That “if” is a big qualifier, because while coal is a large source of electricity generation in the United States, it’s been falling for years. In 2007 it was responsible for 48 percent of the electricity generated in the US, but in 2015 that figure dropped to 33 percent.
Conover also conveniently leaves out the fact that solar and wind energy are on the rise. In fact, solar and wind are not only adding lots of capacity to the electrical grid, but the price of solar is dropping dramatically. Instead, he uses solar and wind energy to continue shaming the character in the video when he naively assumes his Tesla will soon run on clean energy.
But the biggest problem is that, when Conover makes this crucial argument in the video, he cites a piece written by Slate’s senior technology writer Will Oremus in 2013 — a piece that’s more about the difficulty of parsing all this information than it is about how electric cars might be dirty. What’s more, Oremus spends a large chunk of his article explaining that how “clean” your electric car is will vary depending on where you live, because different parts of the country use different percentages of these fuel sources to generate electricity. From Oremus’ piece:
For any given Model S, though, the emissions-per-mile depend heavily on the mix of energy sources that go into your local grid. According to Tesla’s own emissions calculator, if you’re driving your Model S in West Virginia—where the power mix is 96 percent coal—you’re spewing some 27 pounds of CO2 in a typical 40-mile day, which is comparable to the amount you’d emit in a conventional Honda Accord. Indiana, Kentucky, and Ohio aren’t much better. On the other hand, if you’re charging your Tesla in California, where natural gas supplies more than half the electricity—or, better yet, Idaho or Washington, where hydroelectricity reigns—your per-mile emissions are a fraction of that amount. Congratulations: Your Model S is a clean machine after all.