Anti-establishment mood threatens fossil fuels, not just politicians

Donald Trump
CC BY-SA 2.0 Flickr

Whatever you think of Donald Trump's politics (disclosure: it would be safe to say that I am not a fan), there is no denying that his explosive primary run has unearthed some long-simmering resentments and upended many of the assumptions that "establishment" politicians had about the loyalty of their base. The same could be said for Bernie Sanders too. But the anti-establishment mood doesn't begin and end with party politics.

The suits in fossil fuel board rooms may be slowly realizing that for them, too, the days of unquestioning loyalty from their base (i.e. customers) may finally be coming to an end.

The most prominent proof that things are changing fast was the dizzying rush for pre-orders for the Tesla Model 3. While it's true that these pre-orders won't necessarily turn into purchases, it is also undeniably true that they do mark a huge surge in interest from buyers, many of whom aren't usually considered gearheads and car nuts. (I have at least one friend who stayed home on a Friday night to get drunk and watch the livestream of the launch all by himself.)

In the same way that voters are excitedly embracing disruption to the establishment's status quo, and appear willing to place a bet on an unproven candidate, car buyers are excited about a company and a product that looks and feels different to the mediocre gas burners that they've been stuck with for decades—and they are willing to put up a not insignificant chunk of their money with very little information about what it is they are actually buying.

Now don't get me wrong. Before any Tesla fans bash me for comparing Elon to The Donald, I am not trying to make a direct correlation. But as someone who has previously remarked on how fossil fuel execs don't understand their own unpopularity—and who has been told by many commenters that they do understand, but that they simply don't care—I am fascinated to watch what happens when people are offered a choice of something truly different. In the same way that the GOP elites assumed that their voters cared primarily about states rights and free trade, oil and coal companies have assumed that just because they fuel our cars and keep our lights on (for the moment), we would simply overlook the fact that they also poisoned our air and undermined our future.

Whether it's bike-friendly cities, tech-enabled ride sharing or the rise of solar + storage, all of us are getting a whole host of new tools with which we can express our discontent.

The establishment, in both the political and the business world, can go an awful long way while taking its base of support for granted. The trouble is, there's a cost to that complacency.

And by the time the complacency itself becomes apparent, it may be too late to do much about it. I'm just glad that we have options to express our anger other than voting for you-know-who...

Tags: Car-Free | Electric Vehicles | Renewable Energy

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