What Motivated North Carolina Rednecks To Block Tesla Superchargers?

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This week, Hickory, North Carolina, became the latest flashpoint between the old and the new. A trio of pickup- and SUV-driving local men decided to aggressively block access to the local Tesla Supercharger there. They threatened violence and had to be ordered off the property by an employee of the store the Supercharger location was located at. What would motivate this trio of men?

The world is changing. Some people aren’t cut out for change due to a combination of genetics, unfortunate choice of parents, and place of birth (hint: yeah, not their choice). And they are struggling to make sense of a world which doesn’t value them the way it valued their fathers.

And so, they act out, stupidly.

These man-boys are to be pitied. Except for the ones who radicalize and are to be feared. And there are a lot of them these days.

Let’s start with this question: Were they really rednecks?

According to Google dictionary, the definition of a redneck is:

“a working-class white person, especially a politically reactionary one from a rural area.”

Let’s crop the picture down a bit and have a look.

That first truck is not a late model pickup. The other two are a bit more recent, but doesn’t read as a collection of trust fund kids. Working class: check.

Let’s crop it a bit further.

Yup, those guys are white. Check.

What about the rural area part? Hickory is a town of 40,000 with a density of 1,300 per square mile, a bit over the 1,000 per square mile necessary to call it urban, but at 40,000, it’s definitely a town. It’s in an area of North Carolina dotted with smaller towns, so it’s the big town in the region. That’s rural enough. Check.

What about reactionary? Well, Hickory is home to the speedway considered the birthplace of NASCAR. And jacked-up pickup trucks are certainly making a statement.

But their behavior the other night certainly makes them reactionary regardless.

“(of a person or a set of views) opposing political or social liberalization or reform.”

Yup, opposing change for the better is what that nets out to. And these good old boys were definitely opposing change for the better. Their pickup trucks and SUVs were jacked up and undoubtedly modified to have worse gas mileage, not better.

And intentionally blocking EV slots in a town that covers 29 square miles — that’s pretty specific reacting.

So, why?

Well, while one of these good old boys might be a closet Democrat, I think it’s pretty safe to say that they are more likely to be alt-right.

So, we have far-right, male, white men. Gee, what does that likely make them?

Climate change deniers.

“strong evidence has emerged from multiple peer-reviewed and published studies that if you scratch a white, male, far-right nationalist, you’ll find a denier of climate science as well.”

That the less enlightened on the right consider electric cars to be more of a problem than a solution isn’t a surprise. Pew Research did a good study on this a while ago as part of its assessments of climate change attitudes.

Basically, conservatives are less likely to believe the science of climate change to begin with — although, a majority of US conservatives have come to grudgingly accept its reality if not the severity of the threat. But they also are much less likely to accept any of the solutions for global warming as well.

They don’t like fuel efficiency standards and they don’t like electric cars.


Well, the conservative mindset is fundamentally leery about change. They just don’t like it much, and so they try to avoid it more than the average person.

And these good old boys just take that to the next level of machismo-laden stupid with a personal protest against the inevitable, which they clearly have no interest in participating in.

But let’s spread the context net a bit.

What’s interesting is that Hickory is a data center hub, home to both Google and Apple data centers, and makes 40% of the world’s fiber optic cable. That has supplanted the town’s historical industry of making furniture. At one point, 60% of the USA’s furniture was made in and around Hickory. Now, the money has shifted.

That’s a legacy industry supplanted by a modern economy industry which requires a lot fewer workers with very different skills and education, and the change probably happened in the last 20–30 years.

These boys are probably the children of mothers and fathers who worked in furniture factories and grew up expecting to work in the factories themselves, able to afford their pickup trucks, NASCAR races, and the like. But now they can’t. Furniture factory jobs have dried up. The new jobs require educations that they and their parents probably had no clue about.

And then Tesla sets up a Supercharger in town, probably to service well off, modern-economy people driving from Atlanta to Washington (based on the placement). That’s gotta sting too. No more gas station jobs for them and their friends.

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Michael Barnard

is a climate futurist, strategist and author. He spends his time projecting scenarios for decarbonization 40-80 years into the future. He assists multi-billion dollar investment funds and firms, executives, Boards and startups to pick wisely today. He is founder and Chief Strategist of TFIE Strategy Inc and a member of the Advisory Board of electric aviation startup FLIMAX. He hosts the Redefining Energy - Tech podcast (https://shorturl.at/tuEF5) , a part of the award-winning Redefining Energy team.

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