Quantcast
Popular

Koch Brothers Launch Attack to Kill Electric Cars

By Ben Jervey

Fueling U.S. Forward, the Koch-funded campaign to "rebrand" fossil fuels as "positive" and "sustainable," has released a new video attacking the Dirty Secrets of Electric Cars, signaling a possible strategic pivot from straightforward fossil fuel cheerleading to electric vehicle (EV) and clean energy bashing.


The video and accompanying Dirty Secrets of Electric Cars web page feature blatant factual errors, misleading statements and glaring omissions (all of which will be debunked thoroughly below), while essentially attacking electric cars for using the same materials needed to manufacture cell phones, laptops, defense equipment and gas-powered cars, and which are even a critical component of the very oil refining processes that form the foundation of the Koch fortunes.

When Fueling U.S. Forward launched last August, the organization's president Charles Drevna described the campaign as an effort to rebrand fossil fuels by focusing on the "positive" aspects of coal, oil and gas. This newly released video seems to further confirm investigative journalist Peter Stone's reporting from last spring that the Kochs were "plotting a multimillion dollar assault on electric vehicles."

How do we know that Fueling U.S. Forward is this Koch-funded campaign? First, Charles Drevna, who is leading the effort, developed the concept while serving as a distinguished senior fellow at the Institute for Energy Research, a pro-fossil fuel think tank that was partially founded by Charles Koch and that is run by a longtime lobbyist for Koch Industries. Second, and more concretely, Drevna told DeSmog's Sharon Kelly that he was working with Koch Industries' board member (and longtime Koch brothers' confidant) James Mahoney on the campaign and that it was funded by "one of the brothers."

Echoes of America Rising Squared

Fueling U.S. Forward and America Rising Squared (or AR2) have no public affiliation. Yet within a few weeks in June, both groups launched attacks on electric vehicles using the same misleading arguments and nearly identical language. While the former group is a known Koch-funded campaign to promote fossil fuels, the latter has close ties to the GOP establishment, and has invested heavily in promoting alleged hypocrisy among climate action advocates, even paying "trackers" to follow around the likes of Tom Steyer and Bill McKibben.

In June, as DeSmog reported, AR2 published a white paper that purports to reveal the "human and environmental costs of 'clean energy,'" taking electric vehicles and solar panels to task for their reliance on rare Earth metals. As we wrote at the time:

Here's what the white paper doesn't mention: many of the very same rare Earth minerals that the AR2 report bashes are critical components of cell phones, computers, cameras, military and defense equipment, and even traditional gas-powered vehicles. What's more, the petroleum refining process is critically dependent on some of the same rare Earths that AR2 lambasts in this white paper.

The new video from Fueling U.S. Forward echoes the AR2 talking points, almost to the word. (For a closer analysis of the AR2 report, see the original DeSmog article).

Debunking the New Fueling U.S. Forward Electric Car Attack Video

The Fueling U.S. Forward video (which is still unlisted on Youtube, but available to be shared and viewed by anyone with the link) is short enough that we can walk through it line by line.

"This is an electric car/ Car companies say it's a clean alternative/ But electric cars are more toxic to humans than average cars."

This depends on an exceedingly narrow definition of "toxic." If you only consider the materials that go into the batteries of electric cars versus the batteries of "average" cars, then this is maybe defensible. But if you consider the materials that go into the entire vehicle, as well as the fuel used to power the vehicle, than EVs are far cleaner and less toxic.

First, there's the fact that gas-powered vehicles require some of the same "toxic" rare Earth metals that the video criticizes. (More on that below). Then there's the even bigger issue that tailpipe emissions—including ozone, particulate matter and other smog-forming chemicals—are the dominant source of ground level air pollution, and nearly one half of all Americans live in areas that don't meet federal minimum air quality standards. In fact, emissions from road transportation cause roughly 53,000 premature deaths every year in the U.S., according to MIT researchers.

"Their batteries are made of rare Earth metals/ Like cobalt, lithium…"

First, a fact check: cobalt and lithium aren't rare Earth metals. This isn't to say they aren't problematic—cobalt mining in particular is plagued by some very serious environmental and labor problems, as documented in in-depth reports by Amnesty International and the Washington Post. But these problems are economy-wide. Cobalt is used widely in the lithium-ion batteries that power most cell phones and laptops. (See the subheadline of the very Washington Post article that the FUSF video cites: Tracing the path from deadly hand-dug mines in Congo to consumers' phones and laptops). There's no question that lithium-ion battery manufacturers have to clean up their supply chains, but that's something that Apple and Panasonic and Samsung are as responsible for as Tesla and Ford and General Motors.

"…and cerium"

Actually, cerium is used in nickel metal hydride batteries that are common in hybrid motors, but isn't used in the lithium-ion batteries that have been utilized in plug-in vehicles in nearly a decade.

But cerium oxides are also found on every catalytic converter fitted into an internal combustion vehicle. That's right—every gas-powered car relies on this rare earth metal that Fueling U.S. Forward criticizes.

"That are extracted mostly overseas/ From countries like China/ And Congo/ Where pollution is rampant/ And children are forced into oppressive labor."

Again, electric vehicle manufacturers must do their part to clean up the mining of these metals. But so do the cell phone and laptop makers, companies that supply communications and combat equipment to the Department of Defense, satellite communications system operators, medical device manufacturers, and so on.

"These metals are scarce/ Their extraction is dangerous/ And many of the batteries end up in landfills"

This last point is simply untrue. First of all, very few electric vehicle batteries have even run through their usable lives. Once they do, companies are already lining up to start recycling them, either for use on the electric grid or to be disassembled and the materials reused.

"This makes electric cars toxic/ For both people and the planet."

Some of the components of electric car batteries have localized health and environmental impacts. But compared to the alternative—internal combustion vehicles spewing carbon and other air pollution—electric cars truly are much cleaner from cradle to grave.

Correction: An earlier version of this article stated that "cerium is used in the batteries of electric vehicles," whereas it is actually used in nickel metal hydride batteries common in hybrid motors, no longer in plug-in vehicles. We appreciate those who reached out to note the error.

Reposted with permission from our media associate DeSmogBlog.

Show Comments ()

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Sponsored
Popular
Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Director Nick Lyon, seen here speaking to the press about the Flint water crisis in 2016, will be the highest ranking official to stand trial over the public health disaster. Brett Carlsen / Getty Images

Judge Orders Michigan Health Director to Face Trial Over Flint Water Crisis Deaths

Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Director Nick Lyon will be the highest ranking official to go to trial so far as a result of an investigation into the Flint water crisis, The Associated Press reported Monday.

Judge David Goggins ruled Monday there was probable cause for Lyon to stand trial for involuntary manslaughter in the deaths of Robert Skidmore and John Snyder that prosecutors say were due to a Legionnaires' disease outbreak that Lyon was aware of a year before he alerted Michigan's governor, Michigan Live reported. Lyons is also charged with misconduct in office.

Keep reading... Show less
Politics
Coal-fired power plant near Becker, Minnesota. Tony Webster / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

Trump's 'Dirty Power Plan' Could Cost More Than 1,000 Lives a Year

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) unveiled on Tuesday its long-anticipated replacement of the Obama-era Clean Power Plan. The new coal pollution rules will increase planet-warming carbon pollution and could cost more than a thousand American lives each year, according to the EPA's own estimates.

EPA Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler released the "Affordable Clean Energy Rule" today under President Trump's directive. The new plan encourages efficiency improvements at existing coal plants to ensure they operate longer and allows states to weaken, or even eliminate, coal emissions standards. That's a clear difference from former President Obama's plan, which was aimed at phasing out coal and transitioning to cleaner power sources to avoid dangerous climate change.

Keep reading... Show less
Health
Two workers in protective gear scrape asbestos tile and mastic from a facility at Naval Base Point Loma in California. NAVFAC / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Why Asbestos Is Still a Major Public Health Threat in the U.S.

Reports surfaced this month that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had proposed a significant new use rule (SNUR) for asbestos in June, requiring anyone who wanted to start or resume importing or manufacturing the carcinogenic mineral to first receive EPA approval.

Keep reading... Show less
Animals
Rklfoto / Getty Images

Bipartisan Group of Lawmakers Wants to End EPA’s Cruel Animal Testing

By Justin Goodman and Nathan Herschler

A bipartisan group of lawmakers in Congress recently pressed the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on its "questionable" and "dubious" animal tests. The lawmakers' demand for information on "horrific and inhumane" animal testing at the EPA comes on the heels of a recent Johns Hopkins University study that found that high-tech computer models are more effective than animal tests.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Climate
Wikimedia Commons

Strongest, Oldest Arctic Sea Ice Breaks Up for First Time on Record

The Arctic is warming at a rate twice as fast as the rest of the globe, and now the region's thickest and oldest sea ice—also known as "the last ice area"—is breaking up for the first time on record, the Guardian reported Tuesday.

The breakage has opened up waters north of Greenland that are normally frozen-solid even in the peak of summer.

Keep reading... Show less
Energy
Climate Justice Edmonton

These Giant Portraits Will Stand in the Path of Trans Mountain Pipeline

By Andrea Germanos

To put forth a "hopeful vision for the future" that includes bold climate action, a new installation project is to be erected along the controversial Trans Mountain pipeline expansion route to harnesses art's ability to be a force for social change and highlight the fossil fuel project's increased threats to indigenous rights and a safe climate.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Popular
A worker inspects recycled plastic in a plastics factory. Getty Images

The Plastic Waste Crisis Is an Opportunity to Get Serious About Recycling

By Kate O'Neill

A global plastic waste crisis is building, with major implications for health and the environment. Under its so-called "National Sword" policy, China has sharply reduced imports of foreign scrap materials. As a result, piles of plastic waste are building up in ports and recycling facilities across the U.S.

Keep reading... Show less
Adventure
Aaron Teasdale

The One Thing Better Than Summer Skiing

By Aaron Teasdale

"There's snow up here, I promise," I assure my son Jonah, as we grunt up a south-facing mountainside in Glacier National Park in July. A mountain goat cocks its head as if to say, "What kind of crazy people hike up bare mountains in ski boots?" He's not the only one to wonder what in the name of Bode Miller we're doing up here with ski gear.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!