For the past few weeks, I’ve been focusing on electric vehicles (EVs), examining fallacies being embraced by those who don’t believe we can build a cleaner future. This is a key battleground for fossil fuel interests and people who dismiss the seriousness of the climate emergency. Last week, I wrote about how the EV industry is building a circular economy. This week, I examine Big Oil’s unethical response to the threat of competition from EVs.

Canadian oil executives, politicians and lobbyists like to claim the world prefers Canada’s “ethical oil” because we have excellent environmental standards and a history of extracting resources responsibly. That claim is debatable, but when Big Oil attacks successful climate solutions like electric vehicles, the facade of ethical conduct is shattered.

EVs have an obvious advantage over gasoline and diesel engines because they have no emissions as you drive them. Internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles have tailpipe emissions with health risks from sooty particulate matter, volatile organic compounds (toxic air pollutants like benzene, acetaldehyde and butadiene), nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide and sulfur dioxide when burning diesel. Is it any wonder oil industry enthusiasts want to talk about something else besides combustion engine emissions?

According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), a typical ICE passenger car emits several tonnes of greenhouse gases (GHGs) every year, including carbon dioxide (CO2), methane and nitrous oxide. When Americans and Canadians drive the most polluting fleet of vehicles on the planet, every tailpipe taken off the road is a step in the right direction.

Ethically challenged individuals argue that charging EVs with coal-fired electricity is actually more polluting than burning gasoline. This is especially misleading when only seven per cent of Canada’s electricity is generated from coal-fired plants. Eighty per cent of electricity in Canada comes from hydro, nuclear and renewable sources. Some provinces still rely on fossil-based electricity, but the vast majority of Canadians can charge their EVs with reasonably clean electricity.

Let’s crunch some numbers for an Alberta motorist driving 1,500 kilometres per month. For city driving in cold weather, the battery performance of the Tesla Model Y is estimated to be 179 watt-hours per kilometre, or 268.5 kilowatt-hours (kWh) for the month. Electricity generated in Alberta produces 0.6 kilograms of CO2 per kWh. With charging efficiency losses of 15 per cent, the EV’s monthly emissions are 0.19 tonnes of CO2.

Fuel consumption for a Honda Accord averages 7.5 litres per 100 kilometres and according to Natural Resources Canada, “Burning [one litre] of gasoline produces approximately 2.3 [kilograms] of CO2.” The tally for an Accord’s monthly emissions is 0.25 tonnes of CO2. This figure challenges the claim that EVs charged from a fossil-heavy electricity grid are dirtier than good old combustion-powered vehicles.

Undaunted, most EV critics beholden to Big Oil will fall back on denigrating the CO2 emissions required to produce an EV battery. According to a report by McKinsey & Company, emissions due to mining and battery production amount to 0.1 tonnes of CO2 per kWh, or six tonnes for a Model Y battery pack. The report goes on to examine how leading battery manufacturers might hit their target of reducing CO2 emissions to one-fifth of the current amount, or 0.02 tonnes of CO2 per kWh.

Producing gasoline is a complex process from start to finish. Oilsands crude has nearly double the emissions of conventional oil production in Canada, but let’s look at the conventional oil scenario. Exploration including drilling requires a significant amount of energy, mostly in the form of diesel fuel to power drilling rigs and generators. Once you’ve tapped a reservoir, a pumpjack is needed to pull the oil out of the ground, typically consuming 9,960 kWh per month. By one estimate, the 4.3 terawatts of electricity consumed monthly by all the pumpjacks in the United States would be enough to power 15 million EVs.

Many people are unaware of the ongoing manipulation that keeps them buying gas-guzzling vehicles, writes Rob Miller @winexus #EVs #cdnpoli

Exporting oil also requires an incredible amount of energy to pump oil through continent-spanning pipelines and to power oil tankers with the world’s dirtiest fuel, emitting 200 million tonnes of CO2 annually.

Refineries are energy hogs and a major source of air and water pollution. Then the gasoline produced by these refineries has to be delivered to your local gas station in diesel-powered tanker trucks. It’s an inefficient system rife with polluting energy consumption.

The well-to-tank emissions required to keep us driving are estimated to be 0.72 kilograms of CO2 per litre. An EV battery can be recharged for the life of the vehicle, while your gas tank continues to accumulate production emissions every time you fill it up. Well-to-tank emissions must be calculated for the lifetime of the vehicle to be a fair comparison with an EV battery.

Since most EVs come with a 160,000-kilometre warranty on the battery, we’ll use that as a conservative estimate for a vehicle’s lifetime. (EV batteries will generally last much longer, with a Tesla Model S surpassing 500,000 kilometres in Alberta.) The well-to-tank emissions resulting from the fuel required to drive the Honda Accord for 160,000 kilometres are 8.6 tonnes, 40 per cent higher than the emissions from producing the battery for the Model Y.

Industry experts may challenge these rough calculations. However, the EPA is very clear that claims about EV emissions being greater than ICE vehicle emissions are indeed myths. Even Alberta’s Municipal Climate Change Action Centre debunks claims that EVs don’t reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Who stands to gain from perpetuating these falsehoods? Big Oil’s business case would be crippled if more than a billion vehicles stopped burning gas and diesel. Exponential growth of EV adoption is very bad for business, and we should expect a formidable effort to slow down or prevent this technology transition from happening. It’s harder to explain why journalists and individuals latch onto these misleading narratives.

When industry leaders, banks and politicians have full knowledge of the environmental and climate consequences associated with any delay in reducing air pollution and GHG emissions, it’s irresponsible and unethical to actively undermine a technology that reduces demand for their dangerous product. Nevertheless, Big Oil is prioritizing profits and bonuses over the health and well-being of billions of people.

Industry spokespeople argue that the world still needs fossil energy and it would be harmful to reduce production while demand is still increasing. This is 100 per cent true and it’s why policies and targets are needed to manage an orderly transition. However, the subversive attempt to create skepticism around electric vehicles, renewable energy and climate science is a breach of ethical conduct.

Furthermore, Canada’s Competition Act prohibits false and misleading representations that may adversely impact a competitor’s business. Competition law is being used against recent greenwashing campaigns by the oil industry. How difficult would it be to connect industry representatives with the multi-pronged disinformation campaigns against EVs?

In light of Big Oil’s ongoing anti-social behaviour, it’s very clear that ethical oil is a marketing construct that defies reality. Many people are unaware of the ongoing manipulation that keeps them buying gas-guzzling vehicles. In the face of a slowly overheating planet, investors in the world’s largest oil companies have voted down petitions calling for stronger measures to mitigate climate change. This is exactly the result oil executives envisioned when they crafted their unethical response to the warnings of their own scientists.

Rob Miller is a retired systems engineer, formerly with General Dynamics Canada, who now volunteers with the Calgary Climate Hub and writes on behalf of Eco-Elders for Climate Action, but any opinions expressed in his work are his own.

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Which car is ethical?
Which brand of cigarette is healthy?

For years, Canada's oil lobby has made mileage on its Ethical Oil™ claims. Canada has better environmental and labor standards than Nigeria and Iran. Women are treated better in Canada than in Saudi Arabia. Blood oil, etc.

On brief examination, the environmental case falls apart. Oilsands companies have turned NE Alberta into an ecological sacrifice zone. Endangering the health of indigenous communities on the frontlines of "development".

But the real problem is the perverted definition of ethical.
Ethical is not a relative term. Ethical does not mean "better than Iran". Ethical has an absolute meaning. On that basis, Canada's oil is not ethical. No fossil fuels are ethical.
Is Canada's asbestos ethical? Landmines? Tobacco? Just because a product is made in Canada does not make it ethical.

EV promoters commit a similar fallacy. Just because EVs are superior to ICE cars does not make them ethical.
No car is green. No car is sustainable. No car is ethical.

What we can say is that EVs are less harmful than ICE cars. But they still cause massive harm. To the environment, to cities (sprawl), to public health, to society, to the marginalized (non-drivers), to property, to wildlife, to planet Earth, and to our sustainable future (if we have one).
Not because EVs have electric motors, but because they are cars.

Promoting EV cars and EV subsidies at the expense of public transit, cycling, and walking in people-friendly cities is the opposite of ethical.

Thank you for this informative piece. I hope that the misinformation coming from oil companies can be exposed. And yes, EV's are not the only solution; governments also need to provide more funding for public transit and active transportation infrastructure. And they need to stop subsidizing fossil fuel companies and approving fossil fuel projects such as LNG facilities!

Governments (Quebec and apparently Canada) are starting to phase out EV rebates. The federal government should start by eliminating all fossil fuel subsidies before they touch the EV rebates.

Where will the revenue supplying Canada's economy come from if we all go E.V. ?How much do you think it will cost to charge your carbon free E.V. .. ?And where do we get the electriciity supply when we all go E.V.??

If you own a house, you can contribute energy by installing solar panels on the roof.
The same goes for Canadas economy: Massive installations of wind turbines and solar panels as well as batteries to the point where we have a surplus of clean energy, that we can sell to the USA, this will give a lot of employment.
Don't forget that wind and solar are the cheapest energy and battery prices have decreased 89% in the last ten years and will drop another 50% in the next 2 to 3 years.
Subsidies to fossil fuel companies has to stop.
We will go to all electric transport and electric heat pumps. The FF lobby can slow the process and they have so far been successful doing just that but eventually they will be mostly faced out.

You nailed it. Kudos!

According to American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy, the best choice for the environment in automobiles is the PHEV Toyota Prius. I think it would be my preferred choice.. how much is that replacement battery going to cost after you pass 160,000 km? What if your car is rusty after 5 years.. will it last another 5 to justify a new battery? What happens if you are in an accident and the battery may be damaged.. is it safe to still park the car in your garage? Besides that, Elon Musk is a very wealthy and powerful person of somewhat questionable politics, in my opinion.
The PHEV Prius has a range of 72 km on the battery alone.. in the rare event that one wants to take a road trip, one can buy some gas.. the US version is rated at 56 mpg hwy..

The lithium iron phosphate battery has a safe, stable chemistry and is displacing lithium manganese nickel cobalt batteries, which have had dendrite and stability issues. Next on the R&D front are sodium and silicon batteries, which will probably be in the form of hybrids with lithium for very good energy density and excellent cold weather performance. Battery components are ultimately recyclable over and over -- for generations. Recycling will incrementally diminish the demand for new metals, thus offset mining by increasing degrees as EV saturation in the market is achieved.

If you are afraid of unstable lithium ion batteries then it's advisable to not carry a cell phone in your pocket or have a laptop in your lap.

There are many non-Tesla choices in EVs., from VW to Hyundai. Toyota is the most indebted corporation in the world and they have very few pure EV models because they are still pushing unworkable hydrogen. Moreover, they lobbied hard against EV mandates in California for that reason. Electricity is universally distributed; hydrogen is not. The problem with the Prius is that is it still dependent on petrol. I wouldn't place bets on the internal combustion engine surviving another decade given the rapid electrification of the carbon economy. The convenience of "gassing up" with electricity at home at a much lower cost, plus all the other operating cost savings (far less maintenance...) are becoming much more attractive with respect to long term budgeting for families that need to drive a car.

All this will be irrelevant IF communities became car-free. Love to see it happen in my lifetime, but it's doubtful rebuilding car and oil dependent suburbs for commuting by walking shoe, rail and bikes will evolve until the latter half of this century.

It is very interesting how EVs get attacked from two sides in the comments below. One repeats (in many, many words) the argument that EVs only prolong car culture, massive resource consumption, urban sprawl, and so on. While the argument is good, it assumes that car culture will end in the near future. That, I am afraid, will not happen.
The other one is simply FUD (fear, uncertainty, and doubt). Ignoring the article's information, it stokes fear about the cost of replacement batteries, or what might happen in an accident.
Both arguments lead to a continuation of the status quo. One because the goal it sets is not achievable in a reasonable time frame. The other because it promotes a vehicle that is 100% powered by gas.
It does not get much more blatant, from either side.
Those arguments do not help at all.

My argument makes no such assumption.
The fact that a goal can not be achieved overnight is not a reason not to start. Obvious fallacy. None of the changes we need to make will be achieved overnight.

Switching from ICE cars to EVs only prolongs car culture. And postpones the switch to public transit to the day after forever.
The only sustainable solution is public transit. The sooner we shift to public transit, the better. Delaying the only real solution helps no one.

The decisions we make now about urban design set the blueprint for generations to come. We cannot undo sprawl except at enormous cost. So let's not make it worse!
Doubling down on cars (EVs) and sprawl makes already difficult problems intractable and puts solutions out of reach. Forever.

Climate solutions that guarantee other environmental disasters are no solution at all. Climate change is not our only problem. Electrification is not the solution to everything.
The focus on emissions reductions via EVs to the exclusion of other environmental and social equity issues — not to mention far more effective climate solutions — is short-sighted and self-defeating. Ill-considered climate solutions are liable to do more harm than good. We need a holistic vision.

In perpetuating sprawl, EVs exacerbate the problem and obstruct real solutions.] A one-Earth footprint cannot accommodate an energy-intensive lifestyle where people drive everywhere they go -- or an urban model relying on millions of cars to transport millions of people.
Using two tons of metal to transport a 150 lb human being is an ecological non-starter. That model is insane.
We need to hit the brakes on sprawl and car culture ASAP.

We have a choice. We can invest in the private automobile, car culture, and sprawl. Or we can invest in the public good: transit, cycling, and smart urban design.
Sinking public dollars into private cars just slows public transit down — and puts the only sustainable solution out of reach.
There is no evolution from more private cars and more sprawl to efficient public transit. More private cars and more sprawl do not enable efficient public transit at some future date — they make it impossible.
If the goal is efficient public transit, it is self-defeating to promote car use and enable sprawl.
The supply of tax dollars is not infinite. Scarce public dollars spent on private cars are dollars not spent on public transit.

Once middle- and upper-class consumers are happily ensconced in their automobiles, there is no shifting them. There is no incentive for governments to invest in and improve transit if the vast majority vote for cars and EV subsidies.
Transportation policy and investment focussed on cars abandons the marginalized — the poor without political power, seniors, the handicapped, and environmentalists — without hope of essential mobility options. Mass transit does not work without the masses.

"The fact that a goal can not be achieved overnight is not a reason not to start."

An interesting comment in the context that some jurisdictions have been making the transition away from cars for decades. As mentioned repeatedly in other posts on EVs, Vancouver achieved 53% non-auto mode share by working non-stop on zoning for higher densities, building separated bike lanes, participating fully at its own cost in accommodating dense build-outs at rapid transit stations, and so on an so forth. Downtown doubled in population while traffic to-from the peninsula and GHG emissions were both reduced by nearly 20%. And the remnants of Vancouver's incomplete freeway network (it was stopped by mass protest and a progressive new council in the early 70s) are slated for demolition next year, with their replacement with better bike and pedestrian routes and a modern streetcar.

This partial success took a quarter century and reached tens of billions in investments in new public infrastructure and private development.

Just because you are not aware of the "gotta start somewhere" success stories that have been ongoing for decades (due to their generations-long financing and construction timelines) doesn't mean that they are not underway. Every municipal planning department staff roster in our biggest cities and the private consultants hired by them have had personnel devoted to dealing with climate heating through planning and urban design for a generation now. Private transport will not disappear overnight, but it is being eroded more each year in many cities, some of which are tearing down their old freeways.

"The fact that a goal can not be achieved overnight is not a reason not to start."
A general statement about life in general, not urban design and public transit in particular. I.e., the longest journey begins with a single step. Just because urban redesign and efficient public transit will take decades is not reason for delay.

I do not claim that no community has started to take steps towards sustainability. Bending the curve and making net progress is another matter. Nationally, sprawl and car dependency are increasing.
We have not even begun to bend the curve away from sprawl, more commutes by car, longer commutes by car, and more single-passenger traffic. Transit users face even longer commutes. As well as crime, violence, and general safety concerns. Did I mention rising fares?

The number of car commuters facing long commutes increased between 2016 and 2023. Which suggests transit continues to fail. The number of transit commuters facing long commutes has decreased since 2016. Which suggests people facing long transit commutes are abandoning transit for cars.
The car is still king — now and for decades to come. With no sign of abatement. There are more cars and more vehicles on the road than ever.* Just one in ten commuters take transit.** Only 6% use active modes of transportation such as walking or cycling. The rebound from the 2020-21 pandemic blip, now well underway, disproportionately favors the (single-passenger) car.
People are buying larger and heavier vehicles (SUVs and pickups). More people than ever are commuting by car in Toronto and Vancouver.

Nationally, all these metrics are going in the wrong direction. Simply gaslighting to suggest otherwise. You will be hard pressed to find the slightest glimmer of hope in StatsCan's data.
* Table: 23-10-0308-01: Vehicle registrations, by type of vehicle and fuel type
** "Commuting to work by car and public transit grows in 2023" (StatsCan, 2023)

Across Canada, between 2016 and 2023:
-The increase in the absolute number of car commuters = 7%.
-The increase in the share of car commuters = 3%.
-The decrease in the absolute number of transit commuters = -17%.
-The decrease in the share of transit commuters = -3%. (Only BC saw a marginal increase of 1%.)

Sprawl continues to plague Canadian cities from coast to coast. Including B.C., and including Vancouver.
"Census of Environment: Measuring settled area expansion, 2010 to 2020" (StatsCan, 2023)
"Built-up area within two kilometres outside the boundary of all Contiguously settled areas (CSAs) in Canada grew by over 370 km2 from 2010 to 2020, a 2% increase over the 2010 CSA footprints. This area is comparable to the size of 45,000 Canadian football fields.
"Over one-third (36%) of the land converted to built-up area on the outskirts of CSAs from 2010 to 2020 was in Ontario. Quebec had the next highest proportion (21%), followed by Alberta (16%) and British Columbia (13%).
"From 2010 to 2020, built-up area growth was highest in the agglomerated CSAs of Toronto (+29 km2), Calgary (+21 km2) and Montréal (+16 km2). In addition, Edmonton (+12 km2), Winnipeg (+10 km2) and Vancouver (+10 km2) had more than 9 km2 of built-up growth on their outskirts. These six CSAs all fell within the top 10 most populated municipalities in 2021.
"Some CSAs associated with a medium population centre also saw their built-up areas grow significantly from 2010 to 2020. In British Columbia, Kamloops had 4 km2 of built-up growth in 2020, a 4% increase over its 2010 footprint, while Prince George had 3 km2, representing a 3% increase.
See also Table: 38-10-0163-01: Extent and growth of contiguously settled areas

"Canada's large urban centres continue to grow and spread" (StatsCan, 2022)
"Rapid population growth in cities is increasing the need for infrastructure, transportation and services of all kinds—including front-line emergency services. Further urban spread also raises environmental concerns such as car-dependent cultures and encroachment on farmlands, wetlands and wildlife.'
"In Canada's three largest urban centres, the distant suburbs (30 minutes or more from downtown) grew at a faster pace than the urban fringe and suburbs closer to downtown, further evidence of the ongoing urban spread.
"Urban spread also occurred in the intermediate suburbs (20 to 30 minutes from downtown) in Edmonton (+23.4%), Calgary (+23.3%) and Ottawa (+21.4%). The growth in these intermediate suburbs largely surpassed that of their respective downtowns, urban fringes and near suburbs.'
"… urban spread continued, and was accelerating in many CMAs. Overall, suburbs farthest from downtowns were generally growing at a faster pace (+8.8%) than the urban fringe (+3.7%) and suburbs closer to downtowns (+5.8%).
"In Canada's three largest urban centres, the distant suburbs (30 minutes or more from downtown) grew at a faster pace than the urban fringe and suburbs closer to downtown, further evidence of the ongoing urban spread."

Population density in Canadian cities increases sharply the closer you are to downtown.* Conversely, population density decreases sharply the further away you are to downtown.
*Chart 3: Population density increases sharply the closer you are to downtown"

Calgary and Edmonton have been super-sprawling for decades, as public transit goes into a death spiral. Never going to fix that mess.
If cities were serious about getting people out of cars, they would define set boundaries and halt sprawl ASAP.
BTW, Vancouver is not B.C., and B.C. is not Canada.

CD: "Both arguments lead to a continuation of the status quo."
Not at all. The push for public transit leads to the end of the automobile's tyranny.
The shift to public transit, like the shift away from fossil fuels, will occur on the schedule of our own choosing. Nothing inevitable about it.

Public transit (and cycling, walking in cities designed for people, not cars) solves both problems at the same time: car culture and personal transportation emissions.
EVs addresses only the emissions issue, and not very well at that.

EVs are the yuppie response to climate change. No solution to the climate crisis is more shallow. Not for nothing that most of the first EV models were luxury cars beyond the reach of most citizens. Wealthy progressives want EV subsidies so they can salve their guilty conscience over their outsize footprint without having to make any real change in their unsustainable lifestyles.
We need to imagine a different world — not simply swap out the energy source.

Many reject the push for EVs.
Environmentalists were campaigning against cars long before climate became an issue.

"Shifting to EVs is not enough. The deeper problem is our car dependence" (CBC, Jul 31, 2022)

"Rush to electric vehicles may be an expensive mistake, say climate strategists" (CBC, Dec 12, 2022)
"With their futuristic designs and new technology, EVs are the seductive consumer-friendly face of the energy transition.…For people with money and a conscience, EVs are doubly satisfying. They allow the affluent to indulge in the time-honoured pleasures of conspicuous consumption while at the same time saving the planet."
Urban planning advocate Jason Slaughter: "EVs are here to save the car industry, not the planet. Electric cars are still a horrendously inefficient way to move people around, especially in crowded cities."

Prof Greg Marsden (Institute for Transport Studies at Leeds University): "Electrification is necessary but not enough.
"Travel demand reductions of at least 20% are required, along with a major shift away from the car if we are to meet our climate goals.
"This implies a really major social change. That is why it is a climate emergency and not a climate inconvenience."
"Electric car emissions myth 'busted'" (BBC, 2020)

Check out podcast interviews featuring these Canadian authors:
James Wilt: Do Androids Dream of Electric Cars? Public Transit in the Age of Google, Uber, and Elon Musk (2020)
Paris Marx: Road to Nowhere: What Silicon Valley Gets Wrong about the Future of Transportation (2022)

"Are Electric Cars the Solution?" (The Tyee, 25-Jan-22)

Former MP David Yurdiga started promoting ethical oil during his last few years of politics which ended in 2021.
As the article states what makes oil ethical.
1. Failing to inform thr AER and the Aboriginal band there had been a spill for year.
2. Cutting a huge marsh in half
3. Hot controlling or even bothering g about leaks from the tailings ponds into Athabasca River
4. Is there any feasible plan on reclamation?
Of Premier Smith wants to make any phantom cleanup the taxpayers responsibility
Lots of ethics in those issues