As a climate-fueled heat wave stresses California's electric grid, right-wing media are disingenuously attacking electric vehicles
A potentially record-breaking heat wave is set to blanket much of California and the Western U.S. throughout the Labor Day weekend. In preparation for this event, California Gov. Gavin Newsom has declared a state of emergency, and grid operators in the state are urging residents to conserve power during peak hours. This also means advising residents to avoid charging electric vehicles during peak hours.
Right-wing media are using this potentially deadly heat event to mock both electric vehicles and California’s new rule that would ban the sale of new gas-powered cars by 2035. These attacks are littered with falsehoods about both EVs and what the gas car ban intends to do. At the same time, these attempts just distract from the fact that this event could result in California logging one of the hottest temperatures ever recorded on Earth.
The main focus of reporting on this event should be climate change, which is making heat waves such as this one more frequent and more severe, with one climate scientist stating recently that “I think we can very confidently say that every heatwave occurring today has been made more intense and more likely because of climate change.” Climate-fueled extreme heat events are also straining California’s power grid. The New York Times notes that the grid situation “could be worsened if a heat wave causes residents to turn to air-conditioners for comfort en masse, driving up energy demand.”
California is not banning all gas cars — a point that has apparently been lost by some right-wing media
On August 25, California regulators introduced a landmark rule that would ban the sale of new gas-powered cars and light trucks by 2035. The rule applies only to the sale of new gasoline cars — it does not affect the sale of used cars; it does not affect gas-powered cars bought before 2035; and it does not affect out-of-state gasoline cars driving into the state. The year 2035, of course, is more than a decade away, a time when electric vehicles are projected to make up more than half of global car sales. Additionally, The New York Times reports that major auto companies are already “receptive” to the rule. Many of these companies intend to be mostly or fully electric by 2035.
These facts have not stopped right-wing media from lying about the car rule, or forgetting to include some key information about the rule when discussing the new gas-powered car ban in relation to California’s upcoming heat wave. For example, a Foxnews.com headline from August 31 reads “GOP leader slams CA power operator for discouraging EV charging during heat wave after vote to ban gas cars.” Additionally, a Wall Street Journal editorial from the same day reads “No Fun in the California Sun: The state says don’t charge the EVs it will soon force you to buy.” California is not forcing people to buy electric cars, just instituting a ban on the sale of new gas-powered cars. This falsehood was also suggested by Rob Schmitt on the August 31 edition of Newsmax’s Rob Schmitt Tonight, when he stated, “Today the state of California sent out a powerful message begging residents for their compliance with a very hot Labor Day weekend ahead: Please keep your thermostat at 78 degrees and don't charge your electric car in the evening. That from the same state that's forcing you to buy an electric car.”
One tweet from the conservative Hodgetwins has over 50,000 likes and implies that California is completely banning all gas-powered cars by 2035:
Meanwhile, Fox News personality Larry Elder also tweeted misleading information about the car rule:
Fox News has also jumped in on this discourse. The network has been banging the drums against the California plan since it first came out; Laura Ingraham devoted her opening monologue to it on August 24, and on August 30, Tucker Carlson used the first 17 minutes of his show to bash the car rule and connect it to California’s grid issues.
This misleading chyron ran on the September 1 edition of The Faulkner Focus:
Again: California is not banning all gas cars, and the ban on new gas cars will take place 13 years from now.
On the September 1 edition of Outnumbered, Fox Business anchor Cheryl Casone implied that all gas cars are being banned in the state, stating, “It looks like California's going to need to pump the brakes on their electric vehicle plan. Just days after the Golden State regulators banned the sale of gas cars by 2035, a heat wave is now straining California’s power grid and forcing the Dem-led city to urge residents to not charge their electric vehicles from 4-9 p.m.”
On the September 1 edition of America’s Newsroom, climate contrarian guest Michael Shellenberger broadly stated, “It was quite ironic that six days after the state voted to ban internal combustion engines, the state grid operator warned that people should not be charging their cars because of a risk of blackouts.”
California is neither banning people from charging EVs nor urging them not to do it at all; it is only asking them not to charge EVs during peak hours
This last Shellenberger statement brings up a larger point about California’s power grid message: The state is not banning people from charging their electric vehicles; it’s only urging them not to do it during peak demand hours:
In a news release, the California ISO said it expects that it will issue calls for voluntary conservation of electricity through Flex alerts over the long weekend.
"During a Flex Alert, consumers are urged to reduce energy use from 4-9 p.m. when the system is most stressed because demand for electricity remains high and there is less solar energy available," the release said.
California made the same request last year, and data shows that most EV owners don’t need to charge their EVs during peak hours:
Most electric car drivers top off their battery regularly rather than charging it from empty to full. Therefore, many cars are equipped with charging timers and only require a few hours of charging each day, so Californians can easily avoid charging vehicles during peak hours.
Some of the right-wing media discussion ignores this fact. A Daily Wire headline reads “California Asks Residents To Avoid Charging Electric Vehicles Due To Blackout Risk Days After Unveiling New Gas Car Ban.”
Some Twitter takes from conservative media personalities also contain this falsehood:
Right-wing media are continuing their long-running crusade of attacking electric vehicles and ignoring the climate crisis
Fox News in particular has a long-running campaign against electric vehicles and ignores the evidence that the vehicle market appears favorable to EVs in the next few years. (It could also save consumers trillions of dollars.) The example above shows that Fox personalities seem to want their viewers to believe that the ban on new gas-powered cars in California is taking place tomorrow; they’re ignoring the fact that it’s still over a decade away, by which time the country will inevitably have added more clean power capacity to the grid.
Fox is also ignoring how climate change is exacerbating extreme heat events and causing major stresses on the electrical grid. A good example of this comes from the September 1 edition of Fox Business’ Varney & Co. Speaking about the upcoming California heat wave, The Federalist’s Ben Domenech blamed the “green agenda” for potential stress on the energy grid, and not the main culprit, which is climate-fueled extreme weather events. (Domenech also claimed nuclear power should be considered more, without noting that California recently just voted to extend the life of its last-remaining nuclear plant.)
A summer of extreme climate-fueled events shows the climate crisis is at our doorstep. Right-wing media refuse to acknowledge this reality, instead preferring to repeat pro-fossil fuel messages — i.e., the ones that got us into this climate mess in the first place.