18. The Censored News About Electric Automobiles

Source: 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.

Meanwhile, 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."