Comment Of The Day: “Electric Cars And The Following The Science” Lie

Come to Ethics Alarms for the mile-wide and inch deep reflections of the ethicist, stay for the enhancement, perspective and enlightening analysis by the readers who know what they are writing about.

Sarah B.’s superb Comment of the Day needs no more introduction, and besides, don’t read me on this topic when you should be reading her.

Here is her COTD on the post,”Electric Cars And The “Following The Science” Lie.”


First, anyone who says “follow the science” has forgotten what science means. Science is a process that states a method for determining the most likely reason for something. Science requires us to observe a phenomenon, hypothesize about the phenomenon, posit a fair test of the hypothesis, complete the test several times with the same inputs, and compare the results of the tests with the observed phenomenon. The better correlated the test with reality, the better the hypothesis and the more likely it is to be true. Conversely, if you cannot replicate your test or your test or your test does not correlate well with reality, it is either time to scrap the test or the hypothesis.

Anthropogenic climate change is not science by the centuries old definition. The tests are mostly unable to be replicated, and the results have been proven false, time and again. To follow the science, it is time to scrap that hypothesis and move on.

Second, I was amazed to see such low requirements for electric cars to validate their “green” existence. Most studies I have read on this subject put the threshold far closer to 100,000 miles before even coming close. The best I have seen before this one puts us nearer to 75,000 miles than 25,000 miles.

Third, this study only deals with the formulation of the battery. If one considers where we are getting the energy, and as other commenters have noted, solar and wind are not nearly so clean as you would like to think. Heck, think of all the chemicals that need to go into making those panels, even though they cannot give us power 24/7/365 like burning fossil fuels. Life cycle analyses on electric cars, considering batteries, electricity, grid concerns, etc tend to push them to obscene mileage, well above expected battery life. In this instance, they are not unlike windmills, with an expected 30 year life and a 37-52 year payback period, sans government intervention.

Fourth, no one bothers, when discussing electric vehicle, to discuss the basic laws of thermodynamics. These laws are just like the laws of gravity, not caring whether or not you like them. They don’t care what is fair. They don’t care what is socially acceptable. They don’t care if they inconvenience some more than others, because if you are too stupid to get on the wrong side of these laws, you will pay the price. So, thermodynamics state that whenever one transforms matter to energy, or energy to another type of energy, or energy to matter, that there will be a loss in total energy. To take a simple example, we get most electricity by burning coal. The rock is in the ground. We have to spend energy to get it out of the ground and pulverized. Now we’ll start into some of the math. Coal is burned. The gas is used to make steam, the steam is used to turn a turbine that makes electricity. The gas is cleaned. This process has a maximum theoretical efficiency of around 45%. Most of the power plants run at about 33% because theoretical efficiency is not anywhere close to real world possiblity. So for every 100 units of energy the coal gives off, you get 33%.

Let’s now get some minor math happening for electric cars. I’m going to skip the big equations and use easily available numbers from reputable sites. For this exercise, we are going to assume that preparing coal for electric generation uses the same amount of energy as preparing gasoline for car consumption, as gasoline and coal are equivalent primary sources, but electricity is not a primary energy source unless you are hooking up your power lines to silk kites. Now, a car that gets gasoline loses 64-75% on inefficiencies and powering auxiliaries. So a car that was given 100 units of power from gasoline gets 25 units of power when all is said and done, with the WORST assumptions on gasoline cars. Continue reading

KABOOM! From The “NOW You Tell Us???” Files: There Are Huge Environmental Problems With Electric Cars


I think what really made my head explode this time was that I was so stupid as to not see this one coming. I so, so want to be able to trust scientists, the news media and the government. They got me again.

From the New York Times, not Fox News or Breitbart:

Atop a long-dormant volcano in northern Nevada, workers are preparing to start blasting and digging out a giant pit that will serve as the first new large-scale lithium mine in the United States in more than a decade — a new domestic supply of an essential ingredient in electric car batteries and renewable energy. But the project, known as Lithium Americas, has drawn protests from members of a Native American tribe, ranchers and environmental groups because it is expected to use billions of gallons of precious ground water, potentially contaminating some of it for 300 years, while leaving behind a giant mound of waste….Lithium is used in electric car batteries because it is lightweight, can store lots of energy and can be repeatedly recharged. Other ingredients like cobalt are needed to keep the battery stable.But production of raw materials like lithium, cobalt and nickel that are essential to these technologies are often ruinous to land, water, wildlife and people…Mining is one of the dirtiest businesses out there.That environmental toll has often been overlooked in part because there is a race underway among the United States, China, Europe and other major powers. Echoing past contests and wars over gold and oil, governments are fighting for supremacy over minerals that could help countries achieve economic and technological dominance for decades to come….

“Our new clean-energy demands could be creating greater harm, even though its intention is to do good,” said Aimee Boulanger, executive director for the Initiative for Responsible Mining Assurance, a group that vets mines for companies like BMW and Ford Motor. “We can’t allow that to happen.”

Because it is the Times, and it will always do its utmost to bury a lede if it might harm the agenda of its Dark Leftist Masters, the headline is “The Lithium Gold Rush: Inside the Race to Power Electric Vehicles” and the story is buried in the arcane Business section. If the newspaper were fair and honest, the headline would be, “The Frightening Truth About Electric Cars And How We Have Been Lied to About Their Environmental Effects.”

Continue reading

Picking Through The Wreckage of An Ethics Tesla Wreck

The wreck participants. Not pictured: the Tesla.

The wreck participants. Not pictured: the Tesla.

There was questionable ethical conduct galore in the recently-stilled ethics wreck sparked by a New York Times review of the new Tesla electric car, the Model S. Times reporter John Broder test drove the car from Washington, D.C., to Boston, using the  charging stations Tesla has opened along the way.  Broder’s Tesla ran out of juice, and the article concluded with a sad photo of the highly-anticipated Model S  on a tow truck. In short, it was not a positive review.

In response to the review, Tesla’s CEO Elon Musk called it a “fake” on Twitter, then wrote a rebuttal using the data logs of the vehicle Broder tested. Broder wrote a rebuttal to the rebuttal, and eventually the Times “public editor” (others would call her its ombudsman), Margaret Sullivan, was drawn into the battle, performing an investigation and concluding that…

“…I am convinced that [Broder]  took on the test drive in good faith, and told the story as he experienced it. Did he use good judgment along the way? Not especially. In particular, decisions he made at a crucial juncture – when he recharged the Model S in Norwich, Conn., a stop forced by the unexpected loss of charge overnight – were certainly instrumental in this saga’s high-drama ending. In addition, Mr. Broder left himself open to valid criticism by taking what seem to be casual and imprecise notes along the journey, unaware that his every move was being monitored. A little red notebook in the front seat is no match for digitally recorded driving logs, which Mr. Musk has used, in the most damaging (and sometimes quite misleading) ways possible, as he defended his vehicle’s reputation…People will go on contesting these points – and insisting that they know what they prove — and that’s understandable. In the matter of the Tesla Model S and its now infamous test drive, there is still plenty to argue about and few conclusions that are unassailable.”

Perhaps realizing that his vigorous defense of his car had triggered the Streisand Effect, Musk took to Twitter again, this time saying that the ombudsmadam’s article was “thoughtful” and that his faith in the Times was hereby restored. This put a nicely disingenuous spin on the whole episode.

Here is the final ethics tally: Continue reading