Fox News Warns of Accelerating ‘Global Warming’

by Bill Chameides | January 19th, 2011
posted by Erica Rowell (Editor)

Permalink | 2 comments

Some people say electric vehicles won’t make the cut because they have poor acceleration. warns that they may have too much acceleration — global warming acceleration, that is.

Crossposted with National Geographic’s Great Energy Challenge Blog.

Somebody didn’t get the memo.

Wind and other low-carbon technologies have taken their hits of late from the Wall Street Journal’s editorial page and its ilk. (Examples here, here, here, and here.)

But one piece in particular caught my eye with the headline: “Electric Cars May Accelerate Global Warming.”

It Started at …

… with a January 5th blog posting by William Pentland (a k a “CleanBeta”) summing up a recent paper published in Energy Policy by Reed Doucette and Malcolm McCulloch of Oxford University. Doucette and McCulloch found that:

“For China and India, and other countries with a similarly high [carbon dioxide] CO2 intensity, unless power generation becomes dramatically less CO2 intensive, [battery electric vehicles] BEVs will not be able to deliver a meaningful decrease in CO2 emissions [relative to vehicles powered by internal combustion engines].”

On the basis of this finding, Pentland declared in his short post:

“Electric cars are not a silver bullet solution for global warming, but could they actually be part of the problem? In some developing countries, the answer is likely ‘yes.'”

And of course the coup de grace: at some point between the draft and the posting, the piece got tagged with the “Electric Vehicles May Accelerate Global Warming” headline.

Holy Turnaround, Batman. Does That Mean We Should Stick With Our Gasoline-Sucking Mobiles?

No. First off, Pentland downplays the authors’ finding that despite the higher carbon intensity of China’s and India’s electricity, only in some scenarios do petroleum-powered vehicles emit less CO2 than their electric-powered equivalents. In other words, in places like China and India lower emissions from electric vehicles are still possible. Nor did Pentland note, as the paper points out, that as China’s and India’s carbon intensity drops, as is predicted and as they have pledged, the benefits of using electric vehicles will grow.

Pentland’s widely re-published blog posting also failed to note that, with respect to developed economies like the United States, electric cars do significantly reduce emissions — and do so even with our current dependence on coal-fired power plants (see here and here).

And finally, Pentland failed to point out that a move to electric vehicles would lower the world’s dependence on oil, which, as we know, largely comes from geopolitically unstable corners of the world.

So, no. Pentland’s post notwithstanding, I don’t recommend writing off electric vehicles. (And apparently drivers are not gunning to do so — a new poll finds that nearly one fifth of drivers surveyed would consider an electric-powered car.)

Post Goes Viral — and That’s Weird

To be fair, Pentland may not have had a particular ax to grind against electric vehicles — in fact he’s a self-described “clean energy wonk.” But his post (and its headline) sure had legs with folks that likely do.

And that’s what I find weird. Why? Take a close look at the headline. It states that “electric vehicles may accelerate global warming” (emphasis added). Seems to me that such a statement implicitly accepts two key facts:

  1. Global warming is occurring (if not, how could it be accelerated?) and
  2. Human activities specifically emissions of carbon dioxide are causing global warming (if not, why would emissions from power plants and vehicles be relevant?).

So I find it almost incredible that this posting and its headline popped up as either a link or a full (or partial) re-publishing in unlikely spots — like, for example, on,,,, and, to name a few. Oh, and on, too.

Fox News’s position on global warming is so extreme that a senior editor reportedly e-mailed a memo last December instructing Fox News correspondents to “refrain from asserting that the planet has warmed (or cooled) in any given period without IMMEDIATELY pointing out that such theories are based upon data that critics have called into question.”

Could it be that we are witnessing an uprising of scientific reason from the denizens of Fox News? Or is it simply the case that someone forgot to read the memo?

filed under: carbon dioxide, carbon dioxide emissions, climate change, energy, faculty, fossil fuels, global warming, transportation
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  1. Paul Pierett
    Jan 24, 2011

    First, let’s review the fundamental causes of the ice age and the short period the Earth is not in an ice age, much as we are today. 1. The Sun 2. The Earth’s elliptical elongated orbit 3. The sunspot activity that varies from 200 total sunspot mean to as much as 900+ sunspot mean for an average 11-year cycle. 4. The Earth’s axis tilt 5. The Moon 6. The oceans various currents 7. The air currents 8. Volcanic activity 9. Atmosphere and greenhouse gases Now, what separates a mini-ice age from the warmer minimums that are at least 4F to 6F degrees less than our average USA temperatures of today. The only real thing that can be proven over and over is sunspot activity. Just this past week, NASA confirmed we are in a minimum. Joseph D’ Aleo states that minimums come in two small sunspot cycles. That is why we are entering a 30-year cooling period. Greenhouse gases are doing their job. As for our efforts to find green in everything, people demand convenience and independence. As long as green jobs give people that, they will buy it. Electric cars must provide convenience and independence.

  2. Blake Rodgers
    Jan 21, 2011

    Excellent and thought-provoking post, as usual. One thing you fail to mention in the overall CO2 picture is the life-cycle cost of a vehicle. As discussed here: battery production and disposal must be considered in the overall cost, CO2 and environmental impact accounting. Eyeballing from the graph, electric cars fall somewhere between hybrids and conventional gasoline in terms of lifetime CO2 emissions for current US electricity generation profile.

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