Who Killed the Electric Car?

Ann and I watched Who Killed the Electric Car? recently. This documentary is both intriguing and infuriating. The synopsis below from IMDB.com is a good overview. After I watched it, I began to question free market solutions to big problems. It certainly appears that huge corporations colluded to stop a threat to their cash cows.

Link: Who Killed the Electric Car? (2006) – Synopsis.

"In 1996, electric cars began to appear on roads all over California. They were quiet and fast, produced no exhaust and ran without gasoline………..Ten years later, these futuristic cars were almost completely gone."

‘Who Killed the Electric Car’ is a documentary which unfolds a complex set of events around the development and demise of modern electric cars stemming from California from the early 1990s to 2006. The film maker, Chris Paine, has woven together interviews and archival footage of over 65 people involved with the events. The time line of events in the film moves back and forth several times but this is not to the detriment of the storyline.

The movie starts with a brief history of the first electric cars created in the early twentieth century, and how they were killed off nearly 100 years ago as gas powered cars became cheaper. The movie then paints the current picture of gas car problems being smog and related health problems, CO2 emissions, global warming. Later, the use of the US Military in the Middle East is also mentioned, but the loss of life and financial costs are not mentioned.

The film then moves back to 1987 when, with the SunRaycer, General Motors won the World Solar Challenge, a solar electric car race in Australia. GM’s CEO Roger Smith challenged the same design team to build a prototype practical electric car which became known as the Impact when announced in 1990. The project expanded to small scale production vehicles with the aim that it would give GM several years lead over any competitor car companies.

The Californian Air Resources Board (CARB) saw this as a way to solve their air quality problem and in 1990 passed the Zero Emissions Vehicle Mandate. The ZEV Mandate specified increasing numbers of vehicles sold would have to be Zero Emission Vehicles. "For the car companies there was only two options. Comply with the law or fight it. In then end, they would do both."

The movie continues to reveal what the car companies and other participants did to kill the concept and reality of the electric car, plus the efforts of EV supporters to save their EVs.

Economic Development and Energy

John Michael Greer writes about the future of societies in relation to the abundance and concentration of energy resources to which it has access. This is especially pertinent as the realization that Peak Oil may be real dawns on the American public. In the debate over switching our energy sources from petroleum to sustainable energy, the influence of big oil companies on many policy makers guarantees a short-term outlook and possible economic decline for countries who are dependent on an increasingly scarce resouce available mainly from unstable governments.

Link: The Archdruid Report

White’s law holds that the level of economic development in a society is measured by the energy per capita it produces and uses. Since the energy per capita of any society is determined by its access to concentrated energy resources – and this holds true whether we are talking about wild foods, agricultural products, fossil fuels, or anything else – it’s worth postulating that the maximum level of economic development possible for a society is measured by the abundance and concentration of energy resources to which it has access.

…a society’s maximum level of economic development will be reached, on average, at the peak of a bell-shaped curve with a height determined by the relative renewability of the society’s energy resources. A society wholly dependent on resources that renew themselves over the short term may trace a “bell-shaped curve” in which the difference between peak and trough is so small it approximates a straight line; a society dependent on resources renewable over a longer timescale may cycle up and down as its resource base depletes and recovers; a society dependent on nonrenewable resources can be expected to trace a ballistic curve in which the height of ascent is matched, or more than matched, by the depth of the following decline.

Big Oil’s 10 favorite members of Congress

MSN Money columnist Jim Jubak describes why alternative energy gets very little financial support from the federal government. Big Oil knows how to maintain its monopoly — investing in Washington politicians.

Link: Big Oil’s 10 favorite members of Congress – MSN Money

Wonder why we don’t have a national energy policy or a serious push toward alternatives? Follow the money that oil and gas companies send to Congress.

Amazed that Washington loves to talk about energy research with promise 15 years down the road, but won’t put significant money into alternative technologies that could reduce energy consumption now?

For answers to all those questions and more, just follow the money. Nothing about U.S. energy policy should be a surprise if you know where the money’s been going and which legislators have taken the biggest payouts from the energy industry. So don’t miss your only chance in the next two years — the Nov. 7 election — to tell Congress what you think of its sellout to the energy companies.

The top five contributors were Koch Industries, ExxonMobil, Valero Energy, Chevron and Occidental Petroleum, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Here are the top 10 — all Republicans — as complied by the Center for Responsive Politics:

Big Oil’s 10 favorite Congress members
Rank Candidate Office Amount given by oil and gas industry


Hutchison, Kay Bailey, R-Texas




Burns, Conrad, R-Mont.




Santorum, Rick, R-Pa.




Bode, Denise, R-Okla.




Allen, George, R-Va.




Talent, James M., R-Mo.




Cornyn, John, R-Texas




Barton, Joe, R-Texas




Hastert, Dennis, R-Ill.




Pombo, Richard, R-Calif.



Data from the FEC as of Sept. 11, 2006. Compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics.

avily to Texas Rep. Joe Barton, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee; to Sens. James Talent of Missouri, Conrad Burns of Montana and George Allen of Virginia, all of whom sit on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee; to Illinois’ Dennis Hastert, speaker of the House, who plays a huge role in deciding what legislation moves to the floor for a vote and what doesn’t; and to Pennsylvania’s Rick Santorum, head of the Senate Republican Conference and announced candidate for Republican whip in 2006 if he wins re-election.

ngressional critics of global-warming theories. At a recent congressional hearing, he said, "As long as I am chairman, (regulating the gases that produce global warming) is off the table indefinitely. I don’t want there to be any uncertainty about that." But Barton’s likely replacement would be John Dingell, D-Mich., a fierce advocate for the U.S. automobile industry.

No matter how the elections turn out this year, of course, the connection between money and politicians will survive. Incumbents of both parties know that taking the money out of politics — I mean, really taking it out — would destroy one of most effective tools they have for assuring their own re-election. Taking the money out of campaigns is less likely than the Easter Bunny passing out eggs in January.

So vote your convictions. Throw this year’s bums out. They certainly deserve it. Then watch to see which newly elected politicians start quickly to work to become next year’s bums.