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June 22, 2012


I am not much of an environmental activist even though I recycle and try not to be wasteful or use much plastic, etc., but I buy manufactured products that end up in landfills when they wear out or break. Sometimes I buy new stuff to replace old stuff that could be fixed, like a car or a computer or a blender.

I like the idea of electric cars because they are clean running and quiet even though I may not hear one coming and be sent flying 82 ft. with a broken pelvis. However, the energy to build and run them has to come from somewhere so I don't think they really do anything significant to resolve the problems associated with producing energy and certainly not the polluting debris which is the byproduct of manufacturing and, eventually, disposing of them.

I think you and your wife have the right to enjoy whatever cars and as many cars as you like. But as environmentally oriented folks I don't see where you think buying all these new cars helps the environment. Maybe I am wrong in assuming that is part of your motivation for buying them.

As I have said before a lot of energy, plastic, copper, aluminum and steel go into building each of these cars.

Plastic is a real bummer because it does not bio-degrade. It just breaks down into smaller particles. A blob of plastic the size of Texas is floating in the North Pacific. If one is a true environmentalist, plastic is something to be avoided. This is harder to do than to avoid wheat if you are gluten intolerant or lard in the beans if you are a strict vegetarian.

How much plastic is in the Chevy Volt, the Nissan Leaf, the Prius, the hybrid SUV, the Mini Cooper, the scooter?

I have a friend, as I have mentioned before, who drives a 1976 Chevy Suburban. Even though the thing is a pig and gets 7-8 mpg I say he is an environmentalist by keeping one car going for all these years without getting a new one or buying others.

What if we passed a law that you only get one car to last you a lifetime sort of like China where you only get one child?

tucson, life cycle analysis is complicated and fairly controversial. But it looks like electric cars, plug-in hybrids, and hybrids have less carbon emissions than gasoline cars, even considering the more carbon intensive production "costs" of non-traditional cars. See:

When we sold our Leaf, it went to someone else who will use it, replacing driving trips in a much less efficient vehicle. By and large, improving energy efficiency makes good financial sense.

It may take a while to recoup investment in insulation, solar panels, and the like, but the way I see it, the Earth's environment will be around a long time -- the only question is whether we humans screw it up beyond the point of fixing.

Keep in mind that the Volt is not an electric car. It's a plug-in hybrid. You can thank GM marketing for convincing people that they've bought an electric car.

I note also that you are using more gasoline than you did with the Leaf ...a small compromise for your anxiety.

Did you consider the Toyota plug-in? It gets far better gas mileage in hybrid mode than the Volt (50 verses 35 mpg)?

Another way to eliminate your range anxiety would be to tow an extra Mini Cooper with a Leaf. Sure, all that extra weight would reduce efficiency, and it would cost a lot more, and when the Cooper tows the Leaf it will also get poor energy mileage.

I'm being factitious.

I recently experienced range anxiety in my Yaris when I hit the highway and realized my kid had left me with an empty tank. I had to exit to find a station ...ahhh anxiety relief.


I own a Leaf and experience range anxiety about twice a year, which is about the same as with an ordinary car when your gauge has been on empty for one day too long.

I get range anxiety even with a gasoline powered car that gets 26 mpg with a 20 gallon tank. At some point all cars get down to empty...Oh shit! I forgot to keep track of the fuel gauge! How far is the next town?

Remember Brian, that someone who bought your Leaf is replacing their car which got sold to someone and eventually some car down the line ends up at the dump. Some of it will get recycled while the rest goes into the landfill and the environment.

I think it would be good if all cars on the road today magically converted into clean burning hybrid/electric/solar/biofuel cars, but since that's not going to happen it will take many years of manufacturing the new cars as they gradually replace the old ones. Carbon emissions will continue to be produced into the forseeable future from these vehicles and the auto industry. Surely global warming will have had its way with us long before we get a handle on things. I guess we can try.

If we want to save the world this manufacturing/consumption/consumer economic paradigm has to come full stop while a super virus kills off 90% of humanity. Our standard of living has to go back 150 years or more. Really, we should have stayed with spears and fur suits.

By the way, I have never understood why methane does not get more attention as an energy source. It burns clean and we have an endless supply of sewage to make it from.

Since you guys are talking ‘range anxiety’ here’s an entertaining Volt ad: http://gm-volt.com/2012/05/28/volt-solves-zombie-anxiety/

As far as EV’s like the Leaf are concerned, the range issue absolutely means they make no sense environmentally. Of course there are niche exceptions, but range anxiety means more often than not a Leaf owner will require a second car with an ICE internal combustion engine as a backup. Even if only half of all Leaf owners require a backup car, that means for every 1000 Leafs manufactured, 500 gasoline/diesel cars must be manufactured as well. Said another way, each Leaf actually leaves the factory floor with a carbon footprint sized at half one ICE car’s life-cycle footprint. There’s no way a Leaf crawls out of that carbon footprint before it becomes obsolete, let alone before it has a chance to begin gnawing away at its own lifecycle carbon footprint.

Car makers don’t design cars for altruistic environmental reasons. Like any profit center, their motive is to sense and fulfill public demand ahead of their competitor and then to keep on fulfilling it until the public decides it wants something else. Like all engineers, Nissan engineers are trained to understand life-cycle cost-benefit analysis at the design stage and know all about the Leaf’s oversized carbon footprint. Meanwhile the guys at the Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership pretend not to, and the guys in Nissan sales and marketing hope for a good long time that you never will.

Big Oil

DJ, most Leaf owners likely have a second car for longer trips. So they aren't buying a regular car after they get a Leaf. The Leaf is a replacement for driving trips of 80 miles or less -- which is the majority of most daily driving. Thus the Leaf extends the lifespan of a regular car, because it isn't driven nearly as much after a Leaf is bought. So your argument is flawed.

As noted in a link above, electric and hybrid cars have a smaller life cycle carbon footprint than regular cars, so you're wrong about that as well. See:

Plug-in cars like the Volt can be a entirely viable single car for a person or family. Most of the time they are driven on battery power, producing much less carbon emissions (only from non-renewable electricity sources) and zero tailpipe emissions. So electric cars, either fully or partial electric, are a big benefit for the environment.

Brian, you’re flunking your engineering econ mini-course. Your argument is a shell game (“Thus the Leaf extends the lifespan of a regular car, because it isn't driven nearly as much after a Leaf is bought.”). ANY car purchased would extend the lifespan of a car one already owns…so that’s not an advantage unique to the Leaf. Thus an engineer making a cost-benefit analysis would not count that as a benefit of the Leaf over a gas car (or over a Volt …the backup car factor means the Leaf IS NOT on par footprint-wise with the Volt either).

In fact, retention of the existing (second) car DOES count against the carbon footprint of a Leaf purchase compared to an ICE gas/diesel car purchase. Keeping that car ultimately means somewhere else in the new/used car supply chain another car has to roll off the production line (see: cash for clunkers). In contrast, most gas car buyers will trade in or sell their existing car. Taken in the aggregate that means reduced demand for new car production and fewer overall cars on the planet.

I better stop there before someone gets the impression I think carbon footprints actually matter.

Big Oil

DJ, however you try to spin it, the fact remains that electric and hybrid cars have a lesser carbon footprint than regular cars. That's good for the environment. No doubt about it.

Each electric car in use reduces the burning of fossil fuels, which life cycle studies show more than offsets the "carbon cost" of battery manufacture, and such.

Do you really think that sophisticated environmental groups are so clueless they would be advocating a technology that produces MORE carbon pollution? Get real.

Electric car advocates aren't like Fox News viewers: they think for themselves, respect science, and study facts.

“Electric car advocates…respect science.” This statement speaks volumes on the misunderstanding of what science really is. Advocates by definition are impassioned promoters of an agenda or vested interest. Real scientists by definition are impartial and dispassionate, neutral and indifferent. They go where the science leads.

Engineers, likewise, are paid to be impartial. I’ve done many engineering feasibility studies… the lifecycle CO2 emissions comparison below is really just a very basic capital equipment feasibility study that anyone should be able to do on the back of a Starbucks napkin.

As you said, Brian – stop and think this through for yourself. Do you realize you’re arguing that a Volt is no better than a Leaf paired with a backup car? Do you really believe the Volt’s onboard backup gas engine is not an environmentally superior approach compared to the Leaf’s backup gas engine – which requires an entirely separate automobile to house it?!

The bottom line is that the UK lifecycle study says the Volt (19 tons CO2) is no better than the Leaf (19 tons CO2) when either is compared to a gasoline car (24 tons CO2). The only way they can make that claim is by accounting for the Volt’s backup gas engine emissions while completely ignoring the Leaf’s backup gas car emissions. The question they fail to ask is – how many tons does that backup car add to the Leaf?

Let’s find out by doing the math for the average Leaf owner. We’ve both already agreed that most (say, 80 percent) but not all Leaf owners keep a gas powered backup car. Let’s also use an 80/20 model and say 80% of the miles driven are by the Leaf. Let’s assume the Leaf increases the lifespan of the gas car by 50% (i.e.: from 10 years to 15 years…a very generous assumption since the UK study is for car lifetime mileage of just 93,200 miles)…we will thus offset the B/U gas car’s production emissions by half.

From the UK study we have:

Standard Car production emissions = 5.6 tons CO2

Standard Car operating emissions = 18.4 tons CO2

Leaf Lifecycle Emissions UK study = 19 tons CO2 (w/o backup car)

First let’s calculate average backup car emissions per Leaf:

B/U Car emissions = (Std Car prod em) x (0.5) + (Std Car op em) x (0.2)

B/U Car emissions = (5.6 tons) x (0.5) + (18.4 tons) x (0.2) = 6.48 tons CO2 per Leaf

So, calculating Leaf lifecycle emissions including backup car we have:

Leaf Lifecycle Emissions UK + B/U Car emissions = 19 + 6.48 = 25.5 tons CO2

RESULT: 25.5 tons CO2 lifecycle emissions for average Leaf owner compared to 24 tons for a standard gasoline vehicle and 19 tons for a Volt.

Clearly the math shows that the only environmentally beneficial reason to own a Leaf is if one can do so without pairing it with a backup gas car. Leaf owners who purchased for environmental reasons but who also own a gas backup car are being duped.

Big Oil

DJ, per usual, your logic is flawed. Just what I'd expect from someone who rejects science and the reality of global warming.

If an electric car owner uses it 80% of the time, this would extend the lifespan of their regular car by quite a bit more than 50%. After all, the gasoline powered car is only going to accumulate 1/5 of the miles it would have prior to the electric car coming along.

So if someone drives a total of 15,000 miles a year, upon getting an electric car his/her gasoline car will be driven only 3,000 miles a year. These days cars can be driven for at least 150,000 miles (more like 200,000 actually).

Instead of replacing the gasoline car in ten years, it can be driven a very long time: 150,000 divided by 3,000 is 50 years. So the lifetime of a gasoline car is much extended, along with the reduction in carbon emissions.

Keep on trying to deny both global warming and the environmental benefits of electric cars. You won't succeed, because reality is more powerful than your fantasies.

Brian, average car lifespan is currently under 10 years. To presume that the AVERAGE electric car owner will suddenly begin to keep their second car (the one they take their LONGER trips in) for 20 years or more is certainly not a feasible assumption. A few diehards will…but the average car is replaced every 5 years today which tells us most people upgrade for a reason other than condition or high mileage. You yourself replaced a low mileage car simply because it didn’t fit your dog.

Want to see what the future looks like in Brian’s world? Imagine present day downtown Havana traffic, except every other car is now a Leaf.

Big Oil

DJ, I enjoy your comments because you wonderfully embody the negativity, pessimism, and living-in-the-past attitude of right-wingers today.

Here we have a homegrown technological marvel, the Chevy Volt, which has won both the North American and European Car of the Year awards.

It, along with other electric cars, run on zero foreign oil; produce zero unhealthy polluting particles; and cost zero at the pump (electricity is much cheaper than gasoline, so the effective MPG is into the hundreds).

And what is the reaction of conservatives like you: won't work... can't work... we should stick with foreign oil... keep giving our money to the Middle East... nothing wrong with smog... blah, blah, blah.

People are sick of defeatism. People are tired of "our best days are in the past." That's why Obama won in 2008 and why he'll win again in 2012. There's no good ideas, no optimism, no vision for the future in the Republican or Tea Party.

There's just a longing for things to stay the same: the rich getting richer, the middle class getting poorer, cars running on the same inefficient rapidly disappearing oil, no progress -- because god forbid, that's progressivism!

I'm proud of being progressive. And my wife and I happy with our electric car. Try looking into a better future sometime. You might like what you envision there.

Hey, don't buy ANY new cars. STOP. Drive the old ones until they disintegrate. STOP buying stuff. STOP making stuff. Of course this will sink the world into a vast depression, but if you want to save the world from the ravages of industrialization and throw-away consumerism that's what has to happen. STOP!!

Ain't gonna happen.

No, ain't gonna happen. My MacBook Pro is over three years old. The Retina MacBook Pro is brand new. Until it came out, I wasn't aware how much I needed a new laptop. But clearly I do! Apple says so. Must obey...must obey...

They say, "Be the change you would like to see." My son is fed up. He lives in a teepee, raises his own food, wears thrift store clothing and gets around on a 50cc scooter made in the 70's. Sounds like me when I was 20. Fun for awile.

Maybe some wise aliens from Andromeda can help this world to STOP and do things differently. It will take a miracle like that.

Brian, your delivery of the advocate’s impassioned response to the engineer’s impartial analysis precisely fits the definition I outlined above.

Step back from the ledge for a moment and tell me, how do you get “negativity and pessimism” from simple math? What is it about numbers that makes you see “defeatism” and a “living in the past attitude?” The math is just a messenger – why are you trying to kill it?

How do you interpret that I’m trashing the Volt when in fact my analysis concluded that the Volt (1) is environmentally superior on CO2 emissions to both the gas car (2) and the Leaf (3)?

And now ten comments in you want to switch the discussion from CO2 emissions to foreign oil? No problem – the Volt (1) still beats the Leaf (2) which now beats the gas car (3).

As you can see, Brian, feasibility studies don’t care if a right-winger or a progressive punches the buttons on the calculator…the result is what the result is.

Now take a deep breath and another step back from the ledge.

Big Oil

Dj, you're free to take my comment any way you want. What I pointed out is your negativity, which is shared by most of your right-wing political bedfellows.

I've read lots of your comments on posts I've put up. Almost always, your tone is negative, just as the tone of conservative politics today is almost completely negative.

Where is the "we can do it" attitude? Where are the creative plans to fix our health care system, achieve independence from foreign oil, leapfrog new technologies, reform our broken immigration system, create a 21st century energy future, protect and improve our planet's environment for future generations?

Oh, right... all we need to do is lower taxes, cut social programs, gut regulations, and let the private sector take over. Which is unworkable, uncreative, and illogical. I remember when conservatives were smart, intellectual, and at the cutting edge. No more.

Sorry, Brian, but somebody has to be the adult in the room. You’re like a teen who thinks he’s always right, and if an adult’s talking he must be wrong.

What could be more negative than a progressive Volt owner who can’t stand to admit his car is eco-superior to the Leaf – only because that information was proven by a conservative engineer? That’s not just negative, that’s dysfunctional partisan negative.

An eco-car enthusiast with a positive “we can do it” attitude would use that information to promote the Volt over the Leaf to help consumers make better informed choices. But for some reason you’d rather bury it, make it personal, and then change the subject entirely to things like taxes, welfare, and immigration. What a perfect analogy for the dysfunction in DC.

Big Oil

DJ, I continue to wait for you to address my prior comments about right-wing negativity. That's the real issue here, not nit-picking about the Volt and other electric cars.

What is your vision for the future? How do you see this country becoming energy self-reliant in this age of rapidly disappearing fossil fuels? How do you see us protecting the environment in this age of rapidly increasing population and pressures to exploit natural resources such as fisheries, forests, aquifers?

How do you see us dealing with our nation's massive health care problems: excessive costs, way too many people uninsured, poor health outcomes relative to other countries with national health plans?

These and other problems can't be solved with platitudes. This is what being the "adult in the room" really means: facing problems directly, factually, reasonable -- not repeating meaningless political platitudes.

>> only because that information was proven by a conservative engineer?

A liberal engineer says all of your conservative analysis is bullshit.

It is hotter than hell in the Heartland this week. Electric generating facilities are operating at maximum capacity, throwing enormous amounts of carbon into the atmosphere. Guaranteed - the major mental preoccupation of half of the population of the US is: will the grid start to experience stress-related failures? Will a thunderstorm zap a major transformer in our area and shut down the power for an extended period?
No one gives a flying f--k about the fossil fuel being consumed at incredible rates. People just prefer not to feel the tiny rivulets of perspiration trickling down their foreheads and having their clothes stick to their bodies.
Conservative or Liberal, tree-hugger or profligate energy wastrel, human ego will settle for nothing less than comfort.

The kind of car you drive is not even relevant. The situation is hopeless and the end of life as we have known it is inevitable.

Willie R, you kill me!

Brian, you want me to solve world hunger under an eco-car post? I’m not sure I'd try even if you unblocked my IP address and if I didn’t have to wonder if you’d just sensor it all anyway. Frankly, I never know if Dr. Jekyl or Mr. Hines is on the other end of this thing and I’m surprised my last two comments were even posted.

Nw, you’re an engineer – that’s great, let’s see your analysis. For apples-to-apples boundary conditions start with the UK study Brian posted, then show us your numbers. I work with some pretty sharp liberal engineers, yet somehow none of us has ever heard of “partisan analysis.” How do you slip that by the customer?

Big Oil

Ah, DJ, 100% defensiveness, negativity, and evasiveness all the time. This is why Obama is going to be re-elected in November: right-wingers are empty of ideas, solutions, and intellectual honesty.

> Brian, you want me to solve world hunger under an eco-car post? I’m not sure I'd try even if you unblocked my IP address and if I didn’t have to wonder if you’d just sensor it all anyway.

One thing I've noticed about conservatives, they exhibit their intellectual weakness in multiple ways - it's spelled censor, not sensor...

The solution to the problem is the problem itself.

As Willie R put it...

"The situation is hopeless and the end of life as we have known it is inevitable."

The last bastion of those with nothing to go on… go for the spelling and grammar. No-wit the spell check guy. Every blog has one.

That was a huge intellectual contribution – thanks little spell checker dude!

Big Oil

Well touche weak-minded conservative!

I noted a while back with amusement when you tried to post under another name using the same IP address as your DJ account. Pretty clueless for an engineer!

Let's review that exchange (with DJ as "giddyup"). I particularly enjoyed your attempt to change your writing style with grammar and spelling errors.

Are you really an engineer?


I dont know how you tolerated it for so long. I know i couldn't have. How bad was it? Can you point to some of these trolls lying handywork?

Posted by: giddyup | April 10, 2012 at 12:02 PM

giddyup, here's an example of comment exchanges between me and "DJ," the guy who's been the both blatant anti-science global-warming denialist. Read the comments on this post:

Posted by: Blogger Brian | April 10, 2012 at 12:21 PM

Thats not what i was expecting. You guys are testy with each other but that was actually a good read and a spirited debate. I think i even learned some things. The sources (yours and his) were mostly all global warming believers so i couldn’t really find any intentional lies. Just minor disagreements among the sources. Wikipedia on the carbon tax maybe was an exception but that’s Wiki for you. Still hardly what i expected. You must have worse examples of lies for banning him not?

Posted by: giddyup | April 10, 2012 at 05:52 PM

giddyup, you're welcome to your opinion. I disagree. DJ is remarkably obtuse and dogmatic when it comes to denying human-caused global warming.

By the way, I didn't ban him. I simply asked him to send me a Facebook log-in, along with, perhaps, other information to confirm his real world identity -- just as countless newspapers and web sites do with online commenters.

Got to ask... your writing style and comment demeanor remind me of DJ's. Would you know him by any chance? Am wondering if you might be related. Perhaps intimately, like identical twins?

Just an intuition. Just wondering.

Posted by: Blogger Brian | April 10, 2012 at 07:04 PM

[Note from blogger: giddyup, hopefully you can understand why I thought you and DJ could be the same person, because you both have the exact same IP addresses. Wow, what an amazing coincidence! Out of all the places in the world you and DJ could reside, you both are Comcast users in Portland, Oregon with the same IP address.

Anyway, from now on if you, or DJ, or anyone else ever wants to post a comment about global warming that denies the scientific consensus that (1) global warming is happening, and (2) humans are largely responsible for it, you, or DJ, or anyone else will need to provide a Facebook log-in link and possibly other confirmation of your real identity.

That's the way of science: accountability and openness. Those who choose to hide in the cyberspace shadows, as you also want to do, testify to their anti-science, anti-truth nature by their fear of putting their real names behind their false assertions. -- Blogger Brian]

I laughed i cried i got creeped out. But i get your paranoia. At leats before you had DJ in your sights but now he could be anyone. Its the same paranoia at work here. Most people dont facebook since three were fired in the past two years. If they dont like you they find a recipe you sent to grandma on your day off and twist it into a fireable offense. Yes i exaggerate but not by much. I like the hours i get so in this economy it is no big sacrifice. Like Betty White said Facebook is a big waste of time.

Posted by: giddyup | April 11, 2012 at 08:50 AM

No-wit, thanks for the re-post but you’re late to the party. I make reference to that blunder every time I sign a comment with my scarlet letter, “Sincerely, Big Oil.”

That’s No-wit for ya. Hip to the obvious, but otherwise clueless.

Big Oil

Good attempt, WMC-DumbJack, but another swing and miss for you. Late to the party? Not at all. It's the gift that keeps on giving, showing how you and other conservatives have imaginary beliefs that defy reality; in your case, in addition to global warming denial, that you don't understand how the internet works and are not anonymous on it, contrary to what you believed.

Best of luck to you, WMC-DJ

Seems to me that DJ "big oil" leaves out one important fact, crude oil is finite. Electricity can be made 1000's of ways, but oil is finite and on the decline. I guess since the Leaf and Volt are not perfectly carbon neutral, we shouldn't try to come up with a solution to the decline of oil. Just wait until there isn't enough big oil to grow big corn to feed the big cows. Hopefully we can all learn to fish... Global warming isn't nearly as scary to me as the end of oil as we know it. You can troll my blog at kyleaf.com

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