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Politics

We Fact Checked Everything Trump Has Said About Climate Change Since 2021

Not all of it is wrong!

Donald Trump.
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

If there was ever any question that Donald Trump would be the 2024 Republican nominee, there isn’t anymore. Since he vacated the White House in 2021, the former president has silenced numerous rivals within his party — most recently ending Nikki Haley’s campaign in a Super Tuesday near-sweep — as well as legal challenges to his ability to run for federal office, leaving him the last Republican candidate standing. And if current general election polls are any indication, Trump isn’t slowing down as he turns his attention to unseating President Joe Biden.

The Trump vs. Biden rematch will serve in part as a referendum on the latter’s climate agenda — namely, the Inflation Reduction Act, the landmark climate legislation enacted in 2022. In the years since the IRA’s passage, Republicans have become savvier in their attacks on climate change, honing their rhetoric and misinformation about EVs, the energy transition, and climate science more broadly. The Heritage Foundation even published an extensive playbook for how, exactly, Trump should dismantle most of the progress on the green transition.

The stakes are consequential, to say the least: One recent estimate by CarbonBrief found that a Trump reelection would add an extra 4 billion tons of carbon dioxide equivalent by 2030 compared to a Biden reelection. That is enough to “negate – twice over – all of the savings from deploying wind, solar, and other clean technologies around the world over the past five years,” the report said.

With the climate agenda on the line, Heatmap is keeping a running list of Trump’s climate-related statements on the campaign trail. We’ve looked at his rallies, TV appearances, and social media comments, and compiled a list of his most frequent and glaringly inaccurate claims since he vacated the White House in January 2021.

If you’re looking for just the new stuff — on whether saltwater destroys offshore wind turbines (which, shockingly, engineers have thought of) — you can find that here.

While some of his musings (okay, fine, a lot of them) might be laughably absurd, others might be something you’ve wondered about yourself. To help you better separate fact from fiction, we’ve added context and explanation to each quote, along with a bottom-line determination of the remark’s facticity.

Lastly, this list is a work in progress and will be regularly updated and added to in the coming months, so if you’re ever in doubt, know that you can find the answer somewhere in here. For ease of navigation, we’ve broken things down into sections:

Climate & Weather | International Cooperation | Wind | Solar | Electric Vehicles | Energy | Efficiency, etc.

A polar bear.Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

Climate & Weather

“It’s not certainly great for your clime. Your clime. They call it ‘climate.’” [Jan. 20, 2024]

Fact check: Trump’s mumbling about “clime” at a New Hampshire rally resulted in speculation about his mental well-being — as well as a late-night bit by Stephen Colbert. While it’s unclear exactly what Trump was going on about, we can get a few things straight:

  • “Clime” is usually used as a geographic term to refer to a particular region’s climate. As in, “We left New York for the warmer climes of Florida.” The Oxford Learner’s Dictionary says its use is usually “literary or humorous.”

  • “Climate” refers to weather patterns in a given area, taken as a whole. “When scientists talk about climate, they’re often looking at averages of precipitation, temperature, humidity, sunshine, wind, and other measures of weather that occur over a long period in a particular place,” NOAA explains. (A 30-year window is pretty typical when speaking about a place’s climate.)

And just for good measure, “weather” differs from “climate” or “clime” in that it refers to short-term meteorological events in a specific place. So while the weather on a given day, week, or month can be unseasonably cold, the overall climate can still be warming.

“You know they don’t call it global warming so much now, they call it climate change because it wasn’t working … Global warming wasn’t working when it was cooling. So now they call it climate change, that takes care of everything.” [Dec. 5, 2023]

Fact check: The term “climate change” was initially popularized by Republicans. In a 2002 memo, Republican pollster Frank Luntz urged President George W. Bush to drop the phrase “global warming” in favor of “climate change” since the former sounds more “frightening” and “has catastrophic communications attached to it,” while “climate change sounds a more controllable and less emotional challenge.”

That said, scientists generally prefer the term “climate change” for pretty much exactly the reason Trump highlighted here — because it encompasses phenomena caused by the increase in CO2 in our atmosphere that don’t manifest as warming, like ocean acidification. For the record: Global warming doesn’t mean that the weather will never get cold, just that it will get less cold on average, over time. In fact, research shows that the cold parts of the globe are warming much, much faster than the rest.

“You can’t miss with climate change. Anything can happen because of climate change. ‘It’s raining like hell!’ Climate change!” [July 13, 2022]
“Most of the country has plenty of water. Rain from heaven. It comes right from heaven. Beautiful rain, you don't know what to do.” [Aug. 17, 2023]

Fact check: That’s … true, actually. “When the atmosphere warms, that means it can hold more water,” Matthew Rodell, the deputy director of Earth sciences for hydrosphere, biosphere, and geophysics at NASA, who has made an extensive study of extreme drought and deluges, told me. That means there will be both more droughts and more rainfall, even though the two phenomena might appear at a glance to contradict each other.

“On the drought side of things, when the air is warmer, more water can evaporate — can be pulled out of the land and out of the plants, into the air, and then transported away,” Rodell explained. “So you have, basically, more water being net removed from an area.” But water in the air has to return to Earth, eventually, in the form of more — and often extreme — rainfall.

Shouldn’t those two extremes effectively balance each other out? As Rodell put it to me, “Floods and droughts are both catastrophes.” During a drought, crops die and wells go dry. And while extreme rainfall might refill an aquifer, “if it’s at the point of being extreme and there’s a flood, that’s not good, either.” Think about Libya, where extended heavy rains in the summer of 2023 broke through dams and inundated towns, killing 4,300 people, displacing an estimated 44,800 more, and causing over $60 million in damage.

One last thing to mention here: While our ability to determine the precise contribution of climate change to individual extreme weather events is improving rapidly, that is, in some ways, beside the point. Rodell explained that “in terms of the frequency, and looking at all these events together and how they’ve changed over time, we’re seeing that they’re increasing in number and severity in correlation with global warming. That doesn’t mean you can say any particular event is 100% by global warming, but, I mean — statistically, it’s extremely unlikely that this is just a coincidence.”

“In my opinion, you have a thing called weather ...” [March 21, 2022]

Fact check: True!

“... It goes up, and it goes down.” [March 21, 2022]

Fact check: While it’s true that the climate has always changed, it hasn’t always changed like this. The rapid rise in both atmospheric carbon dioxide and observed average surface temperature since the Industrial Revolution can only be credited to humans, and specifically to the burning of fossil fuels, which release CO2, a heat-trapping gas. There is now near-universal scientific consensus that the warming we’re witnessing has been caused by human activity.

“The most popular climate myths are the ones that are simple and easy to say,” as John Cook, a senior research fellow at Melbourne University’s School of Psychological Sciences who’s made a specialty of combatting climate disinformation, told me. “It’s the single-cause fallacy, thinking that only one thing can cause natural causes. But you can have other things like human activity that also drive climate change,” Cook added.

Start digging into this kind of logic and it quickly falls apart. For example, Trump’s argument is that the climate has changed naturally in the past; therefore, it must be changing naturally now, as well. But, Cook told me, the same logic could also be used to argue, People have died of cancer in the past; therefore, cigarettes don’t cause cancer now.

“The oceans are gonna rise 1/100th of an inch within the next 300 years. It’s gonna kill everybody. It’s going to create more oceanfront property, that’s what it’s going to do.” [March 12, 2022]
“They said the other day, I heard somebody, that the oceans are going to rise 1/8th of an inch over the next 300 years. We have bigger problems than that. We’ll have a little more beachfront property; that’s not the worst thing in the world.” [July 9, 2022]

Fact check: For starters, Trump’s numbers are orders of magnitude off the mark. The oceans are on track to rise 3.5 feet to 7 feet along America’s coastlines by 2100 — well ahead of Trump’s schedule — according to an independent assessment conducted by federal scientific agencies. Even if global carbon emissions had peaked in 2020 (which we know they did not) and declined relatively rapidly thereafter, the oceans would still probably rise more than 3 feet worldwide by 2300 compared to their 2000 levels, researchers have found, because so much heat is already trapped in the climate system.

According to the latest scientific report from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, “sea level rise greater than 15 meters,” or 49 feet, by the year 2300 “cannot be ruled out” in a high-emissions scenario.

While unlikely, 49 feet of sea-level rise would be catastrophic. Large swaths of lower Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens would be completely submerged, with waves lapping at the walls of Yankee Stadium and Citi Field. The southern half of Florida would vanish (bye-bye, Mar-a-Lago!). Countries like the Netherlands and Bangladesh would, literally, disappear from the map.

As for that supposedly new oceanfront property Trump is so excited about, scientists expect some 650,000 beachfront properties to flood due to sea level rise in the United States by 2050 — not to mention that globally, some 230 million peoplelive within 3 feet of current high-tide lines.

The United Nations.Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

International Cooperation

“I will also immediately stop crooked Joe Biden’s latest ripoff of the American people, his plan to give — listen to this — global climate reparations to foreign nations. He’s going to give billions of dollars, because he’s saying that we have a dirty climate.” [Dec. 16, 2023]

Fact check: The U.S. will not “under any circumstances” pay climate reparations to developing nations, climate envoy John Kerry vowed in front of Congress last year. The situation is, however — and unsurprisingly — more complicated than that.

At COP28 last year, the U.S. pledged $17.5 million to the U.N.’s “loss and damage” fund, which is intended to help developing countries recover from future climate disasters. While some outlets — including this publication — have characterized this fund as “reparations,” the fund has more in common with other international pledges directed at helping developing countries than calls for climate reparations that hold historic polluters morally and financially responsible.

“We have China that doesn’t partake; we have India that doesn’t partake; and we have Russia that doesn’t partake. None of them partake in cleaning the climate. They laugh at us, how stupid we are. We clean the climate and then their air flows to us from Asia.” [March 3, 2022]

Fact check: China, India, and Russia are all Paris Agreement signatories. But even if they truly didn’t “partake” at all in international climate mitigation efforts, that hardly means the U.S. shouldn’t try to be cleaner.

But let’s take Trump at face value here. When asked to assess if the Paris Agreement gives an unfair advantage to nations like China and India, law professor Daniel Bodansky at the Arizona State University College of Law pointed out to USA Today that “the United States is the second biggest emitter of greenhouse gases in the world and has higher per capita emissions than either China or India. It is misleading to point the finger at China and India and label them as the real polluters.”

What about the bad air flowing to us “from Asia,” then? This isn’t total nonsense. For one thing, we do all share the same atmosphere; that’s kind of the whole point of the global movement to stop climate change. But more concretely, yes, researchers have found that pollutants from China can make their way to the Western U.S.

Here’s where it gets awkward: “An estimated 36% of manmade sulfur dioxide, 27% of nitrogen oxide, 22% of carbon monoxide, and 17% of black carbon over China are the result of manufacturing goods for export. About a fifth of each of these was associated with products exported to the U.S. in particular,” Scientific American writes. In other words, a lot of that “bad air” flowing to us from Asia that Trump is complaining about is from manufacturing products for Americans.

Wind turbines.Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

Wind

Pointing out the window to the Atlantic Ocean at one point, one attendee said, the former president claimed that offshore wind turbines break down when they are exposed to saltwater … [April 17, 2024]

Fact check: Let’s just get this out of the way: offshore wind turbines are designed to withstand saltwater exposure. People have been building things in saltwater for a long, long time. From the oldest known ships constructed 6,000 years ago out of papyrus reeds to Norway’s Troll A platform — a reinforced concrete offshore natural gas platform and the tallest structure ever moved by humankind — we’ve learned a few things about resisting salt corrosion.

This scene occurred during a fundraising dinner with oil and gas executives at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort reported on by The Washington Post, which also pointed out this obvious fact. That said, to the former president’s credit, “the ocean is indeed a difficult environment” for construction and engineering, Eric Hines, a civil and environmental engineering professor and the director of the offshore wind energy graduate program at Tufts University, told me. But the lifespan of offshore structures can range from a few years to more than a century.

According to Hines, most offshore wind farms today are built to have “approximately 25-year service lives,” but the design is always evolving. His department, for example, is working on developing advanced underwater foundations that are built to last more than a century and double as artificial reefs.

“Their windmills are causing whales to die in numbers never seen before. Nobody does anything about that. They’re washing up on shore. I saw it this weekend: Three of them came up! You wouldn’t see it once a year; now they’re coming up on a weekly basis. The windmills are driving them crazy. They’re driving the whales, I think, a little batty.” [Sept. 25, 2023]

Fact check: If you ever want to feel ridiculous, try asking a scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration if windmills are making whales “a little batty.”

NOAA actively studies how “sound, vessel, and other human activities” impact marine life, Lauren Gaches, the director of NOAA Fisheries Public Affairs, told me over email. “At this point, there is no scientific evidence that noise resulting from offshore wind site characterization surveys could potentially cause mortality of whales,” she said.

An ongoing “unusual mortality event” for humpback whales has resulted in 200 whale deaths between 2016 and June 2023 along the Atlantic coast from Maine to Florida — that much is true. But “there are no known links between recent large whale mortalities and ongoing offshore wind surveys,” Gaches told me. NOAA’s fact page on whales and offshore wind explains that of “roughly 90 whales examined, about 40% had evidence of human interaction, either ship strike or entanglement.”

There has been some chatter about underwater surveying work disrupting whales, which may be true in the case of oil and gas surveys, which use seismic air guns to penetrate deep into the ocean floor. The surveying equipment used for offshore wind is, by contrast, used in 15-second bursts and limited to a specific area, “so the likelihood of an animal encountering and coming right into that sound beam is quite low,” Erica Staaterman, the deputy director for the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s Center for Marine Acoustics, said on a NOAA-hosted call with the press early last year.

As Ben Laws, the deputy chief of NOAA’s Permits and Conservation Division in the Office of Protected Resources, said on the same call, “There is no information that would support any suggestion that any of the equipment that’s being used in support of wind development for these site characterization surveys could directly lead to the death of a whale.”

“If you go out hunting and you happen to shoot a bald eagle, they put you in jail, like, for five years, right? They kill thousands of them with these windmills; nothing happens.” [Jan. 28, 2023]
“If you want to see a bird cemetery, go under a windmill sometime. You’ll see birds like you never saw. If you love birds, you’ll start to weep.” [Dec. 16, 2023]

Fact check: Trump has had a vendetta against wind turbines since long before he ever ran for president. “Wind farms are killing many thousands of birds,” reads one illustrative tweet from 2012. “They make hunters look like nice people!”

Lewis Grove is the director of wind and energy policy at the American Bird Conservancy, and he told me that while it’s “not necessarily as simple as Mr. Trump painted it out to be, wind turbines absolutely kill birds.”

But the context here is extremely important. Jason Ryan, a spokesperson for the American Clean Power Association, a leading renewable energy trade group, pointed me to research from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service that shows wind farms “represent just 0.03% of all human-related bird deaths in the U.S.” Grove likewise told me that, for the most part, bird deaths due to wind turbines do “not have population-level impacts.”

There are exceptions, such as an infamous wind farm in California’s Altamont Pass built in 1981 that “just happened to be in a place that was really heavily used by golden eagles,” Grove told me. Because golden eagle populations were already very low, having 100 or so killed a year by turbines was “unsustainable.” Even in a case like this, though, it behooves one to look at the whole picture: “They found it was a few individual turbines that were causing the damage,” Grove said. These days, around 60 golden eagles a year are killed in Alameda County, the Alameda Post reports, and the operating company must pay steep penalties for eagle deaths.

What’s more, “climate change is one of the greatest threats birds face, with two-thirds of North American species at risk of extinction due to our warming planet,” Jon Belak, senior manager of science and data analysis at The National Audubon Society, told me in a statement. “We need to build more wind and solar facilities to help slow the rise in global temperatures and protect birds and their habitats from a changing climate.”

Wind farms may not have population-level impacts on birds, but fracking does — “the onset of shale oil and gas production reduces subsequent bird population counts by 15%,” even after accounting for factors like weather and other land-use changes, according to one just-published, peer-reviewed study.

“Remember the windmills? ‘Darling, darling, I want to watch the president, I love him so much. I want to watch him on television tonight.’ ‘I’m sorry, but the wind isn’t blowing, you’ll have to wait ‘til another time.’ Windmills.” [March 26, 2022]

Fact check: “I mean, it’s possible with any mix of generation that if supply and demand aren’t equal, your TV will go out. That’s just physics,” Kyri Baker, an assistant professor of engineering at the University of Colorado, told me when I asked her if Trump’s scenario had any merit. In other words, a power outage could happen whether your electricity is coming from coal or natural gas or anything else. The difference, she said, is that “wind is by nature variable, intermittent. But it’s also not reliant on fuel like natural gas or coal plants or even nuclear plants are.”

What happens on days when there is no wind? “Grids are extremely regulated,” Baker explained to me. “There’s so many layers of redundancy that aim specifically to not have [an outage] happen.” A grid is made up of diverse electricity sources (for my visual learners, Canary imagines what a net-zero grid could look like here), as well as measures like offline backup generators, which can kick in if need be, so service isn’t disrupted.

Battery storage is another huge part of this equation. While they’re still fairly cutting-edge as climate technology goes, high-capacity batteries that can manage grid-scale energy needs are getting better and more plentiful.

“Stop with all of the windmills all over the place that are ruining the atmosphere.” [Jan. 20, 2022]

Fact check: Wind turbines do not damage the literal atmosphere.

But maybe Trump meant atmosphere as in “sense of place”? Most Americans don’t seem to think windmills are “ruining” anything. In a recent Heatmap poll, nearly eight in 10 Americans said they want the government to make it easier to build new wind farms. The Washington Postsimilarly found last year that about 70% of Americans said they wouldn’t mind living near a wind farm.

As my colleague Robinson Meyer has written, “American laws today give even a small, well-resourced minority plenty of tools to block a project” like a wind farm, and “what’s more, once that small group starts campaigning against a project, the public’s broad but shallow support for, say, a general technology can crater. That’s what happened recently in New Jersey, where a once broadly pro-wind public has turned against four proposed offshore wind farms.”

“It’s a very expensive form — probably the most expensive form of energy.” [Jan. 20, 2022]

Fact check: Wind in general is not the most expensive form of energy, but offshore wind is very expensive — for now.

Of the energy sources we’re currently used to, nuclear is usually cited as having the highest levelized cost of electricity — that is, it has the highest average cost per unit of electricity generated after construction, maintenance, and operation have been taken into account. Peaker plants — gas-powered plants that run just during times of peak demand — usually come in second.

Offshore wind is costly, with the levelized cost of electricity from a subsidized U.S. offshore wind project increasing “to $114.20 per megawatt-hour in 2023, up almost 50% from 2021 levels in nominal terms,” BloombergNEF reports. Many of the factors making offshore wind so expensive — including permitting delays, high interest rates, and supply chain issues — will abate with time. Meanwhile, onshore wind is one of the cheapest forms of electricity available and has boasted a “lower LCOE than gas plants since 2015,” Sustainable Energy in America reports.

Solar panels.Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

Solar

“I like the concept of solar, but it’s not powerful like what we need to fire up our factories.” [Dec. 16, 2023]

Fact check: “That question is actually a little bit tricky,” Baker, the assistant professor of engineering at the University of Colorado, told me, when I asked him whether solar alone could power a factory — but it’s also not really what we should be asking. “One thing I’ve noticed people do a lot is they’ll just compare efficiency of power generation,” Baker explained. But “it’s not just about the efficiency — it’s about other things, too, like solar’s ability to be distributed. You can’t put a nuclear fission power plant in your house — you know, not yet — but you can put solar panels, so that’s a huge benefit. It offers some resiliency that other sources just can’t offer.”

It’s true that solar power is less efficient than other sources of energy, including wind, and that it requires a lot of surface area, which could be an undue burden for a manufacturer. But at the same time, “I don’t know if anybody is proposing to power an entire factory based off of solar,” Baker said.

EVs.Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

Electric Vehicles

“To China, if you’re listening — President Xi, you and I are friends, but he understands the way I deal. Those big monster car manufacturing plants that you are building in Mexico right now, and you think you are going to get that, not hire Americans, and you’re going to sell the car to us — no. We are going to put a 100% tariff on every single car that comes across the lot.” [March 16, 2024]

Fact check:There actually are no operating Chinese-owned EV factories in Mexico,” Ilaria Mazzocco, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and an expert on Chinese climate policy, told me. “So this is very preemptive at this point.”

But it is also, probably, only a matter of time: BYD, which last year passed Tesla as the world’s No. 1 EV maker, is reportedly scouting plant locations in Mexico, and could confirm plans as soon as the second half of 2024. That has made U.S. automakers justifiably nervous. As Robinson Meyer previously wrote for Heatmap, “BYD recently advertised an $11,000 plug-in hybrid targeted at the Chinese market … Even doubling its price with tariffs would keep it firmly among [the United States’] most affordable new vehicles.”

In Mazzocco’s opinion, this isn’t wholly a bad thing — “there’s a point of value to competition that we shouldn’t forget” — and the threat of cheap Chinese EVs has already driven American automakers like Ford to pivot their electric lineups.

But “EVs have encapsulated everybody’s fears of competition with China,” Mazzocco said. The rude awakening has been that they are “actually better at something than the Americans are.” As a result, Biden and Trump are jostling to look tougher on Beijing ahead of the election, especially since big auto manufacturing states like Michigan and Ohio could potentially decide control of the White House. Biden has already ordered the Commerce Department to investigate the potential national security threat of Chinese-made EVs, which currently make up only about 2% of EV imports; Polestar became the first Chinese-owned EV company to make moves in the U.S. last year, but it’s hardly thriving. Meanwhile, Trump has warned that “it’s gonna be a bloodbath for the country” if he isn’t elected.

“If we build all the charging booths that are necessary, our country would go bankrupt. It would cost like $3 trillion. It’s the craziest thing I’ve ever heard.” [Feb. 17, 2024]

Fact check: $3 trillion is a huge number, and it is also very inaccurate in this case. While there are valid concerns about the Biden administration’s high-speed electric vehicle push, Trump almost certainly got his “$3 trillion” price tag from the total cost of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which aims to address significantly more than just the country’s EV-charging infrastructure.

In fact, the BIL earmarks a comparatively small $7.5 billion for the development of 500,000 public charging stations, although even this is a “generational-level investment,” Noah Barnes, the communications director of the Electrification Coalition, told me. With just a fraction of $3 trillion, the U.S. will be able to jumpstart the “national network of EV chargers that will be necessary to power the next generation of vehicles and end our dependence on oil from countries that don’t share our values.”

But what would it cost to build and operate all the charging booths necessary to meet the current federal target of zero-emission cars making up half of new vehicle sales by 2030? A 2022 report from McKinsey & Company estimated that the U.S. will need “1.2 million public EV chargers and 28 million private EV chargers” by 2030 to meet Biden’s zero-emission sales goals. Those public chargers would cost about $38 billion, including the hardware, planning, and installation. Wrap in the cost to residences, workplaces, and depots, and the total cost of public and private charging installation approaches $97 billion. In a separate analysis, AlixPartners, a consulting firm, found that it would take $50 billion to build the charging infrastructure to meet the 2030 zero-emission vehicle goal in the U.S., and $300 billion worldwide.

Needless to say, though, there are a thousand billions in a trillion, so whatever way you cut it, it certainly would not cost the U.S. $3 trillion to build enough charging stations to accommodate zero-emission vehicles.

“I will also rescue the ethanol industry by canceling crooked Joe Biden’s insane ethanol-killing electric vehicle mandate on day one.” [Dec. 20, 2023]

Fact check: It’s not wrong to say that Biden has tried to reduce the role of liquid fuel in vehicles. Trump has gunned for Iowa voters by claiming Biden’s goal (albeit not a binding mandate) of ramping up EV sales will kill the local ethanol industry. But Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack — Iowa’s former governor — has stressed that just because the administration is pushing for more EVs, “Does that mean we won’t have a need for E15 or E85” — gasoline blends that contain up to 15% and 85% ethanol content, respectively — “in the future? No.”

For example, new rules defining what qualifies as a “sustainable aviation fuel” — and thus for generous tax credits under the IRA — include ethanol and other plant-based fuels, despite opposition from environmental groups. “The Biden administration plans to invest $4.3 billion to support production of 35 billion gallons of sustainable aviation fuel annually by 2050,” presenting a significant opportunity for Iowa’s farmers, The Des Moines Register writes. As Vilsack added, “You have to think beyond cars and trucks.”

“They want to have electric trucks, so a truck — a big, beautiful truck like Peterbilt or one of them, with the big ones, 18 wheelers, they can go about 2,000 miles, they say, 2,000 on a big tank of diesel. An electric truck, comparable — which it can’t be comparable because you need so much room for the battery. Most of the area that you’re going to carry your goods, going to be battery. But assuming we take away that problem, which is not easy to take away, you’d have to stop approximately seven times to go 2,000 miles, right? You go about 300 miles, and they don’t want to change that.” [Dec. 20, 2023]

Fact check: There’s a lot to unpack here, but the gist is that most of these are the kind of early-stage problems you would find with any emerging technology. While the technology powering heavy-duty electric trucks is promising, there is still a long way to go when it comes to range and capacity.

Still, even a semi that goes only around 375 miles — longer than Trump’s estimate — on a single charge would ultimately be cheaper than a diesel truck, one 2021 study found. Because of the lower cost of ownership, electric semis have a net savings of $200,000 over a 15-year lifespan.

Battery size, and in particular battery weight, will be a major hurdle for long haul electric semis; shipping rates are often determined based on weight, among other factors, and since freight companies already operate on narrow margins, carrying less freight weight is a problem. But the technology is constantly improving. Plus, it’s pretty silly to claim electric truck developers “don’t want to change” their range per charge; electric truck manufacturers are constantly boasting about their new mileage numbers.

“This electric car thing is just crazy. If you want to drive, maybe, let’s say you are here. If you say, ‘Let’s take a drive to beautiful, safe Chicago. It’s so safe. Let’s drive there.’ How many times would you have to stop, about nine? It’s just crazy. They know it. They know it’s crazy.” [Dec. 20, 2023]

Fact check: The distance from Waterloo, Iowa — where Trump made these comments — to “beautiful, safe Chicago” is 269 miles. While the EVs with the worst range would have to charge one single time on a trip of that distance, in 2022, the average EV range was nearly 300 miles. Most cars would make it on a single charge.

“And now we are a nation that wants to make our revered and very powerful army tanks, the best in the world, all-electric, so that despite the fact they are also not able to go far, fewer pollutants will be released into the air as we blast our way through enemy territory, at least in an environmentally friendly way. And they also want to make our jet fighters with a green stamp of energy savings through losing 15% efficiency.” [Dec. 17, 2023]

Fact check: Trump has repeatedly slammed the Biden administration for supposedly wanting to switch to “all-electric” tanks. This is mostly false, though it has its roots in the Army’s first-ever climate strategy, released early last year. In it, the Army stated that it aims to electrify all noncombat vehicles by 2035 and some tactical vehicles by 2050.

The reason the Army wants to go electric isn’t because of some woke environmentalist agenda, though. “The primary reason the Army wants to electrify its fighting vehicles is to reduce wartime casualties,” Bloomberg writes. “An all-electric fleet would mean personnel wouldn’t have to go on dangerous refueling missions that draw combat forces away from fighting the enemy … [and] electric vehicles are also much quieter and harder to spot on enemy surveillance systems because they generate so little heat.”

Trump has also slammed the Air Force for its climate action plan, although the roots of his claim that Biden wants to make jet fighters green by “losing 15% efficiency” are much less clear. He may be referring to the Air Force’s exploration of alternative fuels — which again, it is doing primarily for strategic reasons, since the Air Force reports 30% of the casualties in Afghanistan came from attacks on fuel and water convoys. “We’re not doing the climate plan for climate’s sake … Everything is about increasing our combat capability,” Edwin Oshiba, assistant secretary of the Air Force for energy, installations, and the environment, told the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association.

“The problem is you won’t find a charger. And if you do, it’s got lines.” [Dec. 16, 2023]

Fact check: Many EV drivers are dissatisfied with the state of charging infrastructure in the U.S., and lines are an issue. While more charging stations will continue to open up as EVs become more popular — the IRA allotted $7.5 billion to build out 500,000 public chargers by 2030, with another $623 million in EV charging grants awarded last week — this seems, at the moment, to be a fair criticism.

“We are a nation whose leaders are demanding all-electric cars despite the fact that they can’t go far, cost too much, and whose batteries are produced in China with materials only available in China when an unlimited amount of gasoline is available inexpensively in the United States but is not available in China.” [Dec. 17, 2023]

Fact check: China indeed dominates the EV battery market. The Inflation Reduction Act — which Trump has promised to gut — has tried to change this by restricting EV tax credits only to models with batteries and components sourced from the U.S. or its trading partners. The law also includes funding to help seed a domestic EV battery and mineral supply chain.

And it’s working. As my colleague Neel Dhanesha wrote last year, “Battery manufacturers around the country — many of them automakers themselves — have announced over 1,000 gigawatt hours of U.S. battery production that’s slated to come online by 2028, far outpacing projected demand,” according to estimates from the Environmental Defense Fund. All told, domestic battery production has been the greatest beneficiary of the IRA, reports RMI, a clean energy research group.

“Let’s say your [electric] boat goes down and I’m sitting on top of this big powerful battery and the boat’s going down. Do I get electrocuted?” [Oct. 1, 2023]

Fact check: Battery packs on electric boats are designed to be watertight because, believe it or not, it’s crossed the mind of electric boat manufacturers that their products could potentially end up underwater. All the electric boat makers I spoke to in my lengthy investigation into this question told me the battery packs they use have a waterproofing standard that is either at, or just below, what is required for a submarine. The high-voltage batteries are also kept in “puncture-resistant shells” so they won't be exposed to the water even if the boat somehow got mangled in an accident.

All this is a very long way of saying: No, you very likely won’t be electrocuted if your electric boat sinks. But you may get eaten by a shark!

“Hundreds of thousands of American jobs, your jobs, will be gone forever. By most estimates, under Biden’s electric vehicle mandate, 40% of all U.S. auto jobs will disappear.” [Sept. 27, 2023]

Fact check: As Heatmap has reported, there is little evidence to suggest that making electric vehicles will result in fewer jobs. “A number of analyses showed that electric vehicles could actually require more labor to build than gas-powered cars in the U.S., at least for the foreseeable future,” Emily Pontecorvo writes.

“The happiest moment for somebody in an electric car is the first 10 minutes. In other words, you get it charged, and now for 10 minutes. The unhappiest part is the next hour because you’re petrified that you’re not going to be finding another charger.” [August 24, 2023]

Fact check: We don’t know what every single EV driver thinks, but EV drivers as a group tend to be pretty satisfied; plug-in hybrids were level with internal combustion vehicles in J.D. Power’s annual survey of performance, execution, and layout-based consumer satisfaction, with fully battery-powered EVs just a few points behind on a 1,000-point scale. Some 90% of EV drivers say they hope to buy another EV as their next car, a 2022 Plug-In America survey found.

And while range anxiety is real, studies show that it declines the longer someone owns an EV and gets comfortable with charging. Only 8% of EV drivers told Escalent they’ve ever run out of juice while driving.

It’ll take more than an hour for you to start getting anxious, too. The average EV sold in the U.S. last year had a range of 291 miles, or a little over four hours of driving at 70mph.

An oil refinery.Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

Energy

“We’re refining the oil. We have our refinery for that oil. It’s really, I call it tar. It’s not oil. It’s terrible. We have real stuff, but we’re refining it in Houston. So for all of the environmentalists, you ought to look at that because all of that tar is going right up into the atmosphere. You just ought to take a look. It’s the only plant that can do it. We have the only plants that can take tar and make it into oil.” [March 6, 2024]

Fact check: Just because Trump decides to call something “tar” doesn’t mean it actually is tar. What he seems to be talking about here are the Canadian oil sands, sometimes called tar sands, which contain bitumen. The heavy, dirty, and diluted crude oil is transported via rail and pipeline from Canada to Texas, which is where most (but contrary to Trump’s claim, not all) of the world’s specialized heavy oil refineries are located.

Extracting, transporting, and refining bitumen is a pollution-heavy process. “All of that tar” doesn’t literally go “right up into the atmosphere,” but the refining process does emit benzene, carbon monoxide, and sulfur dioxide, which are known to increase instances of cancer, asthma, and other health conditions in the people who live or work nearby.

“Just yesterday, Biden blocked the export of American natural gas to other countries … Now, why he stopped it, I guess it was the environmentalists. I guess. But it’s good for the environment, not bad. And it’s good for our country. I will approve the export terminals on my very first day back.” [Jan. 27, 2024]

Fact check: This is wrong in a number of ways. Let’s take it from the top: First, Biden did not block the export of liquified natural gas to other countries; he temporarily paused the approval of new licenses to export LNG, including 17 that had been in the, er, pipeline. The United States is already the top exporter of LNG in the world, with output expected to double by the end of the decade from projects that are already licensed and under construction. The LNG licensing pause “will not impact our ability to continue supplying LNG to our allies in the near-term,” the Biden administration has said; current exports have been more than enough to meet Europe’s needs so far, even accounting for the war in Ukraine.

The permitting process will resume once the Department of Energy has updated its criteria for determining whether new LNG export terminals are in the “public interest” once their climate impacts are considered.

Now, about those climate impacts: It’s true that natural gas burns “cleaner” than coal, producing about 40% less carbon dioxide (and about 30% less than oil). But natural gas is also largely composed of methane, “a climate-altering super pollutant,” Jeremy Symons, an environmental and political analyst and strategist, told Heatmap.

While methane breaks down more quickly in the atmosphere than CO2, it also traps more heat — about 80 times more heat over the course of 20 years. The process of liquifying natural gas not only requires additional energy, it also introduces new opportunities for methane to leak, adding to the fuel’s climate impacts. Once all those leaks have been quantified, argues Cornell University researcher Robert Howarth, LNG is not only not beneficial to the environment, it’s actually worse than other fossil fuels. Howarth’s paper has not yet been peer-reviewed, and some have questioned his conclusions in the past. But there’s no question that building new LNG facilities will lock the U.S. into producing planet-warming fuel for years to come.

LNG certainly isn’t “good for the environment” of the people who live near fracking sites and export terminals, either, where health issues are rampant. In addition to methane, LNG plants release volatile organic compounds, which have been linked to higher instances of cancer, asthma, and birth defects.

“You have the highest energy costs in the entire country. In the first year, they’re going to be reduced by 50% because we’re going to drill, baby, drill.” [Jan. 23, 2024]

Fact check: Trump made these remarks after winning the New Hampshire primary — and they’re wrong. For one thing, while energy is expensive in the Granite State, New Hampshire’s Department of Energy says its energy costs are the fifth-highest in the lower 48.

There’s an even bigger fallacy in Trump’s statement, though: that drilling can quickly lower energy prices. For one thing, oil from new leases doesn’t hit the market for at least four years, according to the Government Accountability Office. (Offshore drilling takes even longer since building the rigs alone can take two to three years.) As NPR explains, there are also operational limits; drilling new wells is “not as simple as turning a spigot and watching oil gush out.”

Much to the dismay of environmentalists, the Biden administration has also been keeping pace with Trump’s historic drilling. In fact, as of 2024, the U.S. is producing more domestic crude than at any point during Trump’s presidency.

But even with all this new domestic crude, the U.S. is still susceptible to fluctuations in the global price of oil. That’s partially because the U.S. imports a different kind of oil than it exports — what those in the trade call light, sweet crude, compared to the gunkier, heavy crude most U.S. refineries are set up for. Reconfiguring refineries to handle the light crude oil “could underserve some product markets and idle (or even strand) the hundreds of billions of dollars invested in refinery conversion capacity,” the American Petroleum Institute warns. Plus, it would also take even more time.

All that means that the U.S. is stuck relying on importing and exporting oil even if domestic production ramps up even more than it already has. And that, in turn, means we’re at the mercy of fluctuations in global energy costs, which remain out of the White House’s singular control.

One more thing to note: “The oil industry can decide to produce more oil whenever it wants,” the Center for American Progress, a liberal public policy think tank, explains, noting that the oil industry is sitting on “more than 9,000 approved — but unused — drilling permits on federal lands.” This is the base of the criticism that the oil industry is raking in “unprecedented profits” and burdening Americans with an artificially high cost of energy.

“Energy caused inflation, and energy has destroyed many families. Energy is considered very strongly. Energy is considered a country killer.” [Dec. 17, 2023]

Fact check: Economists mostly agree that “energy caused” the spike in inflation that we’ve seen since 2020, so in that sense, Trump is correct. But in making this argument, he inadvertently endorses the case for clean energy — since renewables aren’t subject to the same kinds of supply volatility as fossil fuels, they are therefore considered intrinsically deflationary.

“We are a nation that is begging Venezuela and others for oil. ‘Please, please, please help us,’ Joe Biden says, and yet we have more liquid gold under our feet than any other country anywhere in the world. We are a nation that just recently heard that Saudi Arabia and Russia will be reducing their oil production while at the same time substantially increasing the price. And we met that threat by announcing that we will no longer be drilling for oil in large areas in Alaska or elsewhere, anywhere in our states. We are a nation that is consumed by the radical left’s Green New Deal, yet everyone knows that the Green New Deal is fake. It is really the green new scam.” [Dec. 17, 2023]

Fact check: First, the United States is the top oil-producing country globally, followed by Russia and Saudi Arabia. It is true that the U.S. eased oil sanctions on Venezuela late last year, though that reprieve was explicitly temporary and contingent on the country holding free and fair elections.

Trump also appears to be referencing the Biden administration’s recent decision to cancel oil and gas leases in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and block 13 million acres in the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska from new drilling. While that does qualify as a large area in Alaska, the moves notably do not stop ConocoPhillips’ controversial Willow drilling project from going forward.

Trump further seems to be alluding to Biden’s campaign promise to not approve any new drilling (“ ...anywhere in our states!”), but that hasn’t exactly gone to plan; although Biden issued a pause on new oil and gas leases on federal lands one week after taking office, the administration then lifted that pause a little over a year later in the face of numerous legal and political challenges. Over the summer, however, the Interior Department did raise the cost of drilling on federal lands.

A dishwasher.Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

Efficiency, etc.

“All I know about magnets is this: Give me a glass of water, let me drop it on the magnets, that’s the end of the magnets.” [Jan. 5, 2024]

Fact check: Trump made this comment while discussing electric catapults and magnetic elevators on aircraft carriers. While there have certainly been problems with the roll-out of these advanced systems on the ships, none involved water-damaged magnets. Magnets are waterproof, and therefore their performance does not suffer from water damage.

“They want to talk about your dishwashers and how much water you’re going to have in your dishwasher, even though they don’t work and all of the other things that you have that were so precious and dear and that you never really appreciated until now because they want to take them away.” [December 2, 2023]

Fact check: As someone who lives in a New York City apartment, I would absolutely describe my dishwasher as “precious and dear,” so that part is true. It is also true that, as I explained last year, rules proposed by the Biden administration call for new dishwashers imported and made in the U.S. to use 34% less water, or no more than 3.3 gallons, during their default cycles by 2027. But it is not true that those dishwashers don’t work.

Energy-efficient dishwashers can take a long time to clean your dishes; many cycles last more than two hours and some up to three. The reason for this is pretty straightforward: In order to achieve the same level of cleanliness as old, water- and energy-inefficient dishwashers, new water- and energy-efficient dishwashers need to swish around longer.

But the “default cycles” are the only dishwasher mode the government restricts; “short cycle” modes, which require more water and take less time, are still allowed on dishwashers sold in the U.S. and aren’t regulated by the new rules. That fast mode just can’t be the default. As Wirecutter writes, “crappy cleaning performance and long cycles aren’t an inevitable outcome of efficiency standards,” and “if your dishwasher is slow and sucks (and a better detergent doesn’t fix the problem), blame the company that built it.”

“Now their new thing is your heating systems in the house. They don’t want you to have a modern-day heating system. They want you to use a heating system that will cost you at least $10,000 to buy and won’t work very well.” [August 24, 2023]

Fact check: It’s really gas furnace systems that are, technically speaking, dated. Gas furnaces were considered state-of-the-art in the 1920s and 1930s, while heat pump technology — which works by transferring, rather than generating, heat from indoors to outdoors and vice versa — took off in the 1970s as a response to surging oil prices. Heat pumps can be up to five times more efficient than fossil-fuel furnaces, according to electrification advocacy group Rewiring America, which means that at least 70% of people could save money on their energy bills by switching from fossil fuel heaters, the group estimates.

The cost of a heat pump itself varies widely depending on size (how much house it has to heat), type (geothermal vs. air source), and efficiency, then when you add in factors like the cost to refit you existing HVAC system and the cost of labor, well, it adds up. While heat pumps aren’t cheap, they do at least serve as both a furnace and an air conditioner, two appliances for the price of one, an investment that can pay back over time, Rewiring America said.

“You want to wash your beautiful hair. And you stand under a shower and the suds never go — the water comes out very slowly. I’m sure you’ve seen this. It usually takes place in new hotels and new homes.” [August 24, 2023]

Fact check: This might have been true when Seinfeld was on the air, but it hasn’t been for quite a while. Modern low-flow shower heads are specifically designed to “push out water that feels like a higher pressure even with a lower flow rate,” U.S. News and World Report writes.

When Trump was on his way out of the White House, his administration reinterpreted a 2013 regulation about how much water can flow out of a showerhead. “Manufacturers [had not demanded] the rollback,” The Washington Post writes. “Instead, the call for more powerful showers came from Trump himself, who complained that the conservation standards led to low water pressure and a dissatisfying shower experience.” With four or five or more nozzles, as Trump had allowed, “you could have 10, 15 gallons per minute powering out of the showerhead, literally probably washing you out of the bathroom,” Andrew deLaski, the executive director of the energy conservation group Appliance Standards Awareness Project, told PBS.

Biden restored the old water flow regulations.

Red

Jeva Lange

Jeva is a founding staff writer at Heatmap. Her writing has also appeared in The Week, where she formerly served as executive editor and culture critic, as well as in The New York Daily News, Vice, and Gothamist, among others. Jeva lives in New York City. Read More

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