The age of climate denial is dead. Not everybody knows it yet, but, at this point in time, the days of climate denial are clearly numbered. Of this, there is no doubt.
I say this because no matter what silly things you might read from the mysterious, self-proclaimed experts on Twitter, the very companies that stand to profit the most from climate denial have now openly conceded that burning fossil fuels contributes to anthropogenic climate change. Once they were taken to court for their wanton destruction of our planet's biosphere, the world's largest and wealthiest oil companies were forced to make these concessions. Essentially, as soon as they had to come before a judge, the jig was up.
All Lies are not the Same
You see, it's one thing to lie to and misdirect the public through privately funded intermediaries, but doing these same things in court is a whole other ballgame, Once in court, lawyers for the oil companies immediately conceded that the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change are indeed correct. Moreover, they wasted no time on climate denial or alternative theories regarding global warming, and they took absolutely no issue with the fact that burning fossil fuels contributes to anthropogenic global warming.
On March 21, 2018, in his submissions to the US District Court, Northern District Of California, Theodore Boutrous, the attorney for Chevron Corporation, stated, "Chevron accepts the consensus of the scientific community on climate change. The scientific consensus is embodied in the results of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the IPCC." Boutrous was even bold enough to say, "And that has been Chevron's position for over a decade." (P. 80, LL. 20-22. State of California vs. BP, Chevron, Conocophillips, Exxon Mobil, & Royal Dutch Shell, US District Court, Northern District Of California, March 21, 2018).
This public concession telegraphed a significant and marked departure from the silent, "no comment" position that oil companies have historically taken on the connection between fossil fuels and climate change. Moreover, it effectively pulled the carpet out from under the climate denial lobby. After all, if the oil industry itself is now officially accepting anthropogenic climate change, then the freshly disavowed climate denial lobby immediately becomes relegated to the status of disenfranchised crackpots.
Traditionally, oil companies relied heavily on a healthy and mutually beneficial relationship between themselves and third-party climate deniers, including trade associations and think tanks, to confuse and misdirect the public about the impact that fossil fuels were having on the planet. In fact, some studies have suggested that oil companies spend $200,000,000.00 on climate denial efforts every year. In 2013, Robert Brulle, a professor of sociology and environmental science at Drexel University, published the first peer-reviewed study in of who was actually funding what he called the "climate change counter-movement" (CCCM) that had so effectively delayed action on the climate crisis. Brulle found that between the years of 2003 and 2010, more than $500,000,000.00 had been donated by "private conservative philanthropic foundations to organizations whose output included material disputing the consensus" (Brulle, 2013). Brulle concluded that "Thinktanks, trade associations and front groups" were a key part of the effort, with their major funders being foundations affiliated to the fossil fuel magnates, such as the Koch brothers, ExxonMobil, and the ultra-conservative Scaife and Bradley foundations. A few years before the Brulle study was published, Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway explored the history of climate denial in their 2010 book, The Merchants of Doubt. Oreskes and Conway argue that "keeping the controversy alive" by spreading doubt and confusion about the scientific consensus on climate change was the basic strategy of those opposing climate action. In 2014, their book was made into a film, Merchants of Doubt, directed by Robert Kenner.
Today, oil companies are hastily pivoting from their traditional position of climate denial to one of climate acceptance - at times even attempting to present themselves as climate champions. As opposed to suppressing their scientific studies, they now acknowledge - even take pride in - the science that they have conducted for decades, Exxon Mobil's web site now includes a page entitled "Climate Change," with a tagline that states, "We believe that climate change risks warrant action and it’s going to take all of us — business, governments and consumers — to make meaningful progress." The page goes on to say, "ExxonMobil scientists have been involved in the forefront of climate research for four decades, understanding and working with the world’s leading experts on climate." It is as if they are now saying, "Of course we know about climate change... we're the ones who discovered it!"
How the Courts Are Responding
Neither the science, nor the brazen measures that oil companies have undertaken to confuse the public on the issue of climate change, have been overlooked by the courts. Republican-appointed Judge William Smith of the U.S. District Court for the District of Rhode Island derided oil companies for their willful destruction of the planet:
“…Defendants in this case, who together have extracted, advertised, and sold a substantial percentage of the fossil fuels burned globally since the 1960s. This activity has released an immense amount of greenhouse gas into the Earth’s atmosphere, changing its climate and leading to all kinds of displacement, death (extinctions, even), and destruction. What is more, Defendants understood the consequences of their activity decades ago, when transitioning from fossil fuels to renewable sources of energy would have saved a world of trouble. But instead of sounding the alarm, Defendants went out of their way to becloud the emerging scientific consensus and further delay changes – however existentially necessary – that would in any way interfere with their multi-billion-dollar profits. All while quietly readying their capital for the coming fallout.”
At this point in time, the prospects for big oil are not particularly good. It would be an understatement to say that neither the oil industry nor their shareholders are happy about the potential of paying out billions of dollars in damages to states now suffering the effects of climate change. However, the bad news gets even worse for the oil industry.
There are those who now say that civil lawsuits do not go far enough: that, to big oil, civil payouts could just be seen as a new cost of doing business. Jojo Mehta, is currently calling on the International Criminal Court to include ecocide as a crime against humanity. Mehta suggests that, "In a weird kind of way, suing is almost a way to legitimize this. You're saying you can do this, but you have to pay for it. Actually, what we want is for them to stop, and for that to be done requires a crime."
Facing a growing number of civil suits around the world, and more recently facing the daunting prospect of becoming criminally liable for their actions, oil companies are scrambling to reinvent themselves in the post-denial era. As the decades-old, oil-funded web of deceit quickly unravels, we are witnessing companies such as Shell distancing themselves from the climate-denying oil lobby groups they previously funded, and proactively reframing their position on climate change. Shell is even producing its own Podcast, entitled The Energy Podcast, wherein the company comes clean about the role that fossil fuels play in climate change.
However, it should be noted that there is a subtle but critical difference between accepting the role that fossil fuels play in climate change, and accepting responsibility for the climate change caused by fossil fuels. The distinction requires a certain amount of skillful mental acrobatics... but Shell does an admirable job of it.
According to Big Oil, We are All to Blame
Essentially, Shell now takes the position that we are all responsible for climate change. In this regard, Shell and Exxon Mobil are united in their positions.
Episode #5 of Shell's Podcast features an interview with Maarten Wetselaar, the Integrated Gas & New Energies Director at Shell. Wetselaar responds brilliantly to a question asking him if Shell is responsible for climate change. He responds by saying, "Society as a whole has built itself around hydrocarbons, and much of our prosperity and current health and wealth comes from it, so that problem is a problem that we share with all our consumers and regulators and governments."
Wetselaar also makes no bones about his view that climate action has to start with the consumer. When asked, "Why don't you just stop producing oil altogether?" Wetselaar states, "From a system perspective... the answer is not in producing less oil and gas. The answer is in consuming less oil and gas. If I produce no oil tomorrow, someone else will. If I consume less oil tomorrow, the production can go down accordingly." (Emphasis added.)
So there you have it. Big oil no longer denies climate change, nor will they openly attempt to obfuscate the role that hydrocarbons play in anthropogenic global warming. On that issue, they now side with the scientific consensus. Big oil does, however, stop short of accepting responsibility for the climate change caused by their products. That dubious honour, as it would turn out, they place squarely on you and me.
In a manner of speaking, I suppose they are right. With the age of climate denial clearly coming to an end, we consumers of energy can no longer feign a position of ignorance or wilful blindness. It is incumbent on us all - each and every one of us - to take immediate, bold, and decisive steps to confront the existential crisis that lies before us. While the momentum is certainly going in the right direction, we cannot wait for governments, courts, or corporations to do the right thing. We know what the right thing to do is... and we must do it.
If you're interested in transitioning to a vegan lifestyle, then you may have encountered a certain amount of frustration when trying to source a good veggie burger that you can enjoy at home. Not only are most of these burgers quite processed, but they can also be very expensive. The new Beyond Meat product line has certainly done a lot to promote plant-based eating, but I have found this product to be extraordinarily expensive. A quick scan of the numerous unpronounceable ingredients sealed the deal: I decided I would try to make my own veggie burgers, and then just see what happens.
As luck would have it, I pretty much nailed it on my first attempt. Here's what I did:
The ground chia and flax seeds make this mixture quite sticky, but that's what holds the patties together (instead of eggs). Watch the video below to see how to make the patties... and then get them off your hands!
Why you Should Consider Transitioning to a Vegan Lifestyle
According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, raising animals for human consumption is the single largest source of human methane emissions. While methane does not stay in the atmosphere as long as carbon dioxide, it is a far more powerful greenhouse gas. Thus, over a 100 year period, pound for pound, methane is approximately 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas.
Raising animals, especially ruminant animals such as cattle, sheep, goats, are destructive to our environment in four main ways. First, these animals essentially burp methane. Through a process known as enteric fermentation, ruminant animals produce methane when microbes in their digestive tracts (known as rumen), decompose and ferment their food, Second, the manure produced by these animals also produces methane. Together, the manure and the enteric fermentation comprise the single largest source of methane emissions related to human activity. Third, the land cleared to raise these animals destroys millions of acres of natural carbon sinks (often forest) that would have sequestered some of the carbon that humans are producing. Fourth, the energy and water used to grow food for livestock, and then transport and process these animals, accounts for approximately half (3.5 gigatonnes annually) of the more than 7 gigatonnes of CO2 equivalents associated with livestock production.
Beyond all that, from a humanitarian standpoint, raising animals in modern corporate farms creates a hell-on-Earth nightmare for billions of animals, from chickens, to pigs, to cattle. If you are brave enough to watch the movie Dominion, then you can get a thorough, inside view of the pain and suffering endured by millions of animals every year just so humans can consume animal protein. If you're not quite brave enough to watch Dominion, then the animated video entitled The Meatrix also does a fine job of conveying some basic facts about raising livestock.
Given that raising livestock is estimated to account for between 13% and 18% of human GHG emissions, eating less meat, or even transitioning to a vegan lifestyle, is definitely one of the quickest, easiest, and cheapest actions that people can take in order to combat climate change.
If you're interested in exploring a vegan diet, just click on the "Vegan Lifestyle" filter in the right-hand menu of this blog to see more plant-based recipes and ideas.
On the morning of October 17th, I noticed that Tesla’s Enhanced Summon feature was active on my Tesla app. I gave it a try later that same day, and it worked! I tested it two more times that day, and it worked each time. (Although it did disconnect from my phone on one occasion, in which case the car stopped in its tracks until I re-established the connection, and that only took a few seconds.)
I live in Ontario, Canada, so this must mean that Transport Canada has approved Tesla's Enhanced Summon feature for the entire country. They didn't do this right away. When the highly-anticipated Version 10 update started to roll out in Canada at the end of September, the Enhanced Summon feature was conspicuously absent.
Enhanced Summon now being available in Ontario does not necessarily mean that it’s available in every province, as provincial Ministries of Transportation would also have to approve this feature for use in each respective province.
Ontario was in fact the first jurisdiction in Canada to allow on-road testing of automated vehicles. This originally occurred back in 2016, when a 10-year pilot project launched. Initially, this program was restricted to specified corporate and institutional participants who wished to test their automated vehicles in Ontario. These participants included the likes of BlackBerry's QNX, Magna, Uber, and the University of Waterloo.
However, Ontario’s automated vehicle pilot program was expanded in January of 2019 to allow members of the public who own cars capable of self-driving to use those cars on Ontario roadways, but only under strict conditions. Those conditions include having either a passenger in the vehicle or a remote operator monitoring the vehicle. Members of the public will be able to drive “Level 3” conditionally automated vehicles, but the driver must be ready to take control of the vehicle at all times. (Learn more about Ontario's Automated Vehicle Program from the Ministry of Transportation.)
We do indeed live in exciting times. Not only because of the improvements to safety, efficiency, and productivity that advances in technology portend, but because the world is clearly waking up to the need to leverage technology, ingenuity, and creativity to address the biggest crisis the world has ever known: climate change.
Let's not forget, Tesla's mission is to "to accelerate the advent of sustainable transport by bringing compelling mass market electric cars to market as soon as possible." I would say they do this in spades. In fact, I would go further to say that the world has rarely been witness to a company that so determinedly pursues and achieves its mission on a daily basis.
What else can I say? Thank you, Tesla.
One question that constantly comes up about electric driving is the time it takes to charge an EV.
My wife and I own two Teslas: a Model X and a Model 3. The X replaced a 2003 Hyundai Santa Fe, and the 3 replaced a 2012 Honda Civic. Upon making the transition to EVs, we immediately noticed something that one might not expect. We found that we actually spent less time dealing with fuel for our cars.
Allow me to explain.
We used to go get gas our Honda Civic about once every ten days, as that was our main commuter vehicle. (My wife and I actually work at the same place, so we only use one car for our daily commute.) We tended to gas up our Hyundai Santa Fe about once every 20 days because we drove that vehicle far less than our Civic. Nonetheless, combining both vehicles, that still works out to about 55 trips to a gas station a year - and that's not including road trips.
Now, I have to tell you... our family is really busy, and every one of those trips to the gas station was almost always hassle that involved a trip to Costco. We went to Costco for gas because the price of gas there is always significantly less than at other gas stations. For us, Costco is about a ten-minute drive away. I confirmed this with Google Maps, which suggested the trip is nine minutes.
As we all know, real-world travel times always take longer than the estimates provided by Google Maps, so I added one minute to the Google Map estimate. This is also consistent with my perception of the time that it takes to drive this particular trip. (Admittedly, I haven't timed this trip with a stop watch as of yet, but I will, and then I'll update this article.) Now, let's add in the time to wait in the Costco gas line (and there is almost always a lineup for Costco gas). I would estimate this to be about seven minutes on average. Then there is the time to actually gas up once you get to the pump. I would estimate this to be about three minutes. I was always racing against the other folks gassing up, so I always carried out this process as quickly and as efficiently as I could. Then there is, of course, the ten-minute return trip back home. Add up all that time and you get about 30 minutes per trip to the gas station. Multiply that 30 minutes by 55 trips each year, and you get a grand total of... drumroll please...
27.5 wasted hours a year!
Of course, we often timed our gas trips with shopping at Costco, but that generally meant not timing our gas trip with the need for a full (or near-full) tank of gas, so that would simply mean smaller fill-ups, and that would mean even more trips to the gas station.
Now, in the interest of full transparency, I fully admit that I hated those gas trips. I resented the time it took, and I hated it all the more because I was buying gas... gas that I knew was contributing to climate change. In fact, I often Tweeted out my dislike for the entire rigamarole of getting gas while I was waiting in the Costco gas line.
Now that we drive electric vehicles, we spend absolutely no time obtaining fuel for our daily driving. We simply plug our cars into our home EV charger (which is situated conveniently on the inner wall of our garage, right in between our two cars) and the act of plugging a car in to a home EV charger takes all of about five seconds. We then walk inside our house, and forget all about it. We only need to do this once every few days. (Less in the summer, more in the winter.)
The car may take between two to eight hours to charge on our Schneider Electric 30 Amp EV charger, but that's all happening while we're home at night, and, quite often, this is happening while we're sleeping... so this process doesn't require us to take any time at all out of our day.
Moreover, we pay a mere 6.5 cents per kWh of energy after 7:00 PM, so that would cost us around $3.00 to fill our Model 3, and about $5.00 to fill our Model X. Not too shabby.
As far as I'm concerned, that's a win-win-win:
If you drive an EV but do not yet have a home EV charger, then I would highly recommend that you go out and get one today in order to experience the full convenience of owning and driving an electric vehicle.
The need to amend Toronto Municipal Code, Chapter 918, to accommodate front-yard parking pads sought for the purpose of EV charging: An Open Letter to the Mayor of Toronto, John Tory
Dear Mayor Tory,
I am writing today to express concern regarding how Chapter 918 of Toronto's Municipal Code is being used to suppress the uptake of electric vehicles in the City of Toronto.
In the C of A TEY District public hearing held on July 31, 2019 (Panel B), the Committee of Adjustment heard an application to seek a variance to Chapter 918, which prohibits front-yard parking pads in Zones 1 and 2 of the City of Toronto. The variance was sought to allow a household to charge an electric car on their property, which they could not possibly do without a parking pad on their property. Sadly, two of the three committee members failed to place this motion into a social context, preferring to view it merely as a personal decision, which they intimated could be motivated by convenience and/or the desire to increase the resident's property value. None of the statements presented by the two committee members opposed to the motion acknowledged the social context of this issue. One member of the committee asked, "What incredible piece of information are we missing?" Another member said, "We zone for the property, not for the people."
What both of these counsellors failed to recognize is that a motion to seek a variance in order to instal EV charging infrastructure is indeed a zoning issue associated with property, not just the "people" who live at a given address. In other words, this is not merely a personal preference associated with an individual property owner... the swift uptake of electric vehicles is indeed an issue of great public interest.
All Toronto residents face constant and relentless negative externalities associated with a high concentration of internal combustion vehicles within the city. These externalities range from noise pollution, to air quality, to climate change. All of these issues are recognized by the City of Toronto, yet the TEY Committee of Adjustment failed to acknowledge these larger social issues when it comes to seeking variances from the prohibition against front-yard parking pads imposed by Chapter 918. Quite frankly, there is obvious social benefit associated with replacing a gas car with an EV in a city like Toronto, and this benefit should be recognized by the Committee of Adjustment.
As you can well imagine, the incredible concentration of gas-burning vehicles in a city like Toronto poses a tremendous health impact on the city's residents. To quote the Toronto Public Health's own study, "Air pollution in Toronto comes mainly from traffic, industrial sources, residential and commercial sources, and off-road mobile sources such as rail, air, and marine sources." The report goes on to say that, "Of these sources, traffic has the greatest impact on health, contributing to about 280 premature deaths and 1,090 hospitalizations each year, or about 20% of all premature deaths and 30% of all hospitalizations due to air pollution" (Page 2, Toronto Public Health. Path to Healthier Air: Toronto Air Pollution Burden of Illness Update. Technical Report. April 2014). The report goes on to clarify that, "When only pollutants emitted within Toronto's boundaries are considered, the Path to Healthier Air: Toronto Air Pollution Burden of Illness Update 3 proportions of premature deaths and hospitalizations attributable to traffic are 42% and 55%, respectively" (Page s 2-3, Toronto Public Health. Path to Healthier Air: Toronto Air Pollution Burden of Illness Update. Technical Report. April 2014).
Of course, these findings do not even address the far greater concerns and costs associated with climate change. The costs of climate change to the City of Toronto will easily reach billions of dollars each year, and your own Infrastructure and Environment Committee unanimously approved approved a recent motion to explore legal actions against oil companies in order to seek compensation for the costs of climate change incurred by the City of Toronto.
I mention these facts in an effort to put the enforcement of Chapter 918 into context. Namely, the idea that the moratorium for the provision of front-yard parking must now be recognized as an impediment to the uptake of electric vehicles. This is because EVs are charged at home, usually overnight; they cannot be practically charged for daily use off property at public charging stations. Moreover, the uptake of electric vehicles is no longer just a personal issue: EV charging is a critical aspect of society's response to climate change. Thus, EV charging is indeed a social issue - not merely a "personal" preference or circumstance.
On July 21, 2019, twenty-four neighbours from Ward 14 came out to the Committee of Adjustment meeting to show their support of the motion to allow the variation to permit a parking pad on the property in question. Moreover, these neighbours clarified that they were not there because they simply wanted to do the same thing. Rather, they recognized and supported the need for residential EV charging.
I know that you personally recognize climate change and that you support Toronto's TransformTO climate action change plan, so I am hoping you will direct your city counsellors and Committee of Adjustment members to recognize that the need to instal home EV chargers, as well as any associated parking pads that may be required to accommodate home EV charging, is far more than just a personal circumstance or preference. Climate change and air pollution are both very real (and very expensive) social issues that are currently impacting the City of Toronto and its residents.
I hope that you do indeed appreciate the very real threats that climate change and air pollution pose to the City of Toronto and its residents, and that you will act swiftly to direct your city counsellors and Committee of Adjustment members to recognize EV charging as a cogent reason to allow variances to the Chapter 918 prohibition against front-yard parking pads in all residential zones within the City of Toronto.
Yours in the environment,
On a related note, I want to point out that there are now many forms of permeable concrete (aka porous concrete, no-fines concrete, gap-graded concrete, enhanced-porosity concrete) that can quickly absorb rainwater and avoid the problem of stormwater runoff. I might suggest that all positive responses to variances sought under Chapter 918 be granted under the condition that such materials be used for the surfacing of front-yard parking pads in the City of Toronto.
A lot more information about single-use plastic is being disseminated in both mainstream and social media as of late, and that's a really good thing. I think most people want to do their best for the environment and for all the animals that we share this planet with. However, no matter how much you may wish to avoid single-use plastic, you will find that doing this is a lot easier said than done.
According to the NRDC, the average American family takes home about 1,500 shopping bags a year, but even if you faithfully bring reusable shopping bags with you every time you go shopping, and even if you manage to completely avoid using single-use plastic shopping bags, you can still end up accumulating a tremendous number of plastic bags used to package things like bread, nuts, seeds, cereal, fruits, and vegetables. After a few weeks or months, you might be shocked to see just how many plastic bags still pile up.
Recycling our big bag of bags.
If you're like me, you certainly don't want to throw these plastic bags in the garbage because you've come to understand that these bags end up in either landfill or in our oceans.
Moreover, you've learned that it can take these bags up to 1000 years to break down, and you've also come to appreciate the fact that they do not actually biodegrade. Sadly, this is because plastic is not a food source for bacteria, and plastic doesn't oxidize either. Rather, plastic breaks down from ultra-violate light through a process of photo-degradation, only to become bits of micro-plastics that contaminate our water, soil, and food supply... basically forever.
We also hear about the billions of plastic bags floating aimlessly in our oceans - including the horrific Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a floating mass of micro-plastics that forms an area of about 1.6 million square kilometres, or about three times the size of France.
Knowing all this, nobody really wants to just throw out their plastic bags, but what else can they do?
Well... I'll tell you.
You can search the web for a municipal "plastic bag recycling" or "plastic bag take-back" program, and then recycle your bags through local participating retailers. The process is fairly simple. Generally, consumers are asked to:
Living in York Region, I have access to the York Region Plastic Bag Take Back Program, which is wonderful. This program solicits the participation of local retailers who agree to provide a bin for their customers to recycle their plastic bags. The plastic bags are then collected by the municipality, and, if all goes well, recycled plastic bags are used to make things like "new plastic bags, plastic lumber, patio furniture and park benches."
For a number of years, I used to recycle my plastic bags at a local Metro grocery store, which was really close to our home. However, it seems that Metro no longer participates in the program. However, I can tell you that the Great Canadian Superstore is still participating, and I hear Walmart is still participating as well. (Perhaps I should do my diligence to confirm that Walmart is indeed participating in the program. Stay tuned for an update.)
Thus, my family tends to fill a clear plastic bag in our garage with our various plastic bags, and then haul those bags off to a participating take-back store about once a month.
For the sake of our environment, for the the health of our animals and sea life, and, invariably, for the sake of our own health, please try to limit your use of single-use plastic bags, plastic bottles, and plastic products. Try to make a habit of keeping reusable plastic bags in your car, and get them out when you find yourself walking into a store. Refuse plastic bags when they are offered to you at a store, and, whenever possible, choose wood, metal, glass, hemp, or bamboo over plastic. When you do find yourself purchasing food products that come in plastic bags, take just a few extra moments every month to recycle those bags through your local plastic bag take-back program.
Recently, Alex Guberman from E for Electric published a somewhat sheepish video wherein he admitted that "Tesla may not be doomed after all."
The May sales numbers for EVs, plug-in hybrids, and soft hybrids had just been published by Inside EVs, and they looked particularly good for Tesla... but perhaps not so great for those who, for whatever reason, like to spread fear, uncertainty, and doubt about Tesla. (These folks are affectionately known as FUDsters in the industry.)
Of course, in the industry, I suppose I would be dubbed a Tesla "Fanboy," so my opinion could certainly be perceived as biased.
But let's look at something that's not biased: numbers.
Specifically, lets look at the US sales data for EVs, plug-in hybrids, and soft hybrids for just the month of May, 2019. As I said, these numbers come from InsideEVs, who consistently do a great job of gathering and publishing sales numbers for automobiles in the electric and hybrid sector.
The reasons for Tesla's strong sales results are many, but I thought I would share some of them with you here, as well as a rather interesting fact I found when I analyzed the sales numbers for the month of May.
First, let me confess that I told Alex, in the comments posted below his video, that he's funny. I pointed out that he talks about Tesla as if it "may" not be doomed after all (which, in Alex's defence, may have been sarcasm as opposed to a solemn admission), and I suggested that Alex - and everyone else - take Elon's advice when analyzing Tesla: start from first principles.
First Principles, as they Apply to the EV market
Principle #1: EVs are the new mode of personal transportation.
Electric vehicles are replacing the internal combustion engine. This is now perfectly clear. You don't need to take my word for it: even the presidents and CEOs of the top legacy automobile manufacturers are now admitting this as they scramble to catch up in the EV market. This past December, after announcing the impending closure of the GM plant in Oshawa, Ontario, Travis Hester, the president of GM Canada, said that "EVs are the future." This past February, Honda CEO Takahiro Hachigo, announced that Honda would be closing its plants in England and Turkey as they restructure for electrification. He stated, "We have decided to carry out this production realignment in Europe in light of our efforts to optimize production allocation and production capacity globally as well as accelerating electrification." Just two days ago, in a Tokyo press conference, Executive Vice President of Toyota, Shigeki Terashi, confessed that, "Demand for electric vehicles has grown stronger than we had projected." Toyota, who had been the industry laggard in bringing EVs to market (even making fun of electric vehicles in their advertising up until very recently), has now announced that they are pushing their EV program five years ahead of schedule.
Principle #2: In the EV market, Tesla is the juggernaut.
Compared to Tesla, all of the other original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) are producing paltry numbers of units, and they are offering products that are having a very hard time competing with the products offered by Tesla. I will present more on this below, as I dissect the US sales numbers for the first five months of 2019.
Principle #3: Tesla has a huge first-move advantage.
In both electric vehicles and autonomous driving, Tesla has years of lead time on other OEMs. Very recently, ARC Invest stated that Tesla is easily a few years ahead of their competition.
Tesla only needs to stay about one year ahead of the competition to have an overwhelming advantage.
However, the harsh reality for all other car companies is this: Tesla only needs to stay about one year ahead of the competition to have an overwhelming advantage. At any given point in time, once a consumer makes the decision to buy an EV, what are they going to buy: the most advanced electric vehicle available with the longest track record of success, or something else? You tell me.
A Deeper Dive into the Sales Numbers
I took the liberty of copying and pasting the data provided by InsideEVs into a spreadsheet so that I could work with the numbers. (That spreadsheet is available to be downloaded at the bottom of this article.) I was curious to put these numbers into perspective, so I decided to add up the sales for Tesla Models S, 3, and X, and then compare those numbers to all the other models available in the US EV, plugin-hybrid, and soft hybrid market.
Here's what I found.
If that doesn't put things into a rather stark perspective, then I'm not sure what will.
With companies like Toyota already conceding defeat to Tesla, it's pretty difficult to imagine Tesla's competition doing very well ten years from now.
Tesla never planned to take over the automobile market. Their mission is, and always has been, to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy. Ironically, that means that Tesla is motivated to make their cars the most compelling vehicles on the planet, and to keep their customers driving their electric vehicles for a million miles. Undoubtedly, this is a very difficult value proposition for traditional car companies to compete with.
Manufacturers of automobiles powered by internal combustion engines are invariably falling victim to the biggest disruption since the gas-powered automobile replaced the horse and carriage. These traditional car manufacturers have always depended on dealerships, maintenance and service fees, and possibly even planned obsolescence to drive their revenues. Now they have to compete with a company that has a deeper purpose than just earning money, and a longer-term vision than just the next quarter's financials.
I truly hope that the traditional car manufacturers do learn to adapt and survive in the emerging era of electrified transportation. After all, as much as I admire Elon Musk and Tesla, one relatively new company cannot possibly facilitate the transition to electrification as quickly as the world needs it to happen. We're going to need all of the world's major automobile manufacturers to come out with strong EV sales numbers every single year for the next ten years if we are to achieve the monumental task that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change outlined in its 2018 Climate Change Report. However, it is now becoming painfully clear that the traditional automobile manufacturers are going to be facing an increasingly uphill battle as they set out to compete in this rapidly evolving market.
It is currently Sunday, December 29th, 2019: approximately six months after I wrote this article. Tesla's Shanghai Gigafactory is up and running, and it is rumoured to be currently producing 1000 cars a week. A company spokesperson recently stated that Tesla is set to begin deliveries of its first China-made Model 3 cars on December 30th... just 357 days after the company started construction of its Shanghai factory in an empty field.
Tesla's stock price has risen meteorically in recent weeks, finding its way to a new all-time high of $430.00 a share. This makes Tesla by far the highest valued American automobile manufacturer by market capitalization. It also makes Tesla the third highest valued automobile manufacturer in the world, with only Volkswagon and Toyota commanding higher values in the stock market.
Tesla could very well be within days of rolling out their first feature-complete version of full-self driving, potentially beating the world to this mark by years. To say that Tesla's growth is both unprecedented and unparalleled would be an understatement. Indeed, the world has never seen anything like this.
At this date, my predictions for Tesla remain unchanged. Given its current trajectory, Tesla will likely be the only automobile manufacturer producing any substantial number of automobiles nine and a half years from now.
Tesla is more than a car company. It is a social movement... and it is a critical one.
Tesla, in a nutshell, is a private response to climate change. It is a challenge to the status quo of burning fossil fuels, and that is a status quo that would almost certainly lead to the end of human civilization.
Big business and governments have been far too slow to recognize and respond to climate change. Yet, Elon Musk had the intelligence and the integrity to create a fortune, and then bet that entire fortune on the prospect of providing a solution to climate change: namely, sustainable transportation, renewable energy, and renewable energy storage.
Mr. Musk continues to double down on his commitment, building his network of companies at a breakneck pace, and constantly pushing his organization to the brink. He does this because he understands the urgency of our predicament.
Have you ever said to yourself, "Had I been there... I would have stood for the hard right against the easy wrong"? Have you ever thought, "Were I there... back in the times of slavery, I would have done things differently"? Have you ever claimed, "If I were around... during the Holocaust, I would have raised my voice"?
Well, climate change is probably the biggest challenge that any generation will be called to confront, and we are all here... right now. We happen to be living and making decisions at this pivotal moment in history.
My family and I have chosen to stand up. Yes... it comes with some sacrifice, perhaps even a certain amount of risk: standing up for what is right always does.
But we have agreed that we don't want to go down without a fight. Whatever the future may bring, my wife and I want our children to know that we loved them so much that we did everything we could. And no matter how things turn out, we want to be on the right side of history.
Your plan to spread partisan propaganda at Ontario gas pumps may just backfire on you, Mr. Premier. An open letter to Doug Ford
Dear Premier Ford,
Ironically, I find that I am actually in support of your misguided attempt to sabotage climate solutions by spreading partisan propaganda across Ontario gas pumps. Allow me to explain.
While I am troubled by the news that gas stations may be threatened with a $10,000 fine for failing to affix your carbon tax propaganda to their pumps, I think your devious little plan may in fact serve to achieve two positive ends. Not only will your stickers heighten awareness of climate change, they will invariably help to reduce the demand for gasoline as well.
You see, a Pygouvian tax is intended to reduce demand for a good (such as gasoline) that causes a negative externality (such as climate change). However, a Pygouvian tax isn't going to be all that effective if the consumer isn't even aware that it exists. To be sure, consumers are well accustomed to tremendous volatility at the pump, so it is quite unlikely that gas buyers would have even noticed the price of gas going up by a nickel here or a dime there. But lucky for us, your little stunt will constantly remind them.
Thank you, Mr. Premiere... with your help, we'll have Ontarians driving electric in no time!
Yours in the environment,
As you may know, our family drives electric vehicles. Naturally, maintaining a liveable planet for our children is our primary motivation for driving electric. However, I must say... the fact that we no longer contribute a percentage of our family income to stuff the bank accounts of oil tycoons pleases us to no end. Take it from me, that fact alone is more than enough motivation to stop one from driving a gas car. The $1,400.00 to $1,600.00 in annual gas savings per car is, I suppose, the icing. But the real cherry on top would have to be the new federal Climate Action Incentive. That policy will provide our family of four with an additional $307.00 refund on our annual tax return. Don't worry, Mr. Premier... we won't forget to claim this incentive at line 449 of the 2018 standard tax form.
Isn't it funny how your government jacks gas buyers for even more tax than the feds, yet you don't give any of that money back to consumers, do you, Mr. Premier? Funny how your silly stickers don't mention that interesting fact... don't you think?
Dear climate denial lobby,
Let's be friends. I need some quick cash because I'm looking to buy another Tesla... maybe that sweet new Model Y!
So look, I was wondering if the climate denial lobby would fund me... say around $100,000.00 (that's nothing to you guys, right?) to write a paper showing that, out of the roughly 50 million research papers written on any topic since the beginning of time, only 3,896 research papers, exploring the cause of climate change, published between 1991 and 2011, actually support anthropogenic climate change.
Then you could tell everybody that only 0.008% of research supports anthropogenic climate change!
Get it!? And the beauty is... you wouldn't even be lying!
I mean, come on, that's gold! Am I right?
Call me. We'll talk.
I realize there is nothing particularly new in my proposed approach to climate denial: after all, this is the basic tactic you've been utilizing on a daily basis for decades in attempt to create a false sense of doubt on the issue of anthropogenic climate change. However, I think the true genius to my proposal is in its bold, take-no-prisoners, approach. I mean, if you're going to skew research results, then skew those results good!
When it comes to the environment, we are all neighbours.