Electric Cars Under Attack Ahead Of 2016 Presidential Campaigns


Though Barack Obama’s presidency still has almost two full years left to work through, the political machines of both the right and left are already gearing up for the 2016 campaign season. There will be plenty of social and fiscal issues to discuss during the 2016 Presidential campaign, and government support for electric cars are bound to come up. In fact, it already has in two separate articles attacking EVs, and this is just the beginning.

First came a Wall St. Journal Op-Ed that essentially called on Elon Musk to stop accepting government subsidies to support his nascent automaker. The second article in USA Today was written by disgraced “scientist” Bjørn Lomborg, who makes the outrageous accusation that EVs actually cause twice as many deaths as conventional, gasoline vehicles. He says it’s time to stop our “worship” of green cars, because they’re doing more harm than good.

Both articles are fairly easy to debunk in a couple of sentences. In response to the Wall St. Journal, I would say that it would be poor business practices not to take advantage of available government assistance, especially when all of Tesla’s competitors make use of the same subsidies. Tesla was provided $465 million by the U.S. government under the Advanced Technology Vehicle loan program, while Ford walked away with $5.9 billion to upgrade various factories. I’ll add a third sentence to note that the $7,500 Federal tax rebate that is available to all other automakers (set up by the Bush administration and well before Model S sales began) is rarely a deciding factor in Tesla purchases, and that this rebate has to be claimed by the buyer, not Tesla. And done.

Lomborg’s hit piece is even easier to debunk, because his credentials and previous works have already been widely rejected by the scientific community, and his ties to the Koch Brothers further make his arguments against electric vehicles highly suspect. Most importantly though, his pollution comparisons rely on the notion that all EVs are powered by coal plants. Yet nations like Norway and Germany can already generate most of their energy needs from renewable sources (albeit only temporarily in Germany’s case) and the world’s largest car market, China, has made air quality and green energy a cornerstone national policy. Just because electric cars aren’t green “enough” yet is no reason not to pursue them, because as the grid gets greener, so do EVs.

But the point of this piece isn’t to debunk to garbage articles, but rather to bring to your attention that the lies about EVs are going to start coming hot and heavy, and soon. The political machine of the right-wing in American politics is already gearing up to make an attack on electric cars, from both fiscal and environmental angles. Their information is dubious at best, and disingenuous at worst, leveling unfair accusations in an attempt to convince people unfamiliar with the technology that plug-in cars are a bad deal all the way around.

Nothing could be further from the truth though, and it’s going to be up to us to counter such blithering nonsense. Not only are electric cars cheaper to “fill up” compared to conventional vehicles, even with gasoline at $2 a gallon (and that won’t last, I promise you), they’re also cheaper to insure and have dramatically lower maintenance costs. When you compare lifetime operating costs of an EV to a conventional car, the advantages become plain even to the most ardent doubters. The market is at the point where a $30,000, 200-mile EV like the Chevy Bolt is totally doable, hindering arguments of range anxiety and high costs.

If someone starts blathering on about coal power, remind them that in 2013 just 39% of America’s power came from coal plants, while renewable sources account for about 14%. In the past four years alone 29 of these plants have converted to much cleaner natural gas, and in 2014 a record number of solar power installations went online around the country. While still a fossil fuel, burning natural gas releases just half as much CO2 (though its worth noting that methane leaks during production could reduce the environmental benefits), and though I’m no fan of fracking for natural gas, it’s the lesser of two evils compared with dangerous and oft-deadly underground coal mining.

Though the 2016 Presidential campaign season hasn’t officially kicked off, I expect to see an increasing number of EV hit pieces trying to convince the public they’re getting sold a false bill of goods. But don’t be fooled, and don’t let your friends be fooled either. Arm yourself with knowledge, and be ready to defend yourself from ignorance. This is a literal ideological war being fought in America, and electric vehicles are just one of many battles being fought.

Don’t let the liars win.

Christopher DeMorro

A writer and gearhead who loves all things automotive, from hybrids to HEMIs, can be found wrenching or writing- or else, he's running, because he's one of those crazy people who gets enjoyment from running insane distances.