Going Green: Misinformation harms consumer confidence

Electric vehicle. Photo: AdobeElectric vehicle. Photo: Adobe
Electric vehicle. Photo: Adobe
There’s an old saying that a lie will have made it half way round the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.

Misinformation is really damaging – it affects public confidence, buying trends and whole sectors of business and technology. Even if a correction is later issued in print, the damage is already done.

The Lords Climate Change Committee has said the UK Government needs to do more to counter misinformation that has appeared and continues to appear in the UK media when it comes to electric vehicles.

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Baroness Parminter, chair of the committee said there was plenty of inaccurate information out there that’s harming consumer confidence in electric vehicles. “We have seen a concerted effort to scare people... we have seen articles saying that cars are catching fire - but had evidence that the fire risk is absolutely the same as [petrol and diesel] cars,”

There was a huge misinformation campaign which targeted electric vehicles after the car park fire in Luton airport last October. It affected 1,500 cars and it was widely reported an electric vehicle had started the fire that cost £20 million and wreaked havoc. However the reality was, it was a diesel car that started the blaze.

This type of misinformation really harms consumer confidence in clean technologies that are essential in reducing pollution and global warming.

It’s not just electric vehicles though that the polluting industries have targeted. There’s a similar misinformation campaign when it comes to heat pumps that are replacing gas boilers.

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In parliament recently, Baroness Pidding revealed the lobby group The Energies and Utilities Alliance has been paying a PR agency to “spark outrage and plant hundreds of anti heat pump propaganda articles in the national and local media.”

The counter response from Lord Callahan was that “planting misleading and false stories about heat pumps to negatively affect public support for the technologies is frankly a disgrace.”

There are vested interests in keeping consumer confidence in things like heat pumps and electric vehicles low – if everyone in the UK switched then oil and gas companies would lose money. But that doesn’t mean it’s ok for lobby groups to spread lies. So how do we counter it?

The best thing consumers can do is ask questions. Who benefits if we keep buying big petrol and diesel cars or gas boilers that increase air pollution and extreme weather events?

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The information is out there, it’s up to consumers to not take the first piece of news they hear as fact.

We need to research where we’re getting out information from. We need to check and triple check sources and fact check the things we hear from other people – and if you’re still not sure, you have my email and I can help.