Big oil invokes “fairness and equality” (meaning subsidies for THEM but not for clean energy)

  • Published on June 16th, 2020

Issues of justice and fairness are never as simple or easy as one might hope. The transition from gas to electric vehicles is no exception, particularly given the long history of highways and urban development as tools of white supremacy. So now, we need to be careful that electric vehicle policy doesn’t harm anyone, intentionally or otherwise. Concerns about the fairness of utilities passing the cost of charging infrastructure on to ratepayers, and electric vehicles being a premium good only for the wealthy, for example, were expressed recently by New York and Massachusetts officials.

Tom Toles climate change arctic drilling

By Climate Denier Roundup

But there are also those who seek to exploit such concerns for no purpose greater than selling more fossil fuels. And because they understand how propaganda works, they’ve chosen the name “Transportation Fairness Alliance.”

Who are they? According to TransportationFairness.org, it’s “a diverse partnership of business, associations and organizations that support a competitive and equitable transportation sector. Collectively, we represent our nation’s manufacturers, small business owners, farmers and folks who pay utility bills.”

Oh how lovely! How grass roots and of-the-people! Wait, what’s this? As you scroll further down the About page, a block of logos appear… Surely these are “small business” logos and all the other “diverse” “folks” they describe?

Nope! It’s the American Petroleum Institute, and the American Public Gas Association, and Independent Petroleum Association of America, and the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers.

Because as anyone who happens to head over to TransportationFairnessAlliance.com will soon see, things like its sleek fact sheet about “fairness and equity in American transportation” are less representative of “folks who pay utility bills,” and more the product of FTI Consulting, one of big oil’s favorite PR shops. (FTI is the group hired to run Energy In Depth, a pro-fracking and anti-ExxonKnew blog which FTI brags is how risks posed by activists that “can be managed and eventually neutralized.”)

According to an internal email, API and FTI are managing the coalition, which will “promote earned media and rapid response in discussion surrounding electric vehicles, alternative fuel vehicles, fuel choice, etc.” APGA’s head of Government Affairs Doug MacGillivray was explicit that it’s “not an anti-EV effort,” just one that will “provide consumers, and policy makers with information and promote fairness in the fuel space.”

Information that, as it turns out, is consistently misleading and pretty obviously anti-EV, as the expose DeSmog put together shows. The talking points indicate these “small businesses” care very much about utilities not imposing higher rates on consumers to install EV infrastructure, and how the government shouldn’t be supporting technologies at a commercial scale or, god forbid, banning gas cars or requiring dealers sell EVs. A dead giveaway that this is corporate propaganda is their claim to be “fighting to ensure all Americans are treated equally when it comes to their transportation choices.”

Notice how they invoke equality, and protection, and the conservative policy dog whistle that sacrifices public health for private profit: freedom of choice. Because what they’re fighting for is subpar products that pollute the environment and are particularly dangerous to the diverse and low-income communities whose struggle TFA appropriates to keep selling gas.

Now, are there legitimate fairness reasons to make some of these points? Sure. Is ‘make sure big oil keeps raking in the dough’ among them? Of course not.

If this oh-so-diverse group of oil drillers, refiners, sellers and shippers cared about government support for mature technologies, they should start by calling for the end of the $400 billion in subsidies the fossil fuel industry gets every year.

(Crossposted with DailyKos. Cartoon by Tom Toles from the Washington Post – get his book on climate change co-written with Michael Mann, The Madhouse Effect.)

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