Chevron’s two-faced approach to electric cars

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Just a week after Chevron announced a plan to install electric vehicle (EV) chargers at some California gas stations, it has been revealed that one of the company’s lobbyists has been pushing a secret effort to block charging stations in Arizona.

Marian Catedral King, the lead lobbyist for Chevron in the Southwest, has been encouraging the company’s retirees living in Arizona to write letters and make phone calls opposing the state’s effort to build out an EV charging infrastructure, according to the Arizona Republic.

Yet, just last week, the oil and gas giant announced a partnership with the charging network EVgo in which over a dozen EVgo fast chargers are either being built or are already running at five Chevron stations in California.

“Given that Chevron recently announced its intention to provide EV charging in its gas stations,” Chelsea Sexton, a long-time EV industry advisor and advocate, told ThinkProgress via email, “their hypocrisy is both oddly timed and entertainingly transparent.”

She added, “Chevron and its industry associates have a decades-long history of astroturfing tactics against electric vehicles, so their efforts in Arizona aren’t surprising.”

Astroturfing is when a corporation tries to make it look as if its message is in fact coming from the people, from the so-called grassroots. And, indeed, while Chevron provided its retirees a script to use in letters to Arizona’s utility commission (the ACC) opposing efforts to speed up deployment of EV chargers, many of those who used the script never mentioned that they were Chevron retirees.

At issue is whether the ACC should go through with its plan to require electric companies in the state to build electric-car charging stations.

Using the script, Sel Larsen, the president of the Arizona retirees group, wrote to the ACC arguing that consumers should not have to pay higher rates to build EV chargers. “Let the electric vehicle industry finance the construction of the infrastructure from which it will benefit,” he wrote, “rather than burdening most Arizona ratepayers with the costs of supporting the electric vehicle market.”

In reality, EV charging is now widely seen as a way of helping utilities keep costs for everyone more manageable — especially in a sunny place like Arizona, which has so much cheap solar power available.

As explained in Energy Secretary Rick Perry’s own electric grid study, a fleet of EVs and chargers could be used for “shifting load in response to price signals or operational needs,” allowing the utility to better manage peak loads. For instance, EV charging “could be shifted to the middle of the day to absorb high levels of solar generation and shifted away from evening hours when solar generation disappears,” and net load peaks.

Chevron’s efforts in Arizona are part of a much larger effort by the fossil fuel industry to undermine EVs. For instance, a former Koch Industries lobbyist has been leading climate denial groups in opposing any extension of the federal EV tax credit.

A Chevron spokesman defended the company’s astroturfing actions in an email to Green Car Reports:

“Chevron supports all forms of energy, including electricity for transportation. People also need to have affordable, reliable energy, and Chevron believes the ACC should consider all sides of the matter and not rush any proposed electric vehicle policy and implementation plan without fully evaluating the impacts of various alternatives. Chevron also believes the adoption of electric vehicles and the building of infrastructure to support them should be driven by consumer preferences, and take into consideration the economic impacts of various regulations. As for our engagement with retirees, we do provide information to stakeholders to give them the opportunity to speak up about certain positions on issues that can affect them.”

Sexton put things more succinctly: “EV drivers are already understandably cynical about oil companies entering the charging fray, and Chevron is singlehandedly justifying their concerns.”




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