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Fossil-Fuel Spear-Headed Fake News Attacks on Electrical Vehicles Intensify as Sales Ramp

In China, the world’s largest automobile market, something amazing is starting to happen. A swarm of electrical vehicles is hitting the streets. The smoggy, smoke-choked air is starting to clear. And oil demand is slowly starting to slacken.

Ramping electrical vehicle production in China takes a bit out of oil demand. Image source: Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

Fossil fuel profit-addicted investors are starting to panic as oil’s very real carbon-spewing death-grip ’round the neck of what is now the world’s largest economy is slowly being pried off.

But big oil is nothing if not a tricky and resourceful beast. So as electrical transportation leaders are marching the world away from dirty energy sources, the fossil-fueled monstrosity is fighting back tooth and nail with its primary weapon of choice…

Fake News 

It’s one of those blanket terms that has been dramatically mis-used by those like Trump to generate a million false impressions of late. To attack credible, public-serving media sources and to generate an assault on freedom of the press in total. But the term has its origins in a very real problem that each of us have to deal with every day. That problem being that some news sources can and often do, intentionally or unintentionally, get the story wrong.

Why?

Well, it can happen for a hundred different reasons not the least of which is social and individual bias. But a key issue for the present day is news generated by special-interest related media aimed at creating an impression that serves that particular interest’s goals. In other words — media that sells to or pushes from a particular political, ideological, or business-related frame of reference.

Public relations campaigns aimed at misinforming the public about harmful products or to tamp down competition by more benevolent industries have long been funded by fossil fuel interests. Image source: Smoke and Fumes.

If, for example, you’re a Fox News viewer, then your information comes with such a heavy conservative and pro-established industry bias that you tend to believe fallacies like ‘climate change isn’t real or dangerous,’ ‘Hillary Clinton sold Uranium to the Russians,’ ‘giving more money to rich people by cutting taxes pays off the national debt,’ ‘Russian interference didn’t alter the outcome of the 2016 election,’ ‘social security is an entitlement and not a government run savings program that you pay into so you have a cushion for retirement,’ and ‘all real energy comes from fossil fuels.’

These media objects and impressions could well be considered fake news.

Fossil Fuel Special Interest Fake News

In the climate and clean energy sphere, we are confronted with these kinds of targeted messages every day. More specifically, what we see is a proliferation of messages aimed at delaying a transition to clean energy and enabling the continued dominance of fossil fuel based energy sources on and on into the future.

The primary messaging issues that we deal with here are smears, doubt promotion, distractions, and myth propagation.

Lately, for anyone that’s been paying attention, we’ve seen an amazing amount of smear-based hyperbole aimed at clean energy leaders like Tesla. Not a single day goes by when we don’t have some ‘journalist’ who holds a short position in Tesla as a company beating the old hackneyed drum over which terrible demise Tesla is ‘destined’ to suffer this day or that. And this short interest is not focused on predicting so much as it is on manufacturing reality.

‘Short EV Interest’

If we’re honest with ourselves, we realize that short interest in clean industry leaders like Tesla is primarily propagated by pro-fossil fuel sources. Most of the short ‘journalists’ have some association with the fossil fuel industry. And practically all take a negative view of the prominent and most widely available clean energy sources of the day.

Some will even promote a prospective clean energy source, like hydrogen, as a distraction from the larger mega-trend represented by wind, solar and batteries. But this is more as a shiny object in the form of systems that are 5-15 years or longer from actual realization. A kind of vapor-ware competition in impression vs the real trends.

Taking this week’s penchant to proffer the hydrogen economy distraction as an example, we find that during 2017 more than 1.2 million electrical vehicles sold worldwide. Hydrogen based vehicles sold far less well — at approximately 3,500 units in 2017 or about 1 hydrogen fueled vehicle to every 350 EVs hitting the roads. Moreover, global EV sales could hit as high as 2 million in 2018 and 4-5 million by 2020. Though hydrogen might get off its laurels and start to show real gains by the early 2020s or later, electrified transport is taking flight now.

Moreover, hydrogen presents its own emissions problems as it is presently 90 percent produced from reformed natural gas in a high-carbon emitting process. The promise of mass-electrolysis based hydrogen from renewables and other low carbon processes are, you guessed it, 5-15 years off. And, even more concerning, major oil companies like Shell are heavily invested in hydrogen — which increases the likelihood that it will serve as a spoiler and not as an enabler of the clean energy transition.

Just as electrical vehicles reach their moment of realization, major media attacks against the clean energy trend emerge. Image source: EV Volumes.

This week the flavor is hydrogen. Next week it will be nuclear. Next it will be something else that can be slow-walked. Anything to distract from the actual electrical, solar, wind revolution that is now in progress and achieving rapid advancements.

It’s at these critical times when the pro fossil fuel and anti renewable energy messaging tends to proliferate on a mass scale. And today is just such a time. For right now, global EV sales are surging. Spear-headed by industry leaders like Tesla and countries like China, the electrification revolution is on. And the oil companies know it. In rather short order, as occurred recently with coal, global oil demand could drop. And those magical, marginal profits that fossil fuel investors have been addicted to for so many years and decades could go up in one final puff of CO2 laden smoke.

Will Tesla Survive The Assault?

So it is at this crucial time that all of the major media guns associated with the fossil fuel industry are now unleashing a furious, focus-fire barrage on Tesla. We’ve hinted at some of the reasons above. But looking deeper we find that Tesla’s all-clean-industry business model is the exact antithesis to that produced by traditional industry.

From its lock to its stock to its barrel, Tesla is clean tech through and through. It builds battery plants, it builds solar panels, it builds battery storage for homes, it builds all clean energy vehicles, it builds EV charging networks. And it works to integrate them all. Not one dollar of Tesla capital is wasted on fossil fuel extraction or machinery that burns fossil fuels. Not one iota. Not one cent.

The Tesla model is the model of a pure path away from carbon emissions and if it gets duplicated in one subset or another by companies the world over, then big fossil fuel is finished. If Tesla generates competition by example, as it is doing, then the clean energy revolution takes flight and there’s nothing that the oil, coal, or gas industry can do to stop it.

So from the fossil fuel point of view, Tesla must die. And that is the primary reason why we are seeing so many negative news stories lately about Tesla. Not because of Tesla’s intrinsic weaknesses. Not due to some puffed up accident investigation. These are the facts — the negative bias against Tesla comes from fossil fuel industry based sources. Fin.

Facing such a massive wall of media, political, and industry opposition isn’t easy. In all honesty, it’s amazing that Tesla has made it as far as it has. And under the present barrage, Tesla’s survival is again somewhat in doubt. I think it will pull through this relatively difficult period to emerge as both a major automaker and a global clean industry leader. But if the shorts win and Tesla goes down it will be due to direct sabotage by fossil fuel special interests — not due to some other failure. And that’s not fake news.

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How Goliath Might Fall — Fossil Fuel Industry to Experience Market Crashes Over Next 10 Years

There’s a very real David vs Goliath conflict now underway in the global energy markets. On one side is a loose coalition made up of renewable energy producers and advocates, individuals who are increasingly concerned about global warming, environmentalists, technophiles, people promoting a democratization of the energy markets, and energy efficiency advocates. On the other side is a vast and powerful global fossil fuel industry backed by wealthy billionaires like the Koch Brothers and various national and nationally supported corporations around the world.

Up to 3.4 Trillion Dollars in Bad Fossil Fuel Investments

By the end of the next 1-3 decades, one set of these two forces will have won out — which will, in turn, decide whether the world continues along the path of climate devastation that is business as usual fossil fuel burning, or sees a rapid reduction in burning-related emissions to near zero which will help to mitigate climate harms while effectively crashing the 3.4 trillion dollar global fossil fuel market.

At issue is the fact that wind, solar, and electric vehicles together have the potential to rapidly take over energy markets that were traditionally monopolized by the fossil fuel industry. Earlier this year, a report out from Bloomberg vividly illustrated the stakes of this currently-raging conflict as it relates to oil and a burgeoning electric vehicles industry.

bloomberg-oil-crash

(Electrical vehicles provide hopes for keeping massive volumes of fossil fuels in the ground and similarly huge volumes of carbon out of the atmosphere. This is achieved by greatly reducing oil demand which could crash the oil markets by as soon as the 2020s. Image source: Bloomberg.)

According to Bloomberg, present rates of electrical vehicle (EV) growth in the range of 60 percent per year would be enough to, on their own, produce an oil glut in the range of 2 million barrels of oil per day by the early to middle 2020s. Continued rapid electric vehicle adoption rates would then swiftly shrink the oil market, resulting in a very large pool of stranded assets held by oil producers, investors and associated industries. Bloomberg noted that even if EV growth rates lagged, continued expansion would eventually result in an oil market crash:

“One thing is certain: Whenever the oil crash comes, it will be only the beginning. Every year that follows will bring more electric cars to the road, and less demand for oil. Someone will be left holding the barrel.”

Bloomberg also noted that LED light bulbs are increasing market penetration by 140 percent each year all while the global solar market is growing at a rate of 50 percent per year. And when technologies like LEDs, solar, wind, and increasingly low cost batteries combine, they generate a market synergy that has the capacity to displace all fossil fuels — coal, oil, and gas.

Coal Already Seeing Severe Declines — Oil and Gas are Next

During 2010 to 2016, we’ve already seen a severe disruption of the coal markets globally and this was due in part to strong wind and solar adoption rates. Coal capacity factors are falling, coal demand is anemic and the coal industry has suffered the worst series of bankruptcies in its history. “The coal industry fundamentals remain very bleak in my opinion,” noted Matthew Miller, a coal industry analyst with S&P Global Market Intelligence in a recent report by the Sierra Club. “If there is a light at the end of the tunnel, we can’t see it yet.”

But as bad as things are for the coal industry now, in the timeframe of 2017 through the early to middle 2020s we have a reasonable expectation that renewable energy and efficiencies will produce even stronger market impacts through competition with fossil fuels. Though not as bad off as coal, natural gas has now entered an unenviable market position where rising fuel costs would cause a ramping rate of renewable energy encroachment. A feature that has tended to check natural gas price increases. Meanwhile, presently rising oil prices will only serve to incentivize the current wave of electrical vehicle adoption.

rapidly-falling-battery-prices

(Rapidly falling battery prices along with falling solar and wind energy prices will eventually make fossil fuels non-competitive on the basis of cost. Meanwhile, ramping climate harms produce strong incentives for switching energy sources now. Image source: Bloomberg.)

During this time, first cheap renewables and then cheap batteries will increasingly flood the energy markets. Applications that directly replace fossil fuels in core markets will expand. Meanwhile polices like the Clean Power Plan in the US and COP 21 on the global level will continue to erode policy supports for traditionally dominant but dirty fuels.

Coal, Oil and Gas — Noncompetitive Bad Energy Actors

The choices for fossil fuel industry will tend to be winnowed down. Competition will be less and less of an option. Meanwhile, direct attempts to dominate markets through regulatory capture by placing aligned politicians in positions of power in order to strong-arm energy policy will tend to take place more and more often. But such attempts require the expense of political capital and can quickly turn sour — resulting in public backlash. As we have seen in Nevada, Hawaii, Australia and the UK, such actions have only served to slow renewable energy advances in markets — not to halt them entirely. Furthermore, reprisals against agencies promoting fossil fuels have gained a good deal of sting — as we saw in Nevada this year when a major casino and big utility customer decided to pull the plug on its fossil fueled electricity and switch to off-grid solar in the wake of increasing net metering costs.

All that said, we should be very clear that the outcome of this fight over market dominance and for effective climate change mitigation isn’t certain. The fossil fuel industry is one of the most powerful political and economic forces in the world. And even though they are now bad actors on the issue of climate change — which threatens both human civilization and many of the species now living on Earth with collapse and mass extinction — they still, in 2016, retain a great deal of economic and political clout. And this clout endows these industries with an ability to enforce monopolies that effectively capture various markets and delay or halt renewable energy development in certain regions.

Trends Still Favor Renewables

Nonetheless, the trends for renewable energy currently remain pretty strong, despite widespread fossil fuel industry attempts to freeze out development of these alternative sources. And collapsing economic power through expanding competition by renewables would ultimately result in a loss of political power as well. In such cases, we wouldn’t expect a crash in economic power and political influence by fossil fuel interests to occur in a linear fashion — but instead to reach tipping points after which radical change occurs. And over the next 10 years there’s a high likelihood that a number of these energy market tipping points will be reached.

Links:

Here’s How Electric Cars Will Cause the Next Oil Crisis

Vegas Casino Plans to Leave Warren Buffet’s Nevada Utility

The Coal Industry is Bankrupt

Clean Power Plan

COP 21

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