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Inconvenient facts about electric cars: politicians make us pay more to hurt the environment

GM has opened Canada’s first full-scale EV plant to build BrightDrop Zevo fully electric delivery vans in Ingersoll, Ont. Pictured: Marissa West, President and Managing Director, GM Canada; Prime Minister Trudeau; The Honourable Doug Ford, Ontario Premier. Photo: Ryan Bolton and Brody White for GM

“This is crazy! So, what we’ve done now

is had our energy systems designed by bureaucrats

instead of by engineers.”

–Mark Mills

On December 5th, Ontario Premier Doug Ford and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau attended the opening of General Motors of Canada’s first full-scale electric vehicle (EV) manufacturing plant in Ingersoll. With support from taxpayers, GM Canada has transformed its CAMI manufacturing plant into an all-EV manufacturing facility, “the first of its kind in Canada” as noted in Ontario’s press release.

The political event in Ingersoll follows only a few days after the airing of a slightly less enthusiastic, more in-depth look at the practicality of electric vehicles by reporter John Stossel entitled “Five inconvenient facts about electric cars that politicians don’t understand.”

The five inconvenient facts as outlined are:

  • Even if everyone drove an electric car, it would hardly make a dent in the fossil fuels we use.
  • Electric cars are not very “green.” Only 12 per cent of fuels used to charge electric cars comes from wind and solar power; the other 88 per cent is still generated by burning fossil fuels.
  • Mining requirements are massive: we must mine about 500,000 pounds of minerals and rock to obtain the materials required to manufacture one battery. It would take the world’s battery factories 400 years to build the $100 trillion dollars worth of batteries needed to heat Europe for one winter.
  • Fossil fuels are a much more efficient way to store energy than batteries: it takes a 1,000-pound battery to store as much energy stored in 80 pounds of fossil fuel.
  • When there is not enough electricity to both charge vehicles and power homes, there will be rationing.

Government’s hope that all vehicles will one day be electric is “magical thinking,” according to physicist Mark Mills of the Manhattan Institute.

“Batteries have gotten way more powerful, long lasting and affordable,” Mills agrees. “Things improve. Engineers are really good at making things better, but they can’t make them better than the laws of physics permit…batteries powerful enough to replace fossil fuels are a fantasy,” Mills explains to Stossel.

Physicist Mark Mills of the Manhattan Institute Photo: MI

EV’s barely make a dent in fuel consumption

“The world has about 15 million electric vehicles now; it could go to 300 million, maybe 500 million vehicles. That would reduce world oil consumption by about 10 per cent,” says Mills. “That’s not nothing. But it doesn’t end the use of oil for the world. Most of its used for what flying airplanes, driving buses, big trucks, the mining equipment to get the copper to build the electric cars is all oil fired.”

“I’m amazed talking to people all excited about their electric car, saying ‘I’m not polluting,” Stossel notes. “And I say, ‘Where do you get the electricity from?’

“They don’t know that most of America’s electricity comes from fossil fuels, natural gas and coal. Just 12 per cent comes from wind and solar.”

Massive mining requirements, child labour

North Americans keen to “go green” by driving an electric vehicle are also generally uninformed about the intense mining required to manufacture batteries.

“Somewhere on Earth you have to mine 500,000 pounds of minerals and rock to make one battery. Most of this mining isn’t done in the US; American regulations make it nearly impossible. So, it’s done other places, polluting those countries, and the worst ingredients and batteries are mined in places that enslave people and use child labor.” Stossel points out.

“Most Americans proudly driving electric cars don’t know about this. They just don’t want mining done near them. But wherever it’s done, mining is a dirty business that adds lots of carbon to the air.”

Consumers worried about carbon dioxide emissions probably won’t be happy to know the production of an electric vehicle results in the emission of 10 to 20 tons of carbon dioxide before it even gets to their driveway.

Fossil fuels are far more efficient than batteries

“Despite what we’ve heard, ‘greener’ electric cars are not all that green,” Stossel observes in the two-part series.  

Physicist Mills points to a study published by Volkswagen which found that for first 60,000 miles of driving an electric vehicle, that electric vehicle will have emitted more carbon dioxide than if you just drove a conventional vehicle in the first place.

“You have to own it for at least 100,000 miles” to realize the benefit, Mills says, “So it doesn’t get you a zero emissions vehicle; it’s reduced the emissions and by 20 or 30 per cent, which is not nothing, but it’s not zero.”

Politicians responsible for ensuring residents have all the electricity they need to keep lights on in homes, schools and hospitals also make impossible assumptions about batteries and the electric grid, he says:

“Batteries are really lousy at storing energy. They leak energy constantly; they don’t hold a lot. Oil begins with a huge advantage over the chemicals that are in a battery: it has about 5,000 per cent more energy in it per pound. We see this in electric cars: an electric car battery weighs 1000 pounds. It’s replacing about 80 pounds of gasoline.

“The people who imagine an energy transition would want to build windmills and solar panels to store all that energy in batteries. But if you do the arithmetic, you find out you need to build about $100 trillion worth of batteries to store the same amount of energy that Europe has in storage now for this winter. And it would take the world’s battery factories about 400 years to manufacture that many batteries. 400 years! Politicians don’t mention that.”

Electricity will need to be rationed

That leads to another problem that politicians don’t mention: competing demands for limited electricity. For example, California Governor Gavin Newsome says every car will be electric California will require all new cars sold to be zero emission vehicles.

“This plant has secured good jobs for workers, it’s positioning Canada as a leader on EVs, and it will help cut pollution. Good jobs, clean air, and a strong economy – together, that’s the future we can build,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is quoted in GM’s press release. Batteries powerful enough to replace fossil fuels are a fantasy,” says Physicist Mark Mills.
Photo: Ryan Bolton and Brody White for GM

“If that were somehow to happen, that means a lot more electric vehicles drawing power from the grid, but the grid is already limited. Roughly speaking, you have to double your electric grid to move the energy out of gasoline into the electric sector. No one is planning to double the electric grid in California. So, there’ll be rationing,” Mills predicts.

“When there isn’t enough electricity, cities will simply turn some of the power off. That’s inconvenient fact five, we just don’t have enough electricity for all electric cars. And we’ll have even less of it if we try to get all our electricity from renewable energy like wind and solar.”

President Biden has stated that the United States will achieve a carbon-pollution free electric sector by the year 2035 – “and gullible media believe it. It’s amazing that all these smart people and supposed leaders say these things.

“It really has been at an extraordinary accomplishment, the propaganda. And there’s no other word for it. It’s almost infantile. It’s really distressing, because it’s so silly.”

Because even if engineers invent much better wind turbines, and solar panels and power lines and batteries, says Mills “you’re still drilling things, you’re still digging up stuff, you’re still building machines that were out. We’re still driving big trucks, whether you’re drilling a well, or building a wind turbine. It’s all the same, really. It’s just big machines to make lots of energy for humanity. It’s not magical transformation. In many respects, the parts that are different are worse. Unfortunately.

“The politicians are making us pay more to do things that hurt the environment. Europe is going back to coal, burning coal in homes and open stoves, because they’re so afraid they’re going to freeze this winter.

“This is crazy! So, what we’ve done now is had our energy systems designed by bureaucrats instead of by engineers. What we’re getting is worse energy, more expensive energy, higher environmental impacts.

“There’ll be lots more electric cars in the future. And there should be because that’ll reduce demand for oil, which is a good thing. But when you do the math, the arithmetic on the scales of demand to operate a society with billions of people with five or six billion people who are living in poverty, we can’t imagine when you want to give them a little bit of what we have the energy demands are off the charts big. We’re going to need everything. Everything includes fossil fuel.”