Last week, I had the pleasure of visiting the future.
Well, not really, but it sure felt like it. I got to visit the Tesla Motors factory, in Fremont, California.
It was my first up close experience with the Tesla Model S -- the Motor Trend car of the year for 2013 that also happens to be a luxurious, high performance electric car with the largest range on the market -- and I have to say it was pretty amazing.
In fact, so amazing, that I tweeted this, towards the end of my day at the factory:
The number of times I've said "That's amazing!" at the @TeslaMotors factory is kind of, well, amazing.— David Turnbull (@david_turnbull) December 13, 2013
I’m no “car guy” by any means, but sitting in this car, you feel as though you can seriously see the future. The displays are brilliantly vibrant and informative (including showing the rapidly increasing network of super-charging stations that by 2015 should span every major highway in the country), the integration with mobile internet for maps and other functions is seamless, and even the way the door handles retract to be flush against the car as you walk away seems to be from a movie.
Oh, and that’s before you even turn it on. Get this thing out of the parking lot, and it just goes. Fast, and silent. Oh, and one more thing: it’s 100% electric. No gas allowed.
Even the temporary license plate on these cars coming out of the factory sends a pretty clear message: “Zero Emissions.”
The whole experience felt like stepping into the future.
Of course, there are caveats. Tesla's, with their hefty price tags, aren't accessible to most people even with the very impressive tax incentives being offered by state and federal governments. But there are increasingly other options out there, albeit coming on slowly...
But the thing is, a new era of cheap and affordable alternatives could be here now if we want it to be. The only thing standing in our way is the oil industry, intent on keeping us addicted to their dirty oil that is ruining our climate, and the politicians they buy off.
And that brings me to another thing I did this week, which feels more like something I wish were further in the past, but unfortunately is squarely in the present. Along with with my colleagues at Oil Change International, we launched our latest campaign, targeting Governor Brown to place a ban on fracking in California.
The campaign, entitled Big Oil Brown, highlights the ways in which Governor Brown and other California decision-makers are being influenced by the oil industry regarding issues like fracking. It asks the question: Will Jerry Brown turn into Big Oil Brown?
The fact is, the oil industry will do whatever they can to keep the status quo. Whether it’s buying off politicians through massive campaign contributions, unleashing battalions of lobbyists to protect their subsidies and beat back regulations, or manipulating public discourse with misleading advertising, Big Oil won’t back down quickly. They have profits to protect, afterall.
Unfortunately our communities and our climate simply can’t afford California to be fracked. We can’t afford the water and air to be poisoned by fracking chemicals and operations. We can’t afford more oil to be dug up and released into our atmosphere. And we simply can’t afford to be moving our economy further down the road of fossil-fueled climate disaster.
There must be a new direction, and fortunately what I saw in Fremont leads me to have hope that a new direction is out there. Californians are leading the way when it comes to electric cars, solar, and other renewable technologies. Now it's time for our politicians to put the regulations in place that will continue to propel us away from our dirty past and push the clean-tech revolution forward.
It’s time for Governor Brown to make a decision. He can be Big Oil Brown and move California down the road of fracking our communities and climate. Or he can say no to our dirty past, stop fracking, and move California towards a cleaner future. (And if that new future includes more Teslas, I know I won’t be complaining.)