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Biden & the Media Are Electric-Vehicle Grifters: If the president succeeds, global emissions will be 0.18% lower

By Holman W. Jenkins, Jr.


Subsidizing somebody to use an electric car is a subsidy to consume energy, period—to drive more, to live in a bigger house, to crank the air conditioning higher. The electricity to charge the car has to come from somewhere. The minerals for the battery don’t spring from the ground. If government pays you to use less fossil fuel, it’s paying someone else to use more.

But the funny thing is, even if sophisticated economics are lost on you, you still wouldn’t subsidize electric cars for consumers based simply on the numbers.

Transportation may be 20% of emissions, but cars and vans represent only 8%, and 72% of these are personal vehicles—which means they sit idle most of the time. Going by U.S. and European averages, commercial vehicles rack up four times the annual mileage. Global society’s personal vehicles may be a majority of cars, but they account for a minority of light-vehicle emissions—about 39%, or 3% of total emissions.

And, of course, the Biden plan affects only the U.S., with 12% of the global fleet—so 0.36%. And swapping out a gasoline engine for a battery eliminates only half (at best) of lifetime emissions—so 0.18%.

I could go on. When all factors are considered, such as the shrinking U.S. share of global emissions, such as the slow turnover of the U.S. auto fleet, the climate effect of the extravagantly expensive Biden plan will steadily approach zero as time goes on even without counting the signal to others to consume the fossil fuels that EV drivers allow to be available at a lower price.

Now you know why the Union of Concerned Scientists for years has practiced a sleight of hand, claiming “our personal vehicles are a major cause of global warming” and then segueing to talk about transportation emissions overall. Ditto the New York Times, which laughably oversells the Biden plan “to slash the greenhouse gases generated by cars, a major driver of climate change.”

These outlets plump for EV subsidies because their target demos like to hear about EV handouts but it’s not serious climate policy. It’s no more serious than the Obama fuel-economy plan to give us 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025, shown in a subsequent investigation to be a sham “headline number” cooked up by the White House PR team.

If this sounds cynical, also spare a thought for a news media that has ceased to function as a critic and instead champions policy ideas, no matter how theoretically expensive, purely as virtue signals. If you hoped for climate policy that might actually affect climate, the press perhaps is the ultimate place to point the finger.