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Green Capitalists: Still Corporate Exploiters of Labor

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A serious issue environmentalists have is that they are so market-oriented these days, that they rely on the power of the individual capitalists to build a sustainable economy. But green capitalists are still capitalists motivated by profit and therefore are going to exploit labor to the greatest level possible. As I have argued, environmentalists have to deal with this and demand the construction of a green infrastructure with union labor if they are going to build bridges with working-class communities. Dayen’s story on Tesla gets at the problems of labor issues in the green economy.

Along Silicon Valley’s interlocking freeways, low-slung tech offices with obscure names like Way.com or Oorja are populated by fresh-faced technologists in badges and pleated slacks, striving to create the next great app. But off the I-880 in Fremont, a white colossus rises from the landscape, a 5.3- million-square-foot monster that stretches across two interchanges. The gray lettering is a full story high: TESLA.

Here, the company makes high-end, zero-emission vehicles, luxury cruisers for a climate emergency. Chief executive officer Elon Musk has cultivated a reputation as an economic visionary and has been hailed for solving the world’s great challenges with panache. Tesla’s Fremont factory brought hope to a blue-collar, racially diverse town with a manufacturing tradition. And this week, after reports of a 69 percent increase in first-quarter sales, the automaker passed Ford in market value. But though its products epitomize the future, workers like Richard Ortiz say Tesla’s labor conditions are mired in the past.

Ortiz is a production associate in the closures department, assembling hoods, doors — “anything that opens or closes” on Model S sedans and Model X SUVs. Though videos of the Tesla factory emphasize robotic automation, over 6,000 workers engage in intense manual labor to build the cars.

“I have an eight-pound rivnut gun,” Ortiz said, referring to a tool that installs rivet nuts. “I’m doing that all day long. I’m to the point where, if I pick something up with any weight, within 30 seconds I have to drop it. That scares me, I want to be able to use my arm when I retire.”

Tesla workers say circumstances like Ortiz’s are commonplace at a factory that prioritizes production goals over health and safety. Now they’re fighting back against low pay, hazardous conditions and a culture of intimidation, seeking to unionize through the United Auto Workers. Tesla is the only U.S. automaker using nonunion workers at a stateside plant, and breaking through would give organized labor a foothold in the tech industry as well. Until then, the Tesla experience reveals that green jobs aren’t necessarily good jobs without worker power. “They want to make sustainable cars,” says Ortiz. “We need sustainable employment.”

The issues start with wages. According to Moran and co-workers, wages range from $17 to $21 an hour, well below the $29.04 national average hourly wage for motor vehicle manufacturing. Tesla claims stock awards push total compensation above autoworker averages, but workers counter that the stock doesn’t fully vest until four years of service. “I can’t tell a little kid, I’ll feed you in a year,” Ortiz said. Raises and promotions are also rare; Ortiz mentioned a colleague who received only one increase in seven years.

Tesla workers make luxury vehicles that can cost $90,000 or more but, unlike the people at Henry Ford’s plant, have no chance of buying one. “Seventeen dollars to $21 without a lot of benefits is not much higher than you can get being a gardener or a hotel clerk,” said Nelson Lichtenstein, a labor history professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

The low pay shrinks further in the San Francisco Bay Area, which has one of the nation’s highest costs of living. Though the heavily Asian and Latino residential districts around the factory feature modest one-story tract homes and apartments – I even saw a large mobile home park – housing costs are so exorbitant that employees cannot hope to live near the worksite. The median two-bedroom apartment in Fremont rents for $2,640 a month, according to ApartmentList.com. For a married Tesla worker making entry-level wages and working 43 hours a week, that’s equivalent to 90 percent of take-home pay.

Underpaid, overworked, bad workplace safety. Sounds ideal for a capitalist like Musk. Pretty bad for workers. What green groups should do is openly support the attempt of these workers to join the United Auto Workers. That should be an official position of environmentalists. It won’t be though because mainstream environmentalists have so deeply imbibed in rich people providing market solutions and have so few connections with working people that such a strategy would be an unprecedented shift. But this is how you strengthen environmentalism as a political movement in the long term, even if it outrages the supposed green capitalist heroes.

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  • mojrim

    This seems obvious on its face, Erik, but I’m sure you know that. This entire ‘green economy’ is driven by educated, urban professionals that can afford to drop $90k for a car in the first place. They would never do the kind of labor Ortiz describes (maybe in college?) and simply cannot imagine it as a career. As you pointed out in the Harvard story, when push comes to shove class and money trump other connections.

    • Rob in CT

      To be scrupulously fair, there’s a fair number of green (EV) & greenish (hybrids) vehicles on the market, and most of them cost far less than $90k.

      They’re not cheap, exactly, but some of them are knocking on that door, at least if you include the subsidies.

      As far as I can tell, the best out the door cost for an EV here in CT would be a Ford Focus at ~$19.5k. Two “coming soons” are right behind (Ioniq and the updated eGolf).

      Sorry, I was making a spreadsheet and…

      Anyway, none of this takes away from the labor issues.

      • mojrim

        What you’re saying is true but sort of misses the forest for the trees – a notable danger with spreadsheets. The drivers of this shift, the idea, are people whose patch isn’t threatened, who can bear high transition costs, and for whom a Tesla is a status object in their peer group.

        This isn’t bad in itself. In fact, it’s how stuff like this usually gets done. We just have to remain mindful that class drives this bus.

    • Domino

      It’s a revolution that requires no discipline. It requires no sacrifice from the most notable of people – literally, what are they giving up?

      Elon Musk is better than Don Blakenship, but the quality of the working conditions for people who work for them aren’t dramatically different. It’s why we need to really support businesses that pay their workers well, and not ones that have sleak PR departments.

      • mojrim

        That’s why this isn’t a revolution, just a slow, grinding evolution toward… I’m not really sure.

      • Just_Dropping_By

        Elon Musk is better than Don Blakenship, but the quality of the working conditions for people who work for them aren’t dramatically different.

        Yeah, I’m sure the death and disability rate for Tesla workers is like no more than 10% lower than for Massey Coal: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Massey_Energy#Aracoma_Alma_Mine_accident *snicker*

    • Timurid

      The people who can afford green cars, refrigerators or light bulbs will use them. Those who can’t afford them will do without.
      There’s a rather virulent mutant strain of environmentalists who argue we can save the planet by lowering the living standards of the middle and working classes. They’re going to be in for a rude surprise when the newly impoverished are cutting down all the trees for firewood, poaching all the wildlife for food and sellable parts and polluting the waterways with their untreated sewage…

      • Origami Isopod

        There’s a rather virulent mutant strain of environmentalists who argue we can save the planet by lowering the living standards of the middle and working classes.

        And then there are the “deep ecologists,” who look forward to mass human die-offs. Wonder how much overlap there is there.

        • Hallen

          I don’t see what’s so unpleasant about that. “Human dieback” doesn’t mean “put them into camps.”

          Shouldn’t we all be looking forward to a declining population, which means less pressure upon the carriage capacity of the planet, not to mention less pressure on each individual who does wind up being born?

          That said, environmentalists who want to destroy middle-class lifestyles (as opposed to those who want to reduce dependence upon harmful processes that support those lifestyles)–well, I guess they’re just masturbating.

          But, yeah, going primitivist would kill the entire ecology of Earth in about a decade. You couldn’t have that without a dieback so severe it basically means the collapse of any kind of advanced civilization in the first place, and the only way you could get there in a thousand years would be nuclear weapons. So that’s out.

          • Rob in CT

            Erm, maybe it’s just me, but the term dieback seems to imply rather strongly that it’s not just a slow decline in population due to a sub-replacement level birthrate.

            Agree with the rest.

            • Hallen

              To be fair, the first time I heard the phrase “human dieback” was as a euphemism in a Warren Ellis comic, where the (accidentally-triggered) plan was to kill almost everybody on Earth using rods-from-God-style kinetic energy weapons launched from orbit. Still, it could mean all sorts of things.

              I’ll grant that some environmentalists really do derogate human life, which isn’t attractive. I would guess it has something to do with how caring to any significant degree about other species means reframing the value of one’s fellow humans, but then taking that basic reframing a little (or a lot) too far.

              • mojrim

                Dieback is a pretty straightforward term, the operative portion being “die.” This is significantly different from “population decline.”

        • mojrim

          I’d say maybe 0.25 if you asked them in a poll, approaching unity if push comes to shove.

      • twbb

        A lot of those environmentalists would argue that the changes they are proposing do not “lower[] the living standards,” but essentially improve them by removing extraneous things that are environmentally bad and don’t make us any happier.

        So it’s not so much “we don’t need food or shelter or warmth” so much as “we don’t need 67 brands of toothpaste and electric can openers.”

        Yes there are some radical environmentalists who don’t care much about human suffering, but they are a very small group.

  • Q.E.Dumbass

    Completely OT: Don Rickles is dead.

    • cleek

      Fark’s headline is “Don Rickles Was Alive”

      • Just_Dropping_By

        I was actually quite surprised to learn Rickles was still alive a few months ago (he got quoted in something and I did a double-take), so that seems fair.

        • Jordan

          I’m quite surprised that *fark* is still alive.

    • Colin Day

      Hey, shut up, you hockey puck!

  • jroth95

    Worth noting here that Tesla’s quality/reliability issues got so bad that Consumer Reports removed their recommendation for them. Given the libel always leveled against unionized American autoworkers, it’s important to remember that Tesla shows pretty clearly that, shockingly, management decisions, not worker actions, are the primary determinant of product quality.

    • Brett

      I remember reading about that. They figured that Tesla’s customers put up with it because they’re all wealthy enough that it’s not a huge inconvenience for the cars to be recalled repeatedly.

  • MikeJake

    I feel like so much of the sycophantic admiration that existed for Steve Jobs needed a vessel to pour into after he died, and thus made its way to Elon Musk. I’m glad there’s a corporation looking to push solar and battery technology in profitable ways, but I think Musk’s way overrated as a visionary.

    • Rob in CT

      Yeah, Musk really does seem to have a reality distortion field just like Jobs did.

      I mean, both ran companies that really did produce cool products, but holy shit the hype.

      I guess you could say that while most CEOs don’t really add that much to a corporate bottom line, those guys really did/do ;)

      • Philip

        Both also ran companies that are quietly very well known for their horrific treatment of women. Surprise surprise!

        • petesh

          Musk quoted in the Vanity Fair article by M. Dowd:

          “How much time does a woman want a week?” he asked Ashlee Vance. “Maybe ten hours? That’s kind of the minimum?”

          It also contains this unusually good Dowdism:

          Guys who got rich writing code to solve banal problems like how to pay a stranger for stuff online now contemplate a vertiginous world where they are the creators of a new reality and perhaps a new species.

          • mojrim

            That’s beautiful.

          • Domino

            That was a fascinating article, and a great read as well. Thanks for sharing.

      • mojrim

        That fact points to something I’ve saying for two decades of exponentially increasing CEO pay. For good or ill these guys built something from scratch and got rich on the value of that construct. The professional managers that succeed them are just landlords.

      • CrunchyFrog

        But Musk puts much more effort into being a cult figure than Jobs, or any other tech CEO I can think of, and that’s saying something. I sometimes wonder if he does anything operationally or is just the media guy who plays at being the CEO.

    • Domino

      Being a wealthy guy who supports space programs is apparently the way to go – Richard Bronson started it years ago, and now Elon Musk has taken up the mantle. I’m partially surprised Zuckerberg hasn’t announced his own space exploration company.

      • BiloSagdiyev

        Spacebook!

      • Brett

        Musk does deserve credit for one thing – he was big into trying to break up the de facto monopoly that existed for US space launches, to the point where he came very close to bankruptcy (NASA commercial crew funding saved his company). I don’t know whether he’ll actually succeed in getting launch costs down, but I’m hopeful he does.

        Of course, that gets buried in all the hype he does about Mars missions and so forth. Musk is really big on hype and starting up new companies, not so great at managing the ones he has. I’ve heard the rumors before that he works his employees super-hard and does the whole workaholic “sleep at my desk” thing.

    • kped

      Yes, a thousand times yes to this. I can’t stand cult of personalities, and Musk has one building around him. And half the time he just says something with no intend to follow through that actual engineers rip apart (his ship to mars that would have movie theaters was a joke, as was his hyperloop plan).

      • Phil Perspective

        Yes, a thousand times yes to this. I can’t stand cult of personalities, ….

        Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!!!!!!!

        • kped

          ?

          • Rob in CT

            My guess: if you supported Obama (or Clinton), you *love* cults of personality. IT IS KNOWN. Only a mindless drone could possibly have thought those politicians were worthy of support.

            Whereas a brave truth-teller like Phil, who hates every actually existing political leader, is immune to such things. However, if Phil does like a politician, it will have nothing to do with a cult of personality, because shut up. QED.

    • Brett

      You’re not the only one who thinks he’s heavily over-rated. His two main companies are both running behind schedule and either in the red or breaking even (I think SpaceX is just over breaking even), and in the case of Tesla have the engineering issues mentioned up-comments. But instead of getting that sorted out, he’s fooling around with new business ideas and generally throwing stuff out there for people to go “gee whiz” over (like that Mars Transport System thing he had a few months ago). Musk is not the next Henry Ford.

    • twbb

      Eh, as bad as he can be he’s still worlds better as a vessel than the narcissistic, possibly sociopathic, Steve Jobs.

  • tde

    At 90K, I don’t think a Tesla is particularly “green”

    All it does is transfer the pollution source from the tailpipe to an electric generating plant, and those are often powered by filthy coal.

    I am sure somebody could pencil out an argument that the Tesla over its lifespan caused X fewer pounds of pollution but, so what?

    You could buy a Prius for 30K, donate 30K to building solar panels somewhere and donate another 30K to helping build transgender bathrooms.

    Teslas (like many ostensibly eco-friendly products) is simply about status.

    • Rob in CT

      All it does is transfer the pollution source from the tailpipe to an electric generating plant, and those are often powered by filthy coal.

      This is a little overstated. Coal power plants are, IIRC, more efficient than an ICE, even with transmissions losses accounted for.

      You could buy a Prius for 30K, donate 30K to building solar panels somewhere and donate another 30K to helping build transgender bathrooms.

      All true, though the Prius would use some gas. They get, what, 50mpg? That’s good, but still ~300 gallons a year (15k miles driving).

      But then there’s the Volt, which after incentives is in the $20s for cost (~$23k here, as CT has its own subsidy) and uses some gas but very little unless you’re going far (~50 miles EV range, then you get 35-40mpg when the ICE kicks in).

      Or the Bolt, which is pricier (closer to 30k) and is a pure EV with 200+ miles range.

      Then there will be the Tesla 3, which should cost ~$30k after the federal tax credit. That’s still not cheap, but much closer to affordable for the mass market.

      • tde

        “This is a little overstated. Coal power plants are, IIRC, more efficient than an ICE, even with transmissions losses accounted for.”

        I don’t disagree, that’s why I went out to say that even when you pencil out that a 90K Tesla has a smaller carbon footprint than other cars – that is silly when you see that you could purchase a Prius and donate 60K to whatever good works you wanted – including environmental ones.

        Between buying a Tesla and buying a Prius and donating 60K to building solar panels or whatever there is absolutely no question at all that the Prius/donation would be much greener than a Tesla ever will be.

        • Rob in CT

          A Tesla roadster, S, or X, yes.

          A Model 3 (ETA: soon), we’ll see.

    • The grid emissions are a stale talking point. A car has a life of 20 years or so – the mean age of light vehicles on US roads is 11 years. The emissions intensity of the electric grid is dropping fast, and the lifetime for a new EV will be half the current rate. Besides, ICE cars also emit killer air pollution, which evs slash drastically (there s still some from tyre, brake and road dust).

      As Rob in CT says, the very real benefits of the ev revolution led by Tesla do not excuse its labour practices.

      Audi workers in Ingolstadt recently asked VW management to let them build more electric cars. In German corporate governance, they have to be listened to.

      • tde

        Stale is not a synonym for inaccurate.

        Like I said, if the choice is between buying a Tesla versus buying a Prius and donating 30K or 60K to “environmental” projects, there is absolutely no question which is the greener choice. None.

        • humanoid.panda

          One does have to add the extra benefit of demonstrating that one make a profit selling electric cars, and that whatever technology Tesla has now to produce a 60K car, could be used to produce a 20K car 10 years down the line.

          • Rob in CT

            Yes, but for one thing: Tesla hasn’t made a profit yet.

            • IIRC neither has Amazon, because they both plow their cash flow into expansion and R&D. But, really Tesla and Amazon are operating in a post-profit world, in that the value of their brand and stock price are far more important than their cash flow. As long as investors and bank officers see those companies as golden children that can do no wrong, (and the economy doesn’t tank) they will keep getting capital infusions to stay afloat.

        • CrunchyFrog

          Well, if you make it Tesla vs. Prius+60k environmental donation sure the Prius wins. But your first statement was too close to one of the Koch-funded lies about EVs being worse polluters than ICE cars. Even in states which have a lot of coal-powered electricity the EVs produce much less greenhouse gas, and on average the difference is massive. Then throw in the fact you are supporting an emerging industry and all the necessary learnings thereof and the choice is clear (that is, if you *must* have a car).

          • tde

            I am sure somebody could pencil out an argument that the Tesla over its lifespan caused X fewer pounds of pollution but, so what?

            Isn’t really close at all to:

            one of the Koch-funded lies about EVs being worse polluters than ICE cars.

        • Aaron Morrow

          It is inaccurate to exaggerate how dirty the electric grid is today and in the near future in order to engage in greenwashing of fossil fuels in automobiles.

    • MikeJake

      Is Tesla really achieving anything above and beyond what the established automakers are doing?

      American automakers are so often a punching bag, I feel like we don’t give them enough credit for knowing the auto business.

      • Rob in CT

        Tesla, until the 3 finally comes out, is in the luxury market.

        Most of the other EVs are aimed at the middle class, and are not directly comparable. It will be interesting to see how things go with the 3, and with the “gigafactory” Tesla is building to make their batteries. Including their wall batteries for home power storage…

        To my eye, there are a number of EV and Plug-in Hybrid options from traditional automakers that are actually potentially practical for middle class people. None are Teslas, for now at least.

        Musk also gets a bunch of credit/hype for Solar City and SpaceX.

      • BiloSagdiyev

        And conversely, I’m amazed at how much credit Musk/Tesla are getting. Electric motors and batteries aren’t new, nor exclusive to them. All the rest of the building of a car? It’s a big, cruel industry, which has been consolidating for a century. A few slip ups and Tesla is toast.

        • Merkwürdigliebe

          Yeah. Formulating and (so far) successfully executing a vision that could make a substantive dent in our emissions in a way that is minimally disruptive to people’s living standards and thus is actually realizable is definitely not something worthy of any credit.

          Especially if you do it risking several hundred million of your own money from your revolutionary software inventions. Lets hope it fails.

          • BiloSagdiyev

            That’s not what I’m saying. He’s a little bit of ahead of Toyota, and all of the other car companies building hybrids (parallel, and now, sequential) and electric cars now, too. It’s a cruel business. I’m not rooting for him to fail, but I view it as… a car company.

            • Merkwürdigliebe

              I think he is substantially ahead, especially considering that he built a successful competitive car company out of nothing. The others are following in part as a result of him leading the way and showing that it is viable. And inevitable – because the established car companies were in part held back by their desire not to imperil and cannibalize their existing gasoline portfolio.

              He is also (amid other stuff like online payment methods and home solar power systems) responsible for conceiving and building the first reusable rocket ever, as a part of a plausible (if highly ambitious and optimistic) plan to colonize other planets. I think that’s where the hype might be coming from.

              • CrunchyFrog

                Funny how people talk about Musk as though he is personally the only one doing creative work at Tesla. If no Musk, it never happens. It’s really become quite the cult.

                • Merkwürdigliebe

                  Funny how people talk about Hitchcock and Fellini as though they were personally the only ones doing creative work on their films. Cultists everywhere.

                • Aaron Morrow

                  It’s 2017; nobody talks about Hitchcock and Fellini as though they were personally the only ones doing creative work on their films except for Randian freaks.

                • Merkwürdigliebe

                  Yes, obviously, there are always many other people putting their work into the final product. That doesn’t change the fact that 8 1/2 just really doesn’t happen without Fellini as the core creative driving force.

                  And Tesla and SpaceX don’t happen without Musk. He came up with the idea, the fundamental organizational and managerial work and a substantive portion of the starting capital. This isn’t to diminish the due credit of many other individual contributors, but as far as personalities-driving-the-course-of-history examples go, this is a pretty good one.

                • There are some assholes like Trump, Farage and Stein who contribute nothing. There are assholes like Musk, Jobs and Patton who get things done and can inspire others to do more. The first type rely on the second as models, and think assholery is part of the recipe for success. It’s a fallacy. Some very successful leaders like Bradley and Nelson do it without being assholes.

                • Rob in CT

                  Well said, James.

                  Sometimes I think one key factory in the health of a nation is how well it channels and uses the talents of its useful assholes.

              • Brett

                It’s not out of nothing. The Tesla plant was an already existing state-of-the-art auto plant which he converted over to Tesla production, including keeping much of the work force that had worked there before. On top of that, he had a 9-figure loan from the federal government.

                • Merkwürdigliebe

                  I don’t know why I have to point this out but a factory is not the same thing as a car manufacturing company producing its own designs.

                  And did you know that he also didn’t create the land on which his Gigafactory is being built, ex nihilo? It was already there! He just bought it. There are even rumors that he has to buy the manufacturing resources instead of materializing them out of thin air. I mean – does the guy actually make anything at all?

        • RabbitIslandHermit

          I think they get a lot of credit because they created electric cars that are very fast and good looking and are some people’s dream cars for reasons other than economy or environmentalism. It’s an electric car for people who really like cars.

          • humanoid.panda

            And I think one could make the argument that making electric cars cool is a huge environmental benefit down the line.

    • Nubby

      All it does is transfer the pollution source from the tailpipe to an electric generating plant, and those are often powered by filthy coal.

      I see this all the time, and it’s weak argument. The reason is that oil takes a fuckton of energy to refine, so you’re burning coal to refine the oil that you then burn. With an electric car at least you’re skipping the refining plus all the energy consumed in the transportation of refined fossil fuel products like petrol and diesel. That’s the beauty of electricity, it’s really really easy to transport.

      It’s difficult to tell how much energy is used refining oil, but there’s a reason refineries are built next to powerplants. This video does some rough estimates.

    • Merkwürdigliebe

      All it does is transfer the pollution source from the tailpipe to an electric generating plant, and those are often powered by filthy coal.

      If only Musk had also started some sort of a company that specialized in renewable energy production that could dovetail with the distributed battery system of the electric car fleet…

      • DocAmazing

        This should be underscored. Using Musk products, one could put up a solar auto charging station of one’s own and run one’s electric car largely off-grid and virtually zero-emission. Musk’s stuff’s expensive now, but solar and battery technology are getting cheaper by leaps and bounds. The wealthy early adopters are somewhat useful here.

        • Bill Murray

          this ignores the environmental costs of processing the materials to make the car and its components. It looks like Tesla uses aluminum alloys which use a huge amount of energy to separate the aluminum from oxygen. Aluminum used to be more valuable than gold until the late 1800s because it needed so much energy to refine.

          • Merkwürdigliebe

            But since these renewable energy cars substitute for internal combustion cars AND the aluminum more than pays for itself energy-wise over the lifetime of the vehicle by decreasing the weight you have to accelerate, this isn’t really a point, is it?

            Also, aluminum used to be more valuable than gold because the electrolytic process that could separate it from oxygen had not been invented yet. So you couldn’t process it out of the plentiful bauxite but you had to already find it in the very rare metallic form.

            • The main input into making aluminium apart from bauxite is electricity. Much of this is already from renewable hydro, as in Iceland, Quebec and Norway. There is no technical reason why all of it should not be. SolarReserve are building a CSP solar thermal plant for a mine in Chile that will run 24/7.

              • Merkwürdigliebe

                I wanted to point to the Icelandic model of aluminum extraction originally but I wasn’t sure what share of total production renewables really cover…

                A lot of aluminum also gets recycled, further lowering the energy budget.

    • JustRuss

      You could give all your money to Greenpeace and live in a cave eating nuts and berries, and that would have no bearing on whether or not a Tesla is “green”. Whatever the hell “green” even means. I’ve never heard “affordable” was one of the requirements.

      • Merkwürdigliebe

        Affordable is in fact one of their key goals, with the upcoming Model 3 being The Thing. It’s just that the long-term strategy was to get there through luxury models first, to appeal to investors and establish the technology base on a smaller scale.

    • Just_Dropping_By

      All it does is transfer the pollution source from the tailpipe to an electric generating plant, and those are often powered by filthy coal.

      I expect to read tripe like this on the libertarian-leaning boards I visit. Even if one assumes that renewables and other lower-carbon power sources don’t make up an ever larger share of the electricity supply, it’s still better for the environment to switch to electric vehicles because carbon capture at the power plant level will be exponentially easier to implement than carbon capture at the tailpipe level.

    • Nom de clavier

      All it does is transfer the pollution source from the tailpipe to an electric generating plant, and those are often powered by filthy coal.

      Yeah, no. Considering the current makeup of the US electricity grid (roughly one third coal, on third gas, and one third nuclear and renewables), you should expect an EV to put out about half as much carbon dioxide as an ICE. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, this is in fact the case.

  • PunditusMaximus

    Hey wow Corporate Dems are shitty people who greenwash to hide their indifference to ordinary folks.

    Nobody has advanced this hypothesis before.

    • PunditusMaximus

      But if you don’t vote for them, you love Trump! or something

      • Rob in CT

        If your choice is a Corporate Dem(tm) and Trump and you don’t vote Corporate Dem you are saying you’re fine with Trump. If you do this in a safe state it’s unlikely to hurt, but it’s also a form of free riding.

        Remember that you can actually pressure a Corporate Dem to be better (or, if you prefer, less shitty). Not every effort will succeed, but some will. Whereas with Trump…

        Corporate Dems will ratchet up CAFE standards and otherwise tinker to try and mitigate the climate catastrophe we’re producing. They will appoint decent people to run the DoJ, instead of Jeff Sessions. They are open to minimum wage increases, though they’ll fret about how much/how fast. And on and on and on.

        • wjts

          Stop blackmailing the poor dears, Rob.

          • Rob in CT

            Moi?

            Why, I didn’t even mention SCOTUS. ;)

      • nemdam

        Yeah, you got it. Since you didn’t vote for the person who could stop him, you are fine with Trump.

      • Abbey Bartlet

        But if you don’t vote for them, you love Trump! or something

        I certainly hope you do, jackass.

        • PunditusMaximus

          Oh I looked at the blackmail and I voted for HRC.

          But I’m not stupid enough to think that everyone who stayed home and didn’t endure 8 hour voting lines did so because they loved Tr45. I think it’s conceivable that they just weren’t super inspired by the alternative and that we maybe shouldn’t repeat the error.

          • Rob in CT

            I’m not stupid enough to think that everyone who stayed home and didn’t endure 8 hour voting lines did so because they loved Tr45.

            Who cares if they loved him? They didn’t particularly care if he became President.

            I think it’s conceivable that they just weren’t super inspired by the alternative

            Which is never, ever on them, is it?

            To be clear: yes, let’s find a more inspirational candidate next time, by all means. But you know, this “I have to be inspired to bother to vote!” thing really needs to die in a fire. It won’t, but it should.

            I do expect some of the folks who chose not to vote in 2016 will learn from the experience, similar to people who learned that in 2000, “Bore/Gush” was dumb.

            • PunditusMaximus

              How was your 8 hour voting line? Did your boss threaten to fire you?

              Those are the folks on the margin. They do, in fact, need to be inspired to pay the real costs.

              Fricking comfortable white people.

      • Aaron Morrow

        Yes, by not voting for people who want to expand overtime wages, you ended screwing the working class even more by denying them overtime wages.

        That’s how democracy works.

    • JKTH

      That’s some nice non-sequiting Lou.

      • BiloSagdiyev

        Some darned good non-sequting…

        • NonyNony

          Eh, I thought it was marginal at best. 2 stars, would not ask to non-sequit again.

  • Justin Runia

    Not only that, but he’s such a bad urbanist that it undermines his Green credentials:

    http://www.vox.com/2016/12/19/14005504/elon-musk-tunnel-traffic

    Instead of thinking, “hmmm, my commute sucks, maybe I should move closer to both my businesses in Hawthorne”, his solution is “MOAR ROADS”, which is a basic fallacy in the world of urban planning. Of course, Hawthorne is almost completely surrounded by freeways and lacks a good selection of private schools, so one can only imagine Other People living there.

    • Brett

      Whenever Musk comes under heat for whatever reason (labor practices, questions about the Solar City-Tesla merger), he starts throwing out all kinds of wild ideas for new startups to get people’s attention. The tunnels, the brain-jacking thing more recently, the Mars Interplanetary Transport System, and so forth. I take most of what he says with a massive grain of salt.

  • Domino

    Public transportation isn’t sexy, and instead of going to corporate boardrooms to pitch it, you’d go to public buildings and go in front of city councils. That’s not cool!

  • Hallen

    This is a tangential point, but is there anywhere in America where hotel clerks and gardeners make almost $17-$21 an hour? Because I’ll go be a hotel clerk there.

    Not that that’s a lot of money, and not that Tesla employees don’t deserve more (especially considering the rigors of the work), but this is 1)not even an accurate statement, afaik and 2)is one very fine example of shitting on non-industrial workers, who, after all, are the literal scum of the earth. Honestly, do they even count as human at all?

    • Thom

      On the siting of the plant, Tesla took over an old GM plant. When it was built, Fremont was the kind of place that the workers of that plant could live in. Since then, because of its proximity to Silicon Valley, it has become a high-tech hub and of course has shared in the general rise in real estate prices in coastal California.

      • Hallen

        I mean, it could be so; I’ve not done any special research on the issue myself. All I have is anecdata, which is that when I moved to Pittsburgh I expected a significant geographical wage differential even for lousy work. I was, to put it mildly, wrong.

        Concededly, Pittsburgh is 1)not California, by a long shot, 2)a rusted out sinkhole that would do well to fall into the Ohio River, and 3)comparatively cheap as far as cities go, yet still not as cheap as any of the semi-metropolitan hubs in SC.

        • NonyNony

          a rusted out sinkhole that would do well to fall into the Ohio River

          Hey now – what did the Ohio River ever do to you?

  • rm

    “Ortiz is a production associate in the closures department”

    production associate

    I can’t get over the new Orwellian way of calling all employees associates, to emphasize that they are individual free agents freely contracting with the company to do a service, but in no way a member of a collective group.

    • IIRC Sam Walton picked up the term from a visit to a store of the John Lewis Partnership in England. They call workers “associates” not “employees” because it means something. The chain is a worker cooperative. This is a rare form of industrial organisation, but not an imaginary one – Mondragon in Spain is another example. Walton picked up the name as a cynical cloak for the crudest kind of us vs. them capitalist exploitation.

  • alexceres

    As with most politically expedient alliances, folks shouldn’t confuse green products and companies (which are a great direction for the economy, reduced fossil fuel dependency is important to the country) as being run by nice people, or good for labor.

  • JonH

    Oh come on, this is a complete confabulation.

    Nobody wears pleated slacks anymore, not even nerds.

  • LeeEsq

    It might just be me but environmentalists and many other people are market focused these days because previous attempts to build an economy and entirely get rid of markets and capitalists have failed miserably from most people’s perspectives. Its not like the Communist countries were green paradises either. Many of them polluted much worse than the liberal capitalist democracies or even the illiberal capitalist democracies because independent environmental organization was banned. The best economy possible seems to be a market economy with government acting as a check on the more amoral or immoral impulses of business people and consumers.

    • twbb

      Pretty much. And good point about the communist countries; hipster europhiles like to hail Europe as a green utopia, but while different environmental standards may be higher in the EU, the actual environmental quality in a lot of the former Eastern Bloc countries are nightmarish because they’re still dealing with the legacy of industrial communism.

      Also in theory, a lot of pollution now can lead to a lot less pollution in the future; look at what computers did to the workplace. Though it’s decades, if not centuries away, once we move manufacturing to space (if it’s feasible), pollution becomes a lot less significant.

      • Rob in CT

        Then the Belters will bear the brunt of it, and then they’ll start lobbing asteroids at us and…

  • e.a.foster

    Jobs and Musk have always been all about themselves and their getting ahead. yes, they like to peddle the stuff of how they’re new and innovative, etc. but really, its the profit.

    if green companies don’t involve working people green will never get ahead any where except with those who can afford “green” in more than one way. Its fine to purchase “green” products if you can afford them, but if you can’t and you have to feed your kids, who cares about green. Unless greens push for the car company to unionize, the cars and the industry will remain what it is, a product for elites. never for the working class.

    • I really don’t get this. Musk and Ghosn and Wang Chianfu of BYD and a not very long list of others are working hard to bring down the price of BEVs so they can take over the car, bus, vans and truck markets, which is a very good thing and essential to the energy transition. Success will also make them a lot of money, to which you and I are indifferent. They may or may not treat their workers decently. Musk could argue that screwing the Fremont workers keeps Tesla prices down and helps the company grow. Ghosn SFIK is happy with unionised factories. It would be nice if Tesla’s rivals started using “union made” as a sales pitch against Musk.

  • Justin Runia
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