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# Some Basic Arithmetic on Carbon Dioxide Emissions

Summary:
A number of people in the United States argue for increasing the number of electric vehicles as a percent of the automobile stock. Their argument is that in the United States, transportation contributes 29% of the total carbon dioxide emissions. (Everything that follows is 2017 data.) Industry contributes 22%, electricity contributes 28%, commercial and residential contribute 12%, and agriculture contributes 9%. A friend of a friend tells me that light-duty transportation vehicles account for 59% of that 29%, which is 17% of total CO2 emissions. Imagine that replacing all light-duty transportation vehicles with EVs reduces their contribution by the full 17 percentage points. (Of course, it wouldn’t because the electricity for EVs must be generated, so the 17

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A number of people in the United States argue for increasing the number of electric vehicles as a percent of the automobile stock.

Their argument is that in the United States, transportation contributes 29% of the total carbon dioxide emissions. (Everything that follows is 2017 data.) Industry contributes 22%, electricity contributes 28%, commercial and residential contribute 12%, and agriculture contributes 9%. A friend of a friend tells me that light-duty transportation vehicles account for 59% of that 29%, which is 17% of total CO2 emissions.

Imagine that replacing all light-duty transportation vehicles with EVs reduces their contribution by the full 17 percentage points. (Of course, it wouldn’t because the electricity for EVs must be generated, so the 17 percentage points is an overestimate.)

Now let’s see what that does for CO2 emissions worldwide. In 2014, the United States accounted for 15% of worldwide emissions. Assuming that hasn’t changed, an overestimate of the percent by which replacing all light-duty vehicles with EVs in the United States is therefore 15% of 17%, which is 2.6%.

HT2 Francois Melese

David Henderson is a British economist. He was the Head of the Economics and Statistics Department at the OECD in 1984–1992. Before that he worked as an academic economist in Britain, first at Oxford (Fellow of Lincoln College) and later at University College London (Professor of Economics, 1975–1983); as a British civil servant (first as an Economic Advisor in HM Treasury, and later as Chief Economist in the Ministry of Aviation); and as a staff member of the World Bank (1969–1975). In 1985 he gave the BBC Reith Lectures, which were published in the book Innocence and Design: The Influence of Economic Ideas on Policy (Blackwell, 1986).