Climate Claim: Buying Electric Vehicles “can spread through populations like infectious diseases”

Robert H. Frank, Henrietta Johnson Louis Professor of Management and Professor of economics (JGSM/ECON).

Guest essay by Eric Worrall

Robert H. Frank, a professor of management and economics at Cornell University, thinks economists who dismiss the idea of a surge in electric vehicles are ignoring the phenomenon of “social contagion”.

How peer pressure can help stop climate change

Buying hybrids and solar panels persuades other people to buy them. That dynamic can help stop climate change.

By Robert Frank
FEBRUARY 20, 2020

Economists are generally skeptical of self-sacrificing behavior because of what’s known as the free-rider problem. Since costly individual acts of self-restraint have only negligible environmental impact, economists predict that rational, self-interested individuals won’t take them. For instance, if someone buys a Toyota Prius hybrid — which costs several thousand dollars more than a comparable vehicle with an internal-combustion engine — and no one else does, there’s no dis­cern­ible effect on overall emissions. She has spent the extra money for no reason. Alternatively, if everyone else buys a Prius but she doesn’t, she reaps the environmental benefits for free. Many solutions to environmental problems follow this logic and would therefore seem to require that we make decisions collectively, not individually.

Economists have other reasons for rejecting conscious consumption. Although the Prius emits about 50 percent less CO2 than similar non-hybrid cars, even greater reductions in CO2 could be achieved by buying a cheaper vehicle and using the savings to purchase carbon offsets — sponsoring carbon-absorbing reforestation, for instance. It may feel better to drive the Prius, but cold economic logic seems to favor offsets.

But these traditional arguments start to break down once you bring social contagion into the picture. That’s because the direct effect of owning a Prius is only a small part of its total impact.

Human nature is more complex than assumed in the simple models once favored by most economists. Our judgment about whether a house is adequate, for example, depends not only on its absolute features but also on how it compares with surrounding houses. We also value our reputations. It’s when we consider the effects of our behavior on our peers, and vice versa, that the consequences of individual decisions to reduce carbon use start to grow in importance. We know, for example, that decisions about car purchases are influenced by the actions of neighbors. In a 2008 study, economists from UCLA and Helsinki examined Finnish records of more than 210,000 vehicle purchases (new and used) from 1999 through 2001. They found that people were 12 percent more likely to purchase a car on a given day if one of their 10 nearest neighbors had purchased one during the preceding 10 days.

Keeping global warming at bay will indeed require a massive social movement — one that defeats climate obstructionists resoundingly at the polls — just as critics of conscious consumption have long insisted. But those critics fail to see how small, individual choices can set in motion the mighty revolution they envision.

Read more: https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/2020/02/20/how-peer-pressure-can-help-save-planet/?arc404=true

Read the full article for the “infectious disease” quote.

The problem with Professor Frank’s theory is an unspoken assumption that climate action is actually possible, that renewables are a viable replacement for fossil fuel, that there is enough lithium and wealth to build everyone a Prius.

That social revolution Professor Frank talks about – climate activists won that a long time ago. With the exception of President Trump, pretty much every leading politician on Earth genuflects to climate activism. Billions of dollars, likely trillions, have been poured into renewables, carbon trading, every imaginable scheme to ween the world of fossil fuel.

And there is nothing substantial to show for any of it. After all that effort, all that treasure, renewable energy is still a bit player. Where renewable adoption is high, all renewables have managed to deliver is electrical network instability.

How can all this will to act and investment of wealth possibly not deliver more substantial results? The answer of course is the goal is unattainable.

When google engineers tried to find a viable path for the world to switch to renewables in 2014, they discovered to their horror that no viable path to a renewable future exists.

Google didn’t advocate giving up – the people who ran the study were committed greens. But they had no idea what the next step would be.

When committed Democrat Film Maker Michael Moore dived into the renewable rabbit hole, to expose the big oil conspiracy everyone said was holding back renewables, Moore discovered a network of lies and false promises, but not the big oil conspiracy he expected.

My suggestion Professor Frank, you have the economic skills, take your own trip down the rabbit hole. Go dig up the Google study and figure out where they went wrong. Because if you find a way to make renewables affordable, to make renewables an economically viable replacement for fossil fuel, in the current socio-political environment fossil fuel will vanish as soon as we figure out how to live without it.

“… we are losing the battle to stop climate change because we are following environmental leaders who have taken us down the wrong road—selling out the green movement to wealthy interests and corporate America …”
– Michael Moore’s “Planet of the Humans” film homepage

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158 thoughts on “Climate Claim: Buying Electric Vehicles “can spread through populations like infectious diseases”

    • Lithium fires are nasty. I once had a chance to play with some metallic sodium in chem class (chemically very similar to lithium), great fun watching lumps of metal hiss and burn and explode in water. But you only did this with tiny pieces, the thought of being next to kilos of the stuff on fire gives me the horrors.

      • the thought of millions of people….with these in their house/garage….does me the same…LOL

        not because of the fire….but how stupid they are

        • Somebody is bound to put a screwdriver across the contacts of a fully charged Lithium battery, or Sodium, or whatever rare earth is harnessed to store energy where a tankful of gasoline is mature technology and the safety is understood.
          This will happen as sure as God made little green apples, to use an old phrase.

          • For instance, if someone buys a Toyota Prius hybrid — which costs several thousand dollars more than a comparable vehicle with an internal-combustion engine — and no one else does, there’s no dis­cern­ible effect on overall emissions. She has spent the extra money for no reason.

            If someone buys a Toyota Prius Hybrid – which costs several thousand dollars more than a comparable vehicle with an internal-combustion engine and fossil fuels are left in the Ground as is constantly being proposed as Plank #1 in every envirofascist proposal, they’ve spent far more extra money than just a few thousand for no more reason than buying a battery powered glorified golf cart that can go no farther than 33 miles on a full charge. Even HYBRIDS require Fossil Fuels and Lubricating Oil to function once the battery is depleted.
            If Oil and fossil fuels are “Left in the Ground” even Hybrids, like ICE cars, become stranded assets

          • For instance, if someone buys a Toyota Prius hybrid — which costs several thousand dollars more than a comparable vehicle with an internal-combustion engine — and no one else does, there’s no dis­cern­ible effect on overall emissions. She has spent the extra money for no reason.

            Big news, even if the USA, Canada, EU, UK, Australia, and the OPEC nations stop using Coal and Oil and China, India and the rest of the developing world continue to use them, the developed world has spent all those extra Hundreds of Trillions for no reason as well.

        • “Social Contagion” is exemplified by useful idiots glomming onto “causes” like CAGW or “gender fluidity.” Eminence-based mental programming with fictional “problems” by those who wish to destroy Western civilization.

      • Pretty much, interest in making rockets and explosives is what led to my study and career in chemistry. I had an older brother that made rockets (some using saltpeter) and my dad once brought home a tennis ball cannon (lighter fluid propellant). The canon was made out of soft drink cans, which were rather sturdy in the pre-aluminum days. I made gunpowder as early as elementary school and I got pretty good at making smoke bombs, which I sold to other students in junior high. I’m fortunate that I never lost a finger or an eye.

        Anyway, it’s the hydrogen, which is liberated by sodium reducing water, that explodes. The hydroxide that is formed dissolves in the water keeping the sodium surface clean and active allowing enough heat to be produced that can ignite the hydrogen. A lot of times, in air, oxide layers form that can really slow down the chemistry. Throwing sodium into a sewer sometimes made a nice explosion with a splash. Silver Salutes and M-80’s did a better job. A lot of my paper route money was used for this kind of stuff. One used to be able to buy a lot of chemicals at hobby shops, along with water proof fuse.

        In college, I made TNT successfully, I tried making nitroglycerine once and that was enough to convince me not to try again.

        I always found the following to produce a most reliable and impressive explosion. Place a gram or two of picric acid put into a cooking pan. Place said pan onto a stove burner (electric is better because it gives you more time to run away). Leave and wait for explosion to occur (about 10 seconds to a minute), which will be accompanied by a tremendous amount of black smoke. This was a good college prank on other peoples floors, though it was important to make sure that no one got near the stove as the pan almost always became a projectile.

        I was never caught doing such things, though I had a couple of close calls. I did have one of my three person slingshots confiscated by Campus Security. We called it a funnel-ator because a funnel was used as the pouch for launching water balloons (mostly at fraternities). These days, making bombs is frowned upon. I feel sorry that young folk are missing out on some of these opportunities.

        • SCISSOR: We did the same thing back in the 50’s. Finding the potassium nitrate was an issue, the man at PineTree Hardare ordered for us. “What are you kids going to do with this,” he asked. “We’re making bombs and rockets,” We replied. “Yuk, Yuk…you kids better be careful,” he said.
          Today the SWAT team would have the house surrounded and we would be locked away in juvenile detention.

        • “a funnel was used as the pouch for launching water balloons (mostly at fraternities). ”

          I read of a case where one fraternity launched rotten cantaloupes (aged outdoors for ten days—VERY kinky and messy) at another fraternity two or three blocks away, using yards of surgical tubing tied to two trees and a giant slingshot.

          Allegedly they were busted when a police car parked outside the target for protection got accidentally hit. (It makes a good story—it MIGHT have happened.)

          • I know about stinky stuff too. Putrescine and cadaverine are the worst and their names are rather descriptive. They are in rotten squid odor, along with all kinds of other nasties.

        • Scissor,
          You bring back some old souvenirs.
          I used to make a pretty good explosive with a mix of Sulfur and Sugar.
          There was a 45 gallon trash bin in the School Yard and I reversed it over
          one of my Cherry Blossom special bomb that had a 20 second fuse made
          with a drinking straw filled with the same mix.
          The bin went up about 100 feet.
          But the bottom was then too round to stand up.
          Was lucky the principal never knew I was the culprit.

        • I was doing an experiment in O-Chem that involved picric acid. I was using a lot less than a gram. I went to the storeroom to get some addition supplies and the picric acid solution boiled down and I got a minor popping and lots of the black smoke. It scared the heck out of a bunch of nursing students taking a tour of the lab. Good times.

        • I’m not surprised you had good eplosions with picric acid. Picric acid, a.k.a. tri-nitro phenol is a more powerful explosive than TNT, it was the primary explosive of the British during WW1 when they called it Lyddite.

          • The best thing is that I didn’t have to make it. It’s shock sensitive when dry.

            I’d never heard about of Lyddite. It seems that picric acid had been produced in Lydd, Kent.

        • “I feel sorry that young folk are missing out on some of these opportunities.”

          Tannerite aka exploding targets are available at most sporting goods shops in these
          parts. A local man was using it last summer and lit off a 5000+ acre fire with a
          $7.2 Million cost to fight it. Fireworks are still available around here
          as is regular blackpowder. I remember ads in the back of Popular Mechanics
          for fireworks making supplies and equipment back in the 60’s. Some of
          that stuff when mixed with powered AL went high order IIRC..

      • Eric you are right about lithium metal being unstable and not very nice. There isn’t any free metallic lithium in lithium ion batteries. They can still catch fire (as can a tank of fuel) but it is a different mechanism

      • It’s funny how people who fear a lithium fire have no qualms about driving around in a car loaded with 15 gallons of gasoline or an airplane with thousands of pounds of jet fuel. Choose your own way to incinerate yourself.

  1. You skeptics just have to start accepting that for every solution, there is a problem.
    Electric vehicles for AGW is proving this every day.
    🙂

    • Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and then applying the wrong remedies.

    • Since the vehicles are made using aluminium refined using coal, the Lithium is refined and processed using coal, the vehicles are charged using coal power, I’m wondering exactly what this “solution” you’re talking about is.

      • In the climate capers Eric, “solutions” never have to be explained.
        Just consider the ultimate “solution” – carbon (sic) credits.
        = a certificate of un-provable provenance that some 3rd party has NOT produced a nominal quantity of an invisible, insubstantial, odorless, colorless trace atmospheric gas.

        If any rational explanation can be advanced for this “solution” (let alone the ‘problem’ it is supposed to solve), I’ll join Ron Long in drinking to that.

    • Mr., we’re not skeptics anymore, we’re “climate obstructionists” now (see above). Try to keep up. I kind of feel like this is a promotion, so I think I’ll have a drink.

  2. All he has to do now is convince 2.7 billion Indians and Chinese, most of Africa and the entire Middle East. And South East Asia. And Russia. And then it’s all done. I love the practical solutions put up by economists.

    • Do you mean citing the study of a Scandinavian country with high social cohesion and a homogenous population as an example for spreading EV’s around the planet is not a practical template for the rest of the world? If you did—you are correct.

      • To use Finland as an example is not very good idea. We have temporary car tax from 1.1.1958 (yes, we still have it) and it makes cars very expencive.

        An average Finn can´t buy new car. And to use that old car is also very expensive. One litre gasoline costs about 1,6 – 1,7 euros. 1 euro = 1,08 dollars. And if you still use gallon, gallon = 4 litre.

        We also have winter in this boiling world and we must keep car warm to see out. And that cuts the distance we can run with EV.

        Hybrids are just bad joke because they need gasoline to load batteries.

        We have a huge problem because our government (greenleft at the moment) want to kill all fossilfueled cars.

        So please don´t use Finland as an example, or use it as the worst example.

    • “All he has to do now is convince 2.7 billion Indians and Chinese, most of Africa and the entire Middle East. And South East Asia. And Russia. And then it’s all done.”

      Talk about human nature being complex: Try talking the above nations into giving up their cheap electricity, or in the case of Africa, giving up their hope for cheap electricity.

      These academics think if the Western Democracies lead the way the rest of the world will follow. Not necessarily. What’s in it for them? Fixing the Earth’s atmosphere? Where’s the evidence the atmosphere is broken?

  3. Is comparing electric vehicles to infectious disease in February, 2020, supposed to make them seem attractive?

    • Not altogether allytoo. Tesla federal tax credits in the US have been dropping (and stopped altogether in 2020). US Sales figures in Feb for 2016 to 2019 inclusive were 1,820; 2,550; 4,485 and 7,275 respectively. I picked Feb as that was the lowest month in 2019

  4. Are we supposed to build up anti-bodies to these electric vehicles?
    I’ve seen a number of people die from Tesla-2019.

  5. What an elitist tool.

    Let’s examine some MSRP’s of similar size cars at their entry price:
    A 2020 Hyundai Accent: $15,295
    A 2020 Toyota Prius: $24,325
    A 2020 Tesla Model 3: $39,990 (good luck finding that!!!, a typical low end Model 3 is now selling for $48,990).

    EVs are not going anywhere.

    And then this BS line:
    They found that people were 12 percent more likely to purchase a car on a given day if one of their 10 nearest neighbors had purchased one during the preceding 10 days.

    So an effect is 12%, so 1 in 8 persons more likely to buy a car if 1 out 10 of their neighbors recently bought a car.

    SO basically the joint probability boils down to:
    If I randomly buy a new car, then there is probability (P) = (1/8)(1/10) = 1/80 = 0.0125 = 1.25% chance that a near neighbor to me will also buy a new car within the next 10 days.

    And from this 20 year old survey from Finland and the logic this genius of Management and Economics, Professor Robert H Frank, decides that a 1.25% effect will drive EV sales through the roof?

    It is no wonder our universities are failing their students.

    • Considering most people buy new cars only about once every 5 years, what are the odds that one of 10 closest neighbors has bought any car in the last 10 days?

      • MarkW,

        Which is why I called him an elitist.
        Who outside the very affluent, upon seeing their neighbor with a new $50K to $100K EV (Tesla or otherwise), is going to say, “Wow! I gotta go get one now!”
        And even if they do, they represent such a small fraction of general population of the US, it is not gonna be any kind of big “viral explosion” of EV sales.
        That Professor is a complete moron and an elitist.
        His type is exactly why Donald Trump got elected, and why he will get re-elected.

        The great irony now is if Bernie the socialist gets elected instead of Trump, this elitist high paid Professor will get the Socialist pleasure to hand-over a huge chunk of his professorial income via much higher taxes to pay for all of Bernie’s Free Stuff.

        • Odds are pretty good someone will say “I gotta get me one a them”. I say it all the time when i see a neighbor or friend with a nice new wip. Problem is, those pesky economic realities get in the way pretty much every time. You need to live in a darned affluent burb if the main driver of getting a new car is “the Joneses got one”.

        • In my neighborhood, if someone bought a new Tesla, another would respond by buying the biggest, luxury Lexus SUV. The message being, I can afford a more luxurious vehicle, and don’t give a damn about my carbon footprint or gasoline prices.

    • Great point, Joel! He sounds like the type of professor who would give AOC an economics degree for her brilliance!

    • Joel – what is most concerning academically is the confusion between positive correlation and causal relationship.

      I think maybe you rather cherry picked your data though: you might want to compare with (say) Audi A4 or BMW 320: and calculate TCO rather than just initial purchase

  6. It is worth noting that like many ‘green’ activists, Professor Frank self-identifies as a brilliant visionary, but everyone else is just a manipulable lemming. He exposes a modern principle of debate written about by another academic at SFU a few years ago–I believe the title (or subject) of his concept was ‘I’m Right You’re Wrong Shut Up’. You can get the t-shirt.

    Is that not the perfect personification of Greta Thunberg? Michael Mann? Al Gore?

  7. “Human nature is more complex than assumed in the simple models once favored by most economists.”

    And more complex than assumed in social contagion theory of marketing. For example, why are product diffusion curves S-shaped? (why does diffusion flatten out and die?)

    Van den Bulte, Christophe, and Stefan Stremersch. “Social contagion and income heterogeneity in new product diffusion: A meta-analytic test.” Marketing Science 23.4 (2004): 530-544.

  8. Len Werner nails it.
    Skimming through that article I had this recurring thought,given this “Expert’s” concept of how ideas,social fads and conventional wisdom spread,has he accidently explained his own BELIEF in Catastrophic Climate Change?
    Another example of our progressive comrades projecting their own defects upon the world at large.?
    Is this mob mentality the real explanation for so many “educated persons” buying the meme sight unseen?
    Cause all the “Proper people” have this opinion?
    So The very model of a modern intellectual, must never think for themselves.?
    Such wisdom.

    • Indeed. The groupthink mentality seems to be most prevalent within the musty halls of academia, for the very reason you state: “If the learned Prof X thinks it, who am I – a humble postgraduate student – to demur?”
      Thank God for the likes of Happer, Dyson, et al.

      • It’s ironic that the very group that prides itself on it’s independence, hasn’t had an original thought in decades.

    • “John Robertson February 22, 2020 at 6:44 pm
      Len Werner nails it.
      Skimming through that article I had this recurring thought,given this “Expert’s” concept of how ideas,social fads and conventional wisdom spread,has he accidently explained his own BELIEF in Catastrophic Climate Change?”
      —–

      Back when Mooney worked for Discover, I argued with him in the comments that climate change alarmism was a fad. I cited the book, “Flavor of the Month.”

    • Thanks, but I think you nailed it. At least explained it more thoroughly.

      With just a tiny bit more thought, Professor Lemming could have one of those ‘Uhhh–wait a minute…’ epiphanies about his own rabbit-hole.

  9. When they have an EV with a range of 450 miles that can be fully recharged in 10 minutes, I might consider it, if the recharging stations are at every freeway entrance and the total cost of ownership over a decade is not more than an equivalent petroleum fueled vehicle. But even then it would be a tough moral choice, because I don’t want to be contributing to the poisoning of the poor folks who mine the toxics to build the batteries or those who dispose of the batteries.

    • Agreed.

      The way the greenies want to close down the oil business – which is generally well run, safe and does not cause environmental harm – with poorly managed, unsafe and environmentally toxic mines in far away places boggles my mind.

      • Toby and mark, I believe you’re missing a major point: The internal combustion engine sounds are missing from electric cars.

        When I go out for a drive to wind down after a long day, which I still do regularly, I like being able to heal and toe into corners and listen to the exhaust gurgle during that compression breaking. I also enjoy the subtle roar of a 4-barrel carburetor sucking air when my right foot is heavy on the loud pedal. To me, driving an electric car is like driving a golf cart. Since there’s no engine sound with the electric cars, what’s the point of driving?

        Regards,
        Bob

        • True dat!

          Mind you – it would be easy to have a small electric car, with a range of exhaust audio tracks built in and a few big speakers !

          • Laws requiring ev’s to emit some sort of sound may have to be passed if auto-pedestrian accidents start to increase because some people rely on their ears instead of their eyes to cross the street.

          • . . . and a small propane heater?
            Despite global warming, my autos still have ice on the windshield in the morning.

        • Bob, I sure hope you’re not hearing the sound of your compression “breaking”

          That costs big $$$$s to fix 🙁

        • What’s the point of driving? To get from A to B?

          Still, I understand the nostalgic. I miss the hiss and rumble of steam trains, the steam whistle and the smell of smoke wafting around the carriages. And horse and buggy! The clip clop of hooves, the neighs, the plop of the exhaust.

          There’s another issue, though, in silencing vehicles – safety. We are attuned to estimating closeness and direction of vehicles from their sound. There will inevitably be more pedestrian deaths.

          • “There’s another issue, though, in silencing vehicles – safety. We are attuned to estimating closeness and direction of vehicles from their sound. There will inevitably be more pedestrian deaths.”

            Population control ???

        • Bob,
          It helps if you go “brmmm brmmm” when negotiating the curves.
          Heel and toe – 4 bbl carb – a ‘Vette?
          Cube

    • The solution to that is, of course, to create regulations so that the gasoline-powered internal combustion engine approaches the EV in terms of cost and convenience.

      • Yes. That was the Obama approach with taxes and regulations. Trump exposed that impact by eliminating both.

  10. Contagion is a double edge sword…talk to anyone who has dealt with a Prius with issues.
    Try and find service besides from a dealer who can do anything beyond an oil change. But
    I suppose for someone who is capable of working on one there is a good amount of
    used units at a cheap price…

  11. It is terrifying to to think that these brain-dead idiots have access to the minds of today’s children….

  12. Fashion is a form of social contagion if you look at it that way.

    Keeping up with the Joneses is a form of social contagion.

    Ford F-150s are a form of social contagion.

    The professor’s premise is not entirely wrong. The problem lies in extending and extrapolating. Everyone, especially experts, should understand that expert predictions are no more accurate than those generated by a dart-throwing monkey. Tetlock

    The problem is that the professor won’t be held to account when his (almost guaranteed) crappy forecast fails. If he actually had some skin in the game, he would be a lot more circumspect about his predictions. As it stands, experts have an armory of excuses to trot out to explain their failures and their public believes them.

    • Yeah, he should also consider utility. A lot of people in Colorado own Subaru’s, which are among the best for driving in snow here. In the Boulder area, I see a lot of Tesla’s and Leafs, which are really crap in snow and cold.

      • You are correct, the Tesla does seem to be quite popular in Boulder these days. I guess everyone finally got theirs. It’s not exactly the ideal car to drive up I-70 to ski and then come back crawling in the return traffic.

        • Battery powered things in the cold have issues. link

          I would think the biggest issue when you’re crawling along in traffic is that you’ve got to keep the windshield clear. When I was a kid, cars had crappy heaters. As a result, a full load of occupants would cause the windows to frost up on the inside. Invariably someone would joke, “Quit breathing.” So, never mind comfort, you’ve still got to keep the cabin warm.

          The article I linked mentions something I didn’t think of. When the battery is cold, it doesn’t charge easily and that means you can’t use regenerative braking. That will really kill your range in stop-and-go traffic.

      • Not just Colorado; “normal folk” (excluding academics) living in and around Ithaca NY, home of Cornell, have also favored the standard 4 wheel drive Subarus that perform much better than a Prius in hilly terrain in a snowy winter.

    • Excellent observation. I think that this basic lack of accountability also makes academic forecasters ideal stooges for those with a clandestine political agenda.
      In the anything but impartial AGW debate, science has been quite deliberately reduced to a tool of manipulation, towards a preordained outcome.
      Mankind, as a whole, is not the intended beneficiary.
      From the outset, the IPCC’s specific remit was to find evidence of man’s adverse influence on climate, whether or not such an influence exists. How could researchers dependent on funding for their livelihoods do anything other than support the presumption?
      Groupthink has led us into all sorts of very dark places, in the past. There’s every indication we’re going down a similar hole with climate research.

  13. Peer pressure can can stop the climate from changing? We’re talking about the entire planet right? Wow peer pressure. Exerted on perhaps 1% of the planet’s population – those wealthy enough to consider buying a Prius. I don’t think he has any idea how enormous the planet is, and how little we understand climate.

    Who are these people? Next thing you know, someone’s going to claim that by electing some tin-horn politician the climate will change.

      • To paraphrase his actual words, Vote for me, and on my inauguration, the seas will no longer rise, the lion will lay down with the lamb, nor will nation rise up against nation, and neither shall our army study war any more.
        2 out of 4 isn’t bad, although if #3 doesn’t happen we will regret #4 to our dying days.

      • Must have been why he felt so confident about buying his luxury beachfront mansion, on Martha’s Vineyard!

    • “Peer pressure can can stop the climate from changing?”

      We just have to figure out how to get the good CO2 molecules to influence the delinquent molecules.

      • A few millibars of change in pressure can give rise to a change in the weather, so if we can sustain this for 30 years — voila — we have a change in climate!

  14. Car manufacturers should paint hybrid autos to look like a single coronavirus!

    Maybe that would bring about the “social contagion” these nut-jobs are looking for!

    In the meantime, I will just shiver through another “global warming” night with temps dipping into the negative range and 16″ of snow outside my home!

    Thank goodness for an abundant, cheap supply of natural gas!!

  15. This professor’s hypothesis seems to assume everyone accepts the benefit of EVs but is restrained from acting only by economic forces. In my small world I don’t know anyone who accepts the CAGW hypothesis. There are lots around that do and that is all you hear from in the paper but if I had to guess from my meager experience there must be at least as many skeptics as activists and they are not going to catch the EV contagion.

  16. Electric cars are the future, but not because of any carbon issues – they are simply more efficient and have much longer lifespans and require practically no maintenance. Even Henry Ford knew this almost a hundred years ago, when he developed an electric car and asked his friend Thomas Edison to invent a practical battery. It’s always been the battery, the battery, the battery, and we now are close to having batteries below $100 per kWhr, cheap enough to compete economically with gas powered cars, which VW will demonstrate in the next yeatr or so with a line of electrics that cost less than $18,000. Tesla has always built expensive, complicated EVs that I would never own.
    And batteries these days are lasrting about as long as the car – over 15 years. And recharge times are fast enough right now – a 350KW public IONITY recharger, as used by the Porche Taycan, can recharge the Taycan to 80% inn less than 15 minutes. Those that can recharge at home only need to use fast public chargers on trips.

    • EV’s are NOT THE FUTURE.

      I can’t predict when, but in the future, the EV will be viewed as we now view lava lamps, mood rings, chia pets, and pyramid power. Fun fads.

      There are absolutely no good reasons to drive an EV over an internal combustion engine vehicle.

      Batteries:
      – In most scenarios, the CO2 emitted through battery production will exceed the CO2 saved during the life of the battery.
      – The mining of rare earth minerals is very destructive to the environment and the landscape.
      – Disposing of or recycling dead batteries has a significant adverse environmental impact.
      – The energy density of Li-ion batteries is pathetic in both MJ/L and MJ/kg.
      – Batteries lose capacity as they age, and if driven in warmer climates, charged rapidly, or charged above 80% or discharged below 20%. The range of EV’s starts low and gets worse the longer they are in service.

      Energy Source:
      – EV’s don’t come with Electron Faeries in the trunk. Most EVs are (in reality) coal or natural gas powered unless the power source is nuclear or hydro. Even grids with solar and wind are backstopped by hydrocarbon sources from nearby grids with enough reserve to cover the unreliable sources.
      – In the US, annual energy usage in the transportation sector is close to that of the electric grid. The grid would have to be increased in size significantly to handle the load, and charging off-peak will only address some of that. Even less so as more unreliable sources are forced onto the grid.
      – There are 168,000 gas stations in the US, with an average of 10 pumps per station, for a total of nearly 1.7M pumps. A gas tank can be filled in 3 minutes. EVs need 30-60 minutes with a rapid charger, but most likely many hours. Millions of charging stations will need to be added.

      The future:
      – Liquid Fluoride Thorium/Molten Salt/Small Modular Reactors are coming. They will be safe, environmentally friendly, cost-effective, and perfect for replacing current electric generating plants.
      – They run best at full capacity. Excess capacity during off-peak times can be used to power fuel factories that can create carbon-neutral fuels from seawater or the air. Liquid fuels are energy-dense. We have the infrastructure to make them, transport them, store them, and dispense them. Why reinvent the wheel. (Although less energy-dense, nitrogen-neutral fuels made and used alternatively.)
      – There are still significant potential advancements in the efficiency of internal combustion engines (HCCI, opposed-piston engines, variable compression, etc.). We currently optimize for HP/performance, but if necessary, there is still much that can be done to minimize combustion byproducts.

      EVs are bad for the environment, have no beneficial impact on the climate, and will not be a big part of our future.

      • William, please stop trying to project facts and data into ColMosby’s bubble! He likes all the bright shiny objects on display although there could be a strong, smoky aroma as mine had in my youth.

        • Abolition Man,

          LOL! I think you are suggesting leaf-induced delusions.

          ColMosby seemed to get a few things right on another similar thread. Maybe ColMosby is open to adjusting the bubble?? There are some bright shiny objects that are potentially real – and not fantasy. It’s about selecting the right bright shiny objects, I think.

          The Climate Concerned and the Climate Alarmism Rejectors can find common ground and harmony. We just need to unite behind realistic solutions for the future. Whether there is a climate crisis or not is immaterial because there is no way to solve the claimed crisis with the solutions prescribed by them. If we can’t make it to the end of this century (when anthropogenic CO2 will largely cease) – then we might as well enjoy the hell out of CO2 while we can because it won’t matter either way.

    • EVs are not the future.
      They are not more efficient, not when you consider where the electricity comes from.
      They do not have longer lifespans, the battery will die before the engine does and costs a lot more to replace.
      ICE engines require very little maintenance, and haven’t for decades.

      It’s always “next year” when these miracle batteries are supposed to be introduced.

      Yes, you can charge your battery fast, you just can’t charge it fast too many times. Fast charging also decreases the so called efficiency of your EVs. DC losses in the wiring and battery as well as the hefty auto cooling that’s required to keep the battery from melting down while it’s being fast charged.

    • Electric cars are the future

      Um, no, actually they are the past. The first Electric car pre-dates the first ICE one. All the reasons Electric cars fell by the wayside are still issues today (range, charging time, cost, etc), which is why, despite massive government incentives, they remain a very small niche of the car market (and they’d be an even smaller niche without those massive government incentives) and will continue to remain a very small niche barring massive government intervention (IE Banning ICE).

      Those that can recharge at home…

      Which is only a small part of the total car owning population. A large part of the population can not do so, because they live in apartments/condos/townhouses/etc that don’t have their own private garage or house-side parking (IE no easy access to an electrical outlet).

  17. If you go to certain prosperous neighborhoods in California, or any other progressive venue, you will see scads of Priuses driven by people who formerly drove much more expensive vehicles. Among certain groups your mother would be wrong when she said “just because all your friends do , there’s no reason for you to do it”

    • And even among certain of these groups! I’m sure that all the EV drivers now had a mother who said that to them. They may even say it to their own children; so much of Leftist Dogma is something the voters would not want their children to believe.

  18. Charge time and cost are the Achilles heals of EVs. Range anxiety would disappear if the charge time equaled ICE refill time. 250+ mile range is probably acceptable to most people if charge times were equivalent to gas refill. Less charging stations would be needed as well and could equal gas pump numbers today. New and replacement battery costs will have to come down quite a lot to be affordable by most though. I think EVs provide a superior driving experience so that should help the transition. Unless enough electricity can be provided without the dreaded (an false) CO2 label what’s the point in forcing anything?

    • I think most of those boosting the ‘climate friendly’ plug ins take it on faith that all the power can come from wind and solar? Maybe the officials in France have their nuclear power supply first in mind? Meanwhile, nobody stops to do full life cycle impact studies, including power sources and the CO2 costs and other impacts of manufacturing batteries, solar cells, wind turbine masts and blades, plus d.c. to a.c. power inverters for putting the renewable energy into the grid, etc., etc.?

  19. Professor Frank: Buying Electric Vehicles “can spread through populations like infectious diseases.”

    I completely agree with his statement, and every EV sale to-date proves it. Why else would anyone have ever purchased an EV, unless their mind was infected with Climate-Alarmism/Save-the-Planet Disease?

  20. It may not be true that buying Electric Vehicles could spread through populations like infectious diseases but if it did spread like that, it would be equally damaging to the health, welfare and finances of the population as a virus would be. What stands in the way of the disaster is the absolute impracticability of the exercise and the civil rebellions that it would start.

  21. “Electric cars are the future, but not because of any carbon issues – they are simply more efficient and have much longer lifespans and require practically no maintenance.”

    Nonsense as they’re all computers on wheels nowadays and you show me the 10 year old day to day computer you’re still using daily today. These EVs increasingly run off that touch screen computer and nothing else and if the hardware dies after 10 years do you really think they’ll have another on the shelf for you let alone the software to run it?

    Windows 7 released to manufacturing July 2009 and no more support end 2019 and how are Blackberry Nokia Symbian and Windows Mobile doing? Tech plugs in OBDII reader and it says replace X, Y and Z and no Z available means sorry no can fix. Whilst Kia Australia guarantee their cars for 7 yrs unlimited kms read the fine print with the touch screen as that’s only 3 years so what about your Tesla control room long term and that’s before any mechanical considerations. The marketplace has worked out cars are increasingly throwaway appliances along with all the CO2 embedded in their making.

    • Go Green… laundered, greenbacks, and renewable. That said, they have waged an impressive, unprecedented marketing campaign to progress a sociopolitical contagion.

    • “observa February 22, 2020 at 9:05 pm

      Windows 7 released to manufacturing July 2009 and no more support end 2019…”

      Extended to certain license holders and those willing to pay on a per case basis until 2023. But yes, there are still corporations running Windows 7 in critical systems that cannot be touched (Not even patched). No thought has been given to migrating these systems over to Windows 10. Good luck to them! It is what I am doing right now for an Australian media company. They won’t be happy when I say (And have said previously when working for a medical company) “Hey, M$ does not support .Net 1.0 under Windows 10, you are going to have to re-work your application.”

  22. I wonder how many people would have had to buy Segways before that virus became infectious. Or topless bathing suits. Or RCA videodiscs. Commercial markets developed antibodies to those threatened infections pretty fast.

    Dr. Frank, of course, is extrapolating to the population as a whole from observations of people in his own social cohort. He probably doesn’t know anyone who owns a pre-owned car. He may not know anyone who owns a Toyota.

  23. “Economists are generally sceptical of self sacrificing behaviour…..”
    More than 85 years ago Australian Labor Premier Jack Lang sagely advised his colleagues,
    “ In the horse race of life, always back the horse called ‘Self Interest’.At least you know it is trying.”

  24. From the quoted text in the box in the above article: “They found that people were 12 percent more likely to purchase a car on a given day if one of their 10 nearest neighbors had purchased one during the preceding 10 days.”

    Assuming that is true, it has actually has very little relevance to the thrust of the above article, which is that social pressure (“keeping up with the Jones”, virtue signaling, saving the world, etc.) will cause “contagion” in the desire for everyone to buy EVs (as opposed to ICEs). What is missing in the Finnish study statistic is a statement that the car purchase was almost identical in type (e.g., new, used, compact, standard, van, truck, SUV, economy, luxury, 2WD, 4WD, etc.) compared that purchased by one of the buyer’s 10 nearest neighbors in the preceding 10 days.

    It is ridiculous to say that (a) the increase in probability of one person buying a “vehicle” increases in relationship to the time that passed since a neighbor has bought a “vehicle” somehow translates to (b) the new buyer wanting the same type of “vehicle” as the one the neighbor just bought.

    Moreover, there is no reference as to how the Finnish study normalized for independent variables such as:
    — were there local sales that would have compressed vehicle sales over a relatively short period (say 3 months out of every 12 months?
    — was the data skewed by good weather versus bad weather affecting sales volumes across the population studied?
    — how were buying patterns affected by local advertising and/or limited-time buyer incentives for purchases?

    Carl Sagan must be turning over in his grave in response to this kind of gibberish coming out of Cornell University.

    • Remember however, the “Dunning–Kruger effect” also came out of Cornell after Carl’s passing.
      There is a possibility that the syndrome may also apply to Professors speaking outside their own discipline.

      • “The fool doth think himself a wise man whilst the wise man knows himself to be a fool”
        Old Will Shakespeare had it nailed.

  25. Batteries were invented to start internal combustion engine’s. They are ok for flashlights & sex toys.
    And just because some moron down the street buys one doesn’t make me want one. I don’t keep up with the joneses.
    I’ll keep my 55 Chevy thank you.

  26. CNG powered cars are the near future if the shale gas-fracking revolution and its cheap nat gas continues here in the lower 48.

    Except the East and Left Coasts where the idiot Communists live. They want EV’s and pay for it with high priced electricity to charge them since they won’t have the pipeline infrastructure to bring in the nat gas.

    • I don’t know about modern ICEs, but a few decades ago when gasoline supplies were restricted, there were a few garages that specialized in replacing carburetors with something that would run your current auto on propane or nat. gas.

      That conversion seems a whole lot easier than scrapping your present vehicle and investing in a battery transporter that also accommodates passengers. 😉

  27. The ability to describe the future is impossible. Those who have tried to lay claim to such futuristic wisdom are all shown up to be charlatans. As the speed of change increases with technical advance the ability to define the future becomes ever more difficult. It is akin to thinking you are able to define the weather on a day ten years in the future by studying the clouds passing overhead today. A pointless fruitless activity.
    Just one disruptive technology advance will alter the entire future picture.
    In the energy sector, this could be as basic as a small practical fuel cell being put on the market. At a stroke it would render all battery vehicles obsolete. Consider the current work of small clean nuclear power plants, if successful it would remove the over hyped concern about nuclear risks, that has developed in the minds of the frail members of society. If that technology progresses, the whole picture of energy availability changes. We don’t have to wait another fifty years for fusion to be brought to market. Things are already developing.
    The future is uncertain, but one thing is very certain, it will not be as we see the world today.

    • Exactly Rod!
      I spent my career working for a company whose output was sold in little yellow boxes.
      We also had one of the world’s largest research divisions with LOTS of very smart people.

      If anyone predicted, just a few years prior to my retirement, that much of our product line would be replaced by a handheld telephone they would have generated quite a laugh in response.

  28. I have a nine year old diesel RAV4. My neighbour has an eleven year old Peugeot. Opposite is a 15 year old Ford, and so it goes on down my street. My car : £6000. New diesel replacement: £32,000. New electric replacement £42,000 .

    So let us gather up all the fairy dust and ground unicorn horn that we can find and all rush in to buy our new electric vehicles.

    Clouds, cuckoos and flying pigs reign supreme.

    • Many years ago, when hunting for our first house, we drove through neighbourhoods looking at the cars. We bought in a ‘used Volvo’ district, and found it very congenial for us and the kids.

  29. This guys is a foolish academic living far from reality in his little wealthy western bubble. He is ill equipped to tell the rest of us how the real world works.

  30. Professor is right: peer pressure can “encourage” a person to pay more for less. Forget the fiscal rationality of buying a car – we are really not rational in that respect.
    Only I can not figure out how they can bring about the required peer pressure. They have already equipped green celebrities with e-cars, but even if I was one of those dummies who thinks “Gee, that famous actress or actor has the Tesla S, so I gotta have one too”, I could not act on this irrationality because I cannot afford it; and one would really have to be pretty dumb to think “Gee, that famous actress or actor has the Tesla S, so I gotta have a Renault Zoe!”

    miso

    • “Only I can not figure out how they can bring about the required peer pressure.”

      Greens are putting political pressure on governments to buy BEVs for their fleets. Big players on Wall Street are encouraging their colleagues to invest sustainably. (E.g., see BlackRock’s latest annual letter, and its ripple effects, such as on Tesla’s stock price.)

    • You can “encourage” buying of EV’s by dropping the price about 15 thousand bucks. At that price point a few people ~might~ be persuaded to put up with restricted range, long charge times, etc. and that’s only if they live in a place where they can charge in their garage, and cold weather doesn’t knock out the charge.

      Right now they are a fad market for sanctimonious, virtue-signaling twits, subsidized by your taxes.

  31. Robert H. Frank.
    Another name to add to my ever growing list of idiots in academia that are not worth reading or listening to.

  32. Professor Frank is probably right about this spreading like an infectious disease. I noticed that the % of new car registrations in the UK for pure electric has gone up year on year. 2019 claimed about 70,000 new registrations, and that was before the government started banging on about banning ICE cars. I am sure that 2020 will see an even bigger increase.

    The only thing the professor forgot to include in his analysis, is the outcome known as buyer regret. I expect this to develop when the numbers of new PEVs pass a certain threshold, and there are too many people for too few public charging points, which are more costly than gasoline anyway.

    As a footnote, the biggest tactical error the UK government has made is to ban hybrids as well. If people went over to hybrids, there would at least be an option if they can’t charge. As the government keep telling people, most journeys are short journeys, so there’s no reason why you can’t charge at home (assuming you don’t live in apartments or non driveway houses). If that is the case, then most journeys using hybrids would be electric. So, what they are proposing is utterly insane, and I predict, will lead to such a backlash that it will likely bring the government down.

  33. Like all contagious diseases, most people will recover.
    My neighbour who used to drive electric has just bought a new gasoline powered car.
    Because of the limitations in power and range.

  34. “… Buying hybrids and solar panels persuades other people to buy them. That dynamic can help stop climate change…”

    It’s a fallacious and thoroughly unscientific statement, more like wishful thinking, because, in the first place, even if we all switched to EVs and solar cells overnight, this would have no effect whatsoever on the purported “climate change,” as every real scientists & engineer who ever looked into it knows well enough. But another fallacy is that people would follow the shining example of the illuminati amongst us. Most of us simply don’t have money enough to waste on this fanfaronade. When we spend money on a car, a lot nowadays, we expect it to serve multiple purposes including ability to drive us and our families from one side of the country to another, without having to waste hours and hours on recharging, and without its range shrinking by 50% in cold weather! When we reroof our homes, which is an expensive business too, we choose what’s cheapest and what will serve its purpose for another 20 years or about without trouble, leaks, costly maintenance, added loading and fire risk. I don’t know any people personally who want to buy an EV and who want to install photovoltaics on their roofs. Even though some in town have done both, it doesn’t seem to be spreading. Merely, it’s yet another extravagance of rich people. Though, the richest man in town continues to drive a Rolls Royce and there are no solar panels on his estate.

  35. If buying hybrids and solar panels was an infectious disease-like consumer contagion then it appears most of the rational population were immunized long ago. In fact thinking people are generally immunized to a significant extent against making spending decisions which conflict with their own self interest. Sometimes it takes a little while to connect the dots and decide which decisions are beneficial and which are harmful but eventually the decision is an easy one. For pure electric vehicles it is only the artificial financial incentive of subsidies that got a lot of e on the wrong track initially. Reliability, battery durability, maintenance costs and the odd running into a brick wall feature will certainly cause many of those who fell for the up front money to rethink.

  36. Where I live there’s not much keeping up with the Joneses pressure. Most of my middle class mates run their ICE cars into c. 80k miles and part exchange for new. Family up the road has a ‘hard-working’ life with a camper van and four modest saloon ICE’ s for their businesses. To think of them converting to electric has me rolling about on the ground, hooting , gasping, hurting myself with laughter.

  37. In the UK the morons in charge are rolling out something called ‘smart motorways’ where you do something stupid like remove the hard shoulder and replace it with a few laybys. It has just come to the morons attention that battery cars don’t coast when they fail and can’t be towed either so they will cause problems. Mind you, as lots of people have been killed on ‘smart motorways’ they are on hold at the moment.

    Providing charging points for battery cars is causing problems in London due to a lack of money. Recognising that people will want fast chargers but they cost £0.5m each to install and there is not the money.

    Next month there will be the first zero emission street introduced in London or in other words a 90% plus road closure. This has been a project for over 2 years and will have cost nearly £2.5m once it is done – well assuming that there don’t have to be lots of emergency changes once it starts.

    And for 2020, the Isle of Man TT will not have the TT Zero for battery bikes. The reason is falling entries such that less than 10 bikes whirr off for the one lap that they can manage at racing speed as opposed to the 4 to 6 laps the real bikes do which includes fuel stops. Can’t think why they haven’t included recharge stops – oh, yes maybe I can.

  38. What happens when everyone wants to buy an offset? You can’t plant that many trees without cutting down all the existing ones.

  39. EV ownership can’t expand faster than the electric grid can. Adding additional generation sources and transmission lines is a long process fraught will legal challenges from the very people that insist we must all drive EVs! As a practical matter, this will limit EV penetration more than all other factors combined.

    • It can if you install small generators in every garage.

      Or just hook up your Telsa to the alternator of your SUV (what is the max rating of the typical one?)

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