Tesla Cars Aren't As Carbon (And Taxpayer) Friendly As You Think

Tyler Durden's picture

Authored by Duane Norman via Free Market Shooter,

Tesla proponents love to remind people how their vehicles are “carbon free” (in spite of Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s own carbon profligate lifestyle):

Fact: the Tesla Model S is an environmentally friendly, zero emissions electric vehicle that won’t pollute the air like gas-powered cars. Carbon emissions from a gas car’s tailpipe has a dangerous impact on global warming…. In addition, Tesla CEO Elon Musk explains that, “combustion cars emit toxic gases. According to an MIT study, there are 53,000 deaths per year in the U.S. alone from auto emissions.”

But in reminding people about how they don’t burn fossil fuels, they make sure to omit and/or obfuscate all the other emissions-laden factors that go into production of Tesla automobiles, including the oft-unspoken costs of the vehicles to the taxpayer and to other auto manufacturers.

Start with the power source for the Tesla; their electric power plant uses lithium-ion batteries to store the electricity required to run the car.  And while a good amount of lithium is produced at salt lake brines that use chemical processes to extract the requisite lithium…

…a large (and growing) amount of lithium is sourced from hard-rock mining, which is also referred to as strip mining:

This type of mining involves not just all the carbon used to extract the lithium from mines, it “strips” the land of its forests, which is far more environmentally (and carbon) detrimental.  And while it is likely impossible to know exactly where Tesla sources its materials from, a closer examination on Tesla’s impact on the mining industry should paint a crystal clear picture:

Should the concept capture the imagination of Americans who are increasingly conscious of reducing their carbon footprint demand for these crucial elements could skyrocket in addition to the already robust global demand for lithium, nickel and copper. Major mining companies are already “future proofing” their businesses for climate change by focusing more investment into commodities that will be required by the renewable energy industry.

You can’t make this stuff up – Tesla and other renewable energy industries are going to save the world by mining its natural resources to excess, without regard for the environmental impact and carbon emissions generated in the process.  You shouldn’t be surprised to seldom hear this mentioned by Elon Musk, or the liberal crowd that champions electric vehicles.

It’s hardly the only way Tesla’s manufacturing process is anything but emissions-free.  Just take a look at their factory:

Even TreeHugger.com, of all places, muses at the irony of the Tesla plant:

The factory is in the middle of nowhere, really — 23 miles from the nearest city of any size, Reno, Nevada. If we assume that this is the average distance workers are commuting (and it is likely a lot farther), that the cars are powered by gasoline, and that they are average size, then according to the EPA they pump out about 411 grams of CO2 per mile or 18.9 kilograms per round trip. Multiply that by 3,000 and you have 57 tonnes of CO2 generated every day just by the the workers driving to the factory. The average car puts out 4.7 tonnes per year. So every day that the Gigafactory workers drive to work to make batteries for carbon-saving electric cars, they generate as much CO2 as 12 conventional cars do in a year.

And though no one should put it past Tesla to source power for its plant via a “renewable” source, would you really be surprised to find some fossil fuel powered machinery in the plant, given Musk’s own callous attitude towards carbon emissions when it comes to space launches and his own private flights?

None of this even mentions the tax incentives Tesla receives.  Electric vehicles are subsidized by the federal government via a tax credit, which is no small chunk of change; $7,500, to be exact:

The federal incentive to purchase an electric vehicle comes in the form of a $7,500 tax credit. In order to qualify for this credit, one must have a tax burden of at least $7,500 and take ownership of a newly purchased electric car before the vehicle manufacturer reaches its 200,000th EV sold in the U.S.

Since Tesla has not sold 200,000 vehicles in the US, the tax credit is still alive and well.  Which means that if you say the average sticker price of a Tesla is $100,000 (still high according to estimates), the federal government is subsidizing 7.5% of the purchase price.

And that is before you even count the “Zero-Emission Vehicle” (ZEV) credits that Tesla makes a mint on.  Bloomberg explained exactly how important these are to Tesla:

I’m referring to zero-emission vehicle, or ZEV, credits. California and several other states require that a certain proportion of the vehicles sold by an automaker emit no greenhouse gases. These cars earn the automaker credits, and if they don’t have enough to meet their quota, they can buy extra ones from someone who does. As Tesla only makes vehicles that run on batteries and emit nothing, it usually has a surplus for sale.


The profit margin on these is very high, perhaps 95 percent. The implied $95 million of profit equates to about 58 cents a share. Tesla reported a loss of $1.33 per share this week — beating the consensus forecast by 55 cents.

So Tesla earns a subsidy not just from the American taxpayer, it earns a subsidy from all the auto companies that are forced to buy ZEV credits from Tesla in states (primarily California) that force ZEVs upon automakers.  And somehow, Tesla still spends more money than it takes in.  

That’s correct; in spite of the massive subsidies it receives to operate, Tesla is not even profit-neutral, and the cars are not carbon-neutral, despite what the proponents will have you believe.  Of course, none of this even factors in the carbon impact of whatever electricity source Tesla owners charge their cars with, which is a topic you could write a whole ‘nother article on.

Tesla cars are subsidized using a business model that is anything but “dollar-neutral”,  and they are built and operated using anything but a “carbon-neutral” process .  Can you imagine what could happen if the subsidy “plug” was pulled?

Note: What would be a “solution” for the “climate change” crowd to push that would actually be honest?  Look no further than the aforementioned TreeHugger.com to fill you in:

Nothing has changed, which is why this TreeHugger will continue being critical of any kind of car, and will continue to promote walkable cities, bicycles and public transport as the real solutions to the problem of decarbonizing our society.

“Decarbonizing” our society obviously isn’t something I believe in, so don’t expect me to join Lloyd Alter in his carbon-free city.  However, I acknowledge that he’s at the very least participating in an intellectually honest discussion about CO2, and not grandstanding about how much he’s helping the environment by plopping himself behind the wheel of a Tesla. 

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Creepy_Azz_Crackaah's picture

This article has triggered me.

Looney's picture


A single rocket launch produces 40-50 tons of CO2, and the liquid hydrogen production for the same launch produces 700 tons of CO2. The total per launch is 750 tons.

SpaceX has conducted almost 40 launches so far, so the total CO2 emission is 750 X 40 = 30,000 tons.

So… Elon Musk’s carbon footprint is huge – 30,000 tons of CO2, but it doesn’t come close to… Al Gore’s home-heating and travel bill.   ;-)


P.S. I’ve got the rocket launch numbers (please, don’t laugh) at a tree-hugging site.

Creepy_Azz_Crackaah's picture

The ONLY solution to stopping earth's naturally changing climate cycles are the precise combination of WAY more taxes, a MASSIVE increase in business/people strangling government regulations and the benevolent government in complete control of each person's life.

Science says so. If you don't believe it you're anti-science.

Ignatius's picture

Finally, someone who understands.

BaBaBouy's picture

Yeah Right, F' Tesla and Support House-Of-Saud Sheikhs...

Cognitive Dissonance's picture

Lots of triggers being pulled on ZH

Please point that thing anywhere but at me. ;-)

RAT005's picture

The Tesla battery alone costs about $0.10/mile.  At $3/gal and 35mpg, nice new sedans cost $0.085/mile.  The weight of the Tesla batteries is a waste of what ever the energy source is.  The weight of the batteries is also very hard on the tire life.  Gas in mid Atlantic states is ~$2.25/gal.

lakecity55's picture

Actually, I thought these Teslas were really just gadgets for rich fuckers.

People actually drive them around?

BaBaBouy's picture

Is that a new model of Tesla, or a Thump doodle on WH stationary???

natxlaw's picture

See that's the whole problem: people who see two members of the same team as opposites. Musk and Saudi are both completely and totally dependent on the U.S. government and are both deep state puppets. 


Oh look, the U.S. government created a monster, we better give them some more money so they can make a hero to fight the monster. Oops, another monster, better give them twice as much money cause we're gonna need two heros now.

BaBaBouy's picture

TYLER your Right, My Chevy 454 4bbl is Eco Friendly ...

Creepy_Azz_Crackaah's picture

Please... You need a six pack on top to be truly eco-friendly.

Science says so.

Retarded Idiot's picture

My goal is to be as Eco unfriendly as possible.

DjangoCat's picture

My 12 year old RAV 4 must be ECO friendly.  Spread out the construction costs as long as possible to mitigate the initial impact of the new car.

El Vaquero's picture

If you're worried about CO2, I suggest that you look at soil degredation around the world.  We've broken the terrestrial carbon cycle over a huge chunk of the Earth's land surface.  And we can reverse this.  And we should, even if global warming is a hoax.

JuliaS's picture

Use bankers and politicians for fertilizer. Problem solved.

natxlaw's picture

Science says, you do all that you just said, the climate is still going to change. You just don't have that much of an impact.

Arrow4Truth's picture

28 ups. You ain't the only cracker in the box.

markl's picture

I'm so sorry. Would you like a safe space with crayons, cookies and milk?

We don't want any hurt feelings.

Creepy_Azz_Crackaah's picture

ZH totally needs a safe space zone...

JustPrintMoreDuh's picture

ZH IS the safe-zone for mal-contents such as us ... 

lakecity55's picture

Then we would not be fight club.

Canadian Dirtlump's picture

Being in the oil industry - Being vilified daily on my dirty business while african chilren with every permutation and combination of injury and medical condition dying mining cobalt for these batteries triggers this creepy ass canadian crackah.

JuliaS's picture

2 things I don't see in the picture - solar panels and wind turbines. Apparently green only runs on oil.

rubiconsolutions's picture

Isn't that one of the laws of thermodynamics? - "You don't get nuttin' for nuttin"

booboo's picture

 and getting something takes more of whats giving than you get.


Ignatius's picture

It's revolutionary.  It runs on high tech carbon neutral taxpayer dollars.

Putrid_Scum's picture

Rothschild: Can you imagine if there was no Fed?

Putrid: No Fed. No Ponzi. No Economy.

Rothschild: Reset?

Putrid: Now you're talking.



The Cooler King's picture

Al Gore:


- Private Jet (to go with a 'speech giving' itinerary)

- Fleet of Limousines

- 100' houseboat

- 22 room fully lighted mansion


ZERO solar panels

ZERO Teslas




or ~ if you prefer


SEATTLE oil protestors


They came in automobiles fueled by oil, wearing clothing made by oil, to PROTEST OIL, in kayaks made by oil, then, tweeted fotos from the event on their cellphones made from oil,




peippe's picture

you do realize al is the dimwit son of a semi-clueless tennessee tobacco farmer, right?

by my estimation, he done good hoodwinking idiots. 

i applaud his pt barnum bullshite. others around here must as well.

The Cooler King's picture

Once Again Tesla (the REAL Tesla, not the schizo welldigger with a subsidized car company) was right.



krispkritter's picture

Sincerely wish Al Gore's chopper or plane crash lands inside a live volcano.  He'd go up in smoke just like all the smoke he blows up people's asses.  And would that make him carbon-neutral?

aloha_snakbar's picture

I had a dream that an exploding Tesla in Korea sparked WWIII....

Kilgore Trout's picture

No mention of where electricity comes from? Last I checked, at least 40% of grid power comes from coal. A large portion of the remainder comes from burning other hydrocarbons (natural gas).

taketheredpill's picture



See above.  CO2 grams / mile is COAl 0.08 vs GAS 0.40

TuPhat's picture

I'm pretty sure you are wrong.  Electric power plants are not that efficient and then you lose more when you use it in the car.  I'm not going to look it up or do the math.  It isn't worth the time spent.  If you want to you should check your source of info.  They have it wrong.

jimmy12345's picture

Coal only generates 24% of electricity now and it's market share if falling fast.

chrsn's picture

I think an oft-ignored subject relevant to green cars is the burgeoning smug problem

NickPeeMe's picture

Was somebody thinking they were carbon friendly? Where does electricity come from?

taketheredpill's picture



Coal vs Gasoline emmissions CO2 is 0.08 grams/mile vs 0.40 grams/mile.  I could be wrong.  If you do the math at lunch it will take you 30 minutes.

mysticpotatohead's picture

Yeah its a good thing oil companies,errh energy companies, dont receive any welfare checks, errh subsides.

VWAndy's picture

 Screw everyone getting a susidy. Go barter!

VWAndy's picture

 The carbon footprint in building any car does more damage than good done by cleaner emissions. We would all be much better off if we made cars that lasted much longer than the junk we make now.

 That said electrick cars are the worst offenders because of the batteries used not being recycled.

  We need to get all the bankers out of the car buis. Really.

IridiumRebel's picture

My car uses veggie oil, it's EMP proof and cost 5k.


Go hug a tree.

bonin006's picture

There is an easy rule of thumb to use if you are interested in the environmental impact of anything you buy. How much does it cost? The more it costs, the greater the impact. If/when electric vehicles cost less that gas vehicles, then you can be pretty sure they have less environmental impact.

EddieLomax's picture

Using the same rule in the UK we could do away with tax discs and instead just put the tax onto the petrol and diesel, but that would made a whole department of bureaucrats redundant, so instead we levy two taxes with all the overhead.

I'm wondering now if the solution we really should go for is just import tariffs, set them as high as is needed to pay for police/armed forces/courts/government and then scrap the multitude of other taxes.

It encourages local production over overseas production and keeps administration costs to a minimum.