Wow! Watch the Nissan Leaf’s provocative, irreverent polar bear ad, which markets global warming

… and makes the anti-science disinformers go nuts

I am very interested  in your thoughts on this remarkable ad:

Here are mine:

As  an advertisement for a product aimed at a specific demographic,  I think it is quite clever.  I’d give it an A.

And maybe I should add a “+” for the fact Nissan ran this on Thursday’s National Football League opener, which featured the New Orleans Saints, the closest thing we have to America’s team thanks to Hurricane Katrina.  Coincidence?  I think not.

UPDATE:  I’m giving it another “+” for the response it is provoking in the anti-science, pro-pollution crowd.  It’s been said that the disinformers are humorless, but Anthony Watts actually wrote:   “The ad agency that serves Nissan (as does Nissan management) deserves a smack upside the head for promoting the idea that you can hug a polar bear. Some people are actually stupid enough to try it.”  As commenter MarkB notes, “Shame on all those parents who give their kids teddy bears, which brainwashes them into thinking they are harmless. Same goes for creators of Yogi, Smokey, Bernstein, etc.”   Some people are actually stupid enough to believe the long-debunked disinformation that Watts spouts, disinformation that will ultimately harm far, far more people than polar bears, which, in any case, will be wiped out if we keep listening to folks like Watts.  What’s next?  Attacking the Road Runner cartoons for promoting the idea that you can run off of a cliff, look down, and then run back?  Seriously.

The Leaf  is not going to be a high-volume car for a long time — it’s  initial target was merely to sell 25,000 in the U.S. by March 31, 2011.  Indeed,  the big rush for  electric vehicles like the Leaf and plug in hybrids like the Chevy Volt  is likelier to come this decade from high oil prices due to peak oil than a general  desire to buy low-carbon products due to concern about global warming.  The  inflection point is  probably $4 gasoline.  So this is a necessarily targeted ad.

Let me get one point  out of the way immediately.  Yes, if you run the Leaf on 100% coal power,  it wouldn’t be greener than a regular car,  from a global warming perspective (though it would still have zero tailpipe missions,  which has benefits for reduced urban air pollution).   From a policy perspective, EVs are mostly an enabler of CO2 reductions — they do directly reduce emissions in most applications — but  require  legislation that steadily reduces utility emissions  overtime to achieve large economy wide benefit.

That said, exceedingly few of the purchasers of the Leaf  will be running it on 100% coal power.  Quite the reverse.  A large fraction will probably be in California, where the electric grid has half the  carbon intensity of the U.S. grid — and is poised to drop further this decade unless the Big-Oil funded Proposition 23 effort  to kill California’s clean energy laws succeeds.

Most of the rest will  likely live in major cities or suburbs, given the roughly 100-mile single-charge range, and  most of those areas have a grid  at least as clean as the country as a whole (which is roughly equal to a 30% efficient natural gas power plant).  Even the state of Tennessee, which “is offering a $2,500 tax rebate to the first 1,000 buyers of electric vehicles” on  top of the federal $7500 rebate, has a grid roughly as clean as the national average.  And, of course,  many of the  early adopters will be green consumers who  purchase electricity with 100% renewable content ( or actually own their own PV system).

So it is quite fair to characterize the Leaf to  its target audience as reducing greenhouse gas emissions.  Almost any buyer can lower their CO2 emissions by purchasing it, potentially by a large amount.  As I have argued at length many times, Plug-in hybrids and electric cars are a core climate solution. It is hard to envision a plausible solution to global warming or peak oil that doesn’t involve them (and yes, a lot of conservation and dematerialization, too).

As for the polar bear,  it simply is hard to beat as an iconic image of global warming.

today's cartoon

If this were an ad  from an environmental group  aimed at raising awareness of global warming,  I might put on my wonk hat and say that  emphasizing the climate impact on animals  is simply not going to move the  needle on public opinion on the need for  climate action.  Most  people are not going to  change who  they vote for (let alone their own behavior) to  to save a bunch of animals.

But  this is an ad from a car company that wants to tell a story quickly —  which in turn needs iconic characters.  I think  Andrew Leonard at Salon  misses the point twice with his column “The Nissan Leaf global warming hard sell: An electric car ad campaign invites culture war controversy. They’ll be lining up in Berkeley.”

First off, it isn’t just people in Berkeley who care about global warming (see Stanford poll: The vast majority of Americans know global warming is real).  The broad public wants action — even regulations (see New poll: Americans want EPA action on climate).  Green marketing is mainstream and global warming marketing is going to grow in the coming decade as the reality of Arctic ice melt and rising temperatures and extreme weather become increasingly obvious to all but the hard-core deniers.

Second, I don’t see how you can call this  irreverent and largely worldless ad a “hard sell.” There is no in-your-face lecture on global warming.  The word is never mentioned.  It  is  primarily trying to be memorable with the polar bear story — an extended metaphor that connects the  buyer of this car to  what’s happening in the Arctic (and  around the planet), ending with the innocuous tagline “Innovation for the Planet; Innovation for All.”  It’s just “think globally, act locally” captured in a clever ad.

And where the ad does imply climate science, it implies science that is quite strong.  It simply isn’t possible to dispute that the Arctic is melting — unless  you are on the very fringes of the extremist disinformer Kool-aid-drinking club (see NSIDC Director Serreze: Arctic is “continuing down in a death spiral. Every bit of evidence we have says the ice is thinning.”)  And human emissions are driving this rapid melting (see Major analysis finds “less ice covers the Arctic today than at any time in recent geologic history”).

And  while it is true that the anti-science pro-pollution  disinformation campaign funded by big oil  pushes the talking point that  polar bears are doing fine — which ain’t true — it is  again very hard  to dispute what continued warming means for the polar bear.

The NYT‘s Revkin blogged last year, “More Polar Bear Populations in Decline“:

There is rising concern among  polar bear biologists that the big recent summertime retreats of sea ice in the Arctic are already harming some populations of these seal-hunting predators. That was one conclusion of the  Polar Bear Specialist Group, a network of bear experts who  met last week in Copenhagen to review the latest data (and data gaps) on the 19 discrete populations of polar bears around the Arctic. The group, part of the  International Union for Conservation of Nature, includes biologists in academia and government and at nonprofit conservation organizations. Only one bear population is increasing (in the Canadian high Arctic), while eight are declining in numbers, the scientists said. At its last meeting, in 2005, the group concluded that five populations were in decline. Three populations appear to be stable and seven are too poorly monitored to gauge a trend.

The BBC reported last year, “Polar bears have shrunk over the last century, according to research.”  A study in the Journal of Zoology “describes changes in size and shape that could be linked an increase in pollution and the reduction in sea ice.”

As for the future, “The survival of polar bears as a species is difficult to envisage under conditions of zero summer sea-ice cover,” concludes the 2004 Arctic Climate Impact Assessment, by leading scientists from the eight Arctic nations, including the United States. Another 2004 study, by Canadian scientists, agreed:

[G]iven the rapid pace of ecological change in the Arctic, the long generation time, and the highly specialised nature of polar bears, it is unlikely that polar bears will survive as a species if the sea ice disappears completely.

Why does the loss of sea ice threaten polar bears? The Canadian study, “Polar Bears in a Warming Climate” in Integrative and Comparative Biology, explains:

Spatial and temporal sea ice changes will lead to shifts in trophic interactions involving polar bears through reduced availability and abundance of their main prey: seals”¦. A cascade of impacts beginning with reduced sea ice will be manifested in reduced adipose stores leading to lowered reproductive rates because females will have less fat to invest in cubs during the winter fast. Non-pregnant bears may have to fast on land or offshore on the remaining multiyear ice through progressively longer periods of open water while they await freeze-up and a return to hunting seals. As sea ice thins, and becomes more fractured and labile, it is likely to move more in response to winds and currents so that polar bears will need to walk or swim more and thus use greater amounts of energy to maintain contact with the remaining preferred habitats

Dr. Andrew Derocher, Chair of the IUCN (World Conservation Union) SSC (Species Survival Commission) Polar Bear Specialist Group, explainsthe primary habitat of polar bears is at risk“:

“¦ no habitat, no seals; no seals, no bears. This never was an issue of polar bears alone. The only effective conservation approach is to protect the habitat and this is an issue of climate change. You can distort the issue any way you so desire. At the end of the day, the sea ice is disappearing. Take away the habitat and the species follows shortly thereafter (or before).

If one wanted to make a scientific critique of the ad, it’s in the reverse direction — it’s  probably too late to save the Arctic ice, and hence the polar bear [see Arctic death spiral: Naval Postgrad School’s Maslowski “projects ice-free* fall by 2016 (+/- 3 yrs)”].  But  that would be splitting hairs.  The polar bear  is  widely seen throughout the culture —  and correctly so —  as a symbol of what global warming is doing:

Nissan has reality on its side, with a dash of humor.  If the anti-science disinformers want to attack this clever ad, well, that is just a bonanza of free media for the car and the ad.  I’m sure Nissan is thinking, “Bring it on, deniers!”

UPDATE:  The Atlantic’s Andrew Sullivan, in a post on the ad titled, “Smug Alert,” reposts part of copyranter’s rant, “Dying polar bear travels thousands of miles to thank man for buying an electric Nissan. What an absolutely outrageously manipulative insensitive hubristic piece of Green advertising bullshit. From a fucking car company! A car company who’s (non-electric) cars are helping to destroy the bear’s ice pack!”

First off, Sullivan has no standing to make such a charge since he has also been doing his influential part to destroy the bear’s ice pack — and a livable climate for our children and countless future generations — by treating global warming as a not terribly urgent issue, as I discussed here at length.  And I don’t see much evidence that copyranter is devoting much efforts to educating the public about the dire need for action that would be required to save the ice pack.  The biggest complaints about this ad on the web seem to be coming from folks who don’t take global warming very seriously and/or who are actually actively spreading disinformation about it.  Second, all successful ads are designed to be outrageously manipulative.  So what?  But this is an irreverent, not in-your-face ad.  How is it insensitive to highlight the plight of the polar bear?  By the logic Sullivan reposts, no company that makes a non-green product could ever advertise the green benefits of one of its products — which pretty much wipes out virtually all green ads for vehicles for all time (since new car companies rarely emerge and ones selling only green cars are going to be a pretty tiny fraction of the market for a long, long time).  The ad has its science right and its tongue firmly planted in its cheek.  Lighten up, folks.

What do you think?

UPDATE:  Peter Sinclair’s video on the way electric cars will fit into the grid is here.  See also “Why electricity is the only alternative fuel that can lead to energy independence.”

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161 Responses to Wow! Watch the Nissan Leaf’s provocative, irreverent polar bear ad, which markets global warming

  1. Esop says:

    It will make the disinformers go nuts, that is for sure.

  2. Robert says:

    I am curently re-reading Jared Diamond’s “Collapse”, hence find it hard to view any car company as being on the side of the polar bears!

  3. Edward says:

    The ad is not too disturbing. It makes an appeal to sentimentality rather then present an argument, which is typical of ads.

  4. MarkB says:

    Very nice. Not overdone.

  5. Rob Honeycutt says:

    Think about this. Does Nissan need to run a multi million dollar ad campaign in the US to sell 25,000 cars? (That’s definitely what that ad cost to produce and run.) Nissan’s CEO has made clear statements that they believe this is the future of automobile transportation and that they are, essentially, going to bet the family farm on this.

    This ad is not about selling the 25,000 Nissan Leaf’s. This is an act on their part of skating to where the puck is going to be. Nissan is defining themselves in the public eye as the leader in this new market. This ad is about the cars they are going to be selling 5 and 10 years from now.

    It’s a beautiful ad. It’s an incredibly well crafted message. Yes, the hard core Tea Party folks are gonna groan but your average person will be touched. How could you help but not be?

  6. BB says:

    I think the smirks are definitely going to come from the ‘hugging’ but that’s probably what they wanted to play directly into. Tree-hugging, Bear hugging, _______-hugging. If you want to stand up and be counted as a _______-hugger, this car is for you.

  7. Peter says:

    It is very well done- sensitive to the endangered polar bear, shows the melting in the arctic-

    Yes- the denial crowd will have a fit-

  8. Neven says:

    In a sustainable society there are no advertisements, so I don’t see how any kind of advertisement is going to get us there. Especially not ads that are one big manipulative cliché.

    Besides, Nissan has to make a profit. Nissan has shareholders. That’s the problem. I’ll only buy an electric vehicle if it is made by a not-for-profit organisation, which means I will probably have to make it myself.

  9. Leif says:

    The Arctic ice does not even have to disappear to doom these majestic creatures. If I am not mistaken a prime hunting strategy for polar bears is to ambush seals at breathing holes in the pack ice. Seals must surface for air. For the bear it becomes a wait and grab for a 20 to 50 kilo high protein source. With the ice broken and air access everywhere, as you can currently see over vast areas of the Arctic, a seal can pop up anyplace and an ambush hunter does not stand a chance. The very fact that polar bears exist is testimony that the Arctic has not been ice free for tens of thousands of years.
    Way to go “Man.” Welcome to the Anthropocene Extinction Event.

    Tell me again who is the top predator in the food web? Thus dependent on continuity of all the others?

    Tick-tock, Tick-tock…

  10. Mark S says:

    I loved the ad when I saw it on Thursday Night Football. I laughed at the polar bear part which to me was just goofy, funny and harmless. I told my wife about it since we have a deposit on a Leaf (and she doesn’t watch football). She laughed.

    However, we didn’t know how wrong we were until we read WUWT this morning. Anthony says “The ad agency that serves Nissan (as does Nissan management) deserves a smack upside the head for promoting the idea that you can hug a polar bear.” Anthony follows this with Youtube videos of polar bears attacking people.

    How ashamed my wife and I felt for laughing at the subtle humor of hugging a polar bear! We, of course, immediately changed our minds and now think the ad is very harmful. Will change the channel if it comes on again!!! We have also written our congressmen and senators and asked that they change laws and implement a ‘truth in TV’ law so that TV shows and ads contain only truthful scenarios regarding animals and, in doing so, protect our children. Some of the worst offenders that we point out are:

    -The Jack links ads with Bigfoot. Heck, we can’t even find bigfoot and this ad agency is saying we should totally disrespect them. I mean, really!
    -BJ and the Bear reruns. in most states having a pet monkey is illegal. We think all episodes should carry a big red disclaimer at the bottom that run continuously during the show.
    -Gentle Ben reruns. These should just be banned, period. For the exact same reason the ad agency should be smacked upside the head.
    -Harry Potter. Although not TV his pet owl is, in real life, a menace of a pet. We are suggesting that it be edited out and reintroduced as a different bird. Like a bright colored talking parrot. Or maybe a peacock.

    Thank you Anthony for pointing out the error of our ways!

  11. What Rob Honeycutt said… plus

    If Big Oil and Big Coal had the heart of the people who brought us this ad, we’d be ok.

  12. Darksyde says:

    Great ad. predict the same clowns who whine about free market solutions to AGW will now whine about this.

  13. Rob Honeycutt says:

    Mark S… There is a term in film and theater called “suspension of disbelief.” It’s a basic requirement in order to use metaphors to create a message. Anthony Watts obvious lack this basic literary capacity.

  14. Steven Leibo says:

    I love it! Isn’t it great that the possibility of future profits are finally getting the really creative corporate marketing people on our side for once. Enough disinformation to save ExxonMobile’s profits. Now we have big corporation marketing skills working to build new age profits for Nissan!

  15. Bearable ad, unbearable future

  16. TomG says:

    It’s very well done in my opinion.

    The deniers would have us believe that the arctic ice is doing fine and polar bears are doing just as well.
    Not true of course as scientists have been telling us for years.
    But these armchair deniers “think” they know better and claim these expert scientists are just simply wrong.
    But Nissan, a huge for profit corporation is putting a ton of money and its street cred on the line and is letting us know that the scientists are right.
    If it takes a corporation making money to stop our headlong rush towards a dangerous overheated future world…so be it.
    The political side of our society sure isn’t getting the job done!

    Nuff said…

  17. Peter Bellin says:

    I enjoyed the ad. I like the fact that it accepts climate change as real, and anthropogenic. I have a minor concern that an all-electric vehicle represents not enough change to combat the problem, but the concept is a beginning.

    I feel no need to acknowledge denier complaints about the ad; it is enough work to combat their lies about climate.

  18. Robert Nagle says:

    One thing worth mentioning is that the ultimate venue for the ad will not be during a football game on a national TV network. It’s facebook and to a lesser extent blogs.

    You’d be surprised at how many rhetorical battles I’ve waged inside the trenches of my facebook world.

  19. Colorado Bob says:

    JR –
    Glad you wrote about this . I saw this earlier today it was above 75,000 it’s now running 106,971 views . Whatever it’s value, it’s drawing eyeballs , and that is the whole point of advertising.

  20. John Mason says:

    Very clever!!

    Re – Mark S #9 – LOL @ Watts and his sudden outbreak of Health & Safety consciousness! Perhaps he might like to extend it to the Biosphere??

    Cheers – John

  21. Bob Wallace says:

    “The Leaf is not going to be a high-volume car for a long time — it’s initial target was merely to sell 25,000 in the U.S. by March 31, 2011.”

    A long time might not be all that long. Nissan is planning for 500,000 Leafs in 2012. That’s 0.7% of all cars and light trucks manufactured in the world.

    Nissan had already received 56,000 orders in the US by March of this year and has yet to start taking orders in Europe and Japan. The French government will apparently buy 100,000 Leafs.

    Nissan is in the process of installing 17,500 charge points in the initial US market areas.

    Nissan has also announced that they will make a profit off the Leaf from day one.

    Looks to me like they are very serious about this car. Spending some big bucks on ads doesn’t seem out of order.

  22. Colorado Bob says:

    How Big Oil will stop my children from driving electric cars

    A lot of money is at stake: if we all switched to electric, oil companies would stand to lose everything

  23. Colorado Bob says:

    I went to get the link to the ad to post it on the Guardian op-ed , it’s now showing 144,550 views …….. Nearly 40,000 hits in 30 minutes.

    The team that made it must be doing Snoopy Dances right about now.

  24. MarkB says:

    That fool Watts managed to make me laugh more than the ad.

    “The ad agency that serves Nissan (as does Nissan management) deserves a smack upside the head for promoting the idea that you can hug a polar bear.”

    Shame on all those parents who give their kids teddy bears, which brainwashes them into thinking they are harmless. Same goes for creators of Yogi, Smokey, Bernstein, etc.

  25. john atcheson says:

    I found the ad extremely moving, and very effective.

  26. mike roddy says:

    What a beautiful, inspiring ad. We need more of this from Madison Avenue, a lot more.

  27. Kota says:

    A+ Best ad ever!

  28. Brilliant ad. It generates buzz. Sends emotions..

    Wait, weren’t we trying to stop being swayed by emotional advertising campaigns? There is plenty of buzz on the Leaf, why do they need more? And I get a better carbon footprint from my old used guzzler that I drive only 5000 miles a year. A brand new LEAF arrives with tons of carbon invested already. And is coal making your electricity?

    I can only give it begrudging admiration. The real message is “we want change to be warm and fuzzy”

    Hug the bear = don’t think about it.

    I would rather see Nissan building high speed rail cars.

  29. hapa says:

    in my dream the man drives with the bear to nissan headquarters to protest corporate lobbying against gas mileage standards

  30. Colorado Bob says:

    I’ve been working on an animation for a friend using polar bears, glad this thing is getting so much attention ………

  31. Colorado Bob says:

    Bear #339 and The Bear-A-Tones.

  32. NeilT says:

    It’s not going very well for the deniers and disinformers is it? Today they were bitching on WUWT about the lack of posts declaiming climate science. In fact they were moaning that the articles are doing the opposite.

    Quite a good ad. It’s quite hard to resist the notion that someone (or some animal), will be greatful for a decision you take in reducing your carbon footprint.

    A point to note though and Joe you didn’t mention it. Grids in the US are often at, or over, capacity. In order to allow people to move completely to electric vehicles, it would be necessary to rapidly ramp up the generating capacity.

    Today the only way to quickly ramp up generating capacity is with Oil or Coal.

    In order for Eletric cars to make a real impact we need sustainable carbon neutral generation at about double the current Grid production (or more).

    Yes I know that overnight generating capacity is often lost, but the point is usage patterns are not going to be like that. How often do people run their laptop down to the last gasp before charging it up? Not often because of the “if you need it factor”. In fact it’s likely that peak power would slide right to about midday with all those cars plugging when they got to work.

    There is a long, long way to go yet.

  33. This one is too close to my heart. I don’t post anything on my blog about polar bears, baby seals, penguins or porpoises unless a reader requests it. They were all my favorite animals growing up, and I readily admit I have a tiny stuffed polar bear up on my bookshelf.

    The ad depressed the hell outta me. Basically, the polar bears are toast.

    I don’t think there is a big chance that people are going to try to hug bears after having seen this ad, but I couldn’t help but think about the danger to the person in the ad.

    Anyway, OT, call for a boycott of Georgia-Pacific products, please.

    I think that would be the quicker route to moving policy forward.

  34. Artful Dodger says:

    Joe: even running on 100% coal-fired electricity, an electric vehicle still emits fewer grams CO2 / mile than a gasoline car. What you neglect is the vast EXTRA CO2 in the mining/drilling, transport, refining, and then delivery of that gallon of gas. Then the Car’s ICE burns it with max 30% efficiency. The best coal fired plants can achieve double that, and the battery/motor/controller in the Car can approach 75% efficiency. Not to mention that the Grid gets greener every year, and if you charge off-peak, your are actually IMPROVING the efficiency of the Grid by leveling demand. So it’s not fair to say electric cars ‘just move the CO2 pollution source’. They are also an important enabler for Green power as a way to actually REPLACE fossil fuel use in transportation.

  35. Claudia F. says:

    This ad is absolutely brilliant. Ours is such an image-obsessed culture with an emphasis on brief, emotion-packed messages that the release of this ad strikes me almost as a historical moment.

    My only concern, which is probably irrelevant on lots of levels, is that this ad feeds into people’s misconceptions about climate change, the implications being that we can save the Polar Bear if we make changes now on an individual level. I do understand that the ad is meant to be metaphorical, but I think that the metaphorical dimension will be lost on the majority of people in this country. It’s all-too comfortable for most people to buy into a Spielbergian fantasy of climate change where everyday heros can save the day and the world by taking individual action.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if this ad ironically does more than so many other well-meaning and sophisticated efforts at mainstreaming climate change.

  36. Rob Honeycutt says:

    NeilT… As pointed out by Claudia F above, moving to electric vehicles actually does NOT require additional infrastructure. Cars are charged off peak (evening) when most power plants are running “spin reserve.” And once we install a smart grid then peak daytime hours can be leveled with all the cars that are plugged into the grid. Electric vehicles will bring a whole new level of efficiency to the electric grid.

    It’s a win-win situation. Oh, except for the oil companies.

  37. fj2 says:

    Years ago Director of Columbia’s Earth Institute Jeff Sachs started talking about the bottlenecks that humanity will have to pass through around mid-century.

    While he had been an advocate of hybrids it seems very difficult seeing how cars fit in the future.

  38. Fredo says:

    Fuckin awesome. Beautiful. Run it 24/7.

  39. GFW says:

    Say, does anyone know where the urban parts of the ad were filmed? I thought I recognized a bridge in Vancouver Canada.

  40. Mark Haag says:

    First of all,
    I like what I know about the Leaf, and would consider buying one.
    I believe in anthropogenic climate change.

    The commercial made me cringe. It is South Park material. I kept hoping that the bear would use that cutesy bear hug to tear the guy’s head off and eat it in front of the neighbors.

  41. GFW says:

    Yeah, that is definitely the Burrard St. Bridge. (going the opposite direction from this picture, but the architectural details are the same)

  42. Ominous Clouds Overhead says:

    I don’t believe this was a million dollar ad, it could be done much cheaper, all you need is some zoo footage to combine with the other scenes. So Nissan is maybe not spending a fortune here, but is going out on a risky limb to appeal to the non-deniers and those on the fence.

    It’s ground-breaking and good news. We’ll now see copycats coming out of the woodwork to emulate an ad this effective.

    We’re going to see an extinction of mammals never seen before in the geologic record if we don’t change our ways. We may be on the list.

    And the ad almost made me cry. I hate having my emotions manipulated, but it worked, even though I knew it was a corporate endeavor, which irritates me even more. :)

  43. MapleLeaf says:

    The ad is incredibly well done..just wow. And Kudos to Nissan for developing the Leaf

    That said, as a scientist, I feel that it is appealing too much to sentimentality and perhaps over-stating the case. But that is just me.

    I would have been much happier with the ad had it shown some solar panels on the house’s roof at the end.

    I’m sure looking forward to our next car being a EV (with solar panels on the roof to boot)– we drive a Prius now and are very happy with it.

    PS: I am sure this ad is going to drive (pardon the pun) those in denial about AGW nuts.

  44. cowichan says:

    I couldn’t stop thinking that in reality were the bear to appear within 100 miles of any southern town it would be instantly surrounded by 100’s of armed men and slaughtered. But it’s OK to exterminate the species.

  45. Mothernaturebatslast says:

    Without stretching the metaphors too much, NISSAN is onto something BIG!
    To get Joe Six-pack to buy into dealing with Climate Change you have to make the issue WARM AND FUZZY! People ARE NOT motivated by reasoned arguments which leave them COLD. You have to present the facts, but you motivate to action with emotion.
    This is Salesmanship 101. Many years ago the people managing our nation’s woodlands were concerned about “human induced” forest fires. The “Smokey the Bear”
    campaign succeeded so well the same people now worry about fire suppression.
    How ironic that a major car company has to be the entity to pioneer the right messaging for generating public support for action on Climate Change!

  46. Wit'sEnd says:

    Thanks for putting up the link to the ad in comments in the last CP post, Colorado Bob. It inspired me to go to your website ( and donate to ShelterBox.

    Tenney, I would bet anything that hug was photoshopped. I seriously doubt the hug was between a real man and a real bear!

  47. Christopher Yaun says:


    I have a 2001 Honda Insight with 170,000 miles (I travel for work.) and think it is the greatest car every built. I just had it serviced, new brakes, new tires and hope to drive it another 10 years. I love the idea of an electric car but won’t be an early LEAF customer.

    Let’s be realistic about powering a car from a PV array. It is possible but very expensive.

    I am estimating that a $26,000 PV array (3.5kwh) will produce enough power to run the car 20 miles per day.

    1 gallon gas = 150,000btu = 40 miles driving. If electric car is 100% more efficient it’ll need 80,000 btu for 40 miles. 80,000btu / 3413btu/kwh = 24kwh. My 3.5kw PV array costs $26,000 and generates average of 12kwh day, or enough to drive 20 miles.

    IMHO, we should eliminate the car.

  48. MarkR says:

    This is a feel-good ad for the product’s target audience, who believe that they are truly doing the world a favor through buying and using an “electric” car. This is nonsense, for several reasons. First of all, the consumption of metals and plastics which go into the car, and the energy spent manufacturing and transporting it, remain great. Second, while it might theoretically reduce fossil fuel usage it really only lessens the problem in the very slightest manner. Third, the real problem is never addressed here, which is that seven billion people are consuming the rest of life on this planet. By easing demand for fossil fuels this matter is not reduced but facilitated and accelerated. That is, consumption will increase in multiple ways if we have a trouble-free source of energy like solar or wind. Whenever human beings have uncovered a windfall of any apparently abundant resource, we expand our numbers and our consumption of it until it is exhausted. We do not voluntarily limit our population. So, if the polar bears are not damned by fossil fuel-induced CO2 expansion and its resultant heating, then they will be damned by our destruction of all marine life, or the toxification of their mammalian food sources, or damned by complete deforestation of the planet–none of which will stop with the end of fossil fuel burning. If we all had a free energy source, then suddenly we would find that we have an insatiable “need” to live in a fifteen-thousand square foot house, alone, with plenty of toys to fill it up. This ad is worse than a con job, because it makes people who “care” think they’re doing something for Nature through purchasing a Nissan product.

    [JR: Actually not. I suppose if you wanted to issue that critique of pretty much every single ad in the country, that might be fair. But the fact is that Plug-in hybrids and electric cars are a core climate solution. It is hard to envision a plausible solution to global warming or peak oil that doesn’t involve them. True, by themselves, they don’t solve the problem. And humanity as a whole may not be up to the task of avoiding catastrophic warming. But I don’t really see how that can be pinned on electric cars. Moreover, this ad in a rather irreverent way connects people’s choices to real global impacts. And in that sense it is clearly better than 99% of advertising on TV.]

  49. Bruce Cox says:

    Wonderful. It pushes the right buttons, pulls the right strings.

  50. John Hollenberg says:

    Great ad! It won’t make me buy a Leaf though… because I already planned to buy a Leaf before I saw the ad.

  51. Rob Honeycutt says:

    Ominous Clouds… Sure, a low budget firm could definitely create a piece like this for under a million. Major car companies don’t hire low budget firms, though. This is an incredibly well crafted message and production coming out of one of the majors. I’d venture to guess just the production ran a million. Crafting the message by the ad house’s creative team likely took months and cost well into the $100’s of thousands. Then promotion and placement worldwide (notice they have multiple languages) is probably many times the cost of the ad.

    Again, this is not specifically about the Leaf. This about Nissan setting a path to their vision for the future.

    I wrote a piece on Sceptical Science a while back called Why does Anthony Watts drive an electric car? This ad reinforces exactly my point in the post. For deniers to stop denying will require better solutions. That’s what Nissan is offering up here.

  52. Preston Wright says:

    Simply Awesome

  53. Richard Brenne says:

    This is a masterful piece of filmmaking; really about as good as it gets in 60 seconds (along with the Nike ad, “The Human Chain”). The bear is in danger that keeps you in suspense on railroad tracks, passed by a big truck, etc. Then the man is in danger. There is a surprise ending with a twist, and it all adds up to a wonderful point.

    The Climate Progress audience is as sophisticated as any audience about global warming, energy and related policy. So we see all the problems mentioned in the comments above. But for the 99.999% of all other people who view the ad, it will lead them in the right direction, even if most of us reading and commenting here are already there.

    So it does us a great service.

    I just spent the day with incredibly charismatic polar bears and many other representatives of species we’re killing off at the Oregon Zoo. Anne Warner gave us a tour of about a dozen signs she’d painstakingly researched, written and installed in the North American and polar bear sections of this beautiful zoo during their global warming year (the year before emphasized the loss of polar bears).

    Anne got some searing hate-mail from hateful deniers of climate change. We need those mainstream voices from David Letterman, Bill McKibben, Nissan and the Oregon Zoo – in fact we desperately need them.

    So yes, we’re not going to have a billion electric vehicles to replace a billion internal combustion engine vehicles – the planet has nowhere near that amount of lithium that is mostly in Bolivia and mostly spoken for by the Chinese. Also hugging polar bears might not be the best idea, though I’d invite Watts, Inhofe and the Koch brothers to try.

    But overall this masterful piece of filmmaking leads society exactly in the direction it needs to go, and so like McKibben, Letterman and the Oregon Zoo it deserves our full support. While there are many good points here I mostly agree with, unity of message and the creation of a movement where we’re supporting good messages and not bickering might be the most important message of all.

  54. Heraclitus says:

    Anthropomorphic climate change?

  55. James says:

    Do electric cars take more or less energy to produce than standard internal combustion engine cars? I can’t find a definitive answer for this on the web.

    BTW, the French car company Renault are introducing electric vehicles in a year and a half’s time. They’re also planning to have a service where the battery can be exchanged for a fully charged one at a service station in under five minutes See for more precise information.

  56. Honestly? I’m with…

    Colbert Report (on bears)

    … Stephen Colbert on this one. As far as I know polar bears are especially dangerous, more so than even grizzly bears. And of course if they are hungry, like shark, they are even more dangerous.

    So the bit where the polar bear reaches around a guy? Sets off alarm bells. They are not cute furry animals and any time we use polar bears as an argument against global warming makes me cringe. Always has.

    Do I want polar bears to go extinct? No, that is one point where I differ from Colbert. As someone who is fascinated by life and invested a fair amount of time studying evolution, I prefer not to lose a single species. But that sentiment isn’t anywhere near as strong for some species as it is compared to others.

    [JR: This is just a bizarre argument. So we aren’t going to try as hard to save predator species?]

  57. Antoni Jaume says:

    James (53), the main difference in the engine, electrical motor are basically made of copper which has a lower fusion temperature and is easier to extract from minerals than iron. However lithium, for batteries, is very reactive, and if the metal form is needed maybe it offsets the total cost.

    Respect to Renault, they owns a 30% equity in Nissan IIRC.

  58. John McManus says:


    Electric motors have only 3 moving parts if you count the ball bearings.
    Electric motors weigh 1/2 to 2/3 less than internal combustion.
    Electric motors cost far less than ICE’s ( hard to say what a retail price for an ICE is)
    Electric motors need little maintenance over service measured in decades.

    Although I don’t have the answer to your question ( costs are closely held proprietery information ) I suspect that electric motors are much easier, more energy effiecient and cheaper to produce than ICE’s.

    [JR: Precisely. Small, pure EVs are likely to be among the lowest life-cycle emitters of any vehicle.]

  59. CMann says:

    Joe, I think Artful Dodger (#33) is right about pure coal powered EVs being better from a CO2 standpoint than gasolines ICEs, and I think it’s straightforward to show. I don’t know whether any utilities run off pure coal, but the EIA says coal produces 2.11 lbs CO2/kWh. The LEAF is rated for 0.240kWh/mi. (100mi. per full 24kWh battery), but let’s assume for charging losses and the like that it’s 0.28kWh/mile. Multiplying 2.11 x .28 yields 0.594 lbs CO2/mile. I believe the CFR uses 19.4 lbs CO2/gal. for gasoline, though I have seen a figure of 24.7 lbs for a more realistic 80% WTP value. Even using the lower CFR value, dividing 19.4 lbs/gal. by 0.594 lbs/mi. gives us the minimum MPG a car needs to have to produce as little CO2 as a LEAF charged on plain coal, and that comes out to 32.7 MPG. Not too bad for a 5-passenger hatchback.

    And using more realistic CO2 figures for the average U.S grid (I’ve seen 1.35 – 1.54 lbs CO2/kWh), the equivalent MPG in terms of CO2 would be closer to 45-65 MPG. A Prius falls on the low end of that range, and it costs much more to fuel too. And that doesn’t consider that the grid can keep reducing its fossil fuel mix and that the LEAF is just the Model T of the new generation of BEVs.

    P.S. A lot of my calculations came out of a paper in which you were quoted: Just realized this and that you stated then that EVs were 29% better than ICEs.

    [JR: Different analyses show slightly different things on EVs on 100% coal vs. ICEs. For the reasons that I stated here, I don’t think that analysis is critical. For the overwhelming majority of people who purchased this car, the emissions will be lower — and indeed they can potentially be as low as the buyer wants. And the car is critical for enabling the ultimate transition to a vote carbon economy.]

  60. Lorien says:

    I like the ad for its beauty, but maybe that’s the problem. Global warming doesn’t look like the sort of pretty, misty human world the bear wanders through, and the elitist guy driving the Nissan in the huge-carbon-footprint suburbs is no friend to the bear, EV aside. Even the city-scape is gorgeous, no roadkill, no one sleeping on the streets, no toxic sludge in the water pipe the bear sits under.

    Also, Joe makes a good point: humans are generally not motivated to change their behavior based on the peril to animals. From my own (admittedly, animal-rightist and therefore not your usual demographic), point of view, that’s part of the problem, humans cannot see beyond themselves to *get* that other species have as much claim on this earth as they do. So…for that reason, the idea that the polar bear would actually be *grateful* to this dude for driving a Nissan…is kinda laughable. “Hey, you killed my entire family, but thanks for sparing me! You’re a prince!” But again, I’m not the normal audience.

    BUT, that brings me to another point, which is that, while I like the fact that the Nissan ad actually has the balls to acknowledge global warming, it suffers from the Wall-E syndrome — it makes the “problem” look warm and fuzzy. I once sat in a theater watching Wall-E, which, if you don’t know, is sort of about how humans destroyed the world with too much trash and pollution. People clapped after it was over, kids and parents seemed to love it etc. etc. But when the lights went up and everyone left, guess what? yep. Big slurpee cups and popcorn boxes everywhere. So, the “message” of the movie didn’t make it out of the seat, let alone the theater.

    I’m not saying people would change if ads scared the hell out of them, that doesn’t seem to work either. This is more my own personal rant. *I’m* scared, and I don’t understand why more people aren’t.

  61. RedLogix says:

    My partner and I both laughed tears. There’s a lot of subtle symbolic imagery packed into this 60secs… high class alright.

    If that lame line is the best Watts can come up with, then he’s in trouble and he knows it.

    And yes even though I live in New Zealand, I want to buy a Nissan Leaf.

  62. Joe

    this video on the way electric cars will fit into the grid is probably appropriate here

  63. adelady says:

    I think there’s a double whammy in the ad, which the deniers are responding to even if they’ve not thought it through. This ad is about cars. But it legitimises thinking about climate impacts of any purchasing decision.

    And this very appealing ad will spin off hundreds of imitators. Nowhere nearly as good probably. But the cumulative impact will be far, far more effective than any number of rallies or earnest exhortations to think about the environment.

  64. Sailesh Rao says:

    We are in a war over the minds of people with the Merchants of Doubt and this ad does wonders for our cause on so many levels. In the minds of the average viewer, it connects anthropogenic GHG emissions with the ice-melt in the Arctic and with the imminent extinction of an iconic species, the polar bear. The conventional wisdom is that people really don’t care about saving animals, but this is really not true. Please see, e.g.,

    It is a good thing that people truly do care about saving nature as it is not possible to get to a sustainable world without humans developing empathy for all species. I sincerely hope Nissan develops this ad into a campaign featuring other endangered species as well. I wish them tremendous success in the marketplace.

  65. Hank Smith says:

    This ad brought back to me the image of the “crying Indian” anti-pollution public service ad from 40 years ago. That ad was very effective in raising people’s awareness of pollution and conservation levels. I hope that this ad is half as effective in raising awareness of global warming (and its potentially dire effects) in a warm and playful way, without lectures, recriminations, anger, or bitterness. This “spoonful of sugar” will be far more effective than many barrels full of scoldings, preaching, etc. I think we have a winner, not only for Nissan, but also for theplanet and mankind. I surely hope so.

  66. Wit'sEnd says:

    Peter Sinclair, #59…

    EVERYBODY should watch the energy solution video you linked to! It’s fantastic! I just hope it can work in time…and isn’t fantasy…

  67. catman306 says:

    So now the corporate wars begin, with the power and persuasion of great advertising as the weapon of choice. I, for once, am glad to have a corporation on the side of sanity and not just greed. Electric cars have become a real option, despite all the propaganda from Big Oil and Detroit and their hired denialist thugs. Those people are just so 20th century. We’re moving on. We have no choice but to move on.

  68. Rabid Doomsayer says:

    I love the ad, works in so many ways.

    I think the market penetration of electric cars will be much faster than most suspect.

  69. Bob Wallace says:

    “Electric motors cost far less than ICE’s ( hard to say what a retail price for an ICE is).”

    What I’ve read in multiple places is that when the cost of EV batteries reach $250/kW the EVs will cost the same as ICEVs to manufacture.

    Given that batteries have recently dropped from $1,000/kW to $400/kW we’re well on our way.

    (Of course, being much cheaper to operate will be icing on the cake. EVs will cost less to drive than running a 30MPG ICEV on $1/gallon gas.)

  70. Rob Honeycutt says:

    I’ve been keeping up with EV’s for a while. (Have my eye on a Tesla.) From what I’ve read the price of automobile batteries is going to quickly drop by 70% once EV’s start being produced in volume.

  71. Ann Foresteer says:

    Well done! Time to get our heads out of the ssnd and move forward with the enviroment as #1

  72. Clark Meyer says:

    Love it, love it, love it. If Nissan really had any cojones, they’d run a sequel based off of this image:

  73. mike roddy says:

    I agree, Tenney, Peter Sinclair’s video is another outstanding addition to his impresssive ouevre.

  74. Artful Dodger says:

    CMann (#53): You’re halfway there with your Carbon intensity analysis. First, it takes the equivalent of 1 gallon of gasoline to provide 5 gallons of product to an End User. So increase CO2 emissions from gasoline by 20%.

    For additional perspective, compare the CO2 intensity of a Human Powered Vehicle. Carbon free? Not if you eat food bought at a Store:

    Of course, the Human-Electric hybrid bicycle is a different story…
    Doesn’t Nissan sell these in Japan already?

  75. Edward says:

    Oil companies could do a hostile takeover of Nissan to put the leaf out of business, just like Diamler Benz took over Chrysler to ruin the diesel pickup. At 185 horsepower, the B6 Cummins will go 400,000 [four hundred thousand] miles [medium duty]. At 325 horsepower, it will go 100,000 [one hundred thousand] miles [light duty]. Dr.Z knew the average person “understands” “heavy duty” exactly backwards.

  76. Edward says:

    Attention from WUWT is good. It means you are having an impact that they have to spin against. Denialist comments about your comments/articles likewise.

  77. Edward says:

    37 fj2: “the bottlenecks that humanity will have to pass through” Doesn’t that refer to a population reduction to about 10,000 people total, like the bottleneck we passed through about 120,000 years ago?

  78. Dana Pearson says:

    Wow! Thank you, Nissan… you made me cry. Finally one corporation speaking to our hearts about what is happening and what we can do about it. I think this is how we must begin to turn the tide of denial… speaking to the heart, about our children…. and all creatures of eaarth.

    A lot is being said of late how messaging on global warming needs to improve if we are to break through the brain’s unwillingness to confront uncomfortable truths which disturb the brain’s comfort zone… I think this add does this brilliantly.

    Now we need others…. google, GM, and the wide array of new green companies like the renewable industries to start messaging to the public.

    I loved this…watching it several times. And the most important thing is that it will be here soon…

    While electric cars will be more costly in the short run, just think of how much money we waste on irrelevant stuff. My little bundle of money will be directed at the “Leaf”. What good is money anyway, if we continue on the road we are on…

    Buck up folks… put your money where your mouths are. after all… as I say in my signature…

    “we make the future!”

  79. Anu says:

    @Edward says: September 11, 2010 at 11:23 pm

    I think you’re thinking of the Toba supervolcano 73,000 years ago.

    Yes, this catastrophe greatly sped up human evolution, with perhaps only 1000 breeding couples becoming the ancestors of us all.

    If something similar happens this century, Homo Sapiens Sapiens will move on to the next level, and the average (and below average) people alive today (and their children) will join the Neaderthals in Fail Heaven:

  80. Anthony Watts actually wrote: “The ad agency that serves Nissan (as does Nissan management) deserves a smack upside the head for promoting the idea that you can hug a polar bear. Some people are actually stupid enough to try it.”

    Only people who are stupid enough to believe Anthony Watts.

  81. Colorado Bob says:

    Wit @ 46 –
    Thanks for the donation to ShelterBox . I got a notice today of another box we funded going into Pakistan . I need to update the map at the Fish Camp.

    The clip count – 234,749 views . I’d say it struck a cord.

  82. Daniel J. Andrews says:

    I liked the ad, but as a wildlife biologist, I cringed. I have met far too many people who have grown up thinking bears are cute cuddly tame things to feed or pet. In parks I’ve seen them try and coax the young bears over for a cuddle. I’ve seen them feed bears by hand. And I’ve heard stories from others (perhaps urban legends) where parents smear honey on their child’s face so they can get pictures of the bears licking the honey off the face.

    Every summer we get an influx of tourists from the cities in southern Ontario into bear country, and every summer my colleagues have to go out and trap or shoot problem bears because a few tourists have been feeding the bears. They lose their fear of humans and become a dangerous nuisance, and once that happens, we pretty much have to shoot them.

    When I lived in the Yukon, we had the same tourist problems (compounded because we had both grizzly and black bears). Far too many unnecessary shootings of bears simply because some tourist thinks feeding the cute fuzzy bears is a fun thing to do despite warning signs saying otherwise. It isn’t so much there are problem bears, but instead problem people.

    The bear response people had a quip from a comedian in their area: If we have a tourist season, why can’t we shoot tourists?

    [sorry to be a killjoy. Ad was cute, but my experience taints it for me]

  83. CMann says:

    Does anyone remember any right-wingers, science deniers, or other disinformers getting upset because the long running ad series featuring Coke-drinking bears made dangerous animals seem too harmless and cuddly for the children? Didn’t think so.

  84. Colorado Bob says:

    Charles @ 79 –

    Images and symbols have far more power to move people than we care to admit.
    Charlie the Tuna and Smokey Bear come to mind. As a propagandist , Watts is just jealous because he lacks the creativity that the ad people had in the this one.

    I created one to attack the budget deficit , but it’s had less impact –

    Bear #338 discusses the Federal Budget Deficit.

  85. Colorado Bob says:

    Daniel @ 81 –

    The honey on kids story comes from Yellowstone in the 30’s , and it’s probably true given the management practices that were around back then . Remember , you can’t fix stupid.

  86. Eve says:

    I think private cars are destroying the planet (I dont drive one) and I think advertising is manipulative but I liked this ad. Why? Because in
    a simple way it helped me to connect my actions (I may not drive but I
    do have a carbon footprint)to what is happening in the Artic and how
    the choices we make today can have an impact on what happens in the future.

  87. ozajh says:

    Edward #74,

    just like Diamler (sic) Benz took over Chrysler to ruin the diesel pickup

    You have to be kidding. Daimler Benz have forgotten more about Diesel engine technology than Chrysler ever learned.

    The real problem with that takeover was that Daimler Benz thought that Chrysler had a core worth investing in, when in reality it was COMPLETELY bankrupt. It cost them several Billion to get rid of the incubus later on.

  88. richard pauli says:

    One blogger was very critical…pointing out that Nissan is very sophisticated in producing ads to sell their cars.

    And there is another ad Nissan produced that is quite different..ahem, but more controversial. Ahem. Cough

  89. Neven says:

    I also ab-so-lu-te-ly loved this ad from Nissan a while back:

    Are they still selling those?

  90. Richard Brenne says:

    Peter Sinclair (#62) –

    You know what a big fan I am of your work, and I greatly appreciate the positive vision you put forth in your video you link to above.

    The problem is scale. As I ask above (#53), do we really think that there’s anywhere near enough lithium or battery substitutes to replace almost a billion internal combustion engine vehicles with a billion electric vehicles?

    When solar and wind are less than one per cent of all energy globally and in the U.S., will we be able to use ever-increasing amounts of energy, even with a growing population as you describe?

    We should work toward the vision you describe, but I think parts of this vision will only be realized if we also see what Richard Heinberg envisions and work within the parameters of what he and the other foremost Peak Oil experts (James Howard Kunstler, Dmitry Orlov, John Michael Greer, Al Bartlett) would call reality.

    Here’s the latest about what Richard Heinberg envisions. Anyone at Climate Progress or anywhere else who doesn’t factor what Heinberg is saying into their equation has a very incomplete equation:

  91. dbmetzger says:

    And when it comes to coral and the warming of the oceans.
    Malaysian Coral under Threat
    Scientists have said that the first seven months of this year brought the hottest combined sea and land temperatures to parts of Southeastt Asia, since records began. That has led to some of the worst coral bleaching the region has ever seen.

  92. fj2 says:

    #76 Edward, How could it? Sachs was referring to 2050AD.

  93. Whatshisname says:

    I do believe Mr. Watts is starting to get it — the Polar Bear habitat is vanishing so quickly it poses an immediate, urban hugging hazard.

  94. fj2 says:

    #76 Edward,

    What Sachs was referring to were projections of 8.5 to 10.5 billion people on this planet around 2050 AD and what would be required to support them.

  95. Colorado Bob says:

    For most Germans, July 14 was unspectacular, as temperatures climbed above 30 degrees Celsius. The day set a record not in temperature but in solar energy. For the first time, combined electrical output of solar panels in Germany was more than 50 percent of the output of the nation’s 17 nuclear plants operating at the same time.

  96. DJ says:

    what about bmw and toyota

  97. Colorado Bob says:

    ScienceDaily (Sep. 11, 2010) — An Oregon State University research program has returned to Collier Glacier for the first time in almost 20 years and found that the glacier has decreased more than 20 percent from its size in the late 1980s.

  98. For starters, I’m pro-science and anti-pollution.

    This site and the buzz we’re creating is a marketer’s wet dream. Nissan is in the business of selling cars, and this website and others like it are helping.

    Newly manufactured products will not solve climate problems. WE will solve climate problems first by voluntary action then by involuntary consequences. I’d rather choose voluntary action.

    This ad is amazing, and will likely win an award. Who cares? There are plenty above ground solutions (mainly in your minds and your feet) to reducing emissions. This ad merely gives a shoutout that acknowledges the green movement.

    Don’t get confused. In the Nissan boardroom, you are referred to as a “market segment.” Nothing more. Nothing less. Nissan does not give a shit about polar bears or climate change. The do give a shit about selling cars in as many segments as possible. They will broaden the segment.

    Nissan has known about this technology since the first day they opened the door. Why has the Leaf just arrived? Because sites like this have been mined for several years to figure out that the right consumer exists to justify manufacture.

    This solves nothing. Delay the inevitable? That’s debatable.

    There are no experts.

    Make your own decisions.

    I am not at all surprised at the genuflect to this ad by the environmental “green” crowd. We have been waiting for generations for “green friendly consumption.”

    Yes, I’m pissed about Nissan using the polar bear. Many people love it because they love polar bears just like me. It instantly strikes a resonant happy chord and we feel like shouting, YES! FINALLY a car manufacturer GETS IT!

    Believe me, they don’t get it. All they “get” is that this blog has power and that it’s going to sell cars. That’s it. They are reading these comments right now, creating their own avatars, and spinning the crap out of millions of dollars worth of investment based on millions of dollars worth of research. They have teams studying every subtlety from how wide the tires should be, to what color you’ll want the interior. They know about your reaction and about my reaction. You are taking it hook, line, and sinker.

    Climate change reversal is going to be far dirtier than buying a cool car, and the Nissan Leaf is a very cool car. I love it, and I love the ad, but I am past the consumer culture. I have two feet and a toolbox.

    [JR: I take it you are not a regular reader of this blog. You’re comments are appreciated, but not really news to anyone who comes here regularly. One ad solves nothing. A first of a kind ad like this remains noteworthy and praiseworthy. The Leaf has just arrived in part because the technology for it is much better than it was just a decade ago, and in part because now pretty much any auto company can see that higher oil prices are inevitable in the future and that clean cars will be critical to capturing a large segment of the international car market.

    Nissan or any car company will care about climate change once they are convinced that a substantial portion of their potential customer base will. Simple as that. Nobody here is fooled as to what motivates a car company — although I have spent a considerable amount of time talking to the senior management of many major car companies, and you would be quite surprised as to how many people there genuinely do get it.

    I hope they read this blog. Then they will learn what the inexorable trends are that require a whole different vehicle fleet, that will determine the winners and losers in the car market.]

  99. fj2 says:

    Revkin Tens of Thousands of Walruses Concentrating Along Alaska’s Shore | WWF Climate Blog via @AddThis

  100. llewelly says:

    [JR: This is just a bizarre argument. So we aren’t going to try as hard to save predator species?]

    hahaha! Timothy Chase’s argument against the ad is almost identical to Anthony Watts’ argument against it. The difference is, Timothy deliberately references Colbert, a well-known parodist. Timothy’s post is a hilarious skewering of Watts’ ridiculous argument.

  101. #91 Richard,

    I get it – we need to use less energy, a lot less.
    stay tuned for a coming video that will talk about the number one
    climate solution, efficiency.

  102. Jim Eager says:

    The best thing about this ad is the frothy knots it has the climate science Lysenkoists twisted into.

    They look much better in self-tied knots, don’t they?

  103. Esop says:

    #99 (Tommy): True that the ad is targeted at a market segment, but keep in mind that such an ad will piss off the anti science segment (which is large) and make them less likely to buy a Nissan.

  104. Ominous Clouds Overhead says:

    Everyone, please take the time to read Tom Krenshaw’s post above. Read it twice. He’s absolutely right. 100% right.

    A friend once said that every dollar you spend is one dollar’s worth of something taken from the environment that is gone forever. The Leaf is no exception.

  105. Seth B says:

    Too bad the deniers’ respect for climate science isn’t as strong as their sudden interest in accurate animal behavior. Anyone remember an outcry from any of these same people when Coca Cola ran these ads?

  106. Bob Wallace says:

    Richard #91…

    “do we really think that there’s anywhere near enough lithium or battery substitutes to replace almost a billion internal combustion engine vehicles with a billion electric vehicles?”

    Yes. The shortage of lithium fear was a misunderstanding. There is not enough lithium PRODUCTION to supply a billion batteries. But there is plenty of lithium in the ground and in the ocean. We just have to build more processing plants. (Which is happening.)

    Bolivia, alone, has enough lithium to manufacture batteries for 4 billion EVs. And lithium is not consumed in those batteries, it can be recycled into future batteries.

    “When solar and wind are less than one per cent of all energy globally and in the U.S., will we be able to use ever-increasing amounts of energy, even with a growing population as you describe?”

    We use more energy now to power our personal transportation than we will once we switch to electricity. About 80% of the energy in oil is wasted when we use it in our cars and trucks. Switching to EVs will result in a net decrease in energy needed.

    The world is building wind farms, solar arrays, CSP plants, tidal turbines and geothermal plants. Those sources (with the exception of solar) will be available to charge the world’s EVs late at night.

  107. JR,
    “You’re comments are appreciated, but not really news to anyone who comes here regularly.”

    No, I’ve never been here, but followed in through a trackback. If it’s not news, then why is everybody in full genuflect for a set of dangling keys? Why does the reaction (barring a few) appear to be an A+? You are endorsing hope that does not exist.

    “although I have spent a considerable amount of time talking to the senior management of many major car companies, and you would be quite surprised as to how many people there genuinely do get it.”

    Who cares about the senior management? They may say all sorts of things then the hordes below them set out to take down a huge profit. That is the only rule to the only game. To think differently is to limit the scope of the problem.

    The ad pushes all the right lab-tested buttons, and is very successful. Good for Nissan. Good for the consumer that will not have to pay a fortune for gas. Okay, great. Yes, it’s progress in many realms. However, a polar bear to sell cars? Come on! Really? Nobody else sees this? Why not just call it the Nissan “We’re Really Sorry” instead of “Leaf” and give me the specs and let me decide if I want to spend/borrow (gasp) $25,000?

    I’m not convinced. I guess I’ve sat in on different meetings (where the rubber hits the road, so to speak) where the whole idea was to take down as much profit as possible. Nissan is in the car selling business — not the earth saving business.

    The future belongs in your two hands — not consumer culture. Products will not solve anything except to make us feel much better about our “progress.”

    I’m sure your blog is very influential. Lots of kiss ass comments, awards and such. I’ll start reading it and get aligned with your culture if you ask Nissan Executives how much they spent on their ad campaign when you meet with their executives.

    This is not praiseworthy. It is a continuation of nonsense.

    [JR: Your comments are welcome, but they are basically nihilistic, which is, I suppose, a legitimate view. Just not terribly helpful. Again, if the problem can be solved, EVs will certainly be a part of the solution. If you can’t advertise them, you can’t sell them.

    BUT it sounds like your solution is that homo sapiens will collectively (and spontaneously) rise up to take action needed to avoid catastrophic action, absent corporations and government. I don’t agree.]

  108. Bob Wallace says:

    Here, Tommy, you get it wrong…

    “Newly manufactured products will not solve climate problems.”

    If the world were to take an ‘extreme green’ route and walk/bike everywhere, go to sleep when the sun goes down, quit playing with electronic toys, etc. then we would need no new products to solve the climate products. But that won’t happen.

    The percentage of people who will voluntarily make drastic cuts in their lifestyles for the sake of future generations is minuscule.

    What we must do is to invent new ways to give people roughly the same lifestyle that they now enjoy but give them that lifestyle without further damaging the climate. We need EVs, better solar panels, better wind mills, hot rocks geothermal, improved energy storage systems, affordable LEDs, and anything else that help us remove coal and oil from our energy mix ASAP.

  109. Rob Honeycutt says:

    Edward… re: Oil companies taking over Nissan. I don’t think that’s very likely. If they did this they’d also have to take over virtually every other car company in the world as well because they are ALL developing EV’s of their own. Nissan is merely trying to establish themselves as a leader in this movement.

    The oil companies know this is coming. It’s scaring the britches off of them. (I wouldn’t plan to make oil and coal a heavy part of your stock portfolio over the next decade or two.)

  110. Rob Honeycutt says:

    The other reason this is not likely is because Nissan is a Japanese car company. No US energy company is going to be able to take over a Japanese car company.

  111. Mike#22 says:

    Tommy, I think you would be hard pressed to find even a few people here who do not have a working understanding of “Cradle to Cradle” manufacturing concepts.

    It is all about choices–not physical limits. Manufacturing does not need to destructive or consumptive of earth resources–we have just chosen to do it that way so far. New stuff, energy, comfort, all these things, take a terrible toll on this planet every minute of every day–by choice and not by necessity.

    Go ahead, rail on about the consumers consumed by consumption. Most of us have at some point or another. But manufacturing is here to stay, commerce will grow, people will become wealthier–but the vast majority of this new stuff can happen without further damage. The earth needs a break. It’s a choice between bad technology and good technology.


  112. Rob Honeycutt says:

    Tommy (@99 and 108)… I think you’re missing the reason people are excited here. It’s not just the car. It’s not the polar bear. It’s not Nissan’s execs. It’s that this is an indicator that the tide is shifting. Switching to EV’s is only one part of a broader movement that needs to take place in order to deal with climate change. If the Leaf is striking a chord with consumers that is HUGE news. If someone is willing to take the plunge to switch to an EV then they might get behind making their homes more efficient. They might actually want to vote for a representative in government that supports taking these problems seriously. These are all small steps on the path to success.

    Don’t get stuck on the Leaf or the polar bear. That’s missing the forest for the trees.

  113. Sailesh Rao says:


    What is the “green” vision for the future? Is it a world of deprivation or is it a world where we tap into alternate sources of abundance without sacrificing the comforts of life? If it is the former, the green vision is a sure loser as it is hard to capture the minds of ordinary people with such a vision. If it is the latter, then the green vision stands a chance to overcome the inertia promoted by the Merchants of Doubt.

    After continuously burning substances such as coal, oil and gas to access energy, we have created a mess by spewing GHGs and environmental toxins into the atmosphere. Not only is our climate changing as a result, but our personal health is also adversely affected as the toxins concentrate their way up the food chain into our bodies. Therefore, the path of inertia is truly suicidal.

    If the green vision embraces the abundance that will accrue from cradle-to-cradle processes, renewable energy and non-predatory lifestyles, then that has a chance to sway the minds of the majority and bring them over to our side. If the vision is only bicycles and backpacks, it will only result in a niche following.

  114. paulm says:

    It going to get affordable because local governments are getting it….

    Nissan LEAF Eligible for $8,500 Incentive in Ontario

  115. Guillaume Tell says:

    Anthony is wrong twice. IF children were actually put at risk of running into the arms of the first bear they see in the forest, THEN all the media bears should be polar bears. Since there is no expectation of encountering a polar bear outside of a zoo.

    And all teddy bears should be white.

  116. John Mason says:

    Interesting how this discussion is going. Speaking as someone who has been part of the Transition Movement for a few years, my take has always been in favour of three basic things:

    1) improvements in efficiency WRT dependance on non-renewables. This is a broad spectrum from fossil fuels through to rare earth metals and is technology-dependent. I recognise that renewable-based energy technology still requires a certain input of non-renewables, of course.

    2) the realisation that the over-consumption of non-renewables has a strictly limited time to run, and that the failure to shift out of that could severely disrupt social cohesion (the nice way to put it) and finally – and perhaps most importantly:

    3) redefining what is important. Consumerism to excess DOES NOT generally make people happy. Well, it may do in a very small percentage of cases, but let us disregard that minority for the time being, and instead cast our glance at those who spend their lives perpetually disappointed because they perceive the neighbours have something better, the huge numbers scared of the morning’s post and news of their latest dire debt situation and those whose health suffers via e.g. obesity, something that is becoming an endemic problem in the West.

    What I see as important is to reconnect to the environment: to embrace the recognition that it provides all our raw materials – from oil to lithium to breathable air, potable-quality water and fresh nutritious food. To understand the weather and to be ready for it via common sense – basic tools that our Grandparents had yet we are tending to lose to our peril. To not expect the right to central heating and air-conditioning – with the former, it might feel “nice” to be able to move about one’s house in the depths of winter in shorts & T-shirt, but it’s not essential. I heat this place with an open fire burning logs and when it gets very cold I wear two padded shirts, like January this year, when the Dyfi Estuary froze over, and I had ice on the insides of my windows. What’s so tough about that? I have a relatively low-carbon lifestle, but am I living in a cave with scratchy Hessian pants and eating lentils all day? Nope! And it connects you so much to the changing seasons, especially now I grow most of my veg. Little wonder that the seasonal changes were at one time so celebrated, from one religion to another. Moving away from what was really important was not progress. It was madness.

    Cheers – John

  117. Bob Wallace says:

    “when it gets very cold I wear two padded shirts, like January this year, when the Dyfi Estuary froze over, and I had ice on the insides of my windows. What’s so tough about that?”

    Nothing wrong with that. I live a life something like that (except I weather tightened my house better).

    But there’s something wrong with using that sort of argument to win over people to a less destructive future. Most people are not going to get past your hair shirt choices. They’re going to get stuck on a level of discomfort which they are not willing to accept.

  118. NeilT says:

    Whilst I think that the ad is a good move and a fundamental shift of thinking, we have to be objective and realist here.

    This thread is running the risk of falling into the WUWT inconsistency.

    @36 Rob, these cars will be owned and run by consumers. Consumers don’t fanatically charge the car overnight. In fact usage profiles will determine when they get charged. Who runs with less than half a tank today? Think 50 miles is the max people will want to go without a charge and, at that, many will want to charge again after 25.

    Add to that the fact that companies will eventually give free charging at work as a perk and nobody who goes to work will charge their car at night if they can get it charged at work during the day for nothing.

    Whilst the 100 miles and overnight charge is Nirvana, reality tends to be less clear cut.

    @98 Bob, I have a friend who has just had his solar built in. With a government grant doubling his input into the grid, he’ll still take 10 years to pay back the investment.

    Anyway, how much power does the PV capability of Germany input overnight? Did I hear 0%? So if we buy a leaf and a PV array we’re going to be charging the leaf when??? Overnight? Unless we also buy a full second set of batteries and commit to changing them every evening, we’re not going to be charging anything with a PV array unless we work at night and stay at home all day.

    Realties are what they are. Ask any Dutch windmill owner. The wind blows when it blows and often it doesn’t. The sun shines in the day but gives you nothing at night. The tides give tidal flow power twice a day for 3 hours at a time (on average).

    As stated, I think EV cars are a good step and this move is a good step on the way.

    BUT. We have to get ourselves sorted out as to what we communicate on this. Joe is right, even 100% coal with EV would be OK, except that we’ll need a huge amount more Coal power stations to deliver that much power and is that any message to send to the world when we’re trying to move to cleaner energy?

    We should be talking massive investment in 9km HDR geothermal, innovations which use the rise and drop of the tides to generate electricity rather than flow and, even then, we need ICE innovation big time in order to get the trucks to hydrogen in a way that doesn’t overwhelm our abilities to supply it.

    Also if anyone hasn’t ever looked there, we need ICE innovation for the shipping too. The Wärtsilä-Sulzer RTA96-C uses 3.8 liters per second of fuel (at full speed) and uses some of the dirtiest fuel in the world to run on. On a Shanghai Rotterdam route I make that about 1M Imperial gallons. So I guess they don’t run at full speed….

    I’m not trying to rain on anybodies parade here but we don’t need to give any more ammunition to Watts and his followers.

  119. JR and others,
    Okay. Let me digest a little. Plus, I had to look up the word nihilistic. It’s a fancy word for “asshole.” I guess I’ve sort of had it with the solutions factory beyond the solutions that don’t cost a nickel, There is only one solution — and that is the power of individual action. We do not need new products — there are plenty of above ground resources to last us until rapture. I doubt you would disagree based on the archives. Yes, you are correct that this is progress (as in, nobody is killing this electric car) and that building a conservation ethic is also progress. In other words, if you’ve just GOT to buy a car, then this is the one. Got it. But, I think more powerfully — ask yourself why you’re buying a car at all.

    What exactly is there to believe in? Religion? Corporations? Government? I guess you’re right — I’ve lost my faith. I believe in my skill to feed myself, my family to support, my community to guide, and my feet to transport.

    @113 (Rob): that’s the best explanation so far of why it’s important, but the rub comes from the idea that technology in manufacturing is not going to solve these problems. Our actions will solve these problems. Are you a commuter putting 100 miles per day on your vehicle? Move closer to your food source — localize. The easiest solutions are a lot harder than taking out a loan for a car you can’t afford. I’m thinking I’m preaching to the choir.

    I think these “solutions” simply create an ethic that we’re going to be just fine, and that transitioning is not going to be so bad. It’s going to be far dirtier than taking out a loan or lease for a new vehicle. There’s A LOT more needed than that (again, I think you’ll agree). The bear hug at the end gave me the sense of, “don’t worry, manufacturing is solving this,” please pass the Cheetos and let’s watch the rest of the football game. That’s the message I got. I think it’s giving a false impression of the problem, and a false security, and a false hope.

    However, thank you for taking precious time to educate this entrenched dude. I promise to ruminate (fancy word for “think”) and be more constructive. This one just sent me off a bit.

    Tommy out.
    [JR: Nihilistic doesn’t mean “asshole.” It is a fancy word for terminally unconstructive. No one who reads this blog could possibly believe this ad dimishes the dire nature of the situation.]

  120. Bob Wallace says:

    Neil –
    “I have a friend who has just had his solar built in. With a government grant doubling his input into the grid, he’ll still take 10 years to pay back the investment.”

    That’s a 7.2% return on his dollars invested.

    And a guaranteed lock-in of cost of electricity. When your friend’s utility company moves to time of use billing he will be furnishing his own sunny day power at today’s average price and avoiding expensive peak/peak-peak prices. That ten year window will shorten and the rate of return rise.

    Not exactly a bad investment.

    As for charging EVs during the day, I’m not betting on that becoming standard practice. Time of use pricing will cause companies to not give away free electricity if it’s costing them $0.30+/hWh. Look for companies to install ‘pay and charge’ points for those who really need a boost to get home.

    We’ve got all the power we need on the off-peak grid. We need zero new power until 75% or so of our vehicles are EVs. By then we will have brought so much new wind on line that we’ll never build new power just for EVs. We’ll build new power for peak/peak-peak demand and to replace fossil fuels.

    Those roof-top PV arrays, they provide peak power which the grid needs, and pays a premium to obtain. Sell peak power, buy back cheaper off-peak power. Let the grid be your ‘battery’.

    Plugging in will not be some sort of difficult chore which will cause people to not plug in. And look for robotic chargers to make an appearance in the next couple of years. An outlet on the end of an arm which can move in three directions is not rocket science. We’ve already got robotic gas pumps and this is much simpler tech.

    And tides, check you tide tables. Tide times are staggered up and down the coast. The tide is always moving somewhere. (Tidal won’t be a big grid input, there’s just not the real estate. But it will be regular and predictable, which is valuable.)

  121. Joe, can you give some details about why electric cars charged by 100 percent coal power have no global warming emissions advantage over ordinary gasoline powered cars. Isn’t the thermal efficiency of a fossil fuel power plant greater than that of a car combustion engine because of the scale? Also, doesn’t the smaller combustion engine play another global warming factor in producing higher percentages of pollutants such as nitrogen oxide compounds, which are hundreds of times more potent than carbon dioxide as heat-trappers?
    Dennis Shibut for Kyoto Action

  122. Tom says:

    First off, fantastic ad; thanks for bringing it to our attention. I particularly like the aggressive placement.

    Electric cars are an interesting and extremely complicated discussion, but one of the things I *like* about them is their short range. The more people that have vehicles that can only be used within a city, the more people will have to find alternate ways to travel to other cities and to national parks (et. al.), the more this happens, the more available other forms of transportation will be available (hopefully heavily used efficient trains and/or busses). The more that happens, the easier it is to have a vehicle that only has a limited range, etc.. In the long run, it will be more practical not to have a car at all.

    The other thing to like about all electric cars is that, by not being hybrids, they are far simpler machines, easier to manufacture and repair (especially since they don’t involve burning anything). With improving battery technology, they may even become cheaper and require less energy to make (remember, I am not referring to hybrids).

    There is some question about where the necessary power will be drawn from. On the 100% coal scenario the CO2 picture looks pretty good, and as far as ground level ozone reduction things are even better (gas powered cars contribute both VOCs and NOx). However, coal is terrible at PM emissions, particularly when it comes to environmental justice issues.

    Another complication is the coal is baseload power, and if electric cars are charged at night, the overall electric demand distribution should be more even. If the electric demand is more even, the incentive to build/use new baseload (or, perhaps more likely, not to retire old baseload) will be increased.

    None of this, however, is to say electric cars are not a fantastic thing. Conveniently, coal plants are much harder to retire than oil powered vehicles. The long term prospects of coal *should* (absent the ridiculous power of established money, i.e. coal lobbies) be obvious to all, and only the foolish (and politicians whose short terms focus them excessively on the immediate) are looking to increase coal capacity.

    That said, our country has its duly allotted proportion of fools who think they understand everything, an understanding that is conveniently painless (see today’s Friedman column in the Times – I liked all but the inane reference to “protestant values”).

  123. Bob Wallace says:

    Dennis – there are conflicting studies…

    “A study by the Sloan Automotive Laboratory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, funded by Ford, found that electric vehicles plugged into nuclear or renewable sources would result in drastic reductions in emissions; however, vehicles powered by electricity from coal plants would have larger carbon footprints than conventional automobiles.”

    “Many non-industry researchers claim that there is a net drop in greenhouse gas emissions no matter what the power source is. Studies done the National Resources Defense Council and the Electric Power Research Institute found that plug-in hybrid electric vehicles — even those plugged into a dirty coal-fired plant — would offer dramatic reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. ”

    Someone is going to have to dig into the studies and compare assumptions. \

    Here’s the EPRI study…

    “…how about calculating the actual carbon numbers that result from gasoline vs. electricity from coal?

    Dvice has gone and done just this, and found that, when it comes to CO2, electricity sourced from coal has a 60 percent lower impact than gasoline.”

    I haven’t been able to find the Dvice article on line.

  124. llewelly wrote:

    hahaha! Timothy Chase’s argument against the ad is almost identical to Anthony Watts’ argument against it. The difference is, Timothy deliberately references Colbert, a well-known parodist. Timothy’s post is a hilarious skewering of Watts’ ridiculous argument.

    Not really. I reference Colbert as a way of poking fun at myself and trying to lessen the blow of my disagreeing with Joe on this particular issue. Presumably the point of the ad using polar bears was to tug at the heart strings. But a hungry polar bear wrapping its arms around a human being just doesn’t do that for me.

    When Joe says in his inline response to my comment:

    This is just a bizarre argument. So we aren’t going to try as hard to save predator species?

    … he may be thinking of polar bears having some sort of intrinsic value, the genetic heritage that they imply or what have you. As such he is probably thinking in terms of some sort of ethics. That’s fine. But the ad itself was presumably intended to work at a more emotional level.

    And at an emotional level that’s not what I am getting from a hungry polar bear wraps its arms around a human being. My reaction is more visceral. I don’t see something warm, fuzzy and cute but a threat to human life that triggers my fight or flight.

    Now I will note that visceral reactions aren’t particularly good ethical guides. If I see someone having open heart surgery my first reaction at looking inside at the blood and meat that make up a living human being might be one of revulsion — but the surgery itself is life-saving.
    Nevertheless the visceral reaction I have exists and it is something that I apparently share with others — including people as far removed from myself as Watts. And as such it may be worth examining.

    It isn’t a problem that I have with all predators. I really like dragonflies. I like penguins. I like cheetahs and even wolves. Dragonflies and penguins aren’t particularly threatening to humans. And for the most part I prefer predators to herbivores because the tend to be more intelligent and curious than their prey.

    Cheetahs are graceful, beautiful animals. The same might even be said of wolves. I prefer both over bears in no small part due to some sort of self-serving aesthetic judgment. But if you are speaking of a hungry bengal tiger or wolf there is that visceral reaction that begins to set in for me — because they are dangerous to humans.

    I had a similar reaction a while back when I saw a documentary about some people who raised a lion, let it go and then came back three or so years later. The full grown lion ran towards one of its former keepers and wrapped its front legs/arms around him.

    But then it really sunk in that the lion had recognized him and was showing him affection. And at that point my fight or flight reaction nearly evaporated and I felt a fair amount of affection towards the real-life cat.
    The documentary underscored the fact that there is a great deal of similarity between different species of predator — in terms of the range of emotions they experience. And that at a certain level members of different species are able to recognize one-another as other individuals who are aware and towards whom they may even experience some identification, sympathy and affection.

    Like when a wild crow raised a defenseless stray kitten, feeding the kitten worms and warning the kitten away from the road. Even once the kitten had grown into an adult cat the crow continued to play and rough-house with him — because now there was mutual trust.

    Perhaps this capacity for cross-species psychological identification is part of what is involved for Joe in the case of the polar bear. His feelings towards the polar bear might resemble those of the crow towards the helpless kitten. If so there isn’t necessarily anything wrong with it.

    But ads that preach to the choir as it were — appealing at an emotional level perhaps only to those who are environmentalists to begin with — probably aren’t going to help much in swaying the undecided. If anything they will only be more polarizing — which is something that might appeal to culture warriors like Watts but we should probably try to avoid.

    [JR: I though you read this blog, If so, you’d know how silly your comments are — I have zero identification with polar bears and it is tedious to respond to your uninformed misrepresentations.

    You’ve just made the case against yourself. This ad doesn’t “preach to the choir.” Seriously, if you are ruling out all ads that hint at the actual science-based connection between our actions, the world, and the ecosystem, then there is no ad at all that works. Move on.]

  125. Ominous Clouds Overhead says:

    As for Tom Krenshaw above being a nihilist, no, sorry, he’s being a realist. I suspect he’s just sick of the same old paradigm where we can solve all our problems through the same old paradigm. I’m sick of it too. We need to start thinking in new ways. The Leaf is just more consumerism, how many are going to trash their old and very usable cars for a new Leaf? It’s just more of the same, although a bit more green.

    Folks, I’m a geologist. The planet could care less about what we drive, it’s a relentless evolution mechanism where only the fit survive. Believe me, we’re not going to make it if we think we can just buy greener cars and all will be well. We need to do away with the entire concept of how we now live and start living like Third World citizens. Many so-called primitive people are much happier than we are, they grow their own food, don’t travel, and make do. They have richer human relationships. We can live more like that without abandoning the good things about our culture, such as curative medicines. The Leaf just represents the same old path.

    Sayonara, homo sapiens. In some ways, good riddance. (There, Tommy, now that’s a nihilistic statement for you, you’re not a nihilist, but I am).

  126. Rob Honeycutt says:

    Ominous clouds… With all due respect, you geologists stand in a position a little too far removed. The planet really could care less whether I make my mortgage payment next month but I continue to work toward staying in my home each month.

    And as for going to back to third world status, who’s going to buy that strategy for the future. Maybe a couple hundred years in the future human’s might make this decision (or it might get made for them) but that’s a real no sale today. For that matter, we may come up with ways that will enable everyone on the planet to prosper even better than the few rich nations do today.

    The Nissan Leaf is definitely not a panacea. EV’s in general are just a step in the right direction. I’m ready to celebrate any step the human race makes in the right direction.

  127. CMann says:

    I should let this go because it’s irrelevant to the topic of the polar bear ad, but stating that there are conflicting reports on whether coal powered EVs emit more or less GHG than ICEs is like saying there are conflicting reports on whether the president has a U.S. birth certificate. The lobbyists for the status quo have cooked up a report that protects the status quo. That’s not fair and balanced (though it may be Fair and Balanced superscript TM). (BTW, Nissan is practically the only car mfr not in the Auto Alliance lobby.)

    Yes, there are different assumptions, and thus differing numbers, that can be used in the CO2 emissions equations. But it’s not rocket science and you have to bend the assumptions in a fairly obviously biased way to get ICEs to come out on top of EVs.

  128. Richard Brenne says:

    Peter Sinclair (#102) – I’ll look forward to your video on efficiency, as I look forward to all your videos. I just feel the deepest thinkers about Peak Oil like Heinberg, Kunstler, Greer, Bartlett, Campbell and Orlov are fundamentally correct that humans might not determine circumstances as much as circumstances might determine much of our future.

    It is really cheap and abundant fossil fuels that have allowed the majority of our growth and progress in most areas, especially technology.

    Now that the cheap and abundant fossil fuel era is rapidly drawing to a close, unfortunately the transitions might not be made as easily as far simpler transitions have been made in the past.

    Bob Wallace (#107) – I hope you’re right and I’d appreciate seeing any reputable sources that have such optimism about lithium. And isn’t lithium highly toxic?

    It sounds to me like somebody saying we have all the lithium we’ll ever need is probably selling something – most likely a product containing lithium. No offence to you personally, but I can’t help but notice that the vast majority selling something aren’t being completely candid.

    I remember a conversation I had a few years ago with the archest of conservatives who owned numerous mines of many different minerals. I asked him, “What are we running out of?” and he heaved a big sigh and said, “We’re running out of everything.” Maybe he was selling, but at that particular moment he seemed quite candid. The USGS estimates of the years we have left of many minerals at current rates of consumption are rather breathtaking, with many key minerals having less than 20 years left. It seems the USGS (a basically conservative federal agency) is being candid as well.

    I don’t know of anyone else who works as closely with both climate experts and peak oil and other resource depletion experts to communicate what they know as I do. Basically none of the climate experts are that sophisticated in their understanding of peak oil, just like none of the peak oil experts are that sophisticated in their understanding of climate change.

    Richard Heinberg might combine the understanding of both better than anyone. I notice no one commented on the link I provided to his latest September Museletter. That is because climate change experts for the most part don’t get peak oil or resource depletion.

    And thus most comments here are missing a huge part of the equation.

    The future will not be a linear progression from the past. Again, here is Richard’s latest Museletter:

    I’d appreciate hearing a response to what Heinberg writes.

    PS: I like to think of myself as a realist who enjoys casserole, but more often I’m called a nihilist who’s an ass. . .

  129. DC says:

    As much as I support EV’s and this ad(I think it does push a lot of the right buttons), EV’s have one fatal flaw. And it has nothing to do with their well-to-wheels efficeny, so called “range-anxiety” or anything like that. The problem with EV’s, is that supporting them amounts to supporting BAU. If you follow where the EV road leads, it takes us exactly the same place as the current fleet of gas-burning mobile trash-bins does. More highways, more suburbs, more spawl, more “malls”. Except, its a little cleaner and a lot quieter. If you consider that an improvment, well, you wouldnt entirely be wrong, but one fact remains. Despite electric vehicles very real advantages over there ICE gas-burners, they still leave every other problem created by private car-ownership un-resolved. If anything, an all-EV world would in reality, be a future of endless suburbs, decript road networks and spawl as far as the batteries range would allow it. For a interesting insight on just how far we *have not* come in batttery technology over the last 100 years,

  130. “terminally unconstructive.” Does that mean destructive? I have to find my Funk and Wagnell’s. I know it’s here somewhere amidst all these old motors and alternators I pulled out of a junk pile in Brooklyn that I recondition and sell. Funny, I don’t see too many academics and senior executives out on the scrap heap sifting through post consumer waste with a multimeter and a smile. Just me and the migrants taking down the easy cash in a world that would rather throw something away than bench test it.

    I can’t wait to see my first Leaf in the junkyard. I bet it’s got more harnesses under the hood than an Indonesian brothel — or maybe it’s Taiwanese. Where are these being manufactured again? Yes sir, these are exciting times to be a polar bear.

    Pontificastingly yours,

  131. william green says:

    While there may be some benefit to providing initial incentives for electric vehicle technology, buying those cars is not going to produce a net reduction in greenhouse gas emissions regardless of the electricity generation mix because the vehicle manufacturer receives so many credits towards compliance with fuel economy standards that its other vehicles can be less fuel efficient than would otherwise be required. Until this “loophole” is fixed, emissions are simply being moved from one driver to another

    The buyer who does not realize this is being mislead regarding the impact of a decision to go for an electric vehicle.

  132. Albert says:

    Yes, cool ad. Of course, a fair portion of the target audience is also watching Whale Wars (or saw The Cove) and is thinking, “I don’t know if I can buy a car from Japan.” Any thoughts on how Nissan can address that, or whether they should, or does this add count as addressing it?

  133. Bob Wallace says:

    Well, Richard, we know that there is no more credible source of information than the “archest of conservatives”. And I’m glad you aren’t accusing me of trying to sell something. (I admit that’s an optimistic reading.)

    Now, perhaps you’ve forgotten how there was recently a discovery of a massive amount of lithium in Afghanistan?

    And perhaps you’re not aware that the oceans contain approximately 230 billion tons of lithium which could be extracted at a price which would increase the cost of EV batteries by only a few hundred dollars.

    Just to help you with the math, the Nissan Leaf uses about 4kg of lithium in its batteries. The tons used to describe amounts are metric tons, one thousand kilograms.

  134. Bob Doublin says:

    #53 “though I’d invite Watts,Inhofe, and the Koch brothers to try.” I’d donate a Forever Stamp for use on one of THOSE envelopes.;-)

  135. NeilT says:

    Yes this may be true of Lithium, however it’s not true of copper.

    This advert and the possible uptake might just bring Peak Copper one step closer

    There is one thing the responses to this ad have triggered in my mind. The fact that car manufacturers are simply not interested in even talking about significant ICE improvements. I wondered why given the EU regulations likely to come into force in 2020 which penalise any manufacturer if their fleet average goes over 130g/km CO2.

    Of course if you produce a few electric car models which produce 0g/km then your fleet average is lowered and you don’t need to do anything about the gas guzzlers at all….

    Might have known.

  136. Michael Tucker says:

    I think Nissan has produced a pretty good electric vehicle, a very good ad and I don’t think any of the criticisms have much merit. The idea is to eventually weaken the monopoly that petroleum (and other fuels for internal combustion engines) has on the transportation industry. It will take time but with the military now interested in electric vehicles we may have a chance to make that change before severe gasoline shortages again plague our nation. The important CO2 reductions will come from changing how electricity is produced and increased efficiency.

  137. Rob Honeycutt says:

    Just taking note of the fact that the Nissan polar bear video on YT is now at about 400k views. That’s pretty substantial for just being posted 4 days ago. I’m sure Nissan is very pleased with the success of this ad.

  138. “I am very interested in your thoughts on this remarkable ad.”

    “You’ve just made the case against yourself. This ad doesn’t ‘preach to the choir.’ Seriously, if you are ruling out all ads that hint at the actual science-based connection between our actions, the world, and the ecosystem.”

    I don’t mind an ad with an ecosystem slant. Personally I am primarily interested in humans and in humanity both as it exists today and as it will exist in the remote future. In ecosystems? Primarily in terms of how they affect humans — or at least that’s where my views are today — and may be subject to revision.

    But you asked, I told you I don’t like polar bears. A commercial that tries to tug on my heat strings using a polar bear doesn’t work for me. I am not disagreeing with scientific facts, and as I pointed out just now I may have a difference in value judgment, but primarily I am expressing a difference in terms of emotional reaction — which I think is understandable and relevant to a car ad.

    But as I indicated elsewhere my wife likes the ad and thinks that given the “distorted” (my word, not hers) view of bears as giant teddy bears that most Americans have it probably works. But a quick side note — for Alaskans who as human beings I do tend to identify with — polar bears can be a very real threat.

    Now I will leave it at that.

  139. Bob Wallace says:


    “According to the new rules, the first 200,000 electric cars that any manufacturer sells will count as zero emissions and essentially unlimited mpg vehicles towards that manufacturer’s CAFE credits. But, after a given manufacturer sells their 200,000 EV allotment, any further electric cars sold will then be assigned a pollution number based on how much carbon dioxide is released as a result of generating the electricity to power them.”

    Looks like the new mileage standards were tweaked to give companies some incentives to get into the EV business. Not that that’s a bad thing….

  140. Sailesh Rao says:

    #134 (Albert): “Yes, cool ad. Of course, a fair portion of the target audience is also watching Whale Wars (or saw The Cove) and is thinking, “I don’t know if I can buy a car from Japan.” Any thoughts on how Nissan can address that, or whether they should, or does this add count as addressing it?”

    In Sylvia Earle’s book, “The World is Blue”, she describes an interaction with the Japanese delegate at the International Whaling Commission meeting. She confronts the delegate, “How could you possibly eat whales when you know how dire their situation is?” to which the Japanese replies, “How dare you tell me to stop eating whales when you continue to eat beef?” Sylvia protested pointing out that there are more than a billion cows on the planet while there are only a few thousand whales left, but the Japanese delegate simply shook his head and walked away. She goes on to write that it was obvious that he didn’t “get it”.

    Of course, I’ve condensed and paraphrased this whole passage from the book, but as I was reading, it occurred to me that it was Sylvia Earle who didn’t “get it”. The consumption of beef and dairy caused the destruction of wilderness areas that led to the endangerment of species such as the leopard, the mountain lion or the Bengal tiger. Nearly one-third of the ice-free land area of the planet is now devoted to livestock production and the resulting habitat loss is the main reason for the endangerment of land based species. While Sylvia Earle may not have been directly consuming mountain lions or leopards, she might as well have done so when she was digging into her steak.

    Footage from “Whale Wars” or “The Cove” is horrific, but so is that from any slaughterhouse in America. Please see, e.g., Meet your Meat at or, the longer version in Earthlings, .

    However, any sustainable future for 9 plus billion humans will most likely require our utmost respect for animals and the natural world and where the atrocities documented above would be considered barbaric and anachronistic.

    Just as we, today, consider the past practice of cannibalism or slavery.

    It is only by stepping down in the food chain that humans can step into abundance and continued good health, despite our numbers and despite the huge toxic mess that we have created with all our unsustainable cradle-to-grave industrial processes to date.

  141. Chris Winter says:

    Wit’s End wrote: “Tenney, I would bet anything that hug was photoshopped. I seriously doubt the hug was between a real man and a real bear!”

    I doubt it too, but not for the same reason. Polar bears can be trained, you know, especially those that are raised from cubs in captivity — like the three at the San Diego Zoo.

    But the reason I don’t think the ad uses a real bear is that its fur is too white. It’s probably this “fellow” Frostbite:

  142. Chris Winter says:

    The Nissan ad is very well done and might win a Clio. It is certainly effective; as others have said, it pushes all the right buttons.

    Of course it is not going to change things overnight. But it will grab the attention of some people who hadn’t been paying attention before. Will it change their minds? Who knows? If it reaches a lot of people, and it’s likely to, it will wake some of them up just on the basis of statistics.

    I think of it as one whannggg of the hammer on a wedge being driven between people and their lack of awareness of possibilities for change.

  143. Chris Winter says:

    Lots of good posts in this thread, and more than a few unfamiliar names. I take that as a good sign.

    Tommy Krenshaw, I accept your self-description as “pro-science and anti-pollution.” It’s hard to imagine how anyone living today could be otherwise, though some have managed it. (I name no names…)

    But I think you’re too cynical about Nissan. Sure, its ad is just to sell its new car models. But the nature of those car models depends on its market research, and that shows that public acceptance of cars that produce less CO2 is growing.

    If some people adopt clean technology for the wrong reasons (according to you), they’re still adopting clean technology.

    Will far more be required to solve the whole problem? Of course. But you know the proverb about the journey of a thousand miles…

  144. Chris Winter says:

    Timothy Chase wrote: “The documentary underscored the fact that there is a great deal of similarity between different species of predator — in terms of the range of emotions they experience. And that at a certain level members of different species are able to recognize one another as other individuals who are aware and towards whom they may even experience some identification, sympathy and affection.”

    For some years it’s been slowly dawning on me that animals have more intelligence than we’ve been giving them credit for. That includes empathy: the ability to identify with members of other species, under the right conditions.

    No, I’m not saying that we don’t need to fear polar bears and other large predators. We certainly do. And it’s arguable that popular culture contributes to the idea that such animals are not dangerous to humans. Some people — city-dwellers all, I’m sure — act on such beliefs, as you pointed out. They clearly need educatin’.

    But if we are going to save the polar bear, the snow leopard, and other endangered species, we must learn to identify with them to some degree, not as cuddly pets but as creatures worthy of survival.

    I think the Nissan ad helps push us toward such identification with the polar bear. That’s not its purpose, of course; its purpose is to sell cars. Call it a side effect, and a very beneficial one in my opinion. But I don’t think it will convince anyone that hugging a polar bear is a good idea.

  145. Richard Brenne says:

    Bob Wallace (#135) – I’m sure you’re a wonderful human being, but at this point your arguments are so dogmatic that it’s not even a human being speaking, it’s your (and our) addiction to our over-consumptive lifestyles speaking for you.

    This addiction must be preserved at all costs, and that’s what you’re arguing for.

    Have you ever heard of Energy Returned On Energy Invested (EROEI)? I haven’t heard it brought up here in this discussion once, nor in most Climate Progress discussions, even though the level of discussion is extremely high in most other areas.

    EROEI is the key to all energy discussions. So unless we could harness your smugness on this issue, which appears to have limitless amounts of energy, what do you suppose the EROEI on getting lithium out of the ocean will be? My guess: not good.

    And I haven’t heard about all the lithium in Afghanistan? Yes, I have heard. I guess you haven’t heard that there’s a war going on there, and there has been for most of three decades, and the war doesn’t show any sign of stopping, and we’ve crippled ourselves financially as a nation by waging these continuous wars in Iraq (still 50,000 U.S. troops there) and Afghanistan.

    So how is that lithium going to be successfully mined for your EVs? Who’s going to do it? You? Or are you instead going to encourage sending young Americans to die and kill Afghans to do it for you?

    What we need is full-cost accounting of all these issues, which you seem unwilling to do.

    I support EVs relative to ICEs, but I want reductions toward what is sustainable in every area, or nature and reality will surely do it for us. Ideally (and pipe-dreamingly) we’d have villages to cities surrounded by farmland (even the farmers living in villages) with electrified trains connecting them, bicycles and rickshaws and electric bikes and rickshaws and then the minimum number of EV light trucks, busses and vans. How we get from where we are to there seems to me a challenge beyond almost all other challenges put together.

    But the fundamental thing is we can’t each expect to drive everywhere we want every time we want for all eternity – that was a one-time gig cheap and abundant fossil fuels, especially oil, allowed. Doing so combined with having the largest and most poorly-insulated houses and filling them with ungodly amounts of junk has changed our climate, quite possibly for good, either according to Jim Hansen or from the perspective of a large number of generations.

    Thinking our unimaginably cushy lifestyles can’t, won’t and must not change is at the root of all this evil. That evil spawns the unthinking techno-optimism you and many others spout. Your addiction wants to repeal the Second Laws of Thermodynamics. Good luck with that one.

  146. Rob Honeycutt says:

    Apparently Rush Limbaugh started ranting about this Nissan ad on his radio show this morning. Suddenly the comments section of the video completely shifted gears from everyone being very excited and moved by the ad to a whole host of Tea Party folks ranting in chorus with Rush.

    What a bunch of crazies!!

  147. Mark D Larsen says:

    The EV naysayer claim that really sticks in my craw is the “coal-fired electric plant” argument, also known as the “long tailpipe” accusation. How do these naysayers think that gasoline is made? Hamsters running in cages? Those same coal-fired electric plants are providing the electricity that runs the oil refineries. Obviously, it makes more sense and would be more energy efficient to put that electricity directly into an EV’s battery, rather than wasting it to produce a fuel that adds even more pollution to the atmosphere. Let’s put it this way: would you prefer an EVs “long tailpipe,” or an ICE’s TWO tailpipes: a short one on the vehicle and the VERY SAME long one to make its fuel? No brainer.

  148. Bob Wallace says:

    Richard – of course I’ve heard of EROEI. What does that have to do with lithium? I gave you some idea of what it would cost to extract lithium from seawater if that was our only source. A worst case example.

    I explained to you that the world has lots and lots of lithium. Bolivia has, as I think I said earlier, enough for around 4 billion EV batteries. Chile has a lot, China has a lot, the US has a lot, and Afghanistan has a lot. If there’s a market then Afghans will get the lithium out. They manage to move opium.

    We have two operating lithium extraction sites in the US and a third is in the process of opening near the Salton Sea. It will extract the lithium which is concentrated in geothermal waste water.

    Now, if that’s not enough information for you I would suggest you do some googling. There’s a ton of information at your fingertips.

    You can wish that humans adopt your ‘hairshirt and bike’ approach to cutting greenhouse gases, but that a path to nowhere. People, in general, are not going to seriously cut back on their liftstyles and they are not going to allow their governments to force them to cut back.

    The way we get ourselves past the worst of this is to find ways to give people what they want in ways which don’t cause us to continue pumping CO2 and other greenhouse gases into our atmosphere.

    We can do that with renewable energy. We can do that with electric personal and short/medium range public transportation.

    There is no need for us to return to caves….

  149. Bob Wallace says:

    Mark – not just the electricity to run the refineries, but also electricity to pump the oil from the ground and often electricity to turn water into steam for extracting the oil from crevices.

    One person attempted to determine the amount of electricity used to produce a single gallon of gas. I don’t recall him reaching any sort of final number, but what his findings suggested was that we could drive 20-30 EV miles on the electricity used to produce a gallon of gas.

    Just skip the gas stage, go straight from the grid to the road.

  150. Windsong says:

    I loved it! (But with no speakers, I couldn’t hear it). Still, cool!

  151. Ominous Clouds Overhead says:

    Rob Honeycutt said:
    “Ominous clouds… With all due respect, you geologists stand in a position a little too far removed. The planet really could care less whether I make my mortgage payment next month but I continue to work toward staying in my home each month.”

    Rob, right you are. When you look at all the earth’s been through over the last 4.5 billion years, things get a different perspective. But it doesn’t mean I don’t worry about my daughter and her future, I do. But I also am very familiar with the fossil record and all it signifies, there have been a number of mass extinctions. I also am a student of evolution, and we humans have come up with the cultural means to stymie the survival of the fittest mechanism, we survive whether we’re fit or not because of oil and other things we’ve developed. But you can only outwit the laws of nature for so long…

    So, I do what I can to mitigate things, I don’t even live in a house, I live year-round in a tent in the field, my carbon footprint is very small, but I also remember that we’re simply mammals on planet earth that must obey the same laws all other mammals do. We’re really nothing special, but we’re really screwing things up for the rest.

  152. Richard Brenne says:

    Bob (#150) – Well you win, especially at being more civil than I was! I apologize for any incivility, or assholishness.

    I was just trying to make a difficult point, and from the other comments it doesn’t sound like I’ve succeeded. My frustration was misdirected at you – you have an excellent handle on an important part of the solution – but at all of us for not getting what I feel is an important part of the overall equation.

    I agree with most everything you say, though I don’t think being an heir to Julian Simon and his heir Bjorn Lomborg will turn out to be accurate in the long run, even for lithium.

    I am a fan of hair shirts (most of my wardrobe), bicycles (most of my transportation) and EVs (most of my inane arguments).

    And you’re also right that getting people to sacrifice won’t get any politician elected to anything.

    But I’d love to know what you and other commenters here think about the views of Richard Heinberg, James Howard Kunstler, John Michael Greer, Dmitry Orlov, Al Bartlett, David Goodstein, Matt Simmons and Colin Campbell, who are all basically in agreement with each other. (Bartlett and Goodstein are University of Colorado professor emeritus and Cal Tech Provosts, both of physics, Colin Campbell is a petroleum geologist, the recently deceased Matt Simmons was an investment banker in the oil industry, etc.)

    Each sees an inevitable contraction due to Peak Oil and countless copycat peaks (thus Heinberg’s recent book, “Peak Everything”). They would say, and they’ve convinced me, since I’ve worked with most of them, that since our economy runs on oil and we’re right about the peak of oil production and producing nations will keep most of their oil for their own economies, that we are going to have to get by with a lot less oil in the decades ahead, starting about now.

    Of course that argues for you position regarding EVs, which I agree with and support (along with the other things I mentioned). But the transition is going to be very, very difficult for a number of reasons, and pretending those difficulties don’t and won’t exist will only make the transition more challenging and less certain.

    Just one is example is asking if every nation you mentioned will have access to all the oil they’d need to mine all the lithium (and everything else!) needed for the transition. Maybe if their governments rationed oil and made such mining a priority, but it might be difficult to get there with the free market alone.

    I didn’t have anyone to fund a panel I wanted to produce putting Joe Romm together with Richard Heinberg (which is odd, because I thought the mission statements of Climate Progress, the Center for American Progress and the Post-Carbon Institute were directly in line with such an event), because they each have about the best overlapping knowledge bases of anyone I know about climate change, energy and policy (Joe), and peak oil, all resource depletion and energy (Richard).

    I think Joe’s messages are critically important, and I feel Richard’s messages are also critically important.

    Again, here is the link to Richard’s latest September Museletter, also the introduction to his book “Peak Everything” now coming out in paperback:

    If just one person responded with one comment I’d be very grateful.

    Thanks Bob,

    Richard Brenne

  153. Sailesh Rao says:


    Here’s one response.

    Malthus was right in his exponential extrapolations in the 19th century, but others took them seriously and invented the Haber-Bosch process, e.g., to overcome the resource pinch points that Malthus had predicted.

    Paul Ehrlich was right in his extrapolations in the sixties, but Norman Borlaug spearheaded the Green revolution to overcome the resource pinch points that Ehrlich had predicted.

    No doubt, Richard Heinberg and the others you mention are right in their extrapolations. It does appear that all these resource peaks coupled with biodiversity loss, climate change and various tipping points in the climate signify a perfect storm that seems impossible for humanity to invent its way through.

    But, I believe that humans can change a few key behaviors to radically diminish their footprints and overcome these looming pinch points, viz.,

    1) Recognize that any consuming decision has global impact,
    2) Respect the life journey of all, including members of other species,

    and live accordingly.

    However, I don’t know if humans will make these behavioral changes in time to save ourselves and other species from needless extinction. Nevertheless, I was heartened that the Nissan Leaf ad touched upon both these aspects of the needed transformation and now seems to have gone viral.

    That calls for celebration.

  154. Richard Brenne says:

    Sailish Roo (#155) – What a great comment, maybe the best I’ve ever seen here at CP, and that’s saying a lot.

    Most people seem to think Malthus was too Malthusian, but I agree that his predictions were fundamentally sound (unfortunately), but have just been delayed as you described.

    I’ve often said that Leonardo Da Vinci predicted heavier than air flight but it didn’t come true for four centuries until it did come true. Malthus’ predictions have been taken seriously by seriously bright people from Jefferson and Darwin through Bartlett and Ehrlich, but Malthus couldn’t have seen how cheap and abundant fossil fuels would delay his prediction by a couple of centuries. I’m afraid they are beginning to come true now or very soon, in half the time it took Da Vinci to be proven correct.

    I’m ashamed to say that despite countless conversations with Bartlett, Heinberg, Kunstler, Ehrlich, Catton and others about this, somehow I never learned of the Haber-Bosch process that you so expertly describe (I was aware of the phenomenon, but not the name). Where can I learn more about this?

    Again, thanks so much for such a thoughtful, expert reply. If you care to share how you came to this knowledge and how it relates to your profession, I’m all ears (more a figure of speech than medical condition). . .

  155. Bob Wallace says:

    Sailesh, good comment.

    I think of Malthus not in terms of Malthus’ Prediction, but Malthus’ Warning.

    We might remember that Malthus did not predict that the world was going to crash under the weight of human population. He warned that the world could crash unless birth rates dropped. And he suggested ways to decrease birth rates.

    I don’t foresee human extinction, but can foresee a major human die-off (worst case). And certainly we are going to cause the extinction of many other species, as we are doing.

    I see two encouraging trends, the falling world-wide birth rates and the acceleration of technology which moves us off of fossil fuels. In an idealized world (yes, my version) we would naturally decrease our population to a third or less of what it now is and use fossil fuels for only very specialized purposes, if at all.

    The big question, to me, is how quickly can we adapt. How quickly can we figure out how to feed and supply water to our upcoming population peak? Can we roll out the transportation alternatives rapidly enough to deal with declining oil supplies? Will we install renewable energy harvesting rapidly enough to keep global temperatures from soaring?

    The Leaf. It’s the next big marker on the road away from ICEVs. The first was the Tesla, which demonstrated performance and range (but at too high a cost). The Leaf brings adequate range and performance (for most) at an semi-affordable price. The final step will be a 250-300 mile range EV that sells for roughly the price of a similar ICEV.

  156. Eric says:

    “Let me get one point out of the way immediately. Yes, if you run the Leaf on 100% coal power, it wouldn’t be greener than a regular car, from a global warming perspective…”

    Is that actually true? Nissan has said, I think, that it takes about as much electricity to (pump and?) refine 1 gallon of gas as it takes to propel the Leaf 30 miles – something like 8kWh.

    So scenario 2 scenarios:

    A) burn coal to make 8kWh of electricity, use that to produce a gallon of gas, then burn the gas to drive 30 miles.

    B) burn coal to make 8kWh of electricity, and use that to drive 30 miles.

    If I have to choose between the two, I prefer B) over A) any day.

  157. Sailesh Rao says:


    Thank you for your kind comments. You can reach me at and you can see what I work on at I would be happy to pursue this offline.

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  159. Doug M. says:

    Something I just realized, regarding the CO2 impact of running the Leaf on 100% coal-produced electricity:

    If, as mentioned in the video at post #62, you charge your EV with overnight power that would have otherwise been wasted as “spin reserve,” then you are not adding a single gram of additional CO2 into the air, no matter what the source was.

    That means that millions of the first EV drivers (the ones who charge overnight and are dipping into the spin reserve) will effectively be running their cars on 100% carbon-free electricity, even if all of it comes from a coal plant, and they don’t have any solar panels.