Frequently Asked Questions

Do you have questions? We've compiled some of the most common ones we get into this one page.

GeneralLink to 'General' heading

Why focus on states?

Three reasons:

  1. Clarity: at a global or even national scale, the climate crisis can be incredibly overwhelming. At the state level, solutions become much clearer.
  2. Opportunity: state and local governments are responsible for 50-75% of the climate action we need—regardless of what Congress does—according to Climate Cabinet. And they can have a surprisingly huge impact: taken together, CO, IL, WA, CA, and NY make up the world’s 4th largest economy. They’ve all passed groundbreaking climate laws recently. And with the right policy, they could single-handedly make solar panels, wind turbines, heat pumps, and electric cars much cheaper, worldwide.
  3. Accessibility: it’s much easier for regular people to make a difference at the state level. You can lobby your legislators personally. You can run for local office, or get someone elected. You can join one of the issue campaigns that are winning climate policy across the country—typically, they have only have a few dozen volunteers, so your involvement can actually help pass a bill.

Ready to do something in your state? Get started here.

Why do you only focus on wind and solar power? Is that reliable?

The key problem of wind and solar is intermittency: the wind doesn't always blow, and the sun doesn't always shine. Batteries can store solar power for use at night, or wind power for use on less windy days. But they can't extra energy during the summer to use in the winter, when there's less sun and wind.

To solve this seasonal intermittency problem, we use renewable overbuilding: the trick is to build enough wind and solar to reliably power your state during the winter. During the summer, you end up with more power than you need. But you can use it make green hydrogen, which can cleanly power planes, factories, and other hard-to-electrify machines.

Our estimates of how much (overbuilt) wind and solar each state must build to

  1. produce reliable year-round power while
  2. fully electrifying cars and buildings
...are based on the paper Ultra-high photovoltaic penetration: Where to deploy by Perez et al.

Why don't you feature nuclear power?

We are not against nuclear. On the contrary, our actually analysis assumes that all existing nuclear plants stay open for the foreseeable future.

Nuclear is safe and reliable. Though expensive, building more nuclear plants would allow us to build fewer wind and solar farms.

That said, this site intentionally depicts how much wind and solar we need to decarbonize every state, and argues that this "all-renewables" approach is fact feasible (and affordable) using overbuilding.

Heat PumpsLink to 'Heat Pumps' heading

Do heat pumps work in colder climates?

Heat pumps absolutely work in cold climates. Not only that, but often they are the most energy efficient and cost effective solution available. A few decades ago, most heat pumps stopped working when the temperature dropped below 20 or 30 degrees fahrenheit. By contrast, today’s heat pumps can run more efficiently than any other HVAC system all the way down to about -25 fahrenheit. Just ask the millions of homeowners in Scandinavia. People in Norway, Finland and Sweden are installing heat pumps at a faster pace than anywhere else in Europe.

In colder climates, a potential hurdle to installing heat pumps is home insulation. You may want to get a blower door test to determine how much heat you are leaking from your home.

Learn more about heat pumps and cold weather at CarbonSwitch.

Are heat pumps for heating, or for cooling?

Heat pumps are for both - they can heat and cool your home! There are a variety of different types of heat pumps, but they all work like a reversible air conditioner, moving heat from inside to outside (cooling) or outside to inside (heating).

Learn more from - Heat Pump Systems.

Electric Vehicles (EVs)Link to 'Electric Vehicles' heading

Are EVs really lower emission, even with a dirty grid?

Based off of information from the EPA's page on electric vehicles, here's the short answer:

Electric vehicles almost always have a smaller carbon footprint than gasoline cars, even when accounting for the electricity used for charging, and even if your grid is very carbon intensive, like coal.

The longer answer: Electric vehicles (EVs) have no tailpipe emissions. Generating the electricity used to charge EVs, however, may create carbon pollution. The amount varies widely based on how local power is generated, e.g., using coal or natural gas, which emit carbon pollution, versus renewable resources like wind or solar, which do not. Even accounting for these electricity emissions, research shows that an EV is typically responsible for lower levels of greenhouse gases (GHGs) than an average new gasoline car. As more renewable energy generation is brought online (or if you charge your car using your own solar panels) the total GHGs associated with EVs could be even lower.

If that sounds confusing, think about it this way: a gas car runs completely off of gasoline, and doesn't even burn it that efficiently. We already have some renewables (which have no emissions) and a large fossil fuel power plant can convert more of that chemical energy into usable electricity, rather than heat.

You can also learn more about electricity production in your area.

EPA and DOE’s Beyond Tailpipe Emissions Calculator can help you estimate the greenhouse gas emissions associated with charging and driving an EV or a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) where you live. You can select an EV or PHEV model and type in your zip code to see the CO2 emissions and how they stack up against those associated with a gasoline car.

How long does it take to charge an EV?

This one is a bit complicated, but most new EVs support fast-charging at public charging stations, which (at the highest speeds of 250kW) can get most EVs to 80% in around a half hour.

Learn more from Tom's Guide - EV Charging Explained.

Why are EVs so expensive?

EVs require large battery packs, particularly if you are looking for a very long range. However, it's worth keeping in mind that an electric vehicle has lower fuel costs (electricity per mile is generally cheaper than gasoline) and lower maintenance costs, since electric vehicles are much simpler mechanically speaking and have lower brake wear due to regenerative braking.

Learn more from Consumers Energy - EV Cost of Ownership.

Do we have enough Lithium to make all these EVs?

This is also complex, but ultimately speaking there is enough Lithium on the planet to meet our EV needs, but we're going to have to rapidly ramp up Lithium exctraction to meet our needs.

Learn more from Nature - Electric cars and batteries: how will the world produce enough?

But are electric cars really the best climate transporation solution?

In short, no, but they are a big part of the solution. Electric cars and trucks require a lot of minerals and energy to manufacture, consume a lot of energy per mile due to their weight. In dense urban and suburban areas, we should work towards moving away from cars towards trains, buses, biking, and walking, which are much more energy resource efficient. However, as we mentioned before, an electric car is basically always better emissions wise than a gas car.

As an example, an ebike (let's say Gazelle Ultimate T10) may have a 500 Wh battery (0.5 kWh) that gives it a 25 mile range, or 50 miles per kWh. Meanwhile the Tesla Model 3, one of the most efficient EVs out right now, gets around 4.2 miles per kWh, making the e-bike 12 times more energy efficient! This does not even take into account the signifcantly reduced material cost and manufacturing emissions of making a 50 pound e-bike compared to a 4,048 lb electric car with at least 100 times the battery capacity (54 kWh).

Learn more at Our World in Data - Which form of transport has the lowest carbon footprint.

Induction StovesLink to 'Induction Stoves' heading

Do induction stoves only work on certain pans?

Technically, yes, but they work on ferro-magnetic materials, meaning materials that a magnet can stick to. These include stainless steel, cast iron, and enameled cast iron pans, but induction does not work on copper, glass, or aluminum pans.

Learn more from The Spruce Eats - How to Tell If Your Cookware Is Induction Compatible

Are induction stoves worse than gas?

There might be some downsides with induction, like not working with certain types of pans and a lack of visibility to the heat output (since induction works via invisible magnetism) but it also has a huge list of benefits including:

  • Faster heating time (like water boiling quicker)
  • Heat level changes apply rapidly
  • Cook surface stays cool
  • Automatically shuts off when pan is removed

Is induction cooking the same as an electric stove with those glowing red coils?

Not at all! A stove with red coils that heat up your pan (either directly or through a glass surface) are what is known as an electric resistive cooktop or just electric cooktop. These are electrically powered (and so don't burn fossil fuels) but they aren't as responsive, fast, or efficient as induction cooktops. They work by heating using electrical resistance to heat up a coil (just like your toaster) which means a lot of heat is wasted transferring the energy through the glass surface and the pot. Induction cooking works by using electromagnetism to heat a pot or pan directly - which means almost all of the heat makes it into your food.

However, if you have a working electric resistance cooktop and you are satisfied with it - keep it! There's no climate benefit to switching from an electric cooktop to an induction cooktop - the benefit comes from switching a gas powered stove to an electric one that can be powered by clean renewable energy.

Learn more from Forbes Home - Induction Vs Electric Cooktop: What’s The Difference?