No Surprise: Climate Denier John Stossel Spreads Disinformation about EVs

November 9, 2022

Kind of fun that a self-described young libertarian conservative takes on grumpy old Fox News favorite John Stossel over a recent predictably execrable video attack on EVs.

The video refers to a Reuters article on the topic, linked below.


Reuters plugged a series of variables into the Argonne model, which had more than 43,000 users as of 2021, to come up with some answers.

The Tesla 3 scenario above was for driving in the United States, where 23% of electricity comes from coal-fired plants, with a 54 kilowatt-hour (kWh) battery and a cathode made of nickel, cobalt and aluminum, among other variables

It was up against a gasoline-fueled Toyota Corolla weighing 2,955 pounds with a fuel efficiency of 33 miles per gallon. It was assumed both vehicles would travel 173,151 miles during their lifetimes.

But if the same Tesla was being driven in Norway, which generates almost all its electricity from renewable hydropower, the break-even point would come after just 8,400 miles.

If the electricity to recharge the EV comes entirely from coal, which generates the majority of the power in countries such as China and Poland, you would have to drive 78,700 miles to reach carbon parity with the Corolla, according to the Reuters analysis of data generated by Argonne’s model.

The Reuters analysis showed that the production of a mid-sized EV saloon generates 47 grams of carbon dioxide (CO2) per mile during the extraction and production process, or more than 8.1 million grams before it reaches the first customer.

By comparison, a similar gasoline vehicle generates 32 grams per mile, or more than 5.5 million grams.

Michael Wang, senior scientist and director of the Systems Assessment Center at Argonne’s Energy Systems division, said EVs then generally emit far less carbon over a 12-year lifespan.

Even in the worst case scenario where an EV is charged only from a coal-fired grid, it would generate an extra 4.1 million grams of carbon a year while a comparable gasoline car would produce over 4.6 million grams, the Reuters analysis showed.

(note: if we understand that EVs may in fact have half million mile life spans due to the low number of moving parts and ease of maintenance, then it’s even better)

The EPA told Reuters it uses GREET to help evaluate standards for renewable fuel and vehicle greenhouse gases while the California Air Resources Board uses the model to help assess compliance with the state’s low-carbon fuel standard.

The EPA said it also used Argonne’s GREET to develop an online program that allows U.S. consumers to estimate the emissions from EVs based on the fuels used to generate electric power in their area.

The results of the Reuters analysis are similar to those in a life-cycle assessment of electric and combustion-engine vehicles in Europe by research group IHS Markit.

Its “well-to-wheel” study showed the typical break-even point in carbon emissions for EVs was about 15,000 to 20,000 miles, depending on the country, according to Vijay Subramanian, IHS Markit’s global director of carbon dioxide (CO2) compliance.

He said using such an approach showed there were long-term benefits from shifting to electric vehicles.


13 Responses to “No Surprise: Climate Denier John Stossel Spreads Disinformation about EVs”

  1. The guy in the video makes a huge error at nine minutes in. He has a graph of capacities and he talks about new production.

    • rhymeswithgoalie Says:

      I think he was remarking on the rate of change. That is, the addition of RE power sources to the grid gradually but monotonically “improve” the green-ness of the EV.

  2. mboli Says:

    Didn’t Stossel sue Facebook or Youtube or something because they fact-checked his climate videos and labeled them?

    What ever happened with that?

  3. rhymeswithgoalie Says:

    The GHG burden of ICE vehicles is also worse if electricity produced by FF is used to refine gasoline, and the gasoline itself is delivered by ICE tanker trucks to assorted filling stations. (Massive molecules require a lot more energy to move around.)

    Eight years old but the points still stand:

    • ubrew12 Says:

      No, you’re wrong. Gasoline jumps out of the ground, fully refined, in Saudi Arabia, and into your gas tank, in Paducah, Kentucky, without further release of carbon dioxide. Everyone in Faux-New’s-Land understands that (/s).

  4. John Oneill Says:

    I’ve seen plausible calculations that plug-in-hybrids can give both lower emissions in production than a pure EV, since the battery is much smaller, and much lower tailpipe emissions than a straight internal combustion vehicle, since for everyday commuting the battery will suffice. The IC engine can be tuned purely for economical running, since the electric motor can cut in for hills and overtaking, and recharge the battery during braking. If battery production is a bottleneck for EV rollout, you can equip five PHEVs with the same battery capacity as one EV. The vehicle’s weight should also be considerably less. Queueing at charging stations on long trips, overtaxing grid capacity to power them, and range anxiety, are also avoided. Finally, we’ll probably need synthetic fuels eventually for some purposes, and the PHEV could transition to those.

    • gmrmt Says:

      Hybrids. The road not taken.
      I still think there’s a valid market for them especially as charging station capacity will be chasing EV adoption for at least a decade or two.

  5. Anthony O'Brien Says:

    My Bicycle, even with the occasional Uber, is way better than either the EV or the Corolla.

    But with a bit of smart wiring, get a professional, your EV can act as your house battery shifting consumption from peak power to off peak power. This, in some countries, would give you a much quicker return on investment than the EV savings on petrol (gas for you on the other side of the world).

  6. J4Zonian Says:

    I posted the first in this series twice but don’t see it.

    More cobalt is used for…….oil refining! than for all batteries.

    The video tries but fails to put things in perspective—not enough research, or afraid to put too many numbers in? Mining in the world is overwhelmingly fossil and fissile fuels, what’s left is overwhelmingly non RE&EV use. As we switch to minerals mining rather than fuels, the amount of material needed and recycling means mining will drastically decrease.

    David Roberts’ series on minerals on Canary media:
    What you need to know about minerals and the clean energy transition
    Here are the minerals we need for batteries, solar and other clean energy tech
    Mineral security and implications for the energy transition
    Can the US take the lead on cleaner lithium production?

    The EPA estimates that 40% of the West’s headwater watersheds have been polluted by mining.

  7. J4Zonian Says:

    States and countries with more EVs tend to have cleaner grids. (Norway’s 98% RE grid & 87% EV market share, Iceland, 100% RE grid, ~50% EV market share. New York, California, Vermont…

    ⅓ of US EV owners have solar panels; in Europe it’s ½. For those who don’t, charging at night increasingly means RE is what’s supplying the charge; it’s the first choice for generation then because demand is low, and only the cheapest sources are running—IOW, RE. As workplace and shopping parking lots and fleet impoundments are covered with solar roofs for EV charging and onsite battery storage, rain collection and storage, comfort, and increasingly, safety, the times the vast majority of EVs are charged will become 100% RE quickly.

    Stossel is a lying psychopath who over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over has spread the standard right wing deceptions. There’s no reason to pay the slightest bit of attention to this waste of airtime and human flesh.

    potholer54 debunking bjorn mcborgerson. Even he misses a few things but does his typical excellent job.

  8. J4Zonian Says:

    Even coal-powered EVs are better than ICEVs. See Union of Concerned Scientists’ series of reports on EVs and grids.

    Private EVs should be the last resort. Rail is 80% more efficient, and high speed rail, though maybe not 80%, is far more efficient & ecological than individual vehicles and needs no batteries. Rail combined with first & last mile EVs should be standard for freight, and for passengers where local and regional transit isn’t available. But private EVs can’t be separated from public and industrial EVs because R&D&D, supply chains and other connections bind them. Last I checked, 98% of the world’s 500,000 EV buses were Chinese. They also seem to have whole cities running on EV trash trucks, fire trucks, ambulances, and everything else. The US also has about 500,000 buses, virtually every one a “rolling cancer machine” spewing greenhouse gases. Oshkosh made a big deal about having an EV firetruck a few years ago.

    Pretty much every kind of vehicle now comes in an electric version—refrigerator trucks, logging and mining vehicles, backhoes, tractors, cranes, combines… The more processes get converted the faster EV carbon and energy paybacks will be. They’re better vehicles in every way: quieter, healthier; no fumes, cheaper to run (half to one eighth the fuel cost, longer life, less maintenance…)

    100% EVs? Not decades out. I’m so thankful for Peter’s introducing Tony Seba. His mind-blowing first videos (8 min or 1 hr) both cover the 13 year apparent shift from 1% cars to 99% cars, at least in NYC. Now, with a change that’s necessary, urgent, and helped by forward-thinking governments, we can do it much faster. As David Roberts points out, software revolutions happen faster than hardware ones.

    “Energy transitions are usually slow. Here’s why the clean energy transition might be faster.”
    Energy is becoming a software business.
    Vox, Dec 19, 2018

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