An op-ed published in The Hill last week seems to adopt an unimpeachable bit of folksy, common sense wisdom, advising that we “not put all our cars in the EV basket.” It was written by Bernard Weinstein, whose byline describes him as “an emeritus professor of applied economics at the University of North Texas and a fellow of Goodenough College in London.”
(Side note: Yes, the sufficiently-named Goodenough College appears to be a real institution, founded by Barclay's Chairman Frederick Goodenough in 1930.)
Anyway, as we pointed out years ago, anti-EV voices are generally being paid, and time and again, we see that the people making these sorts of arguments have direct ties to the fossil fuel industry and its front groups. Is this the fabled Independent Expert, who really is critical of EVs without any particularly obvious bias or financial link?
Is Weinstein the exception?
He’s a Heartland Fellow, and his bio there makes it clear he’s long worked for the oil industry, listing API and Devon Energy among his clients.
No surprise there then, and the content is similarly banal — the usual sort of sophistry the fossil fuel industry’s defenders trot out to make the argument that their patron’s profits are more important than the continued livability of the planet. But one thing did stick out to us, the phrase “energy transition materials.” It’s not exactly catchy, and a google search shows it’s only come up a couple of times in mostly academic, mostly European policy contexts, so it’s no “Freedom Gas,” but it’s still probably worth watching.
Because one of the industry’s go-to attacks has been to point out that EV batteries require a variety of metals, and many of those materials are mined in places where environmental and labor laws are decidedly lacking (with the unspoken implication that EVs are therefore worse for the environment than internal combustion-powered cars). What they don’t acknowledge is that every piece of modern technology also requires these minerals. Instead they make it sound like EVs pose a particular risk that would make us uniquely vulnerable to, for example, China.
A phrase that makes it sound like those materials are unique to climate policy, then, and not a key part of every cellphone or other electronic device with a built-in battery, is a tool for the fossil fuel industry to further its goal of portraying renewables as reliant on dirty foriegn countries, as opposed to its own flag-waving “American Energy.”
So while the odds are probably slim that “energy transition materials” will be the hot new hashtag, it’s a pernicious and powerful phrase that establishes a dangerous, and deceptive, frame for thinking about how incredibly dependent technology is on global trade.
It's not hard to imagine Tucker Carlson or Republicans on the Hill handwaving about "being worried about ETM reliance on China." It's got just enough acronyms to sound smart, with just enough Sinophobia to fire up MyPillow customers!