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Monday, 15 November 2021 11:34

Op-ed on electric vehicles omits facts that don't suit its arguments

Op-ed on electric vehicles omits facts that don't suit its arguments Image by Clker-Free-Vector-Images from Pixabay

An op-ed in The Australian, which accuses journalists at the ABC and Guardian Australia of failing to provide balanced coverage of climate issues, conveniently avoids citing the full results of a study into electric vehicles, apparently to suit its own arguments.

In an article titled "ABC, Guardian journos should look under the hood when reporting on electric vehicles", the former editor of The Australian, Chris Mitchell, used, as one prop to drive his argument, a report in The Wall Street Journal in March.

The full study, which was reported by iTWire, said over the lifetime of a Tesla Model 3 and a Toyota RAV4, the EV emitted less than half the amount of greenhouse gases compared to the petrol vehicle.

But this conclusion apparently did not suit Mitchell, so he cherrypicked just the first part of the WSJ story, which said that before the Tesla rolled off the assembly line, it had generated 65% more emissions than the RAV4 – 12.2 tons as compared to 7.4 tons.

The WSJ story, based on a study by a team of academics at the University of Toronto, showed that the EV would generate 36 tons (32.6 tonnes) of such gases over the lifespan of a typical car — 200,000 miles (321,868 km) — while the RAV4 would output more than double that amount – 78 tons (70.8 tonnes).

Those facts, however, seemed to be an inconvenient truth for someone who was accusing others of presenting "uncritical boosterism" on climate issues.

But in conveniently overlooking the entire story told by what was an excellent yarn in the WSJ — incidentally, owned by the same man who owns The Australian — Mitchell resembled those he was accusing of boosterism.

Whether EVs are a moral choice — as Mitchell claims they are, in the case of ABC staff — or a sensible choice, is immaterial. But telling the whole story is important and in this case Mitchell hid some inconvenient facts.

Towards the end of his op-ed, Mitchell wrote: "These are things [arguments against the use of EVs] journalists should be putting to EV spruikers. Time and technology will eventually sort most such issues out. It’s just that activist journalists with little understanding of technology, science or markets always want change now, ignoring the wider costs."

Indeed. And it is a good idea to report the complete conclusions from a survey, rather than pick what suits one's own arguments. It's called journalism.

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Sam Varghese

Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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