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Tina Casey headshot

Silly Koch Brothers, You Can't Kill The Electric Car


The Intertubes are positively buzzing with news that the notorious Koch brothers have hatched up a new $10 million scheme to kill off electric vehicles. Apparently the instrument of death will be the addition of yet another new lobbying organization to the brothers' already extensive network. The new group will be tasked with rallying the public around the benefits of petroleum, rather than directly supporting particular legislators.

That's going to be an uphill battle in parts of the country where petroleum has proved to be an outdated, unsustainable and dangerous partner -- for example along the Gulf Coast, particularly in coastal Louisiana. So, let's take a look and see what they're up to.

Koch proposes...

The latest Koch brothers news comes to us from Peter Stone via the Huffington Post, under the somewhat incendiary headline, The Kochs Are Plotting A Multimillion-Dollar Assault On Electric Vehicles.

So far, the Koch brothers have not come forth to confirm or deny the so-called plot, but here is the scoop from Stone:

"A new group that's being cobbled together with fossil fuel backing hopes to spend about $10 million per year to boost petroleum-based transportation fuels and attack government subsidies for electric vehicles, according to refining industry sources familiar with the plan. A Koch Industries board member and a veteran Washington energy lobbyist are working quietly to fund and launch the new advocacy outfit."

According to Stone, Koch-watchers are conjecturing that the group could launch this summer.

However, even if the plot does come to fruition, the only big beneficiaries will likely be the folks on the new group's payroll. Based on the Koch record against clean tech, throwing dollars up against your enemies can slow them, but not stop them.

So far, the Koch brothers have invested hundreds of millions of dollars to support fossil-friendly legislators and other policymakers, but they have failed to stop the U.S. solar and wind industries from taking off like rockets.

The Koch brothers also have to face the possibility that their least favorite Republican presidential candidate, Donald Trump, could nail down the nomination. Bad feelings are mutual on both sides, and Trump has been running circles around the Koch brothers. So, no matter who occupies the White House next January, the brothers probably won't find a sympathetic ear for their fossil-centric agenda.

... Musk disposes...

To make matters worse, the new Koch brothers endeavor is off to a rocky start right out of the gate. Earlier this week EV superstar Elon Musk, head of Tesla Motors, predictably responded to the Koch brothers rumor with his usual panache by sending a one word tweet -- "Sigh..." -- accompanied by a cartoon portrait of the Koch brothers and a link to the Stone article.

Great work, guys: In the wink of an eye, all of Musk's 3.47 million Twitter followers know how silly you are. Musk's 3.47 million fans are also learning more about longstanding subsidies for gasmobiles, as he followed up his initial tweet with a mini-barrage of links to articles about supportive petroleum policies.

That's probably just for starters, so we'll keep an eye on that Twitter account over the coming weeks.

Aside from Musk, the Koch brothers are up against virtually every global auto manufacturer. The auto industry is rapidly transitioning to hybrid and EV technology, as exemplified by Ford and General Motors. Ford in particular has become adept at leveraging EV technology for vehicle-to-grid and microgrid technology, expanding its market to areas that are beyond the capability of gasmobiles. GM is venturing into the fuel cell EV field, which could also support new markets.

Ford is also a good example of the auto industry's transition to a more sustainable, responsible supply chain model. The move has enabled Ford to forge close relationships with Coca-Cola, Lego and other sustainability leaders.

As a group, these companies are moving along a track that certainly does not support the Koch brothers' goal of growing their family business, as recently demonstrated by Ford's recent decision to end its membership in the Koch-funded group ALEC.

... and EV drivers keep drivin'

The Koch brothers are also up against the simple fact that more people are getting behind the wheel of an EV, and more people like what they see.

Don't just take our word for it -- last year Ford commissioned the EV research firm Pluginsights to dig into the EV driving experience. The survey found that 92 percent of all-battery EV owners and 94 percent of plug-in hybrid EV owners will make an EV their next car.

Actually, you can take our word for it. TriplePundit writer Bill Roth has been loving his one-week test drive of GM's popular Chevy Volt gas-electric hybrid. Here's his report as of Day 3:

"I have yet to use a single gallon of gasoline. That is zero gasoline consumption while driving in San Diego’s urban stop-and-go traffic. That is zero gasoline consumption while having fun blasting up highway on-ramps. That is three days of driving the way I enjoy driving while generating zero tailpipe emissions."

It's hard to argue with that. On the other hand, the Koch brothers are known for going to ridiculous lengths in order to protect their image -- their "healthy formaldehyde" campaign comes to mind -- so anything is possible.

Image (screenshot): via chevrolet.com.

Tina Casey headshotTina Casey

Tina writes frequently for TriplePundit and other websites, with a focus on military, government and corporate sustainability, clean tech research and emerging energy technologies. She is a former Deputy Director of Public Affairs of the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, and author of books and articles on recycling and other conservation themes. She is currently Deputy Director of Public Information for the County of Union, New Jersey. Views expressed here are her own and do not necessarily reflect agency policy.

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