I Don't Think Live TV is My Milieu

I started blogging because I was always frustrated in live arguments that I would remember the killer comment 5 minutes too late, so it is no surprise that I find live TV frustrating.  Here is how I had hoped the interview would go this morning on Fox.  In actual execution, I decided not to play the "2nd law of thermodynamics" card on the morning show just after the in-studio visit by a bunch of bijon frise's.

I'm confused, why are we we even talking about miles per gallon in an electric car?
  • We measure how well traditional cars use fossil fuels with the miles they drive per gallon of gas, or mpg
  • Of course, we can't measure efficiency the same way in an electric car since they don't use gas directly, though the electricity we use to charge them is mostly produced from fossil fuels.
  • So the EPA came up with a methodology to show an equivalent MPG for electric cars so their fossil fuel use (way back in the power plant) could be compared to traditional cars
And you think there is a problem with those numbers?
  • It turns out the EPA uses a flawed methodology that overstates the electric car equivalent MPG, in part because they assume the potential energy in fossil fuels can be converted to electricity in the power plant with perfect efficiency, which doesn't happen in real life and actually violate the second law of thermodynamics
How should they have done it?
  • During the Clinton administration, the Department of Energy came up with a better methodology which uses real world power plant efficiencies and fuel mixes to determine how much fuel went into charging an electric car.
  • Using this methodology, the Fisker Karma, even in all-electric mode, gets about 19 mpg equivilent, not 52.  This means that it uses about the same amount of fossil fuels to drive a mile as does a Ford Explorer SUV -- the only difference is that the fossil fuel use is better hidden.
Via my mom, here is the video.


  1. caseyboy:

    Don't be too hard on yourself. A very complex issue for a program like that one.

  2. mre:


    Actually, I think you made all the right points given the setting and topic. Well done.

  3. Craig:

    Saw the interview, thought you effectively made your points within the short duration of the segment.

  4. RandomReal[]:

    Bill Kauffman at a Cato Book Forum on his "Ain't My America" remarked at the beginning of the Q&A that when he would interview politicians they all seemed to have a tape recorder in their heads. Ask a question and a prerecorded answer would come out. He went on to remark that when he became an interviewee, "Hey, I gotta get one of those tape recorders."

    By the way, his talk at that forum is one of the best, most enjoyable rants ever.


    I agree with caseboy, TV is a very difficult environment , especially with complex subjects. Being on the same program with well-seasoned guests is extremely difficult for an outsider. Instead of a tape recorder, perhaps the better analogy is a specialized IBM Watson with biased search parameters.

  5. tomw:

    I think I would be happy to have gotten off the program without being labeled as a stupid ass. The producers can make anyone appear to be most anything with the proper 'edits. A snip hear and a tuck there can be embarassing to say the least.
    The real bothersome thing is the indifference to the truth exhibited by the Federal stooges in charge. As long as the story advances their pet project, they don't care about accuracy, facts nor figures. A casual observer should come to that conclusion given the profligate spending on obvious boondoggles and pet projects that not only do not accomplish anything of value, but obfuscate facts with flotsam and jetsam. They do a dis-service.

  6. NormD:

    I think you did great.

  7. allan smith:

    Well done Warren!!!!

  8. TVH:

    Well done, young man. "Second Law of Thermodynamics"--I thought you'd get a mention in for Prof. Irv Glassman, at least!

  9. Smock Puppet, Piloting The Economic Seas Betwixt Scilla and Charybdis:

    You did fine. You should work on your tendency to wobble your head, but that's the worst thing I saw, so that beats the heck out of most people on TV who aren't pros.

  10. Bill Beyer:

    I'd say you did a great job, given the forum. Using the second law of thermodynamics may have been a stretch for some people, but it was clear enough to understand. And you're not going to convince people who can't grasp physics with logic anyway, I fear.

  11. joshv:

    A star is born. You did perfectly. You didn't philibuster, you didn't get too technical. You got it there, made your point, and got out. I can see them asking your back.

  12. bobby b:

    You came off as someone who doesn't routinely appear on television - i.e., you didn't artificially quell your head movements, you sounded like you were trying to talk too fast, and your voice modulation (keeping the same consistent tone throughout) was spotty.

    All of which made you seem much more like a "real guy" who was brought in for his knowledge instead of a groomed-for-TV talking head brought in because of his smooth delivery.

    You made your point very clearly and convincingly, free of any aura of "partisan smug." If you projected an aura, it was of a competent and enthusiastic young engineer non-patronizingly educating viewers about a basic point that, to your surprise, most people don't seem to understand.

    So, your point was valid, you managed to get the not-so-simple idea across clearly, and the mannerisms that most people would see watching themselves afterwards and regret did nothing but bolster your credibility.

    All in all, it was a very, very good job.

  13. Dan:

    I thought you did really well -- a hell of a lot better than I would have, that's for sure. And I agree with Bobb B -- you came off as credible, convincing, and non-smug. Well done!

  14. Paul:

    I couldn't be in a place to see you live, but watched the clip above. I thought you did very well, and made good points.

  15. Rick Bruno:

    I just watched the video, and I thought you did GREAT! I can tell from your academic and business success that you are a tough taskmaster on yourself, but I think you need to lighten up on Warren a little bit. You were actually very good!

  16. John Marvin:

    Well done, Warren! Good to see your skydeck chipshotting experience paying off decades later!