Why Is PBS Spreading Anti-EV FUD?

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I’ve seen a disturbing trend recently in public broadcasting and in left-leaning media in general that I think we need to take a deeper look at. While it’s definitely true that we can’t only tackle climate change and other environmental issues with individual actions, I’ve seen some YouTube videos recently that take that argument a little too far. Worse, they’ve even started spreading anti-EV FUD!

Let’s start with this first example from the PBS Terra YouTube Channel:

The theme? “Stop saving the planet. Start saving the world.” Right away, the video mocks the idea of driving an electric car, and inserts some FUD about affordability (“… if you can afford it”), despite the well-established fact that not only is the total cost of operation for EVs lower than comparable ICE vehicles, but deals on used EVs are making it cheaper just on the window sticker!

The host then goes on to point out that one person’s contribution is such a small part of the big picture that it really doesn’t help. Everything from EVs to rooftop solar gets criticized here as “distracting.” We’re also told that “the vast majority” of people don’t have any option but to buy an ICE car or buy food from intensive feedlots. They even claim that EVs are dirty because the power grid uses fossil fuels! The idea that EVs aren’t much greener than gas cars because the grid isn’t yet 100% renewable has been debunked countless times.

The host points out that governments have done very little to address climate change, and that companies have been doing a lot of greenwashing. That’s true, and I’ll get to that in a minute, but the host presents a false choice where we have to stop doing things like buying EVs or solar panels when we should instead be focusing all of our energy on fixing things on the big scale.

Videos like this one, and this similar one, would be rightly condemned as FUD and fossil fuel propaganda if they were produced by Fox News or one of Elon Musk’s new buddies on Twitter. But, when PBS does it, people think it’s reputable. After all, PBS is left-leaning! They even have a minority host with a PhD to lecture us and blink uncontrollably the whole time! This is serious progressive business!

But, if we’re being honest, this is still FUD. So, we need to ask ourselves why they’re pushing this right now. Here are my theories:

Possible Reason #1: Letting The Perfect Be The Enemy Of The Good

Ideally, yes, we would clean up the whole power grid so that everyone’s emissions go down regardless of personal choices. We’d get more people to ride on a clean electric bus or train in cities. We’d also want to see better bike infrastructure, long-distance electric high-speed rail, and other things that make it easy for the whole of society to have lower emissions.

But, just because those would be good outcomes doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t act at all. The truth is that individual actions can and do affect these whole of society issues.

For one, where do these fossil fuel companies come up with lobbying money? It comes from selling their products. If enough people quit buying fossil fuels, the companies won’t be able to bribe politicians and plan games as easily. It requires a LOT of people to do it, but if nobody does it because we’re waiting for perfection, nothing happens and we don’t even move in the right direction.

The same is true for businesses that place large solar farms on the roofs of their facilities. If they buy less electricity from the grid, this lowers our reliance on fossil fuels and signals to the market that people want cleaner power.

Possible Reason #2: Helping The Biden Administration Save Face

Another thing that I think is going on right now is that we’ve recently seen the Biden administration back down on climate goals, especially for CAFE standards. So, the administration’s progressive friends need to come out of the woodworks to remind people that it’s actually OK to buy a plugin hybrid instead of an EV, even if that means spreading anti-EV FUD.

Instead of accepting anti-EV and anti-solar FUD, we should instead call this out for what it is, regardless of today’s political expediencies.

Reason #3: The Old Sickle & Hammer Rear Their Ugly Heads

Here’s the thing: there’s no reason we can’t do things at the individual level while simultaneously pushing for better things at the collective level. Buying an EV doesn’t mean you’re unable to vote for better politicians. It doesn’t mean you can’t donate to climate-friendly organizations. It doesn’t keep you from being part of collective action in any way whatsoever.

But, if your goal is to radically transform society and not clean up the environment, all of that individualism does get in the way. When individuals feel empowered and when we find ways to improve the situation working within the capitalistic semi-free market conditions that prevail today, it means those systems can stay in place while we reduce human suffering even more.

These kinds of people don’t want us to know that liberalism has improved not only the human condition, but the environmental situation in ways that thousands of years of feudalism and empire couldn’t. And radical collectivism? Yeah, let’s check in on North Korea and see how that’s going.

As much as I disagree with Elon Musk on some issues, it’s difficult to sit here and say that these ivory tower academics have done more than him to improve the global climate change situation. While they were living in an idealist collectivist echo chamber, individual actions were compounding and have been transforming one of the dirtiest global industries!

We don’t need to throw away the engine that created the modern world and embrace authoritarian collectivism to tackle climate change. What we need to do is take every action we can take to create change. At the individual level, we do small things that add up to change as more people do them. At the collective level, we can still work together to combat corruption, corporate lobbying, and fossil fuel subsidies.

Instead of arguing over whether individualism or collectivism is the answer, we should instead adopt an “all of the above” approach, where we fight climate change on all levels instead of putting such an important issue on the back burner until we can create a socialist utopia first.

Featured image: a screenshot from the embedded YouTube video above (fair use, commentary).

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Jennifer Sensiba

Jennifer Sensiba is a long time efficient vehicle enthusiast, writer, and photographer. She grew up around a transmission shop, and has been experimenting with vehicle efficiency since she was 16 and drove a Pontiac Fiero. She likes to get off the beaten path in her "Bolt EAV" and any other EVs she can get behind the wheel or handlebars of with her wife and kids. You can find her on Twitter here, Facebook here, and YouTube here.

Jennifer Sensiba has 1989 posts and counting. See all posts by Jennifer Sensiba