Advancing the Electric Car Revolution One Voting Consumer At a Time

Speakers at SXSW Eco conference emphasize the importance of empowering consumers, using the buying power of the dollar to affect both economic, environmental and political change.

Published: 15-Oct-2014

n environmental activist Jessy Tolkan was first approached to help companies get greener, she said, "My answer was, I don't work for corporations, I fight corporations." A few years later, she regards that as an irresponsible position. "Companies need our help."

SXSW Eco speaker Tolkan has impeccable environmental and social justice credentials. In 2008, she was arrested in front of the White House. By 2011, she was inside, meeting with President Obama to discuss the Keysone XL pipeline. She arrived at the Austin enviro conference fresh from the recent #FloodWallStreet protest. But her presentation, "The Road to Environmental Revolution … Powered by Consumers" wasn't about public protests. It was about direct action of another kind, the kind determined by where you put your dollars. "It is in our hands, to some level, whether or not the electric car market or certain sustainable products are going to succeed."

Environmental regulation can work. Europe has lead the way, but is still slow, even though Europeans accept that part of their taxes go to mitigating the real cost of carbon pollution and greenhouse gasses. In the US, environmental regulation is something for political opportunists to challenge.So Tolkan's proposal is basically, dance with them as brung ya. if the free market is really free, she argued, it can be guided by better instincts than just raw profiteering. Working with corporations "may be our best chance of moving the ball forward when we can't get the politics to change."

Case in point: Transport. For the last three years, Tolkan has been president of the Campaign for Global Electric Vehicle Infrastructure, and she has seen companies either kick the ball tentatively, or heading straight for the goal line.

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