Transportation recently overtook the electricity sector as the biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States.
Not satisfied with that dubious achievement, a front group backed by petrochemical billionaires Charles and David Koch has launched a series of videos attacking electric vehicles.
Last month, Fueling U.S. Forward put out a heart-wrenching video about how batteries use cobalt mined by children. This week, they put out another video, claiming that taxpayers are subsidizing rich white men (yes, this is an ad from the Koch brothers) to buy Teslas.
There is a lot wrong here.
Most people can agree that children should not be mining anything. But it’s a false dichotomy to suggest that because of child labor, we shouldn’t use electric cars. Children aren’t being put to work because of electric vehicles. Children are being put to work because of a global economic system that exploits the poor and the vulnerable. It’s also misleading to say that because children are being exploited for one product, we should necessarily use another product. It’s flat wrong to say, as the ad does, that electric vehicles are “more toxic to humans than average cars.”
Our collective use of fossil fuels is killing children and adults — while simultaneously driving us into an unlivable climate.
That’s why many places are quickly moving away from oil and gas-powered cars. India has said it will ban fossil fuel vehicles by 2030, while the UK announced this week that it will ban them by 2040. These regulatory challenges to the oil industry — in addition to the massive price decline of batteries and electric vehicles, spurring an “EV revolution” — is exactly the kind of challenge Fueling U.S. Forward is trying to stymie.
The group’s second ad is equally as misleading. The Koch-funded group crows about how white men making more than $150,000 are the biggest demographic of Tesla buyers, and that Tesla buyers get thousands of dollars in subsidies.
But if that isn’t enough to make this argument seem ridiculous, consider why the United States has decided to encourage people to buy electric vehicles: It’s a new technology that, with widespread adoption, could have massive environmental and economic benefits to the country. When someone buys an electric vehicle — even more so if that vehicle will be charged with renewable energy — the entire community benefits from less pollution. That can’t be said of fossil fuel extraction, which primarily benefits another set of rich, white men.
The fact that brown children and white men are the subject of these ads should also raise red flags. Fueling U.S. Forward has explicitly said it will target its message to minorities, a move that Eddie Bautista, executive director of the NYC Environmental Justice Alliance, said was “an exploitative, sad, and borderline racist strategy.”
Fueling U.S. Forward did not immediately respond to a request for comment.