18. The Censored News About Electric Automobiles
Earth Island Journal 300 Broadway, Ste. 28, San Francisco, CA 94133-3312, Date:
Fall 1992, Title: "The Suppression of Ideas By the Oil and Auto Industries,"
Author: Ed Schilling, Title: "When America Made Electric Cars," Author:
Robert G. Beaumont
SSU Censored Researcher: Kenneth Lang
SYNOPSIS: The conventional wisdom on transportation of the future
envisions a world without gas-guzzling and polluting cars ... a world
where electric cars are the norm. To the surprise of many, however,
the potential for mass-produced electric cars is already here and has
been present for some time.
Over the last 40 years,
tens of thousands of electric vehicles have been built, sold and put on the road.
They've been designed and manufactured by small, independent companies, while
Detroit's "Big Three" automakers apparently never got beyond the tinkering
stage. Instead, the auto industry has been more adept at subverting any threat
to the money-making infernal combustion engine.
In the 1930s, General Motors
conspired with Standard Oil of California, Phillips Petroleum, Firestone Tire
and Rubber and others to secretly dismantle the nation's energy-efficient, electrified
mass-rail system. They bought and then destroyed trolley lines in cities, including
Sacramento, Salt Lake City, Portland, Tampa, Baltimore, El Paso and Long Beach.
The companies were subsequently convicted of violating the Sherman Anti-Trust
Act and fined $5,000 each; their executives were each ordered to pay a $1 fine.
others continued to explore the benefits of electric-powered transportation. In
one 24-month period, from May 1974 through April 1976, Sebring-Vanguard, Inc.,
produced over 2,250 small, electric-powered CitiCars and marketed them for more
than $6 million. To date these vehicles have accumulated more than 20 million
miles without a fatality or single injury. Unfortunately, though, Sebring-Vanguard
lacked the capital to mass-produce and soon went out of business. Now, according
to Sebring-Vanguard founder Robert G. Beaumont, a marketable, useful electric
car could be produced and sold for under $8,000.
Early in 1990, prompted
by strict new laws requiring "emission free" vehicles for the Los Angeles
market by 1995, GM rushed to unveil its electric-powered Impact. Able to go 125
miles between two-hour charges, the 2,000 pound Impact claims a top speed of 110
miles per hour. So, here are a couple of questions for GM: What took you so long?
And why aren't these cars on the market by now?
In the U.S. today, where
one out of five jobs depends on the auto industry, Detroit's car makers continue
to test, rather than mass-produce, new electric engines. Some experts predict
that the nations that invent, produce and profit from the imminent boom market
for electric autos and advanced batteries will be Germany, Britain and Japan,
which forged ahead in the 1980s while the Reagan administration was ripping the
solar panels off the White House and slashing funds for conservation and alternative
energy programs. In Europe, electric rechargers already have been installed at
some city parking meters.
One would think that the major media would recognize the importance
of this issue to our economic and environ-mental survival, and give
the electric car the coverage. But, hey, our economic and environmental
survival doesn't have an advertising budget.
COMMENTS: Investigative author Ed Schilling reports there has
been little press coverage of this subject; and that coverage generally
consists of prototype photos with short captions in the business section
of newspapers. He adds, "No one has explored the historical development
of electric cars, electric hybrids or Sterling engines in any real depth."
"The mass media seldom, if ever, question the monopolistic practices
of the 'Big 3' automakers, or their continuous shelving of viable prototypes,
or their long history of creating an almost total reliance on the private
car. The relationship between these factors and America's increased
dependence on foreign oil continues to be overlooked.
"The general public would benefit greatly as informed consumers.
They would come to realize to what degree their choices have been limited by the
suppression of viable transportation alternatives. The average city commuter,
stuck in traffic for hours a day and forced to inhale sickly levels of polluted
air, may become angered to find out that viable automobile alternatives existed
25 years ago, but were never produced. If he knew more about the transportation
conspiracy, he may become outraged enough to take action. The American people
have a right to know, to affect change and to translate knowledge into power."