming is with CO2… the orbital shifts don’t provide enough forcing. As far as science goes… CO2 causing warming is as proven as it gets.

      • So, your science skill is so lacking that you don’t recognize the simple proof that CO2 has no significant effect on climate even when it is shown to you.

      • Chris

        LOL… what proof? Here; http://www.tylervigen.com for your enjoyment; The link between CO2 and warming was known LONG before any correlation. It’s energy balance. CO2 blocks more outgoing energy than incoming energy. A 4 year old can understand that’s going to cause warming.

      • The proof is in my first post above. It does not use correlation.

        CO2 doesn’t ‘block’ anything. It absorbs and emits only 1 wavelength (15 microns) of the broad spectrum of terrestrial radiation. The absorption ‘opportunities’ for water vapor outnumber absorption ‘opportunities’ for the added CO2 by about 60,000 to 1. Arrhenius only got a tiny piece of the first part of the story.

      • Chris

        You posted two charts… how does a chart show anything but correlation? Absorbing and re-emitting IS blocking since a percentage is re-emitted back…; Sorry… NASA and NOAA are just a little more credible than some dude on the internet…

      • The two charts are from the blog. The proof is independent of the charts.

        If you weren’t too stubborn to look, you might have discovered that ALL of the data used in the blog originate from credible sources such as NASA, NOAA, UAH, HADLEY, GISS, CDIAC, ORNL, RSS, etc.

      • Chris

        Lota talk…. links?

      • zlop

        Svante Arrhenius, net bottom warming, is incorrect.
        Net warming, of the atmosphere, is above the Troposphere,
        where there is more energy/molecule. mgh + (7/2)kT

        “A 4 year old can understand that’s going to cause warming.”
        Simple gedanken — Below the clouds, effect is saturated.
        Above the clouds, extra radiation to space lowers clouds.
        Lower clouds, lower surface temperature (per adiabatic lapse)

        For older people, another approach.
        “Greenhouse gases cool planets: Volcanos warm them | Tallbloke”

      • gvel

        It wasn’t shown.

      • zlop

        “CO2 causing warming is as proven as it gets.” ?
        How can greenhouse gases warm, when they lower clouds?

      • Mitch_Ocean

        Clearly you have not read the scientific literature–the idea of a greenhouse boost of CO2 to a warming initiated by higher solar insolation in the polar regions is the standard model for the end of glaciations.

        Global temperatures warm when albedo (earth reflection of incoming solar radiation) goes down, greenhouse gases go up, or the sun emits more solar radiation. The albedo effect is too small to explain the temperature change since the last glacial maximum.

        Please educate yourself before posting.

      • The proof trumps all ‘scientific literature’ that disagrees with it.

        Search “lowaltitudeclouds” to see just how sensitive average global temperature is to cloud change (it is very sensitive).

      • zlop

        “lowaltitudeclouds”
        Good illustration is cloud height, when climbing a mountain.

      • gvel

        Yes, it’s obvious that water vapor has a dominant effect, as any doofus knows that the temperature drops a lot more on clear nights. But that doesn’t necessarily trump the steady and long-term effect of CO2 changes.
        Also, you’d have to be a doofus to think that there is anything that can be expressed in a short few paragraphs with regard to climate change that would constitute a mathematical type “proof” of its incorrectness. If it were that simple to comprehend, the argument would have been over A LONG TIME AGO. I suppose you think it’s not because of information suppression and conspiracy?

      • zlop

        “the math only works if you include the radiative properties of CO2” ??
        CO2 is a non-event — greenhouse gases Cool, a little.

        Dan Pangburn • has a good regression fit and uses NASA
        solar activity projection to predict future temperatures.

        “physical nature of the so-called GH effect is a Pressure-induced
        Thermal Enhancement (PTE), which is independent of the atmospheric
        chemical composition” http://wattsupwiththat.com/2011/12/29/unified-theory-of-climate/

    • Richard Reina

      Before the Industrial Age atmospheric carbon dioxide levels were at 280
      parts per million for thousands of years, they’ve since climbed to 400
      parts per million. Just in the last four decades we’ve gone from 320 to
      400ppm and we’ve had the 11 hottest years since 1998 — of which 2014
      broke the record– since we began recording them in 1880. Is it wise to
      say that there is no correlation in carbon levels and global
      temperatures?

      The last 130 years, since modern record keeping began, the eleven
      hottest years on record are 2014, 2010, 2005, 1998, 2013, 2003, 2002,
      2006, 2009, 2007, 2004.

      http://en.m.wikipedia.org/…/Instrumental_temperature

      http://www.cnn.com/2014/11/30/tech/innovation/record-temperatures/

      http://www.weather.com/news/news/september-hottest-global-record-20141020

      • Climate has always changed. The last change is that it stopped warming.

        The planet warmed 1700-2001 and the trend has been flat since then. Noticing that it is warm at the end of a warming period should not be surprising. Click on ‘see more’ in my post above for a graph that goes back to 1610.

        Since 2001, the CO2 level has increased by 31.8% of the increase 1800-2001 while the temperature trend (average of the five reporting agencies, http://endofgw.blogspot.com) has been flat.

      • Richard Reina

        First, Global temperatures only began to be recorded in 1880 so I’m afraid any “data” that you mention before that time cannot be trusted. Second, In your assertion that temperatures have not risen since 2001 has several flaws: to only look at the last 14 years and not the last 130 since record keeping began is to cherry pick and ignore the fact that the 11 hottest years on record have all been since 1998. Your assertion also ignores the fact 2014 was the hottest on record and there were several other very hot years during the last 14. Also, if I were you I would not trust data from a blog. Try noaa or nasa instead.

      • HADcrut4 reports back to 1850. In my agwunveiled analysis, I didn’t trust anything prior to 1895 because I too thought the earlier stuff might not be very accurate.

        There can be no flaws in what I said which is simply a statement of what was reported. How this group fits into the bigger (400+ years) picture is shown in graphs in http://agwunveiled.blogspot.com. I am fully aware of the folly in small samples. I also don’t consider it very profound to point out that it is warmest at the end of a warming period.

        Are you aware that the s.d. uncertainty in reported measurements is about 0.09 K and 2014 was warmest by only about 0.02 K? Random variation could easily account for 2014 being reported as highest.

        I wouldn’t trust data from a blog either without either doing the blog or checking against the data source. The source of the temperature measurement data includes NOAA, UAH, RSS, HADLEY, and GISS. I check them against each other and average them to avoid bias. I am keeping an eye on NOAA. Some say they have been exposed cooking the books to make it look like it is still warming.

  • Douglas James Merrey

    Lomborg has produced similar misleading but influential papers on the returns on investments in the various proposed Sustainable Development Goals. I am glad UCS is finally challenging the work he and his group are doing.

  • schererd

    I have 58,500 miles on my Model S in 25 months with only a small loss of battery range since new so I would expect I’ll have well over 200,000 miles on it in 8 years. Beings it’s 95% aluminum I guessing it will last well beyond 10 years so Lomborg is spouting nonsense. Many electric car owners also have solar at home because it make economic sense. Even if the battery degrades to a point of no longer being used for motive power, it definently has a secondary use for stationary power storage. Here’s mine in Michigan.

  • Mark Renburke

    Great response, thank you Don, for putting this together so quickly. We need more factual and educational features like this, and in major media outlets by well-known figures with attention grabbing headlines, such as “Electric Cars: Cleaner than a Scooter in CA, NY, New England”
    Mark Renburke,
    Drive Electric Cars New England

  • ilumin8

    Lomborg’s deliberate deception is so easily exposed that he should be sued by the ev makers for defamation. He really shouldn’t be able to spout such destructive garbage and not face consequences for it.

    • andrew_myers

      Fortunately we have something called the First Amendment that prevents idiotic ideas like this one. Think for one second what would happen when every deep-pocketed corporation gets to sue people for saying things they don’t like, and can shop for a court in which the suit will succeed.

      • Chris

        The First Amendment does not protect you from making false statements… that’s why we have libel and anti-defamation laws.

      • andrew_myers

        This is plainly neither libel nor defamation. And you fail to address the second point I made.

      • Chris

        My suggestion was that we extent those laws to include making false statements… against which the first amendment was NOT indented to protect you from. Lies ARE NOT protected speech.

      • Mark Renburke

        That’s a good point, but I believe in libel (?) there has to be an “injured party” filing the claim; and the piece is clealy labeled as “Opinion” (though not as clearly as it could!) so the author can just claim, ‘These aren’t lies, they are just my opinions, and see look at the carefully picked data I use to support my opnions.’ Doesn’t make the conclusions any less off base…but who could be “injured party”? Nissan, they won’t care, just one minor part of their lineup? Tesla? nah. Plug in America/EAA?? non-profits, what can they claim the damage is besides to the truth and slowing adoption. Think we just have to suck this one up…but gear up to fight fire with fire!

      • ilumin8

        If you make a false statement you know to be false, that causes harm to someone else, the victim certainly has recourse against the perpetrator. This combination is sanctioned in any civilized country and is exactly why the tobacco companies are being nailed.

        You can also be held liable for negligence, which would be the case if your false statements were seen to be incorrect due to gross carelessness in forming those statements, rather than malice, and the statements harmed someone else.

        These circumstances in no way restrict anyone’s right to state what they, backed by due care and attention, believe to be true.

        I don’t know whether Lomborg is careless or malicious, but he should be held responsible for spreading destructive rubbish. He holds himself up as a smart person, but no smart person would make the basic errors on which he bases his claims.

      • ivyespalier (Randy)

        Three points:
        Calling an idea idiotic as a reason it is bad is a logical fallacy.

        The fact that the current law doesn’t hold the media responsible doesn’t mean that the media SHOULDN’T be held responsible.

        Your example against this is also a logical fallacy. No one said that people could sue for any reason they like because of this (you can actually sue for pretty much any reason you want, doesn’t mean it will work out well). Many countries hold their media accountable, yet this issue you describe doesn’t happen in these places.

      • andrew_myers

        No fallacy…the rest of the post was the explanation why it was an idiotic idea. It’s true you can always sue. Currently such a suit would be tossed out and would certainly fail. illumin8 and Chris would like to change the laws so such a suit could succeed. My point was that such a change would violate the first amendment. It’s true that free speech protections are much weaker in many other countries. Our free speech protections protect against a host of problems. To toss them out so we don’t have to hear opinions we disagree with would be…idiotic.

  • DaveinOlyWA

    looking forward to a revised study on the true emissions of EVs. Even if using the entire lifecycle from “Mine to Refuse” I fully expect the dirtiest EV to be significantly cleaner than the cleanest Diesel. Keep in mind; battery tech is evolving constantly. The 2013 LEAF uses metals with less environmental impact. Also as EVs enter the recycling system, some of those rare metals now come back to the manufacturing process with greatly reduced footprint. Hope we can include all that in the study along with the ENTIRE emission profile associated with pumping, refining, transporting AND MAINTAINING abandoned Oil Wells (with supporting data and figures from each step)
    are considered when determining the per mile emission of the aggregate gasoline mile.

    • ivyespalier (Randy)

      What rare metals are in electric cars? Do you mean rare-earth minerals? Electric cars do not require rare earth minerals, which are not very rare. No one talks about the platinum modern ICEV require. EVs don’t need any precious metals or rare-earth metals (some vehicles use them, but they are not required or even very significant).