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Media Complaints About EVs Are Intentionally Misleading

Behind the scenes, focused lobbying is doing all it can to tamper with the future of EVs — in what amounts to threats to “the guardrails of democracy.”

They argue that greenhouse emissions created during the EV manufacturing process are too detrimental to the environment to be viable transportation choices. They describe how automakers can’t figure out how to alleviate fires that break out unexpectedly in EVs. They claim that the public doesn’t like the styling of EVs. Media complaints about EVs are intentionally misleading and driven by a slew of individuals and industries that have made fortunes selling internal combustion engines (ICEs) and their ancillary products.

From fossil fuel extraction to auto manufacturers to service companies, legacy industries are experiencing a pervasive sense of anxiety as the EV takeover of transportation looms and threatens market shares. Existential questions are keeping the Who’s Who of these once mighty powerhouses awake at night, fearful that their way of life is fleeting.

Still, the fossil fuel sycophants hold on tenaciously. Their most efficacious course of action is to dispute the value and place of EVs in everyday life through targeted mass media campaigns. Get the Average Jamie to wonder if EVs are safe, reliable, or even patriotic to own, and the surge toward sustainable transportation can be slowed. The stockpiles of gas holdings can continue to be depleted, legacy automakers won’t have to incur significant retooling manufacturing costs, and auto local dealers and service providers can delay retraining in technology sectors.

Worried they should be.

Following the Dark Money

Today’s media used to be referred to as “journalism,” and journalism was regarded as the Fourth Estate. It was a way to provide checks and balances to the branches of western governments. It was an important force and depicted as an integral component of democracy itself, setting itself apart from the forces that dictate daily life, informing citizens, and setting up a response network between power brokers and voters.

Today, however, the press transmits messages across multimodal media to transcultural audiences. People can access basic information on their smartphones, so the purpose of journalism in an internet-age is to make transparent the nuances of issues and opinions that are masked among persuasive messaging. Brand identification and association in 2021 has become key to media, which must now be digitally-resilient, infuse identity systems, provide personalization at scale, and offer an infrastructure that creates relevant, authentic experiences to audiences.

Jane Mayer, the author of Dark Money, was a recent contributor to the New Yorker. The exposé chronicled the most recent attempts to infuse FUD** into the 2020 election. Although Donald Trump was foisted from office, efforts continue to discount the authenticity of that election.

Mayer’s investigation reveals significant and insidious election manipulation that was intended to maintain Trump’s hold on office. We can draw eerie parallels between those persuasive techniques to question the US democratic process and pervasive media negative messaging about EVs.

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), has tracked the flow of dark money in US politics. He described to Mayer how a “flotilla of front groups” is tampering with the guardrails of democracy. One of the movement’s leaders is the Heritage Foundation, the prominent conservative think tank in Washington, DC.

Just this week, the Heritage Foundation published a scathing critique of EVs. The narrative, which described the Biden plan to shift to a zero emissions transportation sector as “ill-conceived,” argued:

  • EVs and other alternative fuel vehicles have generally been the “lifestyle choice of well-off Americans and urbanites.”
  • EVs receive “generous federal and state subsidies.”
  • The vast majority of tax credits for buying an EV have “gone to corporations and to Americans in top income brackets.”
  • With additional EVs on the road will come “high electricity demand” that produces “high stress on grid infrastructure.”
  • New fuel economy standards that much harder to build and sell a traditional gasoline-fueled vehicle “serve to box out the competition for electric vehicles.”
  • A “caballing between the state of California, big business, and the EPA” to arrive at fuel efficiency numbers “does not bode well for either customers or representative democracy.”
  • US movement toward sustainable transportation is part of a US “temptation” to climate policy that is “myopic” and which doesn’t “consider domestic policy in the global context of climate change.”
  • Citing Biden climate envoy John Kerry and others, “industrialized nations could eliminate all greenhouse gases, and it would have no impact on global temperatures by the end of the century.”
  • “The federal government should not be the locus of supply and demand for cars. That kind of centralized control isn’t good for customers—who, as we noted, have diverse needs, priorities, and preferences—and it narrows the scope of innovation to government-preferred ends.”

For readers who don’t follow EV news on media outlets like CleanTechnica, those Heritage Foundation statements can be pretty persuasive.

Debunking the Myths of EV Issues

Research had unequivocally concluded that EVs produce fewer emissions overall than ICE vehicles — even if electrical generation still involves some fossil fuels. “If we are going to take a look at the current situation, in some countries, electric vehicles are better even with the current grid,” Sergey Paltsev, a senior research scientist at the MIT Energy Initiative, told CNBC.

Right now, the exception to that rule is Poland, where a majority of electric generation continues to be drawn from coal. Average lifetime emissions from EVs are nearly 70% lower than ICE cars in countries like Sweden and France (where most electricity comes from renewables and nuclear) and around 30% lower in the UK. The ICCT study, “A Global Comparison of the Life-Cycle Greenhouse Gas Emissions of Combustion Engine and Electric Passenger Cars,” points out that decarbonization policies will be most impactful if they reflect passenger cars transitioning to all EVs for new sales by the early 2030s. They add it is necessary in order to achieve deep decarbonization of the transport sector by 2050. Indeed, the report states:

“The bottom line is that a sector that is almost exclusively dependent on a single energy source, petroleum, operating on infrastructure that represents trillions of dollars of investment over many decades, must change substantially in little more than a generation.”

Sure, it’s clear that the outlook for electric cars will become steadily more favorable as nations shift to clean electricity. As the decade continues, more decarbonization in power generation and the industrial sector will produce many more benefits for EVs. Decarbonization will change the way that the auto industry does business, and it will force many legacy companies to reinvent themselves — or fail.

Final Thoughts About Media Complaints About EVs

It’s dispiriting to realize that people who, in their hearts, know about the benefits of EVs are pushing FUD.** It’s the tobacco cabal all over again.

Media outlets and their writers know that, at this moment in time, EVs are greener. We all agree that their full green potential is still many years away. But the immediate message must be that now — today — EVs are much more green than their ICE counterparts. Fuel economy standards are necessary to stabilize transportation emissions.

Some media voices are calling out for more US investments in EVs, noting that we are losing ground to China with all the hand-wringing. CleanTechnica, of course, leads the way.

Want to learn more? Read “The Big Money behind the Big Lie,” by Jane Mayer in the New Yorker

** Fear, Uncertainty, & Doubt

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Written By

Carolyn Fortuna (they, them), Ph.D., is a writer, researcher, and educator with a lifelong dedication to ecojustice. Carolyn has won awards from the Anti-Defamation League, The International Literacy Association, and The Leavy Foundation. Carolyn is a small-time investor in Tesla. Please follow Carolyn on Twitter and Facebook.


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