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Lying Liars & The Lies They Tell About Electric Cars

Researchers at Yale refute claims that supply chain emissions cancel out the environmental benefits of driving electric cars.

Electric cars are popping up everywhere. In 2012, the Tesla Model S and Nissan LEAF were curiosities. Today, the US marketplace is brimming with EVs from Ford, Volkswagen, Hyundai, Kia, and Volvo, with GM and Nissan set to join the party later this year. In China, there are more electric car brands and models than you can shake a stick at and in Europe, PSA Group and Stellantis offer more electric car models. Even Toyota appears poised to drop its hydrogen fuel cell plans and hop on the EV bandwagon — at long last.

The more electric cars come to market, the more the people who stand to be the biggest losers from the EV revolution (that would be the oil companies) are ramping up their attacks on them. The latest tactic is to claim the emissions associated with mining the materials needed to make EV batteries are so huge that any claim about them being environmentally friendly is false.

In Australia, the federal government has been shrieking about how electric cars will ruin the weekend for Australian families because they can’t drive very far and can’t tow things like boats and caravans. The despicable ScoMo and his henchmen are warning Aussies that EVs mean the end of their beloved utes  — which is basically how you say “pickup truck” in Australian. Are any of these lies accurate? Let’s take a look.

The EV Supply Chain Emissions Lie

Research conducted by the Yale School of Environment and published recently in the journal Nature Communications addressed the claim that when supply chain emissions for electric cars and emissions from generating electricity to power them are combined, the environmental advantages of electric vehicles disappear. In fact, the detractors argue, EVs are actually worse for the environment than internal combustion vehicles!

How can that be? Well, EV batteries require a lot of nickel, lithium, and cobalt. More EVs means more mining and we all know mining is a dirty business. More mining means more emissions, right? Not only that, electric cars need electricity (there’s a shocker, huh?) and a lot of electricity comes from burning coal, so more electricity means more emissions. It’s as plain as the face on your nose!

Those are the sorts of claims the Yale researchers dug into. Here’s what they found. “The surprising element was how much lower the emissions of electric vehicles were,” says postdoctoral associate Stephanie Weber. “The supply chain for combustion vehicles is just so dirty that electric vehicles can’t surpass them, even when you factor in indirect emissions.”

The research team combined concepts from energy economics and industrial ecology — carbon pricing, life cycle assessment, and modeling energy systems — to find if carbon emissions were still reduced when indirect emissions from the electric vehicle supply chain were factored in.

“A major concern about electric vehicles is that the supply chain, including the mining and processing of raw materials and the manufacturing of batteries, is far from clean,” says Yale economics professor Ken Gillingham. “So, if we priced the carbon embodied in these processes, the expectation is electric vehicles would be exorbitantly expensive. It turns out that’s not the case. If you level the playing field by also pricing the carbon in the fossil fuel vehicle supply chain, electric vehicle sales would actually increase.” Not surprisingly, the researchers found that the more the electrical grid is decarbonized, the greater the advantage EVs have over conventional cars.

The research team gathered data using a National Energy Modeling System created by the Energy Information Administration, which models the entire US energy system. According to lead researcher Paul Wolfram, “The elephant in the room is the supply chain of fossil fuel-powered vehicles, not that of electric vehicles.” He adds that the faster we switch to electric vehicles, the better, especially in countries with a significant supply of renewable electricity such as the U.S. The researchers conclude:

“While it is expected that direct emissions of BEVs are lower than those of ICEVs, it is surprising that in fact non–tailpipe emissions are also lower. This sheds new light on the current public debate about ‘dirty’ batteries and electricity. In fact, the simultaneous reduction of both direct and indirect emissions indicates a win–win situation for climate change mitigation, meaning that climate policy with very high shares of BEVs represents a no–regrets strategy in terms of emissions (but only if electricity continues to decarbonize as has been assumed in our main scenarios).”

Fossil fuel apologists are always yapping about what they want is a level playing field. But they never talk about the massive damage extracting oil and methane does to the Earth, the trillions in direct and indirect subsidies they get from governments around the world every year, or the egregious impact the use of their products has on human health. In other words, the last thing they want is a level playing field where all the facts are known so people and governments can make rational decisions.

In simplest terms, they lie through their teeth because they want to protect their massive profits regardless of the cost to society. It’s a “heads we win, tails you lose” strategy designed to throw sand in the gears of change in order to preserve their planet-killing business practices for as long as possible. These people should be in jail for crimes against humanity, not rewarded with a fat bonus for destroying the Earth.

We “Ruined The Weekend” Movement In Australia

Speaking of crimes against humanity, Australia’s prime minister Scott Morrison and his evil band of underlings are among the worst offenders. According to The Driven, in 2019, ScoMo and his band came up with a gigantic lie to counter an initiative by the Labor party to support the EV revolution. They screamed that EVs would “ruin the weekend” for many because electric cars have a short range and require hours and hours to recharge. They also suggested the EV movement would spell the end of the utes Australians depend on to earn a living. Telling an Aussie the government is coming for his ute is like telling someone in northern Idaho the government is coming for his bazooka. It’s a visceral appeal that strikes at the heart of his testosterone fueled concept of what it means to be a man.

Humans are interesting characters, though. Australian EV drivers have taken Morrison’s words and flung them back in his face, posting online about how their adventures all across the country in their EVs have “ruined their weekend” — over and over again. One intrepid EVer even posted that his EV “ruined” his entire vacation week as he traipsed merrily from one holiday destination to another. An “I Ruined The Weekend” Facebook page now has over 500 members who share their electric car exploits online.

After a 1000-kilometer trek along the coast in Western Australia in her Tesla Model 3, Katrin Swindell posted,

“Another weekend ruined, driving a total of 980km for a night in Bremer Bay which was overcast but beautiful. 2 charging stops each way at the Williams Tesla fast charger and the Katanning visitors center charger which gave us time for brunch/lunch and then a pot of tea/coffee and a chance to stretch our legs. I can confirm that the battery has better range than my bladder 🥺. Total cost of charging was $18 at Katanning, rest was free. Bremer Bay Resort provides free Tesla charging and we still have Tesla charging credits we are using at the fast chargers.”

Jay Smith posted, “Why ruin the weekend when you can ruin a whole week?! Great to test out some of the new public EV fast chargers between Mildura and Melbourne last week.Aussies have an amazing sense of humor. Perhaps in the next election they will get the last laugh on the repugnant Morrison and sweep him and his entourage into history’s dustbin where they belong.

The Takeaway

It is sad to think that some small minded people would actually spend precious time attacking electric vehicles, but it just goes to show if you pay people enough, they will say anything. Truth is of no concern to these lowlifes. But if you read CleanTechnica, you have been inoculated against such poison. Go forth! Spread the word! Driving an electric car is normal, it’s fun, it’s socially responsible, and it’s going mainstream faster than anyone ever thought possible a decade ago. Drive electric. Be happy!

 
 
 
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Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Florida or anywhere else The Force may lead him. 3000 years ago, Socrates said, "The secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new." Perhaps it's time we listened?

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