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02 August 2017

Pro-Fossil Fuel Group Again Misleads Public on Electric Cars

Did you know that electric cars are nothing but toys for the rich representing a “massive wealth transfer from poor to rich” people?

This anti-Robin Hood scenario, tattled on with partial funding provided by billionaire oil merchants the Koch brothers, is the latest from Fueling U.S. Forward.

The non-profit organization formed last year was established to, well, reinforce the establishment and the legacy energy source – fossil fuels – while sounding the alarm over electric cars it says are intended to deceive.

Or so goes the general tenor of a minute-and-a-half clip pasted together with a script aimed, it has been reported, primarily at lower socioeconomic groups, as well as anyone who will listen to the seeming whistleblowers’ tune.


Posted July 25 to Youtube, it might appear the diatribe is getting little traction with but 650 views, but the FUSF Facebook page where the same video is posted indicates it has struck a deeper nerve.

There, since July 24, it’s had 546,000 views, and garnered 433 comments, 1,800 “likes” or “angry” or “Haha” emoticons along with 1,073 shares.

“While many families are scraping by just to pay their taxes and bills, America’s wealthiest are cashing in on subsidies for their new favorite toy,” says the FUSF facebook post.

Fuel Thrown on a Cultural Fire

FUSF says its intent is to tout the virtues of fossil fuels which made this society great, and expose the purported fiasco of electric transportation.

In doing so, it plays into partisan lines of surface-level thinking with crafted talking points intended to arouse anger over electric cars that cost more than conventional counterparts.

Just some of the over 400 comments. Others take an opposite stance. Comments indicate many people disagree, or do not know what to believe.

It implicitly invokes old animosities between liberals and conservatives; Republicans and Democrats; Trump supporters and Obama/Hillary supporters. While these names are not mentioned in this particular video, other FUSF info shows where the source’s mentality allies, and it plays on bitterness already in place as it positions EVs against the rancor of Amercia’s cultural divide with predictable results.

Facts?

The video seems to focus on Tesla buyers as a generic model of electric car buyers and cites stats that date back to 2012, from which the latest data on EV buyer demographics is available.

As do other such propagandistic scripts, it creates a stereotype easy to hate and burn in effigy, but weak on substantive facts, or balance in reporting.

As one EV advocate who asked to remain anonymous observed, in citing a Berkeley paper showing where plug-in tax credits went, the FUSF video’s assertion is misleading that “90% of electric car subsidies go to wealthier households…that make well over six figures.”

“The first thing you notice is that no credits (can be) given to the bottom two groups,” said the EV advocate of The Distributional Effects of U.S. Clean Energy Tax Credits, “because it’s a non-refundable credit!”

That is, said the EV advocate, a taxpayer must owe tax and be in at least the third group to even be eligible. Further, points out the advocate, the largest share of plug-in credit actually went to a middle income group that starts at $75,000.

“That’s hardly ‘well over six figures,’ said the advocate. “A lie with statistics and omitting important criteria.”

Also omitted by the FUSF is the data is five-years old, and there are a slew of EVs priced below the $70,000 and up Tesla Model S.

Aside from the Model 3 just now coming out, there are the Nissan Leafs, Chevy Bolts, Kia Soul EVs, and VW e-Golfs, of the world, right down to the Mitsubishi i-MiEV which starts in the low 20s before incentives which can knock it down to less than $12,000 net in some markets. These and others priced below $40,000 before federal and state incentives are available and can net to around what a Toyota Prius sells for.

Societal Class Strife

Not letting such facts stand in its way, the FUSF script meanwhile plays into long-heard talking points of a socioeconomic divide where America’s middle class is eroding, and its people are increasingly either those who “have” or have not” – upper class, or lower class.

Note the federal tax credit is not a payout from the tax base at anyone’s expense. Instead it lets taxpayers take a one-time credit out of their own taxes owed. Again: It does not take monies from the tax fund, but lets them keep their own money that might have gone in. None of this discusses other direct and indirect subsidies to the petroleum economy, which studies have shown far outweigh dollars devoted to jumpstarting EVs toward a sustainable growth industry. The U.S. did start ahead in this tech industry, but now follows Europe and China. The rest of the global economy is otherwise on board with electrification of transportation, so it remains a game to win or lose in for the U.S.

Whether such an accusation should implicate EVs is open to discussion. It is true the federal tax credit is a credit, and not a rebate, so it does discriminate in that sense from lower income earners.

Former President Obama did try without success to address this inequity in making it a point-of-sale rebate, but that notion could never fly politically.

The rationale otherwise is EVs, like hybrids before them, must be subsidized to jumpstart an industry.

Policymakers who first pushed for the tax credit did so assuming the status quo, including the fuel merchant Koch brothers and their ilk, and automakers resisting change, would not otherwise voluntarily switch away from their steady income stream.

To be sure, there is a lot of money on the line. But, say advocates, though the FUSF portrays care for low earners, it promotes the interests of those wishing to keep money in their own deep pockets, while attempting to rouse them against what stands to increasingly benefit them.

EVs are proven net cleaner, and do make for cleaner air regardless what anyone’s politicized views may be on climate change/global warming.

It’s been pointed out by numerous studies that lower socioeconomic groups living in highly trafficked regions breath air that’s now not so good for them or their children.

In time also, say EV proponents and policymakers that back them, EVs more affordable will come along, and this is already the case, as the situation continues to improve.

Estimates are by mid-next decade cost parity with gas-powered cars is due to happen, and while some perceptive inequities did occur in the early days, the tax credit has been a necessary compromise to push it through.

Or so goes thinking along those lines, and now with that can of worms opened, we’ll note numerous other points may be made, but the FUSF piece appears to be a case of cherrypicking by the pot calling the kettle black, to mix metaphors.

And, don’t be surprised to see more in this era of cultural strife, and “facts” that amount to throwing what one can on the wall to see what sticks.

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