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Gossip, Carbon Emissions, & Electric Cars: Deliberate Disinformation Goes Viral

The internet has the ability to bring the brain power of all human beings together to devise ways of making our civilization better. In theory, it could be the way to force changes in government that would limit the power of tyrants.

In reality, the simple “like” button created by Mark Zuckerberg — without a similar “dislike” button — has created a monstrous perversion in which unfiltered gossip substitutes for wisdom, a development that has virtually destroyed our ability to engage in critical thinking. If concerted action to address an overheating planet fails to materialize, it will probably be because the idea didn’t get enough likes on Fakebook.

Recently, a Fakebook post appeared that showed two identical cars, one a diesel spewing a cloud of sooty smoke from its tailpipe and the other an electric car running on electricity generated by coal-fired facilities shooting clouds of sooty smoke into the air. The caption reads, “Manufacturing the battery for one electric car produces the same amount of carbon dioxide as running a petrol car for eight years.” As with everything on Fakebook, the source of that claim is not revealed. All that matters is that someone posted it and others “liked” it. And so now people are spreading that lie to their family and friends.

PolitiFact decided to delve into this claim a bit and decided it is “mostly false.” Why mostly? Because, as should be intuitively obvious to the most casual observer, every manufacturing process creates carbon emissions, even making batteries and assembling cars. There are emissions associated with the production of steel, aluminum, copper, glass, and tires. There are even emissions associated with making that “vegan leather” that is so popular right now.

PolitiFact contacted Zeke Hausfather, director of climate and energy at the Breakthrough Institute, for clarification about the claim that manufacturing a battery creates as many emissions as driving a gasoline powered car for 8 years. He responded by saying that producing a 75 kilowatt-hour battery for a Tesla Model 3 results in 4,500 kilograms of carbon dioxide if it is made at the Gigafactory in Nevada. That’s equivalent to driving a gasoline-powered sedan for 1.4 years at a yearly average distance of 12,000 miles.

If the same battery is made in Asia, manufacturing it would produce 7,500 kilograms of carbon dioxide, equivalent to driving a gasoline powered sedan for 2.4 years. That is nowhere near the 8 years claimed by that cartoon on Fakebook. The larger emission amount in Asia can be attributed to its “higher carbon electricity mix,” which relies more on coal for energy production than the electrical supply in Nevada.

“More than half the emissions associated with manufacturing the battery are associated with electricity use,” Hausfather said in an email to PolitiFact. “So, as the electricity grid decarbonizes, emissions associated with battery production will decline. The same is not true for sedan tailpipe emissions.”

PolitiFact notes that the Fakebook post does not mention the carbon emissions associated with the electricity used to build conventional cars. That post also omits the fact that the emissions created during battery manufacture are offset over a short period of time by zero tailpipe emissions during operation. There is no gasoline or diesel-powered vehicle on the face of the Earth that offsets any of the emissions associated with its manufacture.

Lying Liars & The Lies They Tell

Most of what PolitiFact found when it investigated the claims made by that Fakebook post will come as no surprise to CleanTechnica readers. But the pernicious effect of such lies cannot be downplayed. I recently had dinner with an educated man who has a Ph.D in economics. During our conversation, he asked about my LEAF and said he heard electric cars were not very clean because the electricity needed to charge them comes from burning coal. So this sort of deliberate disinformation gets around to people at…

Read More: Gossip, Carbon Emissions, & Electric Cars: Deliberate Disinformation Goes Viral

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