The Koch Brothers to Attack Electric Cars

According to Forbes magazine, the brothers Charles and David Koch Forbes have with an estimated net worth of $41.1 billion apiece. While their business enterprise, Koch Industries, is the second largest privately owned corporation in the United States with annual revenues of $115 billion, they are perhaps best known for lavish contributions to conservative politicians and causes. This election cycle the billionaire brothers and their Koch-backed network of political contributors are expected spend $750 million to fund conservative PAC’s and super PAC’s supporting Republican candidates.

I read a lot about the Koch brothers and I have always regarded them among the greatest enemies of our democratic system. I have assumed that their political meddling was an expensive hobby, a passionate pastime like golf. However, recently I read a Huffington Post article, The Kochs Are Plotting A Multimillion-Dollar Assault On Electric Vehicles and came away with a different impression.

From that article I learned that for the Koch brothers political contributions are not some weird hobby; those contributions are business expenses made to safeguard their multibillion dollar empire. Here’s an excerpt from the article:

The oil and gas industry may have thought it had killed the electric car, but sales — boosted by generous government subsidies — rose dramatically between 2010 and 2014, and energy giants are worried the thing may have come back to life.

Time to kill it again.

A new group that’s being cobbled together with fossil fuel backing hopes to spend about $10 million dollars 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.

So why are Koch brothers and Koch Industries involved in effort to kill off electrical vehicles? Fred C. Koch, the father of Charles and David, built the foundation of the Koch business empire in the oil industry. Fossil fuels still make up a major chunk of Koch industries and the Koch brothers are not about to let the drive to produce clean energy eat away at their corporate profits. Their attack on electric vehicles is not their first venture in their campaign protect their business from competition from clean energy alternatives.

In addition to attempting to legally buy elections, the brothers Koch were deeply involved in promoting a California ballot initiative which would have killed the state’s standards aimed at reducing carbon emissions. Though they and other oil industry partners donated millions to the cause, that voter initiative was defeated. The Kochs and their oil industry allies have also spent millions of dollars setting up and funding non profit organizations to attack the solar and wind power industries and fund research aimed at finding evidence that global warming is not real, all in attempts to protect their fossil fuel profits.

Electric cars are not new on the scene. The first production electric automobile was introduced by British inventor Thomas Parker in 1884, two years before Karl Benz introduced the first production gasoline powered vehicle in 1886. The first land speed record for vehicles was set by an electric car in 1888. Electric vehicles were among the most popular early in the history of the automobile, but by 1910 their popularity was already on the decline because of their lack of range and speed compared to gasoline powered vehicles. By 1920 they had virtually disappeared from the roads of America. So why are the Kochs and others interested in shutting down the battery powered car industry?

Elon Musk became involved in a start up electric car company called Tesla supervising the design of the Tesla Roadster. Using high capacity lithium ion batteries coupled with powerful electric motors Musk was not only able to produce a vehicle with long range, but managed to make electric vehicles sexy with great handling and unbelievable zero to sixty speeds. Three years after entering production, the Tesla Model S has won numerous car of the year awards and has been outselling every other car in the expensive luxury sedan class including brands like Mercedes Benz, Jaguar, and BMW.

Tesla has just introduced its all electric Model X SUV and is building a $3 Billion dollar giga-factory to produce enough batteries to turn out up to 500K a year of its yet to be introduced Model 3 lower priced vehicle. Tesla is also building a network of free high speed charging stations which will give their cars unlimited range all throughout the world’s most populated countries.

Meanwhile car companies in Detroit and around the world are in the process of introducing battery powered vehicles. Chinese backed Faraday Future will soon begin building a $1 Billion dollar plant to manufacture electric vehicles in California. The electric car is about to emerge once again from obscurity, never more to reenter.

With oil prices at a twenty year low due to a glut of production, the Koch brothers and their allies are beginning to view electric cars as serious threat to their expansive fossil fuel businesses. Their problem is how to attack a class of vehicles which are much cheaper to run, are virtually maintenance free, and which produce much lower emissions which pollute the atmosphere and speed up global warming. They are expected to use the same tactics used by their nonprofits to try to destroy the solar and wind power industries by attacking the subsidies provide by federal, state and even local governments as incentives encourage consumers to switch to green alternatives like electric cars. This is consistent with Kochs’ deeply ingrained conservative philosophies which argue that any kind of subsidies amount to government interference with the free market process.

However I am predicting that such an attack will reveal the deep hypocrisy of oil barons like the Koch brothers and result in significant blow back. Estimates of federal subsidies for fossil fuels in this county range from $10 billion to over $50 billion dollars a year. Congressmen supported by campaign contributions by the oil and coal industries have insured that those subsidies remain in place. A bill which would have eliminated $2.4 billion in annual tax deductions for BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Exxon and Shell were defeated the last two years in a row. President Obama has proposed cutting subsidies worth $4 billion to the oil and coal industries every year he’s been in office, but his proposals have gone nowhere.

So while billionaires like Charles and David Koch make their plans to attack subsidies for green alternatives such as electric vehicles as violations of a free market economy, they use their bought and paid for politicians to jealously guard billions of dollars of subsidies for their fossil fuel industries while they stuff their bank accounts with profits made by destroying the only environment we have.

Cajun 3/28/16

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