The truth about cars & CO2

Cars are demonised increasingly, but exactly how big - as a proportion of the overall greenhouse problem - are the carbon dioxide emissions from cars, according to official data?


A viewer, below, named (allegedly) Tbone H (I’m tipping he’s a carnivore) has a bone to pick with me, which inspired this report:


“The biggest emitter of greenhouse gases in Australia is Industrial Agriculture and in actual fact it produces more than all other man made greenhouse gases combined.These facts are always extremely hard to find residing well into the teens of search engine pages. Not to take away from the fact that coal is unsustainable and continuing down that path is borderline genocide but facts are facts.” - Tbone H


Yes, they are. Those pesky facts. We’ll get to that.

Cars are demonised as the harbingers of climate meltdown, but it is in fact emissions from coal-fired electricity generation that are out of control in Australia

Cars are demonised as the harbingers of climate meltdown, but it is in fact emissions from coal-fired electricity generation that are out of control in Australia

For context, yesterday, while eviscerating EVs, I did say electricity generation was the biggest CO2 emitter in our great nation (Arse-tralia).

Tbone says industrial agriculture. Cap I, cap A. And I didn’t know that was a proper noun, so thanks for that. #FactsAreFacts

Instead of the (quote) “teens” of search engine results pages, just go to Google. Type in ‘Australia greenhouse gas’. Page 1, top search result: The Federal Department of the Environment and Energy. The page is called ‘Tracking Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions’.

The second link in the text: Quarterly Update of Australia’s National Greenhouse Gas Inventory >>

Top Quarterly update: June 2018 (at the time of publication of the video).

Download the full report as a PDF >> and then scroll to page 7. Or, if you didn’t pay attention at school and can’t count, like Tbone…) just scroll briefly until you see the big, blue, round thing that looks like a pie.

What the official emissions data actually shows

This is a snapshot from the Federal Governments most recent data on CO2-equivalent emissions composition

This is a snapshot from the Federal Governments most recent data on CO2-equivalent emissions composition

Electricity, as you can see, clearly, is the biggest emitter. Just like I said. What a friggin surprise.

182 million tonnes (these are all 12 months to June 2018). Slight disparity to yesterday’s report, which used the latest full calendar year figures from the same department.

Stationary energy is next - that’s like burning coal or gas in a factory to heat something up for an industrial process, like making ethanol or steam reforming hydrogen, and it also includes things like home heating. (But it excludes electricity.)

Transport is next - just under 20 per cent, just over 100 million tonnes. Bear in mind that’s all transport - planes, trains, etc., as well as cars and trucks.

Beaking down transport emissions

According to the Climate Council, cars are 46 per cent of total transport emissions. Let’s call it 46 million tonnes. That’s about eight or nine per cent of the total.

This is the transport emissions breakdown for Australia, according to the Climate Council

This is the transport emissions breakdown for Australia, according to the Climate Council

So even if we could reduce car tailpipe emissions to zero tomorrow (impossible) it would only decrease CO2 by at most nine per cent. That’s provided doing this didn’t also bump up emissions elsewhere (likely). #FactsAreFacts.

According to the Federal Government, Agriculture is next - 13.2 per cent of the problem. Let’s call it a 50 per cent bigger problem than cars, ballpark.

But we all have to move, and we all have to eat, so there’s that.

I don’t know where you are getting your facts from, Tbone, but I trust the Federal Government to get this right - and (PS) they’re also working out the numbers in accordance with an internationally recognised standard.

As to your claim that agriculture produces more than all the other sources combined, it would need to produce slightly less than 270 million tonnes to achieve that, so you’re only about 200 million tonnes short of being right on that.


What surprises me here is things like fugitive emissions, industrial processes and particularly waste are such small slices of the pie. That’s a perception issue, too. (FYI, fugitive emissions are greenhouse-type emissions from exploiting fossil fuels. Like, you drill into an oil reservoir and methane escapes, just like opening a large scale bottle of champagne full of crude oil, and carbonated with methane. Like that.)

So the things that are routinely demonised as ushering in hell on earth - like landfill, and the car, are actually fairly small parts of this puzzle.

I didn’t just say ‘insignificant’. I said ‘small’. Inconveniently, you cannot make a dent in the problem - and it is absolutely a problem - without moving urgently away from coal.

There is no such thing as clean coal. It’s a completely made-up, bullshit concept.



I'm a truck driver, and it's simple: without trucks Australia stops. I drive a 2015 Freightliner. Unless the tossers at Toll and Linfox etc., raise their rates (which won't happen because every consumer wants it cheaper) it won't change. Your whole studio and the camera u use came in a truck. Sad but true. I get cut off everyday by consumers who don't realise that every time I have to heavily break my diesel bill and the wear and tear eats into my profit margins. - Skitz28


You misinterpret me, Skitz. I’m not against trucks - especially modern trucks like yours. There are good levels of pollution control on modern trucks like yours.


I’m against the average heavy truck in Australia - which is an astounding 14 years old. This problem is unique to Australia partly because when trucks get old in western Europe they get sold east, to places like DogShitistan.

In North America, they migrate to South America. Shitsville is a big island - old heavy trucks here haul shipping containers through our cities, from ports to warehouses, typically. Here’s my full report on old trucks in Australia >>

About one third of heavy trucks on Arse-trailerian roads are in the pre-1996 category. And they have no emissions controls whatsoever. They spew their filthy carcinogenic exhaust into the air we breathe.

Past the pre-school kindergarten where your kids are domiciled during the day. So that’s nice.

Take oxides of nitrogen, which decompose in air to form PM2.5s - the Goldilocks carcinogenic particles for human lungs. A single pre-1996 shitbox Kenworth (or something) is spewing 60 times more NOx - ballpark - than a truck like Skitz’s Freightliner from the modern era.

60 modern trucks; one old shitheap: same pollution.

So that’s what I meant yesterday. I’m not anti-truck. And yeah - drivers of cars should be more compliant and courteous around any vehicle carrying 30 tonnes of hydrofluoric acid, or whatever.

There’s no food on the shelves without trucks. Everything would stop without trucks, as Skitz said. Advanced medical care would stop. Construction would stop, the Fat Cave would grind to a halt. Even titty bars would be forced to close.

And I don’t want to live in a country without titty bars. Which is why I love trucks and the brave men who drive them around all those fuckwits in cars.



isn't max acceleration at max torque, not at max power? - ja sam


That’s ambiguous. Maximum acceleration in any gear happens at maximum torque. But maximum acceleration at any speed happens at maximum power.

car accelerating.jpg

So let’s say an evil bastard welds your transmission up, permanently locked in third gear. Maximum torque is at 4000 and maximum power is at 6000.

Maximum acceleration for you will be right foot flat to the boards at 4000. Maximum torque. Third gear.

But if your transmission is not maliciously locked in third, then change back to second. Chances are you’ll be at 6000 rpm - same speed, different gear, max power. That’s the way to deliver maximum acceleration at that speed.

That answer: Brought to you by physics in the beer garden. Yesss!

If you want more detail on this, I did a full report on acceleration, peak power and peak torque >>


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