Tesla has been the target of trolls, misinformation and fake news stories since its founding. Whole web sites are devoted to trumpeting the company’s failings, real and invented. Since the US presidential election, the torrent of tirades has kicked into high gear.
The Institute for Energy Research, a think tank funded by oil and coal companies, whose site features articles with such headlines as “Obama administration scrambles to complete costly regulations,” and “European Energy Policies: A Blueprint for Failure,” published an article back in January trying to explain why Tesla’s Powerwall is an expensive fraud. Recently the group has been promoting that article with a Google ad campaign.
Citizens for the Republic, a conservative group chaired by a right-wing pundit who has announced her ambition to become Donald Trump’s press secretary, has launched a campaign to “ferret out corruption that wastes taxpayer dollars and continually undermines the American people in favor of the powerful and profitable.” Tesla and Elon Musk are top targets. The group’s web site features countless references to Musk, including a daily news feed of the latest negative Musk-related stories.
CFTR’s material cites an article published last year by the LA Times, a persistent critic of Tesla and Musk, which highlighted the various government programs that have benefited Tesla, SolarCity and SpaceX. As is his wont, Musk himself responded in detail to what he considered the misleading tone of the article.
When it comes to government subsidies, a comprehensive resource is Good Jobs First, which publishes a detailed list of government benefits doled out to private corporations. According to its figures, Tesla has received about $2.4 billion in state and local subsidies since its founding. As Electrek points out, $1 billion of that represents tax breaks from the state of Nevada, which will be awarded over a 20-year period, and are contingent on the company investing tens of billions in the state.
Tesla also enjoyed a $465 million federal loan (which it repaid in full years early, delivering a profit to taxpayers) as part of the 2009 auto industry bailout. Under the same program, Ford received $5.9 billion, and Nissan North America got $1.6 billion.
According to Good Jobs First, Ford has received $3.8 billion in state and local subsidies, most of it since 2010, and $27.5 billion in federal loans since 2000. Over a similar time period, GM scored $5.2 billion in state and local goodies and over $50 billion in federal loans. Fiat/Chrysler bagged $2 billion and $17 billion.
Meanwhile, the energy industry slurps up massive amounts of taxpayer-funded largesse from governments around the world – somewhere around $5.3 trillion in 2015, according to an IMF study.
Of course, the self-appointed guardians of the public purse claim to be against all subsidies (as does Musk himself), but we’ve yet to hear about any conservative group drawing attention to subsidies for the oil industry.