WPC and Fossil Fuels
Chris Cargill is casting doubt on EVs from a position of ignorance and ideology
The Washington Policy Center in eastern Washington now seems to have an open propaganda platform in the Spokesman Review. About every two weeks Chris Cargill of WPC gets a Guest Opinion slot in which to propound Republican talking points. He was recently elected in November 2021 to the City of Liberty Lake City Council. Mr. Cargill is also the Eastern Washington director of the Washington Policy Center and seems to be WPC’s primary representation in eastern Washington. Mr. Cargill credentials are ideally suited to a career in politics and communicating a political agenda. He holds a B.A. in broadcast communication studies and political science from Gonzaga University. His experience is in broadcast journalism and marketing campaigns.
Working for WPC, it is not surprising that Mr. Cargill should find himself called upon to cast doubt on anything that might reduce oil company profits, so, on April 1 he weighed in electric vehicles with a Guest Opinion entitled “Political push for electric vehicles might not make sense, or cents”. Notice, first off, that he frames conversion to EVs as “political”. He carefully avoids any mention of climate change, the primary reason for EV advocacy. Instead, he dives into his version of economics, whining in his first paragraph:
Maybe you’re one of the millions of Americans fed up with high gas prices. You might be thinking about buying an electric vehicle but are concerned about the price. Would an EV pay for itself and save you money?
Mr. Cargill then offers a hodgepodge of claims, brands, and occasional cherry-picked numbers in a rambling effort to cast doubt. His source, his proof? “The state has a spreadsheet” that “proves” the costs “might not make sense.” [The italics are mine.] He pretends to have dived into the weeds for his proof (without offering a link so one could see the methodology), and the best he can come up with is a “proof” of a “might”. He must be trying really hard…
Let’s do a little back-of-the-envelope math as a rough fact check. Gasoline right now is hovering around four dollars a gallon. For argument let’s assume (generously) that most police vehicles (the EVs Mr. Cargill seems most anxious to criticize) get around 25 miles to the gallon. To go 100,000 miles, that’s 4,000 gallons or $16,000 at $4/gal. Unlike Mr. Cargill, I’ve actually driven a dual motor Model 3 Tesla for the last three years. Plugged in at home in Spokane a kilowatt hour (kWh) of electricity costs just about 8 cents. The stats on my onboard computer tell me that I have averaged 4 miles per kWh since I’ve owned the car. To go 100,000 miles, that’s 25,000 kWh or $2,000 at 8 cents/kWh. Two thousand dollars per 100,000 with a powerful EV vs. $16,000 per 100,000 miles for a gas vehicle, a saving of $14,000 per 100,000 miles. Hmmm.
Mr. Cargill’s “proof” that EVs “might” not make sense has to contend with maintenance as well. The only fluids one has to watch and maintain on an electric car are for the windshield washer and the hydraulic brake system. No messy engine oil changes and disposal, no oil filter, no air cleaner, no radiator fluid, and none the leaks of those fluids to which fossil fuel vehicles are prone. Furthermore, the brakes on an EV get far less wear than on an fossil fuel vehicle on account of regenerative braking—a technology that partly reclaims the energy from deceleration and puts it back in the battery rather than wasting that energy heating up and wearing down brake pads and rotors.
Of course, Mr. Cargill cannot leave out McMorris Rodger’s, WPC’s, and national Republican major, must-be-repeated talking points that come out whenever climate change is mentioned:
The additional [unproven] cost [of EVs], …is so large that it would be far more environmentally friendly to purchase gas-powered vehicles and invest the thousands of dollars saved in projects that reduce CO2 emissions or other environmental priorities.
Just what “projects to reduce CO2 emissions” does he endorse? You guessed it. The next two paragraphs go right to keeping the Snake River Dams and promoting nuclear power.
Mr. Cargill’s Guest Opinion reeks of fossil fuel industry efforts to slow walk dealing with climate change. He may truly believe that burning fossil fuels does not cause climate change, or that climate change is myth, but he certainly believes that spending even an extra penny to avoid the worst results of climate change cannot be justified. He will use every bit of rhetoric in the Republican-fossil-fuel-industry playbook to slow down conversion away from fossil fuels. After all, there are still profits to be made, and some of those profits eventually pay part of Mr. Cargill’s salary at WPC. Why does this man even have a platform for his hand-waving? Perhaps the answer is in the words at the end of Mr. Cargill’s article:
Members of the Cowles family, owners of The Spokesman-Review, have previously hosted fundraisers for the Washington Policy Center and sit on the organization’s board.
Keep to the high ground,
P.S. I acknowledge there is likely some resistance to change in the law enforcement community. Hardly anyone welcomes change with open arms, no matter the importance to the planet. Change is even less welcome when the argument for change comes from someone else, especially from a government containing a majority of Democrats. Mr. Cargill is following a long Republican tradition undermining climate urgency and fostering doubts of its importance.