Approximately a month ago I had the opportunity to view the film Who Killed the Electric Car? This documentary film covers the story of the GM EV1, which entered a limited prodcution run in the mid to late 1990s. The car came along at a time that the California Air Resources Board issued a mandate that automakers would be required to include zero-emissions vehicles as part of their lineup in order to continue to sell their gasoline vehicles in the state. The film covers many reasons for the failure of the automobile and lays the blame for its failure at the feet of many parties. The point of this post is not to go into detail about this film, but rather to use the film as a background for this post.
I have to further this by asking a question. What’s your price? I’m sure we’ve all had those questions on what we would or would not do for say, a million dollars. I can recall several conversations with friends in which I recounted what I would or would not do for a perceived (great) amount of money. The problem with these arguments is that they usually begin with some statement like, “I wouldn’t do that no matter HOW much money you offered me.” That’s when the ante gets upped. Would you do it for… two Scooby snacks? 😉 I’m sure you get my point. If then, we are willing to compromise our values for a price, are they really values?
In the case of GM’s EV1, their production of an electric, zero-emissions vehicle showed their commitment to making an environmentally-friendly vehicle and even taking steps toward mass producing it. Or did it? The most interesting comments in the film came from the members of GM’s electric vehicle team and the auto mechanic who commented on the ease of servicing the vehicle compared with internal combustion engine vehicles. I’m not one to promote conspiracy theories, but could it be that this vehicle came off the road and out of production because it didn’t offer enough residual income for GM dealers. No money for replacing the parts that eventually need to be replaced due to the wear and tear of a conventional internal combustion gasoline-powered engine? That brings up the second money-related influence; Big Oil. Petroleum producers in this country, and worldwide, generally have some of the deepest pockets of any industry. If the electric car caught on and the infrastructure to accommodate it was put in place, that would put a huge dent in the profits of those companies who make a great deal of their profits upon the USA’s dependence on oil.
The issues brought up in this film are only a few of the areas in which money – BIG money – has influenced environmental policy decisions. I’m not going to suggest we can remove the influence of money on all of the decisions we make. To make such a supposition is patently absurd. What I do suggest is that we take a second look at how we do make the decisions we make and ask ourselves what we truly value. I posit that if money is ALWAYS the bottom line, then our values are in a constant state of flux. Not in a “I used to believe this, but now because of greater experience or information I believe this” sort of way. This flux in values has no true foundation. Everyday we make decisions that are based on a set of values that we have set for ourselves. If we look back on those decisions and can’t find a pattern that carves out a space for what we believe to be true, we are susceptible to being influenced by whoever writes the biggest check or has the most self-satisfying argument. At some point, we must realize our need to take a stand and not allow undue circumstances to influence us and talk us out of what we truly believe.
So then, WHAT do YOU believe?
No need to worry about the electric vehicle. It seems to have been resurrected.