Union Of Concerned Scientists Responds To USA Today’s Electric Car Hit Piece

MAR 9 2015 BY MARK KANE 63

How do EV emissions compare with gasoline-only vehicles in your region? (Source: Union of Concerned Scientists)

How do EV emissions compare with gasoline-only vehicles in your region? (Source: Union of Concerned Scientists)

The Union of Concerned Scientists recently struck back at USA Today’s bogus article on electric cars, in which Bjørn Lomborg stated that electric cars don’t brings any benefits. The article begins like this:

“It is time to stop our green worship of the electric car. It costs us a fortune, cuts little CO2 and surprisingly kills almost twice the number of people compared with regular gasoline cars.”

Well, since we know that most claims on emissions, economics or kills are based on statistics, typically the basis for the ultimate type of lies, it can seem hard to respond.

Additionally, most all of the the topics covered by USA Today include factors that are immeasurable, like health benefits from EVs in city centers.

However, the Union of Concerned Scientists tried to counter all of the claims by presenting a map with high values of mpg equivalent in many states. Those states, by the way, are typically the largest EV markets and year after year electricity in the U.S. becomes more and more clean.

There is no reason for remorse.

EVs probably will not bring benefits in every aspect as there never was an golden arrow that would solve all the problems. We believe that in general there are more positives than there are negatives.

We don’t even need to fight against all these furious articles that claim everything about EVs is bad. Time will tell what the truth is.

Source: Union of Concerned Scientists

Categories: General


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63 Comments on "Union Of Concerned Scientists Responds To USA Today’s Electric Car Hit Piece"

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How does this man have a voice? Friends in power. Oil and gas friends. Allied think thanks. Capitalist fundamentalist think tanks. Capitalist fundamentalism like much other fundamentalism is as broken in its logic as it is certain it’s infallible and as it is willing to lie.

“Capitalist fundamentalism”? No need to disparage capitalism. I think Mr. Lomborg has little interest in competing.

Money for national resources, and your pollution for free.

Pure capitalism is one of the greatest evils on this planet. Thankfully even the most capitalistic countries have at least some kind of socialistic influences.

Completely agree. Unbridled Capitalism is rushing the world to its doom. Regulated properly it works moderately well… problem is the big crapitalists always get greedy and start to choke the golden goose to get more for themselves. Also… healthcare, education, police and fire services should never be run as capitalist organizations. Neither should armies. OTHER THAN THAT GREAT SYSTEM.

The phrase “unbridled capitalism” makes me think of that scene in Blade Runner with the huge pyramid buildings somewhere in an overly-polluted metropolis where nothing but acid rain falls.

The message section on the USA Today article is rage inducing!

Probably sock puppets, hired in advance to make sure there is a crowd to cheer him on.

“First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”

EVs are somewhere between stages two (the cited USA Today article) and three (various anti-EV state legislation efforts). Rooftop solar is at stage three.

+1, was gonna say that….

He’s just mad his fossil fuel stocks have dropped…

Year after Year Repubs now stake out the Stupid position.
This is outrageous.

The idea of driving a plugin NOW is not primarily to reduce CO2 emissions. It is maturing the technology, so by the time the grid has been cleaned up, the cars to use that clean electricity are there. Affordable, reliable and in sufficient numbers.

Both cleaning up the grid and replacing our cars so they can use that clean electricity are going to take decades. We need to pursue both in parallel, not one after the other.

Electric cars are much cleaner than gas cars, already. Please, re-read that blue map.

It is no contest, and if it suits you, “driving a plugin NOW” is a primary way to reduce CO2 emissions.

The United States electric grid is squeaky clean, relative to gas, or diesel. This false shame bullshit, over coal, simply doesn’t fly.

The article admits that EVs are cleaner, but pretends that the $7500 rebate is entirely about GHG emissions.

It isn’t. It’s about preventing $10-20k of oil being imported, and lowering urban air pollution.

What’s more is the complete lack of marginal analysis. If we took EVs’ demand off the grid, would that result in less coal being burned? Highly unlikely. It’s mostly NG and renewables being built to meet new demand.

I respectfully disagree.

I pay a very small extra increment for 100% green electricity (utility wind + small project hydro), which means my Leaf has zero marginal CO2 emissions per mile. Plus, EVs are already much cleaner than fossil fueled cars.

As I’ve said MANY times online, we simply must clean up our electricity supply a lot and relatively quickly if we’re to have any hope of avoiding almost unimaginable climate change impacts. Getting electric cars on the road now is critically important, because we get lower emissions now and then vastly lower emissions as the electricity supply changes.

This guy is looking for a show in Fox.

It’s surprising that most of Alaska and upstate New York have the cleanest electrical grids in the US.

I cannot speak for Alaska, but Upstate NY is mostly nuclear with another good chunk being Hydro. Love or hate nuclear, it is in fact low CO2.

Upstate NY is also supplying an increasing amount of electricity to NYC to the chagrin of some upstate residents. NYC also just added excess Quebec hydro-generated electricity to its grid, and laid a new transmission line under the Hudson River to receive electricity from NJ & Pennsylvania.


Depends on what you consider “upstate”.. Buchannan, NY is upstate, where Indian Point is, and those 2 Nukes supply a good chunk of NYC. For accounting purposes, maybe, but little of western NY’s electricity gets to NYC since in general Electricity doesn’t ship well. Quebec hydro supplies juice from a distance, but since rates in NYC dwarf the rest of the state, its economic to do. Posts that say lines are essentially lossless have not convinced this reader. Supposedly my area has way too much generation and plants need to close. However, 80 miles away the nation’s oldest Nuke GINNA, has been allowed to keep running and ROchester Area customers are going to get a decent rate increase, simply to provide reliability that would be lacking if the plant shutdown. If it was truly free to ship juice, Rochester would just use Buffalo’s excess and not have to worry about old Nuke plants with the corresponding rate increase. Since they are SO close, the line loss wouldn’t be THAT great (especially in an emergency), so there must be something else behind the scenes that is causing that Nuke plant to have willing ratepayers. Of course, the PSC just dictates that… Read more »

There is a proposed underwater and underground electric transmission system called West Point Transmission that will bring up to 1,000 MW of electric power from northern and western New York to the greater New York City load center in Buchanan.


75 Miles from Athens? Big Deal. I remember a few years ago they were going to make a bigger line (mostly overhead HVDC) until many communities protested about the eyesore, and then it was discovered that Revere had a pending shortage of electricity in Central NY. So much for the supposed great excess there.

As the current lines run, its around 315 miles from me to Buchannan.

The big purpose of that proposed line seemingly will allow a shut down more often of one of the Indian Point Nukes, since in the Summertime the large demand from NYC is rather dependent on the 2 Nukes, since each is a bit over 1GW.

Another purpose really might be it will be able to take any new additional transmission from Quebec if HYDRO there decides to make additional sales and builds a bit more transmission lines.

Other people are complaining how dangerous the Indian Point complex is, seeing as the machines are, at this rather late date, rather long of the tooth, and they haven’t developed a huge reputation for ongoing safety anyway.

There are other reasons why NYC might need to import more power from upstate in the not so distant future. There are rumors in NYC that the powers-that-be want to shut down the aging Ravenswood Generating Station located on the East River in Queens, just north of the Queensboro (59th Street) Bridge. The reason given is that closing the generating station would improve air quality. But the real reason is that the plant sits on a very large parcel of prime waterfront real estate just across the river from the upper east side of Manhattan. Practically all the waterfront real estate on the East River in Brooklyn and Queens has been, is being, or will be redeveloped into luxury apartment buildings.

Incidentally, the Ravenswood plant in the heart of NYC is where 50 years ago the Consolidated Edison electric utility wanted to build the the world’s largest nuclear plant, with a capacity greater than all existing nuclear power plants in the U.S. at the time!!!



Average loss for transmission of electricity from source to consumer is 7%. Obviously for longer transmissions, the loss will be higher. But in general, transmitting electricity over even long distances is relatively efficient, and can certainly result in cheaper rates than using local sources. This is particularly true if the origin is a nuclear plant; all of those in the USA (and most worldwide) were build long enough ago to have had all the construction costs amortized away, and the operational costs are lower than just about any other type of power plant.

One place that “Green” advocates get it wrong is in their opposition to nuclear power. Anyone looking at the situation rationally, ignoring the hysteria over “RADIATION!!” promoted by the media, will see that the ongoing effects on public health of pollution from coal-fired power plants (and even the lower amount from gas-fired plants) far exceeds any danger from nuclear plants. If humans were rational animals, we would have replaced every single coal-fired plant with nuclear plants, decades ago. Of course, anti-nuke propaganda promoted by Big Oil doesn’t help.

Oh man, there’s so much here to pick apart.. Here we go with the Atomic Energy Commission’s Chairman stating “Electricity will be too cheap to meter..”. I just mentioned the GINNA plant in Ontario, NY has just been granted a big rate increase to KEEP RUNNING. I don’t live in Rochester, but if I did my rates would go up as dictated by our Public Service Commission. If the plant closed the rates would not go up, since the owner has to pay for decommissioning. But since that’s over decades, and all these joints are LLC’s, it is pretty obvious the game plan is to have them go bankrupt. It will be interesting to see if the public of the future is happy with holding the bag for this eventual cost. The 4 Westinghouse AP-1000’s being built in the US currently (2 at the Georgia Vogtle, and 2 at the South Carolina Summer facilities) are not being built without plenty of outside money. Obama has granted $8 Billion in Fed loan guarantees for the Vogtle plants, their cost, as of right now before the perfuntory cost-overruns is $14 Billion. Its interesting in these specifically ‘cost -reduced plants’, that when they… Read more »

Brian, I would have thought that California had a cleaner grid than upstate NY and Alaska.

Lomborg is full of HOGWASH

The map just reinforces what I’ve been saying for a long time. The grid is in drastic need of a clean up. Not that EV’s are no good.

The map says driving an EV in Arizona is equivalent to driving a Prius. That tells it right there. Why bother with a Leaf if you can get a Prius with unlimited range for much less. It definitely substantiates the Prius as just about the most cost effective ways to take CO2 out of the atmosphere.

The proposed EPA regulations for a 30% cut in CO2 from the US grid is a must. If you live where there is a lot of sun then Solar is a must.

Long range Nuclear is a must. Even with the high cost of new plants it is still cheaper than wind….

The electrical grid is slowly cleaning up. Here are links that show how much the grid has cleaned up in one year. It shows a the same map from the Union of Concerned Scientists using data as of September 2013.



nice data thx.

George, you write “Why bother with a Leaf if you can get a Prius with unlimited range for much less?”

Because a Leaf is cleaner than a Prius. Maybe not today, but soon, and since cars tend to last for many years, a Leaf you buy today will be cleaner than a Prius you buy today, if you look at the car’s lifetime.

You state that the grid is in need of a clean up. It is happening. A little bit every day. Every new solar panel is an improvement. And Arizona will definitely get many more solar panels in the next few years.

“. . . since cars tend to last for many years, a Leaf you buy today will be cleaner than a Prius you buy today, if you look at the car’s lifetime.”

It all depends on how fast the grid cleans up. If the mid-western grids with their 34 to 40 MPG equivalent grids are slow to clean up, BEVs charged on those grids might exceed the lifetime CO2 generated by a 50 MPG Prius, especially since you put more miles on a car when it’s new than when it’s an old beater.

Also, he bar will be raised this fall when the next generation Prius comes out with an expected 60 to 65 MPG combined EPA fuel economy.

Sven, you should try to relax a bit, and stay on topic.

At issue here was Arizona, and a Prius you can buy today.

If you look carefully you’ll see between from the 2013 map to the 2014, Arizona went from 49 mpg to 53, which is already beating a 50mpg Prius you can buy today.

And if Arizona cleaned up by 4mpg in 1 year, chances are more solar panels will push it further in the clean direction.

And your 60mpg speculation, is not available today. I hope you are correct that such a Prius will become available, but that is another reason NOT to buy a Prius today.

Oops. I missed the Arizona part in GeorgeS’ comment. I’ll take a chill pill now. 😀

yes you are right. I was just trying to point out that the Prius is a cost effective tool for now.

The problem with the Prius is it can only go so far.

The next step of course is to charge the Leaf with solar panels. Then of course there is no contest.

“Longrange nuclear is a must….. cheaper than wind.”

Uh huh. Look at my UCS quote above. Disproves both your points.

At this point Europeans would stick their noses up at we Americans and say it just because you Yanks can’t build anything cost effectively.

Except not this time: all their new Nukes are also overbudget.

If someone mentions the Chinese then they have a point. But the Chinese are buying many AP-1000’s to get the technology transfer, and the derivative CAP-1400’a and 1700’s (basically ap-1000’s on steroids) will be exported as CHINESE TECHNOLOGY, which countries will have to pay them royalties. So they’ll initially be money losers, but, if Nuclear Power continues to be popular, ultimately the Chinese will seemingly achieve profitability whereas no other country to date has.

Ah, Bjorn Lomborg again, AKA “The Danish Denier”. In many ways the perfect Trojan Horse for the Koch Brothers. He’s young, gay, hell even a vegetarian and he comes from a socialist country!

Unfortunately for Bjorn’s pseudo-science he was recently outed as basically being on the Koch Brothers’ payroll.

See here:

I especially liked the part where Lomborg assumes/implies that 25 million electric cars will receive the $7500 credit, ignoring the 200,000 per manufacturer limit.

Little known fact: “Lomborg” is Swedish for “low-grade balloon juice”.

Google it if you like, but you can trust me. Really.

Someone who setups solar pv at home and charges at home seems to have the best use-case for EVs, of course. In order to do the “whole thing” – just buying an EV and hot-rodding it or driving it more miles for pleasure than what would have been driven in an ICE is not as good of a benefit.

The best way some of these think tanks could help the world is to cancel events and not burn the resources in order to get to those events. Shouldn’t most resource conferences be done online through a wide range of very capable tele-conferencing tools? That would be somewhat impactful.

The impact of commercial jets on global warming is significant. There’s a lot of research on this, and details vary (some of the effect isn’t due to CO2), but the basic fact isn’t in dispute:

Forgot to mention that Lomborg’s only academic credentials are as a political scientist, he has absolutely no background in the physical sciences.

He has cleverly constructed his persona that he is fighting against poverty and claims numerous bullshit cost-benefit analyses against basically everything sustainable and especially against EVs and renewables because they “hurt the poor”! What a shill for the corporate world and fossil fuel industries in particular.

He is not well regarded by scientists anywhere and particularly in Denmark. This is the most in-depth takedown of his flawed career that I could find:

All in Denmark know Bjørn Lomborg, he is known for his provocative populist short -term approach to the green debate.

He is a frequent and creative user of various statistics can get any argument to fit.

He is very entertaining in a debate and clearly likes the attention he gets

NB : It is appropriate to mention that to produce 1 litre of petrol requires approximately 1 kW electricity, don’t see this in the article

subsidies for oil and gas $500 billion in 2011
subsidies for Renewable energy subsidies reached $88 billion in 2011

And suddenly Bjørn Lomborg whole argumentation in the article collapsed.

Typical for Bjørn Lomborg is:
Short sighted
Sets a price on life and the environment
Forgets to mention contradicting data

Basically opinion pieces disguised as science.


If you don’t live in a state with a clean grid (or if you do), driving an EV installing solar on your roof saves money, reduces your carbon footprint and reduces imports of foreign oil.

Pretty hard to argue with any of those benefits, and it’s something individuals can do, you don’t have to wait for policymakers or utilities.

And this article illustrates why it is a mistake to use green-politics to sell EVs. Better to focus on the ownership experience like Tesla does. The core functional advantages of EVs are enough to sell them, and they are non-political and cannot be disparaged.

I stopped reading after Bjorn L

I hope Insideevs and the Union of Concerned Scientists aren’t on the same page?

Take George’s AZ example. UCS chart says “49mpg” beats EV. Oh really? EIA has AZ at:
Coal: 36%
Nuclear: 27%
Natural gas: 29%

I’m using 2012 data, because that is the year specific to where EPA’s goals bench themselves.
At that mix, a 3mp/kwh car pushes 0.3 pound CO2/mile. At 20lbs/gallon, you’d have to hit >67mpg, not “49”.

UCS is wrong, let alone USA’s paid hack. Using this as a counter argument shows we are really going backward 🙁

You are not including upstream CO2 emissions in your calculation. The MPG figures in the map above DO INCLUDE an estimate for upstream CO2 emissions for both gasoline and electricity based on the GREET1 2013 study by the Argonne National Laboratory. Therefore, the MPG figures above are based on well-to-wheels CO2 emissions.

According to the Union of Concerned Scientists’ website, their report used the following methodology:

“Notes on calculations: The updated analysis is based on the original State of Charge report methodology including the following updates: . . . 2) GREET 1 2013 for global warming emissions of petroleum as well as estimates for upstream electricity emissions. . . .”


I would have liked to see a link to the article in question.

Why is driving an electric TWICE as deadly?

I thought my volt at least was just about the safest car out there, at least from heresay.

The hyperlink to the article is now in the first sentence of story above.

From the USA Today article:

“It is time to stop our green worship of the electric car. It costs us a fortune, cuts little CO2 and surprisingly kills almost twice the number of people compared with regular gasoline cars.”

“The researchers estimate that if the U.S. has 10% more gasoline cars in 2020, 870 more people will die each year in the U.S. from air pollution. Hybrids, because they are cleaner, will kill just 610 people. But 10% more electric vehicles powered on the average U.S. electricity mix will kill 1,617 more people every year, mostly from coal pollution. The electric car kills almost three times as many as a hybrid.”


Oh, ok….. I’m very relieved about my 2 electric cars now.

I don’t subscribe to the basic premise of any of this.

I thought they were making the actual point that the cars themselves are unsafe.

I’m much more worried about the continual crop dusting going on, which people in California Laugh at, to which I say, go ahead and laugh it up, since its happening if news reports can be believed at a much greater extent there than even here.

The west coast also has animal die-offs at about 8-10X the historical rate lately.

Totally unrelated I’m sure. And I know someone is going to pick up on a ‘seeming contradiction’. Rest assured, there isn’t one. As is totally unrelated the several orders of magnitude growth of Autism, which of course should be none of my business since only pregnant moms-to-be should be concerned about. Or increased Alzheimer’s, etc. Anyway, that’s the kind of thing that I concern myself.

A question someone might reasonably ask is, Why, with the MOST money spent in the medical field, is the US DEAD LAST in infant mortality amoungst industrialized countries?

The fact that a well known hack, charlatan and corporate shill like Lomborg attacks EVs is in itself reliable evidence of the spread and success of EVs. Whenever there’s progress, there will be vested interests trying to reverse it, and the lackeys (read Lomborg) of said interests.

My response to this moron I posted on Facebook a while back… “Hey Björn, I’m surprised you were able to wipe the oil industry’s DNA off your chin long enough to write that hatchet piece. For the record, I drive a “coal-powered” Nissan Leaf in West Virginia and am damn proud to drive a car built in Tennessee by Volunteers and powered in West Virginia by Mountaineers. Best car I ever owned and a lot of fun to drive. Quick off the line and dirt cheap to operate. Easily takes care of 90%+ of my daily driving and plenty of options exist to handle the other 10% without a hassle or inconvenience. I don’t give a sh^t that I can’t easily drive it across the country. For that, there’s a big metal tube with wings and Pratt & Whitney turbofans. The gasser you’re driving around is also coal powered unless you think crude oil magically refines itself into gasoline without use of that same coal-generated electricity directly powering my car. In addition, I have the option of installing solar and powering my car with electricity that I myself generate. A pretty good feeling of energy-independence you’ll never know. When it… Read more »

You do realize that Bjørn Lomborg is a writer from Denmark and that ABBA is a pop group from Sweden? Or do you think they all Scandinavians are the same?

that all, not they all

sven… have you ever heard the expression “tongue in cheek”? If not, please look it up because it applies here LOL! I grew-up in the 70’s, so I’m well-aware of the difference, but thanks for pointing it out!

Yeah, but your biting the pillow remark doesn’t stick either. Bjorn’s gay, and probably doesn’t need to. I know I dont. 😉

Don’t know Bjørn’s sexual leanings and don’t much care. I’ll leave that be a concern for others if they wish. What I do know is that he’s in bed with Big Oil, and judging from his writings, his corporate masters are taking full advantage of the mattress springs. So regardless of how offensive the mental image may be, I’ll stick with the pillow-biting remark, thanks. 🙂

“There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics.” –Mark Twain (quoting Benjamin Disraeli)

Bjørn Lomborg seems to enjoy the controversy he creates by manipulating data in attempts to support dishonest anti-“Green” arguments. This is well detailed in his Wikipedia article; see particularly the section “Formal accusations of scientific dishonesty”.

Thanks to the Union of Concerned Scientists for debunking yet another “hit piece” from this mouthpiece for Big Oil propaganda. If you want to know who funds Lomborg, you can find details here:


Those of us already versed in Lomborgisms know he flip-flops after a few years. First he backpedals, then he quietly drops it. Unfortunately I am no longer willing to give him a few years.

Lomborg is a paid liar. He’s lying, he knows it (or if he doesn’t he’s got a very complex psychological condition), and he does it to get money. He has a lot of company these days.

One thing to understand about EVs is that, as an early adopter vehicle, even if today you are driving on 100% coal-created electricity you are still helping the overall cause because you’re contributing to the process of getting EVs into the mainstream.

Upton Sinclair said it best, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.”

I think this applies to many of the more dogmatic posts here.