Fossil Fuel Propaganda Octopus

It is well known that the fossil-fuel industry has spent millions for many years seeding doubts about climate science, as documented in Naomi Oreskes book, Merchants of Doubt. But later, she discovered that electric utilities started a big propaganda campaign way back before the Great Depression to slow down demands for rural electrification and so they spent a lot of money to spread doubt about broadening the grid to convince the public that it was a bad idea even though Eastern Canada had already done it successfully. Eventually, FDR changed the regulations and brought it about, but they slowed progress for many years.

Now some of those utility companies are making it difficult for new renewable energy projects to connect to the grid. Again, other countries manage this just fine. In the Northeastern US, the old fossil-fuel companies have been worried about the growing popularity of fuel-efficient heat pumps so they are spreading the misinformation that heap pumps don’t work in regions with cold climates and tend to fail in freezing weather, just when they are most needed.

This is a longstanding pattern. Fossil fuel companies funded a campaign to restrict wind energy out of concern for migratory birds, but actual wildlife conservation organizations like the Audubon Society “strongly supports wind energy” because wind turbines cause a tiny fraction as many bird deaths as windows, cats, and, yes, the fossil fuel plants that they are replacing.

Recently an old friend has been voicing his concerns about slave labor being used to mine the rare-earth minerals that go into electric vehicles. This looks like the same old fossil-fuel playbook, but I haven’t found the smoking gun of funding yet. However, I googled “anti-slavery” to try to get a sense of what the big anti-slavery organizations think about buying EV batteries and they don’t seem to care at all. Only Free The Slaves talks about minerals used in batteries, but they don’t recommend avoiding EVs. They say that slave minerals are in virtually all of our electronics from light bulbs to TVs, so we are all complicit. I’m generally skeptical about the power of woke consumers to change the world (including woke investing). But marketing to make voters and politicians more woke IS often effective at changing the world by changing the rules of capitalism.

So I wonder if the original source of the narrative that EVs produce slavery are fossil fuel interest groups since it does not seem to be the anti-slavery groups that are worried about it.

Posted in Environment, Public Finance

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