Elon Musk: Big Oil Attacking EVs is “Kinda Like the Battle Against Big Tobacco in the Old Days”

4 years ago by Eric Loveday 36

Tesla CEO Elon Musk Addresses a Crowd

Tesla CEO Elon Musk Addresses a Crowd

Elon Musk is never lost for words.

Musk Speaks in Germany...The Whole World Listens

Musk Speaks in Germany…The Whole World Listens

After the grand opening celebration of Tesla Motors’ store in London, Musk briefly spoke with the Guardian.

The topic? The spread of misinformation.

As Musk pointed out, unfounded attacks on the electric vehicle interested mostly come from companies/organizations backed by Big Oil.  No surprise there, right?

Musk told the Guardian that Big Oil’s attack on electric vehicles is “kinda like the battle against ‘big tobacco’ in the old days, and how they’d run all these ads about how tobacco’s no problem.”

Quoting Musk:

“Ninety-nine per cent of scientists can agree on one thing, but in the public mind [lobbyists] try to convey that scientists disagree. Technically true, but absolutely misleading.”

Of course, Big Oil has a lot to lose if electric vehicles take over, so there’s definitely a vested interest in Big Oil attempting to prevent this from occurring.

As for Model S buyers, Musk says that those who purchase one are basically paving the way for Gen 3 (aka Model E):

“When somebody buys a Model S they’re helping pay for that in a way that buying an Aston Martin or Ferrari is not. Aston Martin is going to make more Aston Martins, Ferrari is going to make more Ferraris, but what we’re trying to do is make a compelling mass-market electric car.”

Source: The Guardian

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36 responses to "Elon Musk: Big Oil Attacking EVs is “Kinda Like the Battle Against Big Tobacco in the Old Days”"

  1. Anon says:

    He’s right to a point… But there will always be competing uses for our dwindling petrolium supply — from fertilizers, plastics, pharmaceuticals, food coloring, insecticides, etc. Electfic cars help level demand. Smart oilmen, know this.

    1. Brian says:

      Very true. This is another compelling reason to stop burning this limited resource.

      1. kdawg says:

        As EV’s take off, worldwide, oil for transportation is reduced and thus, gas prices go down. There aren’t enough EV’s now to make a difference, but let’s fast forward 20 years. What happens when 1/2 the world is using EV’s and the other is using gas? Will gas prices be so cheap that it will be hard to convince the other half to buy an EV? Will there be taxes in place to prevent these cheap prices? Will EV’s be so much better that cheap gas still won’t be enough motivation to stick with a gas car?

        1. Francis L says:

          Even with 100% electric personal car, I don’t think it will happen. First, because there is a lot of other industry that consume petrol. Second, because by that time, EVs will probably be so cheap, it will be a no brainer. Finally, because I don’t think that gas at 1$ per gallon can still be a sustainable business for long. At that price, I guess a lot of country will just stops produce petrol.

          1. kdawg says:

            I don’t know the profit margins, but the cost of the oil is about 68% the price per gallon. The other 32% is paying for the refining & shipping of the gasoline, etc. Gas is approximately $3.25 right now, so if it the oil were free, it would still cost $1 for a gallon of gasoline (with taxes included). I doubt oil will ever be free, so I doubt gas will ever cost $1/gallon again. But even if gas was $1, and let’s say in 20 years the avg fuel economy if ICE cars is 35mpg. That means you could travel 35 miles for $1. Right now (2013), i can do the same thing with electricity. So even with cheap gas, (and free oil), it still doesn’t compete, especially 20 years from now (assuming at that point BEV’s cost the same as ICE cars).

            1. scott moore says:

              Go dawg.

              So the short term reality is that we are rapidly becoming a natural gas fueled economy. Nuclear is stopped, coal is effectively stopped by the EPA, and the USA is choking on NG production. Mass solar and wind is the long term future, but even that needs backup from LG plants to make up for the dips in power production and to handle industrial users (I don’t care what fantasy you subscribe to, but aluminium smelters and integrated circuit production are never going to be purely solar powered).

              There is no foreseeable end to oil. This is a green fantasy. We have the largest reserves on the planet, and that is only because we are the only ones really looking. Every time we get even near a “limit” on oil, the industry adapts and finds previously “unusable” oil.

              Trains and now increasingly, trucks are looking to CNG or LNG retrofits, purely based on cost. Batteries for those applications cost too much in the short term. CNG for cars would have been a starter, but its too late. EVs have traction and have captured the public’s imagination with the idea of zero emission, even if the reality is they are powered by natural gas at the far end.

              Gas does have a floor in price. But also don’t forget that floor is interactive. If gas use goes down, we start hitting “inflection points” in gas production. The first is the diesel crossover. “cracking” at the refinery is an expensive process designed to get more gas at the expense of less diesel production. If car gas use falls and truck diesel use stays the same or similar, the incentives start to reverse, and the refineries start making more diesel.

              The second inflection point occurs because natural gas is mostly a byproduct of oil drilling. It comes out when you frack, and people don’t burn it off like in the old days. If oil production falls, so does NG production, and NG prices start to rise again. There is an overlapping factor in that we can ship oil outbound to better prices abroad, and this works until the demand outside the USA cools. This means that the US government should encourage oil exportation in the long run, but that is like trying to explain calculus to a squirrel (no denigration to squirrels implied).

              In the long run, we start leaving oil and gas in the ground. That’s not a bad thing. We don’t need to drill every square inch of the USA, and the oil is not going to go anywhere. Just as with coal, it can sit underground as a reserve for plastics production or whatever, or perhaps just sit. Forever. Its been there a long time, it can stay longer.

              1. James says:

                Scott, your calculations and prognostications sound very technical and rational – but you seem to be speaking from a laboratory and not the real world. If folks gathered together to prognosticate and theorize, they may walk away feeling your theories are well thought out – but might I add that your inflections have deflections and other inflections that are numerous and not so easily reasoned away to make it all sound so
                simple.

                For instance, your theories don’t take into account the
                inherent economies when mass numbers of a wealthy, yet calculated population begin the momentum swing that usually takes over a decade to sink in. The average U.S. citizen is very much a victim of trends and
                advertising. Today, using an EV isn’t fashionable to many who believe the oil industries’ constant attempts to demonize the use of electricity for individual transportation. Yet two distinct crowds are most open to change in this area – those who value the climate change issue, and those who want to save money on their budget. When group 2 understands that conventional gas cars and trucks cost them dearly in service and maintenance, parts and emissions control measures – they begin to look kindly upon the EV alternative. It takes decades in a world in which a Ron Burgundy comedic ad for large SUVs produces large upswings in SUV buying. People are THAT stupid. It’s when it hits them in the pocketbook that they begin to see value in change.

                Another huge lapse in your theory is your many assumptions. You assume in your post that diesel is an easy and nearly automatic retrofit to existing oil refining.
                It’s not. In fact, it takes many years to convert an existing gasoline refinery to diesel production. Mostly, the current trend is to just build entire facilities for diesel, as is done in Europe. This would be required if our nation’s people start demanding diesel vehicles from the manufacturers. As of today, there are no new diesel refineries on the drawing boards here, and no big
                movement to change that. You state, “….and the refineries start making more diesel”. Easier said than done, my friend – and it won’t be a quick fix or sudden move.

                You also wrongly state that people just don’t burn of natural gas as a byproduct of oil fracking, as they once did in the “old days”. Scott, where have you been? Google nighttime satellite photos of our nation’s new largest oilfields in N. and S. Dakota. These regions of
                the United States are literally lit up like Christmas, brighter than many major cities – by raw natural gas being burned from the tops of oil derricks. So much natural gas is being wasted every day, we should all be ashamed we are not writing our Congresspersons. They burn it off because the oil is quick and easy to extract, and the process of building infrastructure to store, pipe and collect the gas is considered far too expensive. Google the subject and enjoy the read.
                The pollutions and waste being carried out in the mad rush to extract oil is mind-boggling. It’s like a drunken sailor paying three times the going rate for drinks for
                the quick binge, while ignoring the longterm costs.
                Politiciians ( both parties, mind you ) jump on the bandwagon to retain their jobs quoting short-term benefits and not long-term cost to all of us.

                Your truth are well known. Of course we’ll be using petroleum products for centuries to come, and natural gas is naturally going to be T. Boone Pickens and other
                big oilmen’s way to profit even more. These aren’t answers to the bigger problems our children and their children will be grappled with – These are statements of
                fact that are what they are – not conclusions to what is
                our best way forward.

                Lastly, I live in a state where the vast majority of electricity is generated by hydropower and wind. Our state is cloudy and not optimal for mass solar adoption, yet many here still charge their EVs with solar and wind. In states with sunny climes, solar is definitely one
                sure way of cleaning up our environment and not taxing the existing grid. Public and private solar charging stations will ever increase at even a higher pace than we see today because, again – it takes time for less-interested people to see the benefits and then embrace change.

                1. Mark H says:

                  James,
                  I love it when you are on a roll!

                2. Priusmaniac says:

                  Why aren’t we using asbest anymore there are tons left in the ground?
                  The answer to that question is kind of an answer to why we should not use oil or gas or coal even if there are tons left in the ground.

        2. PJS says:

          I’m guessing prices for electricity will rise at a constant rate, inversely proportionate to the lowering of gas prices. Only those “off the grid” will benefit.

          1. Priusmaniac says:

            Actually there is no theoretical limit to oil price other then the last border which is the psychological barrier that make you refuse to pay a full salary for a single gallon.
            For electricity on the other end there is an absolute maximum price that can never be passed which is the KWh cost from solar production. It is a know value and no one is going to buy above that limit value. Furthermore that value is not rising but ever decreasing with each generation of improved solar panel. So electricity cannot rise above a certain point that goes down with time.

        3. Foo says:

          Also, don’t forget that, at that point EVs gain mass acceptance, even the best gasoline-powered vehicles will seem notoriously unreliable and a hassle/expensive to maintain by comparison. In short, they will generally seem old-fashioned and inferior in almost every way. (And, they already do to me… never underestimate the speed at which perspective can change.)

          1. James says:

            My point exactly, except for the fact that this speed at which
            perspective changes is longer than you might guess.

            Remember how long it’s taken for folks to get accustomed to –
            and merely comfortable with – hybrids like Prius and versions of
            regular models.

            Uncles have to tell aunts, and parents need to teach children. It’s
            a long process that will not be forwarded in conventional ways like
            advertising ( see my post below for explanations ).

            “Polly Anna” types amongst us kind of believe EV adoption will
            spread exponentially by osmosis, or believe naively that existing
            ICE car companies will turn up the national advertising budgets.
            — They won’t.

            Seemingly, today we have to wait for Tesla to build an attractive
            Model E at a competitive price for ICE manufacturers to respond.
            Again, that “attractive price” is MSRP to most folks, and not the
            cost of ownership over a prescribed amount of time.

            This process is precarious at best. Tesla’s stock and sheer
            existence seems hanging by the thread of public opinion – and
            with one or two expensive models and all the negative misplaced
            outcries in the press each week… We’re reminded of how
            precarious this eventual outcome may be.

            Will an established automaker just come out with the first
            affordable EV with 250 mile range? NO THEY WON’T. They will
            need to be forced into it by Tesla success and government
            mandates. The business case for them is just antiproductive
            to their current way.

            So Foo – I say, never underestimate the power of the status
            quo, and the length of time it take for societal change in
            the environment of numerous challenges.

            1. James says:

              I should end these comments with – Patience Will
              Prevail. Just be Patient and press on with sharing EV advantages with coworkers, family, friends, the media,
              and the public-at-large ( YouTube, Twitter, Facebook… ).

              We must be very patient, but it will happen eventually.

              1. kdawg says:

                A lot of it banks on how fast technology advances and costs go down. For example, if I can buy an electric Mustang that costs less, and can go 0-60 faster than a V8 Mustang, why would I ever buy the V8 Mustang? Just threw out a muscle car, but you get my point.

        4. Gromm says:

          Cheap fuel isn’t the only reason to go electric, it’s just one of them.

          Once the general public sees the *other* benefits of driving electric, and automakers are producing a range of models to fit every need (or even just half of them), and truly, half of all cars produced are electric, I think the question would go from “why electric” to “why gas”.

          Electric cars drive better, they’re quiet, acceleration is instant, they work better in extreme cold and heat*, they’re less complicated and maintenance isn’t required as much. If there were little to no price disparity, the only issue left is range and refuelling time, which is improving with better infrastructure and battery technology (thus, by that magic 50% year, it would be a non-starter).

          * Yes, any battery holds less power in a frigid Canadian winter, but that value is hardly 0. However, if for some reason you forgot to change your oil to low-viscosity winter oil, good luck getting a gas engine started without extreme measures. Tow trucks are busiest here in the winter months for a bunch of reasons besides skidding off the road. Electric motors have exactly zero problems in these conditions.

          1. James says:

            More needs to be done in educating the public as to how much they spend on auto maintenance and omissions regs.

            My state requires regular emissions checks and this alone counts for hundreds of millions of dollars spent on related repairs.

            One industry naturally opposed to an EV revolution is the parts and
            service industry. Changing out a powerplant with one or two moving
            parts as opposed to hundreds that are lubricated with – more fossil fuels, means far less maintenance expense. Folks are programmed to change their oil and filters, sensors and adjust their valvetrains. I believe Plug In America and other EV advocate associations need to help educate young and old about the amounts they spend each year on auto maintenance vs. the cost
            of operating an EV. Mufflers, catalytic converters, tailpipes,
            starters,….the list goes on and on.

            So far, the EV community seems to be sitting on our collective
            hands and expecting EV manufacturers to do this. Seriously, Tesla
            would be the only one who could. Nissan and all the others make
            their sustaining profits from ICE vehicles, their service and parts.
            For them to promote EVs is like suicide. Nissan, to it’s credit, did
            run a very short-run ad in some publications that showed the 450-
            or-so parts that are in a typical 4 cylinder engine – and ran the
            tagline: “All the parts you don’t need in a Nissan LEAF”. Of course,
            they’re not going to roll that out as a national ad campaign…sure
            it’d sell tens of thousands of LEAFs at the expense of their highly
            lucrative CUV, SUV, sedan and truck businesses.

            Through the passage of time, and the dogged passion of the EV community – I believe the “gospel” of EV ownership will pervade
            our culture. I disagree with those who initially guessed this process
            would take 10-15 years. There is just too much pushback from
            the auto and energy industry. Tesla does not advertise conventionally, and no amount of Tweets and Bloomberg interviews
            are going to spread this message adequately. Take a Model S
            fire or mishandling of a Volt by NHTSA, mix in a couple NHTSA
            investigations and big headlines, and all is well for Exxon-Mobile,
            Standard and BP. Sprinkle handily with “news” that natural gas and
            nuclear are good options, and bake in an environment where some
            truly believe futurist stories about fuel cells and cars powered by
            water.

            It’s going to take time, conviction and passion from the sharp minds of our society to get the message across to the mainstream.
            It might take two or three generations to get to a point where over
            50% of us drive powered by the sun, wind and cleaner energy.

            1. James says:

              Sorry for all the typos today – “omissions regs”…LOL, etc…

              Still hoping for an editing feature here, as my mind moves
              too fast and I’m too lazy to pre-proofread….

              Hopefully, my points were taken and my errors overlooked.

              1. Jay Cole says:

                …oh to dream

    2. zoe-driver says:

      I can tell you what happens here in Germany:

      Pick one guy from the street and ask him about electric vehicles.
      “That are these burning cars, right ? Tesla is dangerous I have heard. Thats all I know, I want to be safe and still use my gasoline car.”

      Mission complete.

      You think.

      But..

      Same as with renewables and nuclear power. All bad campaings can not stop renewables and can not stop going away from nuclear power in this country.

      People want smart grid, their own PV/Wind power plant and electric cars (and car sharing !!). This whole thing is unstoppable.

      I just had an appointment with local news showing them how easy it is to commute with ZOE and how environmental-friendly that is. Here tons of people are fighting againt misleading artikles/news and so on.

      Regards

      1. Benji888578 says:

        I live in the US, and find it appalling how much mind control the media has. This is why I want to hold them accountable by reporting on all the other car fires that happened that day, how much more dangerous the gas car fires were and how many injuries resulted from those fires.

        Safe? The Tesla passengers were isolated from the fire and able to exit either before they saw flames or not, but, without injury, as the flames did not enter the passenger compartment. How many gas cars will that happen with?

        1. kdawg says:

          I think Rupert Murdoch owns even more media in Europe than he does in the US. So you have a bigger battle to fight.

          (I wonder how many interns he’s paid to post anti EV stuff on this site :))

        2. Gromm says:

          More than a few articles have pointed out that vehicle fires are so common that they don’t ever make the news.

          Also, check out the Facebook hashtag #notatesla.

      2. Anon says:

        You Germans scare easily… 😉

    3. Anderlan says:

      No oil man is excited about the prospect of oil demand being decimated. There is no such thing as a smart oil man. The entire industry must be decimate, or decimated TWICE. The amount of oil being processed and burnt outright versus going into chemical feedstocks is somewhere between 100-to-1 and 10-1.

  2. Ocean Railroader says:

    What’s also going on is you have whole counties that are supported by oil and would be dead end backwaters if they didn’t have vast reserves of oil wealth to exert on people. And if anything like these EV’s get going there is going to be some major Chaos as resource centers shift around.

  3. Lou Grinzo says:

    An absolute must read is the book Merchants of Doubt, which details the long, ugly history of commercial interests working confuse the public over smoking, asbestos, acid rain, climate change, etc.

    1. kdawg says:

      I love the Simpsons plots involving “Laramie Cigarettes”. They poke fun at the tobacco industry and specifically Marlboro & Camel. The episode where Homer combines tomatoes and tobacco as “Tomacco” is hilarious.

  4. Tesla Fan says:

    god i love this man

  5. Bill Howland says:

    Big Oil is winning. Look what they’ve done to coal consumption in the USA. We can’t use it to make steel since most of the steel plants have shuttered and we cant burn it for power even though Congress has said its allowable. The only route left for coal companies in the USA is to export to China and India, where there are more Coal power plants and steel plants every day.

    I’m just temporarily playing along, enjoying the temporarily low cost of natural gas. The only thing I use electricity for mainly is my 2 ev’s (which these days basically run on natural gas). Thankfully, I’m not too close to any Nuclear Plants, although should that troublesome Davis-Besse plant act up I’d have to find another source of drinking water.

    1. Bill Howland says:

      In researching the above post, I’ve found that surprisingly for the Coal Miners in this country, that as coal usage has tanked in this country, surprisingly, the “mirror image” of greatly increased demand has actually come from Europe.

      Even though the CO2 taxing process is gaining strength, natural gas pricing in europe is increasing faster, so more Coal is being used. Whoda thunk it?

      My basic point in these two postings is that Musk and Big Oil are on the same side of the issue as far as GreenhouseGasses are concerned, so his analogy with Big Tobacco really doesn’t apply. Big Oil is all in favor of the concept of AGW since it tends to knock their coal competitors out of the box.

  6. Spec9 says:

    Big oil pretty much doesn’t even bother fighting EVs anymore. They know they have a pretty captured audience. Even if EVs started selling like crazy, we still need oil for ships, planes, trucks, plastics, petrochemicals, etc.

    Their worry is that the high price of production is squeezing them out of the market. They need prices to go higher or else it is too hard to compete with cheaper foreign oil that can be obtained from conventional wells.

  7. Steve says:

    The signs of the oily misinformation campaign are everywhere. We’ve all seen it. Media was overwhelmingly negative about electric cars, while people who actually drove one or rode in one were generally positive. Go figure.
    I’m so glad Elon Musk is calling them out for what we all know they’re doing. Someday all new cars will be electric. Good bye internal combustion, and good riddance.

  8. Delta says:

    I will just modestly suggest that EV’s don’t have a positive effect on the increased traffic congrestion and the need for more and more roads and traffic infrastructure. And the tax based model of taxing oil will have to give way to distance based taxation. So EV’s are really not the ultimate solution to our transportation needs. Sure it reduces oil consumption but none of these other real problems is helped in the least by going to EV’s.

    I also don’t think mega projects like train systems or subways is the solution either. What might work is to fundamentaly question why, in this internet age, so many of us need to haul our bodies in heavy metal machines ( whether ICE or EV ) back and forth between homes and work for 35 years of work?

  9. Dave K. says:

    Amen Delta, I have a job that requires my physical presence but my wife drives 1 hour each way in traffic every day to perform a job she could easily do from home. That said I think Americans will never give up their cars, particularly in the newer, less dense cities, though they could certainly drive less. As for oil it is such a valuable resource I think it will all be extracted and used, and as the easy stuff is depleted the price will continue to increase. There are things(airliners for example) that just work better with liquid fuels and even when it becomes too scarce and valuable to burn it will be used for the the other stuff, plastics and pestacides, lubricants and solvents, ect. ect. (even cosmetics, do you really think women will give that up?)