Electric Cars: are they just as polluting as gasoline?

I recently met online with a bunch of anti-Tesla advocates who were happy to list out all of the reasons why electric cars are a bad idea. After an hour of listening to the rants, I realized that all of their complaints were based on myths or outdated information, or simply a yearning for the old days.

Here are the three most common myths that should be debunked:

Myth #1: Electric cars get power from dirty power plants

Most electricity comes from fossil fuel power plants. But here is something you should know: even the oldest coal power plants are less polluting and more efficient than gasoline or diesel engines. In fact, they are more than twice as efficient.

The average well-tuned internal combustion engines is about 25% efficient at converting fuel to mechanical energy. You can add a turbo to squeeze out a couple more percentage points, but even the latest super-efficient engines can’t push that number past about 28%.

Power plants have an unfair advantage– they don’t have to be mobile, so the size and weight of the machine inside doesn’t matter. They can use giant multistage turbines that extract every bit of energy out of every drop of fuel. And they’re not doing this because they care about the environment– they do this because it makes them more profitable.

Most older power plants still operating today are more than 60% efficient from fuel to electricity. Modern plants can push that beyond 80% efficiency. Therefore, by switching to an electric car, you’re immediately cutting your energy consumption by more than half.

Myth #2: Battery manufacturing causes more environmental damage.

Here’s the concern with battery manufacturing:  (1) mining companies extract ore from the mine, (2) the ore is processed and refined into metals, and (3) the metals are used to make batteries.  This process consumes energy and makes a lot of pollution.

But where does gasoline come from?  (1) oil companies drill and extract crude oil, (2) the oil is transported to refineries where it is cooked and processed into a lot of things including gasoline, (3) the gasoline is transported to gasoline stations where it ends up in the tank of your car. This process also consumes energy and makes a lot of pollution. It turns out that it’s a lot of energy, too. Fun fact: the energy consumed to produce one gallon of gasoline will drive a Tesla 20 miles. Keep in mind that 250 billion gallons of gasoline were refined in 2010 alone.

With both processes consuming energy and polluting, there are a couple of differences that are important to understand:

  1. There are more than 2 million operating petroleum wells worldwide, but there are fewer than 100 lithium mines. There is much more opportunity for direct environmental damage from petroleum exploration than lithium exploration.
  2. Gasoline engines need constant refilling with endless tanks of gasoline, but a set of batteries is manufactured once for each car. Batteries are then recycled into new batteries at end of life, but we get to breathe all of the gasoline exhaust.

Verdict: gasoline is the bigger problem.

Myth #3: The power industry pollutes as much as cars.

No it doesn’t, but it doesn’t matter: the amount of pollution isn’t the problem.

Power plants have the benefit of being stationary. This means technology can be installed on power plants to capture all of the exhaust and prevent them from polluting at all, like all of these power plants are doing.

This can’t be done with cars. Cars pollute wherever the car happens to be: whether it’s near a school, hospital or nursing home, or anywhere else. This is causing a huge street-level pollution problem which is having an increasingly more dangerous impact on public health.

This is why the trend is clear: make all cars electric, and make all power plants non-polluting.

Is everything going the way of electric?

There will always be gasoline-powered cars. People aren’t going to give up their classic sports cars, or their grandpa’s Cadillac. No electric car is going to produce the sound of a big-block spinning past 8000 RPM with tuned headers and straight-out exhaust. Long live the gearheads with their projects propped up on jack stands. (I’m one of them.)

But the only path forward that solves the pollution problem is to do away with polluting internal combustion engines for regular daily use. The future is going to be full of silent, efficient, and environmentally-friendly electric cars.


Settled Science: What you need to know right now

If you refer to climate change, the long-age of the earth, and evolution as “Settled Science”, then here is what you need to know: by using the words “Settled Science” your opinion will be disregarded by anyone with a real science education.

Here is what a scientist hears when you say “Settled Science”: I disagree with something that I don’t understand. I am joining hands with a lot of other people who don’t understand this thing, and together we use these words to make ourselves feel better.

Science is not a belief system or an opinion formed by a committee. Science is the process of testing, observation, discovery and prediction. To say science is “settled” simply shows you don’t understand the scientific method or how a hypothesis becomes a theory after repeated experiments and resulting facts.

Science isn’t a public consensus, either, because science doesn’t care about popular opinion. John Oliver said it best: “You don’t need people’s opinion on a fact. You might as well have a poll asking: ‘Which number is bigger, 15 or 5?’ or ‘Do owls exist?’ or ‘Are there hats?'” (click here to see the full segment )

Science is like putting together a giant jigsaw puzzle. Once you get to a certain point, you can figure out what the picture is. Can you see the horse in the unfinished puzzle at the beginning of this post? Adding more pieces will not change the horse to something else. It is obvious and easy to see that it’s a horse.

In the puzzles of evolution, age of the earth, and climate change, scientists have found enough of the pieces that it’s now obvious and easy to see what the picture is. Adding more pieces adds details and makes the picture more clear. But just like a jigsaw puzzle, adding more pieces doesn’t change the picture.

So if you want to sound smarter, look at the actual climate change puzzle, age of the earth puzzle or evolution puzzle. Stop using rhetorical catch-phrases like “Settled Science” that make you sound like an idiot. Try learning about the puzzles first, and see the pictures that scientists have been looking at for decades.

Why Kids are Quitting Church: Three Things You Need to Know

I hear this all the time: “As soon as kids start learning about evolution, they leave the church.” Certainly this is true for a lot of kids. And well-intended religious parents have reacted by declaring war against schools in an effort to change or eliminate subjects that conflict with their personal beliefs. But children are leaving religion in record numbers.

How can we solve this problem? If you feel threatened by topics like evolution and an earth that’s billions of years old, then here are three things that you need to understand:

1. Science is Seeing

It’s important that we all understand what “science” is. It’s all about the scientific method. Scientists make observations, then they attempt to make predictions about what they observe. Then they perform experiments to prove their predictions. It’s about what can be seen.

telescope-937871_960_720 (Custom)And scientists are human. They have personal opinions, beliefs and prejudices that can sway the results. This is why the scientific method also includes a critical step called replication. A prediction or “hypothesis” only becomes a theory when other scientists can repeat, or replicate, the experiments and get the same results. Care is also taken to make sure experiments are as “blind” as possible to prevent the human bias from influencing the test results.

It’s critical to understand this point: science is only about what can be observed. All kinds of machines are built to help scientists see things they couldn’t see before. They build microscopes, telescopes and satellites. They build supercomputers, supercolliders and reactors. Holes are drilled miles into the earth, and machines sent places where humans can’t go. They make these efforts so they can see, because the scientific method can only be applied to what can be seen.

2. Religion is not an Enemy to Science

Science isn’t run by atheists. As mentioned above, a critical step in the scientific method is to replicate the results without being influenced by personal beliefs. It only means science tries hard to remove the influence of people from the results.

Religion is all about a person’s belief system: a God, who established rules, doctrines and traditions that govern personal and collective behavior. Religions can provide a spiritual context, a concept of one’s origin and destination, and guidance in the pursuit of happiness. Religion can enrich lives and improve relationships, and can strengthen families and communities. There is nothing wrong with a person being religious. You might even be surprised to find that most scientists are devoutly religious people.

Religion isn’t an enemy of science; it’s just not part of the scientific method. There is no religion that provides a view of God for scientific observation. There is no experiment to perform, and no hypothesis to prove. God cannot be seen, and science is only about things that can be seen.

Yes, there are scientists who say “there is no God”. But this is not science, because such a statement cannot be proven. However, it is true that no religion has provided a God upon which the scientific method has been successfully applied, so a scientist can correctly claim, “I have not seen any repeatable experiment that proves there is a God.”

Science must simply exclude all personal beliefs and biases for the scientific method to work properly, but it’s okay to be religious.

3. Religion Can’t Hide Science

Everything you enjoy about the Information Age was brought about though the scientific method: things like mobile phones, GPS, advanced medicine, and the Internet. The amount of newly discovered scientific knowledge is growing faster and faster every year. New knowledge continues to support and strengthen scientific theories that have been in place for centuries, and thanks to the Information Age, this knowledge is abundant and easy to see. Remember the phrase abundant and easy to see because this is the most important thing you can learn about science.

For example, a hundred years ago, the test for determining the age of a fossil was disputed. But today there are numerous ways, and they all cross-verify the results of the others. Using these techniques, scientist can dig down anywhere on earth and identify millions of years of geological and biological history, and each layer matches similar layers everywhere else on the earth. The petroleum, gas and coal companies have found this science critical to help locate their valuable deposits. Most importantly, evidence of the earth’s geological and fossil age is abundant and easy to see.

The concept of evolution was also controversial when it was first proposed. It was difficult for people to understand, and evidence was still lacking. But after hundreds of thousands of discoveries, observations and replicated testing, evolution has become the foundation of modern geology, biology and medicine. Evolution is repeatedly observed in natural and artificial settings. An understanding of DNA is helping medicine to predict, prevent and cure disease. The facts of evolution are abundant and easy to see.

And about that phrase, “abundant and easy to see”, remember that science is seeing. Anyone who learns science can also learn to see the same evidence and figure out the same results. Scientists will continue to discover more and more evidence that will continue to confirm and improve these theories.

So who are you going to believe?  Me, or your eyes?

Family watching television with parents covering children's eyesWhy are the children leaving religion once they start learning about science? It’s simple. Religion keeps trying to convince children that the sky is green, while children can see for themselves that the sky is blue. Which are they going to believe?

Science is not a mystery that’s difficult to understand. Again, the evidence is abundant and easy to see. Someday your child will see what scientists have seen. They will see it for themselves, and they will not doubt their eyes. Instead, they will doubt you, and they will doubt the religion that taught them otherwise.

What should a parent do?

There are four things you should do to keep your children from turning their backs on your religion:

  1. Stop treating science as the enemy.  Science is a giant collection of observations and predictions. That’s all it is. And this giant collection will continue to exist whether you choose to understand it or not. Science is not a religion. Calling it Evolutionism is as ridiculous as calling it Gravitationalism or Chemistryism. And because science is not a religion, it is not a competitor to your religion, either. Science is not trying to get you to stop believing in your religion, so stop treating it as the enemy.
  2. Stop doubting your religion. Again, science is not a competitor to your religion, so you don’t need to doubt your religion to learn science. Your God created the universe, so don’t you think your God also created science? Stop feeling threatened by what you think is a conflict. Instead, look at them separately. It’s okay that they don’t agree, because they serve different purposes. Science is never going to explain or agree with Adam and Eve, or how the Ark saved people from a flood, or what happens to your spirit when you die. Science isn’t changing how you are supposed to be working toward your salvation. And religion didn’t create the Internet, space travel, computers or cell phones. As you change your attitude toward the coexistence of science and religion, you will find peace in their differences.
  3. Bill_Nye_the_Science_Guy_title_screenLearn science along with your children. Watch Bill Nye the Science Guy together. Do science experiments together. Go digging for fossils and try to figure out their age. Study the dinosaurs and compare them to birds. Discuss science at the dinner table together. Go check out some science books from your local library and read them together as a family. Nothing prepares children better for success in higher education than an active science education in the home. And children who learn science in a religious home are more likely to continue living their religion.
  4. Live your religion. It doesn’t help to have Christians filling the news, churches and homes with venomous, hateful speech. Hatred stands in conflict with your religious teachings, and further incentivizes children to explore other sources for peace and spiritual fulfillment. It’s a big conflict for youth to see adult role models failing to do what they claim to believe. If your religion teaches forgiveness, tolerance and unselfish service, then you should forgive, tolerate and give unselfish service. Show your children how you can be happy serving in your church and community.

Do these things, and you will be surprised at how quickly the conflict between science and religion disappears in your home and family. After all, it’s this conflict that is turning children away from religion.

Six New Mascots for the Fragmenting Political Parties

Internal conflicts are causing divisions in the two main political parties. The old Donkey and Elephant mascots just don’t fit them anymore. It’s time we propose more logically-appropriate mascots for all of these emerging fragments.

The lines between political party fragments are still a little blurry, with many politicians straddling the lines. Bernie Sanders is clearly a Democratic Socialist. But Donald Trump acts like a Republican Plutocrat but appeals to radicals of the Republican Tea Party. John Kasich is more of a cross between Republican Libertarian and Republican Tea Party. There there’s Ted Cruz, who can shape-shift his ideology to match whoever is in front of him.

Here are some mascots that we propose for the new fragments:


Democratic Socialists

We love government! Government is our favorite! Government takes care of us, and anything government does for us is terrific. We will be loyal to government that loves us so much. We can't wait to see government in action. And the only thing better than government is even more government.

Only the government can make the American Dream possible so that everyone can become an Alpha Dog! And we don't care what breed you are. Freedom to bark is our right! And freedom to express our sexuality, at any time, and any place.

Republican Libertarians

We are completely dependent on government, but we really don't want a government at all. We just want to be left alone. We don't like anyone to tell us what to do. We especially don't want to pay taxes to government.

We don't care what anyone else is doing as long as they keep to themselves. But government had better keep providing us with the things we want, and in an emergency, the government must be there for us.

Republican Plutocrats

We love our slop. We are loyal to whoever supplies slop to our feeding trough. War makes us rich. Oil makes us rich. Guns make us rich. Big corporations make us rich. We will ignore science to protect our slop providers.

The wealthy are smart, which is why they should always run the country. Rich people shouldn't have to pay taxes, because rich people create jobs for poor people. Taxes are for the poor who serve the rich. And, poor people can only blame themselves for being poor.

Republican Constitutionalists

Our founding fathers could never have imagined the economic, technological and social changes in the subsequent 200 years, and we're still trying to figure out how they would apply their limited 18th century experience to all of it. We're confused by a virtual world where commerce, entertainment and crime function without borders. It would be much easier for us if we walked society back to simpler times (for us), when everyone was forced to be the same religion, people could keep other people as pets, and women stayed quiet.

Republican Christians

We like the comfort of our flock. Everyone thinks the same way. We will loyally follow our pastor, or Glenn Beck, or Rush Limbaugh. Sheep should be white! And we love our Jesus-approved constitution! We know it was bestowed upon us by God for the freedom of Christians. We like that Jesus guy, even if his teachings are sometimes inconvenient, but we can find something in the Bible to justify whatever we want. OH, MIGHTY REAGAN!

Republican Tea Party

We hate government. We hate people that don't agree with us. If you get too close to me with your liberal ideas, we'll kick you in the head.

We hate liberal big government. Big government is okay if we put it there. In fact, the bigger the better.

Education is nothing but a plot to make our youth liberal or gay. Don't talk science stuff, or we will stick our heads into the ground so we don't have to hear that dangerous, manipulative speech.

The best thing about a small brain? We can do whatever we want today, and next month nobody will remember.