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Don’t get fooled: Electric vehicles really are better for the climate

Posted on 14 November 2022 by Guest Author

This is a re-post from Yale Climate Connections by Daisy Simmons

A cartoon featuring rabbits (hares) in a gas pickup truck and tortoises in an electric car catching up to them.

You may have heard the myth that electric vehicles are just as bad for the climate — or worse — than gas-powered cars and trucks. One common myth claims that the climate-warming pollution caused by manufacturing electric vehicle batteries cancels out the benefits. Not so.

Electric vehicles don’t cause more pollution in the long run

Electric vehicles, often called EVs, are responsible for less global-warming pollution over their life cycle than gas-powered vehicles, despite the fact that battery manufacturing — for the moment — increases the climate impacts of EV production.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency explains the issue in a nutshell: “Some studies have shown that making a typical electric vehicle (EV) can create more carbon pollution than making a gasoline car. This is because of the additional energy required to manufacture an EV’s battery. Still, over the lifetime of the vehicle, total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions associated with manufacturing, charging, and driving an EV are typically lower than the total GHGs associated with a gasoline car.” (emphasis added)

Let’s walk through the key data leading to this conclusion, with the help of the lead author of a 2022 Union of Concerned Scientists report evaluating the lifetime impacts of electric and gasoline vehicles.

Manufacturing an electric vehicle does cause carbon pollution

Although an electric vehicle creates less climate pollution over its life cycle than a gas-powered vehicle, manufacturing an EV typically generates more pollution.

That’s mostly a result of the energy required to mine the materials used in batteries, transport them to the production facility, and manufacture them.

“However, even now, those emissions are small compared to the savings when you’re driving the vehicle,” said David Reichmuth, senior engineer at the Union of Concerned Scientists and co-author of the 2022 report cited above.

Electric vehicle advantage: pollution ‘debt’ settled after about 22 months

Most of a vehicle’s emissions occur during the portion of its life when it is driven. And electric vehicles deliver a benefit no gas-powered car can: They eliminate tailpipe emissions. That goes a long way in improving air quality and climate goals.

The amount of climate pollution generated by driving an EV depends on the mix of electricity available in the region where it’s used. For example, if EV drivers live in an area where most grid power is supplied by fossil fuels, then charging up will have a bigger climate footprint than in places where most energy comes from wind and solar.

Still, Reichmuth said that driving using electricity is cleaner than gasoline even with the current electricity mix in the United States. And his research shows that as more renewables have come online in recent years, EV charging has been getting cleaner.

In 2012, only 46% of U.S. residents lived in a place where driving an average EV created less climate pollution than the most fuel-efficient gasoline car, which then was a Prius.

Today, no matter where you live, driving an average EV results in lower emissions than driving an average gas-powered car. And over 90% of the U.S. population now lives in places where driving an average all-electric vehicle produces fewer emissions than even the most efficient hybrid-gas vehicle — Hyundai’s Ioniq Blue.

Bottom line: Reichmuth’s team compared an average gas-powered sedan (32 miles per gallon) with an average-efficiency EV (300-mile-range battery) and found that the EV reduces total lifetime emissions by 52%.

“You can also think of it as the manufacturing emissions being a deficit or debt that is sort of ‘paid back’ by emissions savings,” Reichmuth said.

For the average driver — one who drives about 10,650 miles a year — “there’s a net climate benefit as long as that car’s on the road for two years,” Reichmuth said. “And most of these cars are being driven 10 to 15 years, so it really is a net benefit.”

Read: Electrifying transportation reduces emissions AND saves massive amounts of energy

More clean power and innovation are likely to cut pollution from electric vehicle manufacturing

In the future, adding more renewables to the power mix and continuing to make other technological advances are likely to help reduce the climate impacts of EV manufacturing.

“Some of those manufacturing emissions will be helped as we both clean up the grid and clean up transportation,” he said.

Reichmuth’s research looked at what would happen if car manufacturers switch to using renewable energy at their factories. “If you’re using 100% carbon-free electricity in battery manufacturing,” he said, “it would reduce battery emissions by 27%.”

Some emissions result from transporting materials from the point of extraction to production facilities, so electrifying the industrial trucking sector would also help improve manufacturing’s climate footprint.

Verdict: electric cars are already better for the climate than gas-fueled vehicles — but there’s room for improvement.

?The transportation sector accounts for about 27% of total U.S. climate-warming pollution, making it the largest contributor to the nation’s emissions. Cleaning up passenger cars is therefore vital to addressing climate change.

Electric cars are already doing exactly that.

“It’s clear from my research and other people’s research that the average EV represents a significant emissions reduction — even when you consider battery manufacture,” said Reichmuth. “We do need to reduce the emissions from manufacturing, just as we need to reduce the emissions from driving overall.”

“But overall, if we’re trying to figure out how to maintain the mobility that we have without adding to global warming emissions already changing our climate,” he said, “it’s clear that switching from gasoline to an electric motor is part of that solution.”

Got other questions about electric vehicles? Drop us a line at editor@yaleclimateconnections.org.

Tom Toro is a cartoonist and writer who has published over 200 cartoons in The New Yorker since 2010.

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Comments

Comments 1 to 46:

  1. For those of us driving EV's in Minnesota there is an added benefit. My understanding is that most of our gasoline comes from the Alberta Tar Sands (read here). Hence, driving an EV in Minnesota not only eliminates GHG emissions while driving the car, but prevents all of the environmental and GHG-emissions issues associated with burning gasoline extracted from tar sands.

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  2. I'm not finding an Ice machine (internal conbustion) that can replace my Ford Ranger, 2006; at my age, it makes no sense to change, other than climate's moral imperative, which is a steep price to pay for a guy in his last decade. So I figure that other baby boomers in my shoes feel the same way, and we're in a small minority by the looks of it. Had Musk kept to his word and come out with the Cybertruck at the presented price for one motor, I would have taken the leap in the beginning. Now it's out of reach and not even available.

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  3. EddieEvans,

    It is not clear what you are talking about.

    "I'm not finding an Ice machine (internal conbustion) that can replace my Ford Ranger, 2006".

    2023 Ford Ranger (ICE) models appear to be available.

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  4. The issue with EV's is lithium strip mining for one, the fact that they need coal burning power plants to charge, there is no infrastructure, the batteries are too expensive, the vehicles do not charge efficiently in the home at all, the list goes on. I care about clean air and clean water, that is why I like emissions to be controlled...not based on some fantasy that C02 is the boogey man that will sink the Titanic. The initial !PCC report in 1990 was an absolute political lie...not one time did we get even near the median or high predicted temperature in the next 30 years, only once in 1996 did we spike momentarily into the low mean average predicted temperature, so 99.9% of the "science" was either a bald face lie, or the PhD who published it is an absolute failure at science, as his predictions were fantasy. Anyone care to start by discussing the first IPCC report of 1990? Then we can step through to now?

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    Moderator Response:

    [PS] Comments policy violations. (accusations of deception, politics, offtopic, sloganeering) .

  5. Michael Tomas-Musatin @4,

    There is more to understand about every point you are trying to make. And the increased awareness and understanding makes a significant difference.

    As an example: "the fact that they need coal burning power plants to charge" is missing the following understanding presented by Forbes in 2018 (read here) comparing ICE vehicle use to the emissions from charging an EV. The poorest regions in the USA at the time had the EV impacts equivalent to a 35 mpg ICE vehicle (Hawaii, except Kona at 49 mpg) and 38 mpg (small MROE region west of Lake Michigan). The USA average at the time was 80 mpg.

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  6. Eddie, it is a pain that technology and price points arent moving faster but for some there can be reasonable compromises. If you need the capabilities of Ranger on daily basis (eg you are farmer or contractor), then you need it and not much choice. But you may be able to use alternatives when those capabilities not needed. eg have very small car or an electric as second "go-to-town" vehicle. Other people buy Rangers for towing boat or caravan and in those situations, it can be far cheaper to own a small vehicle for daily use and hire when needed, than to take on cost of ownership (wtih depreciation) of something like a Ranger.

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  7. Michael Tomsa-Musatin

    "The initial !PCC report in 1990 was an absolute political lie...not one time did we get even near the median or high predicted temperature in the next 30 years, only once in 1996 did we spike momentarily into the low mean average predicted temperature,..."

    The 1990 IPCC report was more accurate than you think. The report stated: "Based on current model results, we predict: under the IPC C Business-as-Usual (Scenario A ) emissions of greenhouse gases, a rate of increase of global-mean temperature during the next century of about 0.3°C per decade (with an uncertainty range of 0.2°C to 0.5°C per decade); this is greater than that seen over the past 10,000 years. This will result in a likely increase in global-mean temperature of about 1°C above the present value by 2025 and 3°C before the end of the next century. The rise will not be steady because of the influence of other factors;"

    www.ipcc.ch/site/assets/uploads/2018/05/ipcc_90_92_assessments_far_wg_I_spm.pdf

    The prediction was 0.3 degrees per decade. Last 30 years has been 0.2 degrees c per decade. The 1990 IPCC report did state quite large uncertainty bars per decade (0.2 - 0.5). Taking those into account the 1990 IPPC projections have proven accurate enough.

    Warming was predicted to be "likely" 1 degree c from 1990 - 2025. From 1990 - 2022 it has been 0.75 degress c (NASA GISS). We are not yet at 2025, but it looks like we are getting fairly close to the model prediction of 1 degree. Remember the models stated the rise would not be steady. And there were error bars. 

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    Moderator Response:

    [PS] This topic https://skepticalscience.com/lessons-from-past-climate-predictions-ipcc-far.html is where any discussion of IPCC FAR should take place. Michael covered nothing ontopic so no further discussion here please. Graphs badly in need of update, but further graphs available at https://www.realclimate.org/index.php/climate-model-projections-compared-to-observations/

  8. I am sorry for yesterday's confusing post: "I'm not finding an Ice machine (internal combustion) that can replace my Ford Ranger, 2006." I should have written, "EV to replace my ICE machine." There is no pickup EVs to buy; the Ford pickup EV will not be available for years because of demand. The Cybertruck will cost too much, even if it does become available. Fortunately, I don't need to drive every day, unlike other people that would buy an EV pickup but cannot find one. The market let conscientious consumers down as well as the planet.

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  9. EV are better than ICE cars but even better would be to reduce the need to for personal vehicles.  Building more & better public transit ( electrified, of course! ) within and between cities would reduce the strain on the environment caused by mineral extraction as well as accelerate the transition to a low-carbon transportation system.

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  10. EddieEavans,

    Thanks for clarifying. I just wanted to be sure you weren't encountering a lack of ability to find a specific performance feature because the product development focus had shifted away from ICE to EV.

    I agree with scaddenp's comment (they correctly sensed what your issue was). I would add that I support the limiting of the use to necessary uses (something that also aligns with JavaTom's comment)

    I am also likely to delay buying a new vehicle because so many now have very expensive front windshield replacement costs. I bought a hybrid a while ago without the fancy windshield mounted stuff that is now 'standard features'. I bought the hybrid rather than an EV because I live in Alberta, a region that had, at the time, a high emissions electricity generation system (lots of coal burning).

    Alberta's grid has improved since I bought my hybrid. But Alberta still has some coal generation as base-power and a lot of natural gas generation. So, I am pretty sure that burning gasoline in my hybrid (I get 50 to 60 mpg) still produces a little less emissions than an EV plugged into the Alberta grid.

    However, the Alberta grid emissions should be significantly better by 2030 (no more coal burning and a significant increase of wind and solar by then).

    In spite of an EV in Alberta likely being better after 2030, I may see if my hybrid can run for a very long time (30 or more years). Being driven as little as possible should help it last longer. And a nice thing about a hybrid is that reduced battery capacity should not seriously affect the performance.

    So, if you 'need' a replacement truck soon, you may want to look into getting a hybrid truck (note: the extra cost compared to a new ICE will be recovered through less being spent for fuel).

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  11. This caught my attention the other day:

    "Long charging times are one of the biggest headaches for electric vehicle (EV) owners today, ranging anywhere from 10 hours with a home charger to roughly 30 minutes with a high-powered public one."

    "However, a new paper from the Institute for Basic Science (IBS) suggests that quantum technology could allow future EV owners to be able to charge their cars in just three minutes, according to a press release from the organization. That’d put it at roughly the same speed as filling up a car with a tank of gas — an extraordinary jump toward mass adoption and away from range anxiety."

    futurism.com/the-byte/quantum-charge-electric-cars

    "How quantum batteries could lead to EVs that go a million miles between charges"

     

    thenextweb.com/news/how-quantum-batteries-could-lead-to-evs-that-go-a-million-miles-between-charges

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  12. Per Eddie's remarks, we have an EV that does the vast bulk of our mileage. It can handle dimensional items up to 118" (~3m) with the hatch closed and can comfortably do a 190 mile (305km) roundtrip I routinely need to cover, in winter, mostly at 70mph (112kph) and without the driver freezing, w/~40 miles (64km) reserve range on returning to driveway. And it's a delight to drive, makes me feel a little bit too much like I'm 16 years of age again. So lots of bullet points covered there.

    For other needs we have a 1997 Ford Ranger. It goes through about 40 gallons of gas per year, at about 25MPG (10km/l) for above trip case. I've not done the math, but I suspect the current embodied carbon in replacing it with the most plausible EPU candidate (Ford F150 Lightning) may be problematic; the choice would not necessarily be a win over the geriatric Ranger. 

    There are two other problems. 

    For us, $40k is not a dealbreaker. But as a practical matter and in the context where a lot of PUs are used (think solo operators running a yard care concern, etc.) that's a huge lift, essentially impossible.

    But here's another dealbreaker: none of the current EPUs will hold a 6' (1.8m) dimensional item in the bed with the gate closed, the lowest bar of legitimate PU cargo specs*. All of them are centered as designer accessories first, tool second. This is like having to use a tack hammer where one needs a framing hammer, or (given the toy-like nature of such an implementation) a kid's plastic hammer instead of the real deal. And that's a shame, because for the legitimate use case of many PUs, EPUs otherwise offer distinct advantages, and have range more than ample for a typical day's work.

    Eventually this will get sorted and we'll probably even see -proper- EPU models with what used to be the correct treatment: an 8' (2.4m) bed. But right now, conflicted objectives, still catering to urban cowboys having PUs with no scratches or dirt in the bed. A lot of cost and a lot of dead weight are concentrated on useless appurtenances, things that are completely irrelevant to the original use case of PUs, hardware as psychological reassurance, ending up with the worst possible analogy to designer handbag. 

    All that said, the more EVs, the better for the planet, with the stipulation that fewer vehicle miles of all kinds are also going to be necessary. We're habituated to automobiles, but in truth if we can't feed or house ourselves with jumping into a car, our "convenience" item is substantially a prosthetic device, a very large and inefficient wheel chair. 

    *"just leave the gate open" isn't responsive to how that actually unpacks in practice. As usual, "just" is way too economical.

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  13. Not sure about that … tire pollution is significantly worse with EVs & gains are modest.
    EVs will never deliver the sort of transport reductions needed.

    https://www.emissionsanalytics.com/news/gaining-traction-losing-tread
    https://theecologist.org/2020/oct/05/unsustainability-electric-car

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    Moderator Response:

    [BL] Links activated.

    The web software here does not automatically create links. You can do this when posting a comment by selecting the "insert" tab, selecting the text you want to use for the link, and clicking on the icon that looks like a chain link. Add the URL in the dialog box.

    Also note that "link only" comments are discouraged by the Comments Policy. You should be providing additional information on what you expect readers to see at the link, and how it relates to the discussion.

     

  14. PSBaker:

    Your first link does not make any references at all to "carbon pollution" (e.g. CO2 emissions to the atmosphere). It discusses only particulate emissions. And it does not say that EVs are worse - it says that heavier vehicles (of any type) are worse. And it points out that one of the reasons tires are now more important is because particulate emissions from the tailpipe are now much less than they used to be. And it points out that much of the tire wear particulate matter does not become airborne (where it would affect air quality).

    It makes mention of the extra weight of Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs), but driving style is far more of an impact. Quoting the article:

    Nevertheless, it is important to say that a gentle BEV driver, with the benefit of regenerative braking, can more than cancel out the tire wear emissions from the additional weight of their vehicle, to achieve lower tire wear than an internal combustion engine vehicle driven badly.

    So, your article looks at only one small component of EV use.

    As for your second article: what is your point? Quoting from the article:

    The results show that the scenario with a high concentration of electric vehicles (‘EV-high’), which bets on wide-scale electrification but does not change our current mobility patterns only manages to reduce by 15 percent the greenhouse gas emissions from transport by 2050.

    So, EVs do reduce greenhouse gas emissions - but many other actions are needed to meet our goals.

    Neither of your sources seem to provide any sort of "EVs are a waste of effort" that your extremely brief comment seems to want to imply. And the certainly do not refute the main point of the blog post.

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  15. It would be good to have an unbiased source determine whether “driving using electricity is cleaner than gasoline even with the current mix in the United States”. Data from eia supports the idea of non plug-in hybrids as being better for total CO2 emissions in the U.S.
    The average modern hybrid gets 52mpg. Assuming an annual mileage of 12,500, that results in 2.22 metric tons of CO2 per year.

    Growth in electricity demand by 2050 is projected to be less than 1% per year. At a best case scenario, solar and wind could represent 36% of electrical generation by then. As a result there would be no need to add any natural gas units during that period. The use of coal would be further reduced in half so that annual CO2 emisions would be reduced by a half billion metric tons. Dozens of coal plants will be retired during that period.

    Solar and wind connected to the grid will be operated at the maximums of their resource-limited capacity regardless of any changes in electrical demand. In the short term (hours) natural gas units will be used for short term variations in demand but will remain fairly constant over time. In the longer term coal will be reduced as much as practical as renewables are added. Any increase in demand will simply slow the reduction of coal. So as EV demand for electricity increases, instead of reducing coal a corresponding amount, we will need some of the electricity that would otherwise be reduced.
    (i.e. the added renewables, instead of replacing coal, would be needed to support EV charging)

    The average usage for an EV is .2kwhr/km. A kwhr from coal produces .001012 metric tons.
    Doing the math, an average EV results in 4.08 metric tons per year. Much worse than a hybrid which requires no new infrastructure for charging.

    We could lie to ourselves and claim that the mix of fuels used to charge would be the actual 36/64 coal/gas split. But that doen't reflect reality. Even so, that would result in 2.48 metric tons per year.

    So, at least for the next few decades, we would be better off encouraging non plug-in hybrids until the clean electricity issue is resolved. I'm not optimistic that will happen. There's a lot of money and lobbying for EV's. And fossil electricity is pretty cheap compared to gasoline in spite of the low efficiency of fossil/steam power plants.

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  16. I believe that this has been looked at already in details by multiple teams:

    arstechnica.com/cars/2021/07/electric-cars-have-much-lower-life-cycle-emissions-new-study-confirms/

     

    Overall impact is highly dependent on battery manufacturing processes, and the ones made in Asia have an overall higher adverse impact:

    www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0048969721079493

     

    By far the most comprehensive analysis I have seen on the subjects is that of the EEA:

    https://www.eea.europa.eu/publications/electric-vehicles-from-life-cycle

    From section 6.1, summary of key findings, climate change impacts: ". In general, GHG emissions associated with the raw materials and production stage of BEVs are 1.3-2 times higher than for ICEVs (Ellingsen et al., 2016; Kim et al., 2016), but this can be more than offset by lower per kilometre use stage emissions, depending on the electricity generation source (Figure 6.1). Hawkins et al. (2013) reported life cycle GHG emissions from BEVs charged using the average European electricity mix 17-21 % and 26-30 % lower than similar diesel and petrol vehicles, respectively (Figure 6.1). This is broadly in line with more recent assessments based on the average European electricity mix (e.g. Ellingsen et al., 2016, Ellingsen and Hung, 2018."

    The referenced papers are available, Hawkins et al (2013) is probably a little dated but not as European specific as others cited.  Neugebauer, Zebrowski and Esmer (2022) has a variety of models that show benefits in most situations. Ellingsen and Hung (2018) is more specifically focused on the European generation mix. In general, CO2 emissions favor EVs, unless the EV would replace a still operational ICE car that is driven less than 5000miles/year. This holds even for generation mixes that are heavily reliant on coal.

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  17. Doug Cannon @15,

    My comment @5 may help answer your question.

    The 2018 presentation by Forbes linked to in my comment indicates that at that time the average US electricity generation impacts from BEVs would be equivalent to 80 mpg.

    The impacts of vehicle production presented by Philippe @16 do need to be considered. But the generation in every region has been getting better since then, and is expected to continue to improve.

    Note that only a very limited number of plug-in hybrid models perform better than 80 mpg equivalent. So even plug-in hybrids are questionable new vehicle choices in the USA, if being less harmful is the objective. And they become more questionable 'new vehicle choices' with each passing year of electricity generation improvement.

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  18. Philippe #16

    I'm familiar with your various references. I don't necessarily disagree with them. In fact some elements of them support my analysis.

    But they don't directly relate to the issue. I would be more interested in your input regarding non plug-in hybrid vehicles.

    Another obvious advantage that I didn't mention is the reduced demand on battery technology and production.

    I didn't even go into the capital investment cost. We're paying a lot to replace fossil. The EV route over hybrid makes it even costlier.

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  19. Doug Cannon @15 ,

    your quote "average modern hybrid gets 52mpg"  may indeed occur at the tail of the bell curve distribution of everyday use.   But that's probably not near what the present day average-weight vehicle achieves in average usage (which contains a large slice of metropolitan).   Try recalculating your ideas using a 50% higher fuel consumption.

    And then it gets complex as the next decade (or two) of technological change occurs.   The non-plug-in hybrid could be a transitional benefit in the short term, and only for a segment of the population.

    Philippe Chantreau's cited reports give a broader perspective.  And in addition to that, we can reasonably expect further change in the situation regarding designs & resource uses. 

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  20. One Planet Only Forever #17

    Eclectic #19

    The Forbes article is simply wrong. They propose the same theory of lying to ourselves about using the mix of fuels to generate electricity as do many other reports. It just doesn't work that way. If EV ideologists would use the same imagination in promoting non plug-in hybrids the debate would be over.

    Here's a link to true mpg of hybrids

    https://www.whatcar.com/news/true-mpg-most-efficient-hybrid-cars/n19166#2

    Yes, they include small cars. But the weight issue is a bit of a red herring. EV's have a penalty of adding hundreds of extra pounds compared to hybrids.

    Even theoretically adding 50% more fuel consumption puts Hybrids at 3.3metric tons vs 4.

    Somehow I get the impression I'm preaching to closed minds.

     

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    [BL] Link activated.

    The web software here does not automatically create links. You can do this when posting a comment by selecting the "insert" tab, selecting the text you want to use for the link, and clicking on the icon that looks like a chain link. Add the URL in the dialog box.

    On a more serious note, using phrases such as "is simply wrong", "theory of lying to ourselves", "EV ideologists", "imagination", and "preaching to closed minds" gets  you into inflammatory territory that is contrary to the Comments Policy. Please read it before commenting again.

     

  21. Doug Cannon @20,

    Please explain your belief better than "They propose the same theory of lying to ourselves about using the mix of fuels to generate electricity as do many other reports. It just doesn't work that way."

    I live in Alberta, Canada. Several years ago I was looking into buying an EV. Tesla was the only EV with a decent range. I was thinking about being less harmful, not saving money. But I did not buy the Tesla. At the time, the Alberta electricity generation included a lot of coal generation. And the government intentions indicated coal might be burned until 2040. And the burning of natural gas was going to be the major replacement for coal. I did my homework and determined that the most efficient hybrid available at the time would produce far less harmful emissions than an EV powered by Alberta electricity.

    Things are different today. My hybrid still produces less emissions than an EV powered by Alberta electricity (which is similar to the worst US locations). However, the last coal burning in Alberta is expected to be ended by the end of 2023 (but that will be converting the last coal burners to burning natural gas - meaning less harmful but still very harmful).

    The future, however, looks much better. The plan is for new electricity generation in Alberta to primarily be wind or solar. If the developments go as planned, by 2030 my very efficient hybrid will be more harmful than an EV powered from the Alberta grid.

    You may be lacking imagination regarding the future of electricity generation.

    Some relevant questions:

    1. Were you aware that the use of fossil fuels is causing harmful climate change impacts?
    2. If you were aware of that, how are you justifying more harm being done by the promotion of prolonged fossil fuel use?
    3. Do you understand the need to end fossil fuel use to stop making things worse for the future generations? (refer to Overshooting climate targets could significantly increase risk for tipping cascades which is the Story of the Week in the 2022 SkS Weekly Climate Change & Global Warming News Roundup #52)
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  22. Doug @20 ,

    the small Prius type cars are certainly quite good, but that is not where the bulk of the market is.  Nor is likely to be, in future, it would seem, owing to the perversities of fashion & human nature.

    You may indeed have the impression you're preaching to closed minds, but I think you are confusing closed with skeptical minds.  Skeptical minds see a lot of holes in your thinking.  You seem rather unaware of the holes.

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  23. I just submitted a reply to One Planet....and it disappeared even though I'm logged in. 2nd time this happened. Is there a delay or does it go through some filter because I'm persona non grata?  Or is it just lost?

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    Moderator Response:

    [BL] No comments from you have been deleted. There should not be any delay before they appear.

    As Phillippe has said, the web site will tend to log you out after a time period. Typing does not affect this - you will not know you have been logged out until you click "submit" and find that your post has disappeared. This is most likely if you spend a long time preparing a comment (i.e., when it will frustrate you the most. This is not "by design".)

    Keeping a copy of your text on the clipboard will help. You can then log back in and paste it. Or open a new window/tab on a Skeptical Science page to see if it has you still logged in. If not, log in via that other window, and then Submit should work.

    You will only become persona non grata if you repeatedly violate the Comments Policy. It exists to guide you.

  24. Comments occasionally get lost if too much time goes by before clicking the submit button. I have lost a number of them like that, and sometimes for unknown reasons. It's an incentive to keep it short and to the point, in my opinion.

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  25. One Planet...#21
    To repeat one of your Paragraphs
    I live in Alberta, Canada. Several years ago I was looking into buying an EV. Tesla was the only EV with a decent range. I was thinking about being less harmful, not saving money. But I did not buy the Tesla. At the time, the Alberta electricity generation included a lot of coal generation. And the government intentions indicated coal might be burned until 2040. And the burning of natural gas was going to be the major replacement for coal. I did my homework and determined that the most efficient hybrid available at the time would produce far less harmful emissions than an EV powered by Alberta electricity.”
    That's exactly the point. And it's what is happening in the U.S. The same logic applies in my support of hybrids.
    Do a mind experiment: It's 2035 in the U.S. . We're producing electricity at the rate of 4800 terawatthours per year........1500 Twhrs from renewables at their resource constrained maximum, 1700 Twhrs from natural gas at it's optimum capacity factor of 86% and 700 Twhrs from coal The balance by nuclear, hydro, etc., essentially “base loaded”. The demand is constant. We plan to add 50 Twhrs of renewables during the year. What do we do? We cut back coal by the equivalent the of 50Twhrs of CO2. That's basically the model we've been following for years except that the addition of natural gas has allowed us to cut back coal even more. The eia
    Now do another mind experiment with a twist. All factors are the same except the demand increases by 20 Twhrs due to the addition of charging for EV's. What do we do? We only cut back coal by 30 Twhrs because we need the other 20 Twhrs for EV charging. So we forego CO2 reduction by the equivalent of 20 Twhrs.
    That CO2 from coal has to allocated to EV's because that is why we have to extend the use of coal.

    In answer to your questions:
    1. Yes. That is why I support a strategy that minimizes CO2 emissions which is the use of non plug-in hybrids in lieu of EV's until we get the electric industry cleaned up.
    2. I'm not proposing that we prolong the use of fossil fuel. The reduction in the electricity sector will more than compensate for some continued useage in the transportation industry.
    3. I understand it very clearly and that's why I'm willing to consider a quicker way to end fossil fuels regardless of the financial investment and ideological commitment to EV's.

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  26. to Bob and Philippe

    Thanks for your explanation.

    I got a little longwinded.

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  27. Doug Cannon @25,

    The reality of my Alberta comment actually contradicts the mental experimentation you have presented.

    Less than 10 years ago the expectation for the future generation of electricity in Alberta was that it would be far more gas and coal burning than it has actually turned out to be. And that has also been the reality throughout the USA. By 2035 it is likely that the few regions with poor electricity generation in the 2018 Forbes report will have improved electricity generation that makes the most efficient hybrids more harmful than an EV (just like the case I presented about Alberta).

    1 0
  28. Doug... I get the sense you're forgetting the relative efficiencies of electric over thermal energy, both with vehicles and source electrical generation. 

    0 0
  29. Rob Honeycutt #28

    No, I've taken it into account except for the transmission loss. Best thermal efficiency coming out of fossil electrical generation plant approaches 40%. But that's all taken into account when considering actual watts generated per lb of CO2 emitted, which I did.

    According to MDPI,gasoline engines have a thermal efficiency of between 30% and 36% while diesel engines can reach a thermal efficiency of almost 50%. But, again, that's all taken into account with mpg.

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  30. Doug @29... I'm curious, why do you think the MPGe for a Tesla is 124, whereas a comparable ICEV sedan is gets about 30-35 MPG? And why do you think even a small PriusC gets only around 50 MPG.

    I'm asking because everything I've read on this subject has been very clearly stating that EV's have lower carbon emissions regardless of the source of the electricity. Nothing I've read has ever stated that the better strategy to carbon emissions reductions would involve transitioning from ICE to hybrid and then later to EV's, rather than just trading straight to an EV on your next vehicle purchase. 

    Given the high efficiency of EV's and the fact that the grid is rapidly shifting to renewables, the simple logical thing to do is get an EV.

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  31. Doug @25... You state, "We plan to add 50 Twhrs of renewables during the year. What do we do? We cut back coal by the equivalent the of 50Twhrs of CO2. That's basically the model we've been following for years except that the addition of natural gas has allowed us to cut back coal even more."

    Again here, you make erroneous assumptions. This is not "basically the model." As I stated in a previous thread, coal is phased out at end of life. The operating costs of a coal plant at the end of its useful life, after paying off all capital expenditures, is very low. Those plants continue to be used as long as the cost of fuel allows them to sell electricity competitively against other sources. 

    What's happening is, almost no *new* coal plants are being built. The phase out of coal is a function of scheduled facility retirements. The replacement of coal and NG is a function of investors building out renewables *instead of* coal and NG.

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  32. To put a fine point on this... Think of it this way: In 2034 no one is going to build any coal plants where in 2035 somebody walks in and says, "Okay boys, time to shut 'er down!" The industry has the time, skills, and ability to do proper forecasting of costs and energy demand to know how to best utilize their investments.

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  33. Doug Cannon @15 has a point. EV’s will increase electricity demand, which should be met by increasing renewable energy else the advantage of EV’s is reduced. However, given the opportunity to increase renewable energy, the first priority should be to shut down fossil energy. The problem is that economics and contractual obligations do not allow simple substitution of large, capital-intensive power plants. Changing the dynamics of the power supply infrastructure to accelerate would require strong incentives.
    Some studies, including the EEA Report cited by Philippe Chantreau @16, use the current regional energy mix for their evaluation. EEA Report Section 4.5: “Due to the high carbon intensity of coal, WTW GHG emissions of typical BEVs charged exclusively with coal-generated electricity are at least as high as for an equivalent ICEV.” The ICCT White Paper (Bieker, 2021) reported in the ARS Technica article cited by Philippe does include projections for energy mixes that decarbonize over time.
    Innovative approaches can help. EEA Report Box 4.2: “Flexible charging of BEVs can help to balance supply and demand in all cases, either by shifting demand to off-peak periods where supply is less flexible or by absorbing excess generation where supply is variable.” California has a situation where solar meets most of the demand in June when days are long and relatively cool, so added solar generation could be used during the day for charging EVs. Maybe build employee parking lots covered by panels. However, in August, days get shorter and hotter and demand for air conditioning increases. Then it may be better to reduce peak demand by charging EVs at night, though solar is not available without storage.

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  34. Rob
    MPGe is a good way of comparing different EV's. And the manufacturers like it because it makes them look good. But it's not an apples to apples comparison to ICE or hybrids. It assumes the kwhrs just appear out of nowhere without considering the source of the energy. If the source is from a traditional fossil/steam powered central station the thermal efficiency of that source is probably closer to 33% at best. The most efficient fossil/steam plant in the U.S. Is designed for 40% thermal efficiency but only achieves 38% in operation. The rule of thumb is a further loss of 10% in transmission (i.e. 3.8%).
    That drops the thermal efficiency of a Tesla to about 40 MPG when comparing it's energy use ICE or hybrid. But of course fossil/steam plants don't use gasoline so we would have to look at the btu equivalent for coal. Then we would need to convert all that to CO2 emitted.
    All of that gets a bit a hairy, but I avoided that by determining the CO2 emissions per kwhr produced for each fuel, gas or coal. The result for coal is .001012 metric tons per kwhr. The other data is pretty straight forward and results in annual emissions of 4.08 metric tons of CO2 for EV's. But that should increase to 4.5 metric tons to account for transmission losses. That compares to 2.2 metric tons for non plug-in hybrids based on the CO2 emissions in a gallon of gasoline. Even cutting MPG by a third for hybrids from my 52MPG would still make them cleaner than EV's

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  35. Regarding the idea that coal plant closures will be based on scheduled end of life retirements, that is not true. One report last year listed 26 coal plants either closing early(21) or switching to gas(5). The impetus is due to regulation and its associated cost, not necessarily CO2 regulation. The other reason for reduction in coal is the fracking revolution. To date the economics of gas over coal has been the major reason we can reduce coal.
    But the other important reason is the addition of renewables which will continue to grow. In their best case for renewables eia projects this growth in renewables can allow us to meet a flat demand with no added natural gas plants through 2050 and beyond. Additionally, we can reduce use of coal by half and reduce annual CO2 emissions by 500 million metric tons. This has little to do with economics. It is driven by the desire to reduce CO2 emissions. It's actually costing more. The amortized cost per Mwhr for renewables is more than the reduction of the variable cost of existing coal plants. But it's worth it considering the climate change risk.
    I'll repeat this one more time: Any added load during this period extends the use of coal. I suspect that if it weren't for the EV issue most people would accept this logic. If some bit coin miner wanted to add 20 terawatthours to mine coins I think most would be opposed because it would require extending coal that could otherwise be reduced. But for some reason there's an EV love affair that allows some to believe that the whole mix of electrial generation can somehow make things look better.
    Sayonora.

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  36. Doug Cannon,

    You may be unaware that your argument leads to the conclusion that energy use in the US, and other over-developed nations, needs to be reduced, not be allowed to increase.

    The argument you present, especially the answers provided to the questions I asked in my comment @21, are not consistent with an understanding of what is required to limit harm done to future generations. It is especially inconsistent with the knowledge learned from the item I linked to in my question 3.

    Rapidly ending fossil fuel use to limit the overshoot of climate impacts is ‘needed not desired’. A parallel requirement is the ‘need’ for rapid removal of the excess emissions, even if that is unprofitable. Your proposed future with an increased number of fossil fuel burning personal vehicles will almost certainly result in a peak climate impact that far exceeds the 1.5 C value, especially if the coal and gas burning electricity generation is not regulated to be rapidly replaced by less harmful energy generation. It is easier for regulation to shut down fossil fuel electricity generation than to end the use of existing fossil fuelled vehicles. So the path you propose, new vehicles being gasoline burning rather than battery electric, is more likely to result in more climate change harm than is ‘necessary’ (also note that the CO2 impacts of producing gasoline have to be counted). And there would be the added future harm of the ‘need’ for more unprofitable removal of unnecessary excessive impacts.

    The reduction of ‘unnecessary’ energy use, especially by the highest per capita energy users, is a very effective action to limit the climate change harm. I fully support that action, even if the belief about the need for it is due to a misunderstanding about the possible future of electricity generation and consumption.

    I am skeptical of your claim that EVs would be the consumers of any remaining extended coal fired electricity generation. I can argue that other electricity uses, not EVs, are the cause/consumers of unnecessary fossil fuel generation like:

    • cryptocurrency
    • 5G or streaming of data like HD video streaming on phones
    • use of AC when daytime highs/overnight lows do not make AC use ‘essential for health’.
    • unnecessary EV use.

    Believing that the future of increased energy demand in the USA will require continued significant fossil fuel use leads to the logical understanding of the need to rapidly curtail unnecessary energy consumption, and limit the fossil fuel use in that reduced energy consumption to ‘essential needs that cannot possibly be met without fossil fuel use’ (continuing developed desired, but understandably harmful, ways of living is ‘not essential’).

    The governing objective to limit harm done cannot be bypassed by beliefs that harmful unnecessary developed desires are justified by the benefits believed to be obtained. Therefore, the conclusion to ‘reduce energy use’ also applies to people who want to believe that all energy generation and use can be done without fossil fuels. All artificial energy systems will be harmful in different ways and to different degrees. Limiting harm done, not excusing harm done, is the logical governing objective. And that logically leads to the conclusion that ‘energy consumption, and other material consumption, should be limited to limit the harm done'.

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  37. Doug @34... "MPGe is a good way of comparing different EV's. And the manufacturers like it because it makes them look good. But it's not an apples to apples comparison to ICE or hybrids."

    This is just a silly statement, at best, as well as being offered without rational support.

    MPG and MPGe specificly make EV's and ICEV's comparable. Your assertion that "It assumes the kwhrs just appear out of nowhere..." makes clear that you're saying these things out of desire rather than based in any fact. Based on you logic you could also say that the energy from gasoline just magically, out of nowhere, appears at the pump.

    MPG and MPGe are measures of the efficiency of the vehicles, themselves, and you very much can clearly quantify the energy contained in electricity vs liquid fuels.

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  38. Doug @35... "One report last year listed 26 coal plants either closing early(21) or switching to gas(5)."

    Cite that report, please.

    "In their best case for renewables eia projects this growth in renewables can allow us to meet a flat demand with no added natural gas plants through 2050 and beyond."

    Projections for renewables growth have been notoriously bad. Don't forget that renewables are now scaling exponentially.

    0 0
  39. Doug @34... "That drops the thermal efficiency of a Tesla to about 40 MPG when comparing it's energy use ICE or hybrid."

    No, that does not reduce the "thermal efficiency" of a Tesla to 40 MPG.

    First off, you're completely making up numbers here and applying random terminology. 

    "The most efficient fossil/steam plant in the U.S. Is designed for 40% thermal efficiency but only achieves 38% in operation. The rule of thumb is a further loss of 10% in transmission (i.e. 3.8%)."

    These are more made up numbers, again. GTCC plants reach 60% efficiency. Regardless, this is irrelevant to MPG and MPGe since that is a measure of the vehicle, not the source of energy.

    Moreover, you seem to be having this strange fantasy that somehow an EV is just a vehicle where the gas tank is at the FF power plant, and that's not an accurate way to analyze it.

    You really don't have to make up stuff or need to do your own back-of-the-envelope estimates (which are invariably going to be wrong) because there are serious people who do these kinds of life cycle analyses. Here. Here. Here. And there are many more.

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  40. Doug Cannon,

    This 2020 fact check from Carbon Brief shows that fully electric vehicles release less CO2 over their lifetime than the most efficient ICE cars and plug in hybrids.  They find that even if 100% of the electricity is from coal burning plants that electric cars release less CO2.  Since Our World in Data says about 21% of USA energy was generated by renewable sources in 2021, electric cars are even better for the environment than the 100% coal case.  Your efficiencies in post 29 for ICE engines are much too high.  How could a variable engine stopping and starting and pulling a variety of loads possibly be more efficient than a fixed engine running at the optimal speed and optimal temperature 100% of the time?  Your estimates of ICE efficiency are about double or more what I have seen.  I think you are comparing peak efficiency of ICE engines to average efficiencies of electric vehicles.  ICE engines do not run at their peak efficiencies most of the time.

    In general, making your own calculations is a waste of time.  You have not considered the CO2 released by the manufacturing process, which is greater for electric cars than ICE vehicles.  Your estimates of highway CO2 emissions are much too high for electric and way too low for ICE vehicles.  The Carbon Brief article cites numerous peer reviewed articles that you can read to find your mistakes.  I am closed minded to posts that have obvious, gross calculation errors.  Please cite reliable sources for your claims.

    In the end we have to have a completely electric transportation system.  That means all cars fully electric and all electricity renewable energy.  Any ICE or plug in cars sold now will have to be removed to reach that final goal.  Everyone should copy Finland and sell only electric cars sooner rather than later.

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  41. Michael Sweet #40
    Your reference in Carbon Brief Is an excellent example of what I'm talking about.
    The data regarding the hybrid compare closely to mine: 55mpg vs mine of 52mpg
    (Go to unitjuggler websitewww.unitjuggler.com/convert-fuelconsumption-from-gperkmgasoline-to-mpg.html?v
    and you can convert their 99grams/km equivalent at the tail pipe to 55mpg. I did it the long way using 20.3 lb CO2/gallon and 12,500 miles/year to get 2.2 metric tons CO2 per year. From the Carbon Brief reference it works out to just under 2.0 metric tons CO2 per year from a hybrid's exhaust).
    The Carbon Brief data for EV's assigns an average mix of fuels in each geographic area to generate the charging electricity. That gets to the basic proposition I began with:
    In the U.S with a constant demand over the next few decades, natural gas pegged at its optimum capacity factor and solar and wind operating at their maximum, as we add more solar and wind we can continue to reduce coal year after year.
    But, if we add a demand from EV charging, some of the coal that would otherwise be reduced will have to continue in order to meet that demand. The EV charging demand is directly responsible for that coal useage and that leads to the 4.08 metric tons of CO2 resulting from an EV annually.
    If you don't agree with the premise or the logic then you would have no reason to examine references And we'll just drop it
    But if you agree you can do your own calculations;
    1. eia Electric Power Monthly, Net Generation by Energy Source: Total (All Sectors) 2012-October 2022

    www.eia.gov/electricity/monthly/epm_table_grapher.php?t=epmt_1_01

    2. eia U.S. Energy Related Carbon Dioxide Emissions From Energy Consumption:Electric Power Sector, December 14, 2022www.eia.gov/totalenergy/data/monthly/pdf/sec11_9.pdf

    From those two can compute metric tons of CO2/kwhr for coal at .001012
    3. eia Annual Energy Outlook 2022. page 15
    https://www.eia.gov/outlooks/aeo/pdf/AEO2022_ReleasePresentation.pdf
    Best case for renewables per eia.

    Any other references I have merely relate to the digressions that have come up in this thread; not to the basic issue per above..

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  42. Doug Cannon,

    You have completely left out the CO2 from the manufacture of the vehicles.  Your estimates of carbon emissions by electric vehicles is incorrect.  Your calculations are in error.  I do not have time to review your incorrect calculations and find more of your errors.   It is a waste of time if you leave out major contributions to the problem.  The reference at Carbon Brief, and the references that Rob Honeycutt linked at 39 all conclude that driving an EV reduces carbon pollution by a lot. 

    Your original post at 15 stated:

    "It would be good to have an unbiased source determine whether “driving using electricity is cleaner than gasoline even with the current mix in the United States”.

    Multiple different posters have shown that multiple unbiased sources conclude that "using electricity is cleaner than gasoline even with the current mix in the United States".  It appears that you are completely closed minded to any data that disagrees with your incorrect calculations.

    There are a great many proposed renewable energy projects awaiting approval.  If they are approved in a reasonable time frame the amount of renewable energy will increase much faster than you project.  Since fossil fuels have increased in cost, smart investors will install renewables to make more money.  The EIA has always been grossly wrong with their estimations of future renewable installations.

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  43. michael sweet,

    I hope this helps you understand Doug Cannon's 'perspective'. (I am open to correction of the following by Doug, as long as it is also consistent with what has been presented).

    Doug's argument appears to depend on the belief that any (all) electricity for EVs must come from fossil fuel generation (and that would be without carbon capture and storage).

    From that perspective, if any EV (or plug-in hybrid) has to be charged with electricity from a system with a mix of generation that includes fossil fuels, then the EV (no other electricity uses), must be tagged with the fossil fuel level of emissions. The reduced intensities of any mixed generation do not apply to EVs - even if all of the EV demand exceeds the amount of fossil fuel generation.

    Therefore, from that perspective, if there is a case where an EV is being charged from a grid that only has fossil fuel generation for a minor amount of rapid-start natural gas generation to meet transient peak demand, then all EVs everywhere must been considered to be charged by fossil fuel generation.

    In addition to the points already made above, that perspective excludes consideration of the following (such considerations would be seen to be digressions):

    • adequate amounts of electricity generation could be achieved without continued or expanded use of fossil fuel generation.
    • carbon capture added to existing fossil fuel generation systems would reduce the harm done while the system is run to its natural end of life.
    • other electricity uses that are less essential, like non-essential EV use, are responsible for continued fossil fuel generation.
    • the shift to EVs in regions that currently do not have any fossil fuel generation will not require 'new fossil fuel generation facilities'. Any required additional generation will be able to be met by new renewable generation.
    • already existing EVs being charged in regions with existing fossil fuel generation are not responsible for the continuation of existing fossil fuel generation. The reason/blame for continued fossil fuel generation in already well developed nations, especially over-developed ones, is a lack of responsible leadership action to end the fossil fuel use because the fundamentally flawed considerations of popularity and profitability are allowed to harmfully compromise the actions of leaders (political and business leaders).

    Initially I also mistook the problem to be 'how the analysis was being done'. But it is clear that the conceptualization of the issue is the problem. No matter how rigorously a flawed concept is evaluated the result will be flawed.

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  44. One Planet Only Forever #43


    I would take issue with your second paragraph re “....any(all) electricity for EV's must come from fossil...”
    In my original #15 I was very specific in the first two paragraphs. I made it clear that my position was in regard to “total CO2 emissions in the U. S.” and it was based on”a best case scenario” for renewable electricity by the eia. I later gave a link to that eia report.

    https://www.eia.gov/outlooks/aeo/pdf/AEO2022_ReleasePresentation.pdf

    In that scenario, in the middle of page 15, the graphs confirm the fuel mix I described in my 2nd and 3rd paragraph.


    You're correct. There is a conceptual issue. The concept being: as we're trying to clean up the grid, and the two variables in the fuel mix are (1) increasing renewable generation and (2)equally decreasing coal generation, then: as an EV load is added, that increased EV load has to be met by not decreasing the coal generation. So the net result of adding the EV load is an equivalent “increase” in coal generation compared to the scenario when no EV load existed.
    It's a very simple concept. One can disbelieve the eia forecast; that's fine. But, assuming their forecast is correct, the resulting concept is clear.

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  45. Doug @44... "So the net result of adding the EV load is an equivalent 'increase' in coal generation compared to the scenario when no EV load existed."

    Coal generation is clearly declining.

    Renewable energy is now scaling exponentially.

    The net result is reduced carbon emissions. Electrifying surface transportation with EV's is a (the most, even) significant part of that equation.

     

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  46. Doug Cannon,

    The fundamentals of the argument you continue to make are still:

    • The emissions from the ‘tailpipe’ of the most efficient hybrid is to be compared with all of the emissions of charging 'any and all' EVs or plug-in hybrids with fossil fuel generated electricity that does not have emissions reduced by CCS.
    • Therefore, until there is no fossil fuel generation of electricity 'anywhere' there should be no EV or plug-in hybrid use. Not maintaining this part of the argument opens the argument up to the question of how much EV use makes sense.

    Try again after reviewing all of the comments, particularly my comment @36, particularly the point that any unnecessary fossil fuel use, including electricity use in regions with fossil fuel as part of the generation mix, needs to be curtailed.

    That understanding leads to appreciating the benefit of, and need for, government action to encourage the purchase of EVs paired with government action to reduce unnecessary energy use, especially actions that rapidly end fossil fuel use which would include discouraging the purchase and use of fossil fuelled vehicles, including hybrids and plug-in hybrids.

    Note: I have always driven my efficient hybrid as little as possible. So, some people do not need government encouragement and discouragement to be less harmful and more helpful. But since everybody's climate impact actions add up government actions to encourage less harmful behaviours and discourage more harmful behaviour are required contrary to, and corrective of, developed popular misunderstandings and related harmful profitable activities.

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