How many different ways can one website attack electric vehicles and defend 19th-century gas-powered internal combustion engines? Koch-funded RealClearEnergy is apparently doing its best to find out, with five different anti-EV or pro-ICE pieces promoted in its “Recommended” tab on Friday.
Though RealClear is known as an aggregator, and not necessarily the conservative propaganda megaphone it is, the energy pieces it publishes as originals are classic denier blogspam from a variety of sketchy sources. With California Governor Gavin Newsom and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson joining Norway and other countries in announcing bans on ICE in the 2030s and on, it’s clear the oil industry is ramping up its denial.
That said, the first of the most recent wave of EV-fearmongering was authored by the least-sketchy author of the bunch, James Clad. His byline notes that he was “former deputy assistant secretary of defense for Asia” and a “senior adviser to Arcanum,” which is basically a privatized international intelligence agency. Somewhat ironically, it’s this international spy who makes the most down-to-Earth argument, essentially warning that EVs and other technology relies on particular metals, like lithium, which are largely mined in China. So to meet the coming demand for batteries for EVs and everything else, Clad argues, the US should increase its own green energy production instead of relying on China. Perhaps a tad sinophobic, but not necessarily rife with disinformation.
Not to worry though, a few days later the industry-funded Manhattan Institute's Robert Bryce provided plenty of that, with his list of “five reasons why internal combustion engines are here to stay.” What are the reasons? Well first is cost, which Bryce makes anecdotally by only comparing some sticker prices, and ignoring the long-term savings of never having to buy gasoline again. The second reason is the lithium and other minerals issue, again, as if oil and gas-powered cars don’t also require a significant amount of extraction.
The final three reasons are less relevant to EV competition, and more just some basic facts about ICE cars dressed up to look impressive. For example, reason three is the energy density of gas, while the final reason is “the ease of refueling” which is just another version of the energy density argument that you get a lot of vroom out of what seems like just a little gas. That also happens to be the basic premise of the fourth reason, which is that gas engines are getting more efficient- in 2011, a Ford motor was “28 percent lighter than the engine in the Model T.” Wow! Climate crisis averted!
If Bryce’s pro-oil paean was a little too subtle for you, on the same day RealClearEnergy editor Jude Clemente wrote about “why oil won’t ‘go gentle into that good night.’” Fitting with the rest of Clemente’s explicitly pro-oil/gas/coal portfolio at RCE (exactly what you would expect from someone likely paid to produce Koch propaganda) the piece is a brief history of oil’s success, contrasted with a warning about EVs’ need for critical minerals.
If the sinophobia of those three pieces haven’t made it clear, RCE wants you to be very afraid, and angry at China. As USA Rare Earth CEO Pini Althaus wrote in a post on December 1st, “We shouldn't have to rely on any other country, and certainly not the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), for our critical defense applications, electric vehicles, and consumer technology such as medical technology, clean energy applications and the 5G network.”
While Althaus’s China-bashing does at least acknowledge that any critical mineral criticism against EVs would also apply to basically any other piece of modern technology, the xenophobia and naked self-promotion undercuts any potential for this to be an honest op-ed.
But at least Althaus’s conflict of interest is clearly labeled in his byline, unlike Bryce or the fifth example of how RCE is oil propaganda, yet another anti-EV piece. That piece was written by Patrice Douglas, who is described simply as “an attorney and former chairman of the Oklahoma Corporation Commission.” As chairwoman of an Oklahoma energy utility, Douglas may actually be an independent expert, giving her piece, headlined “the short-sighted rush to forced EV adoption,” the potential for unbiased and honest advice.
Oh wait, nope. The first line of her law firm bio page notes that she counsels energy companies, while the third paragraph mentions her position on the board of directors for Midstates Petroleum, and the first bullet highlighting her experience is about how she “testified on behalf of Oklahoma cities and the oil and gas industry before the congressional subcommittee on the U.S. House of Representatives’ Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.”
This is who RealClearEnergy publishes, and recommends to their readers. So while it may not be informative in the way they intend, it does at least provide a venue to observe the oil and gas industry’s talking points all in one convenient place!