Anti-clean technology forces, emboldened by Trump’s electoral college win, are eager to kill federal support for electric vehicles and solar power. Critical to the effort is a smear campaign directed at Tesla CEO Elon Musk, especially now that the company has merged with SolarCity. As EcoWatch uncovered:
Elon Musk is being targeted by the conservative political action committee, Citizens for the Republic. The group’s so-called Sunlight Project is behind an incendiary lobbying campaign and website called, “Stop Elon Musk from Failing Again,” with a mission of divesting the Tesla/SpaceX/SolarCity boss from federal clean energy subsidies.
The group cites a misleading Los Angeles Times article stating that Tesla is set to receive $4.9 billion in government subsidies. As Musk described, the figure is derived from “adding up everything that’s ever happened and including things that will take the next 20 years” and doesn’t compare with subsidies for fossil fuels.
It’s not clear who’s funding the effort, but right-wing ideologues are definitely spearheading it:
The Drive‘s Liane Yvkoff also reported that Citizens for the Republic’s board members Craig Shirley and Diane Banister are partners of the right-wing public relations firm Shirley and Banister Public Affairs, that has represented the National Rifle Association, commentator Ann Coulter and the Tea Party Patriots. Posts on “Stop Elon Musk From Failing” are authored by someone called “stopelon,” the same user name on Alt Left Watch, which also happens to be managed by the PR company.
But is it too late to stop the momentum for clean technologies like EVs? As the Detroit Free Press reports, EV sales in places like California have been accelerating due to state policies, while global investment in EVs continues:
These are global companies, and China and Europe are moving forward with their incentives for non-gas-burning vehicles. Whatever the Trump administration does, the rest of the world won’t abandon the Paris Agreement to reduce the global growth of carbon emissions.
“The industry has made a massive investment in electric vehicles,” [Dan Sperling, founding director of the University of California Davis Institute for Transportation Studies] said. “While some would prefer to slow it down, most companies are going to continue along that path.”
And Bloomberg as well notes the global investment in alternatives to gas-powered vehicles:
Gasoline has been the world’s choice to power automobiles. From the 1950s onward, when Henry Ford’s dream that every middle-class American could own a car became reality, gas stations sprung up next to drive-through restaurants and strip malls and transformed the landscape of America and economies across the globe.
Now, however, car companies — most obviously Tesla, but also incumbents such as General Motors Co., BMW AG and Nissan Motor Co. — are putting their money, and reputations, behind electric vehicles. With technology improving — especially for batteries — prices are falling. Tax breaks, particularly in China, are helping sales.
Meanwhile, as Salon writes, other automakers are following Tesla’s playbook of investing in batteries as building energy storage and not just vehicle transport.
So it may be too late to stop the momentum behind battery price declines and improved options for EVs. But this smear campaign is an attempt to turn Musk into the bogeyman of clean tech and rally the right to ditch the federal tax credits. Advocates should counter by debunking the claims and trumpeting the domestic economic and job benefits of these technologies.