NYT Columnist Joe Nocera Defends Chevy Volt, Reveals His Obsession With Car Critics Fox News, Rush

New York Times columnist Joe Nocera, who in an August 2011 column likened the Tea Party movement to terrorists strapping on suicide vests (he later apologized), fiercely defended the Chevy Volt electric car against what he saw as a Fox News conspiracy campaign against it.

Nocera had breakfast with Volt owners during the New York International Auto Show for his Saturday column, "The Right Flames the Volt," and sounded like an enthusiastic gear-head himself:

Outside, a row of sporty Volts gleamed in the bright sun. On the market for a little more than a year, the Volt is a different kind of hybrid, containing both a 400-pound battery and a 9.3 gallon gas tank. The battery gets around 40 miles per charge, but “range anxiety” isn’t the problem that it is for owners of a purely electric car. When the Volt’s battery runs out of juice, the car shifts to gasoline. It is really quite ingenious.

Inside, the mood was upbeat. A month earlier, the Volt had been named European Car of the Year. It was coming off its best sales month yet, with some 2,200 cars sold. Its problems with the government -- which conducted a severe rollover test that caused a Volt to catch fire -- appeared to be over; the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration had given the Volt its highest crash-safety rating.

Between bites of eggs and bacon, the Volt owners gushed about how well the car drove -- and how much gasoline they were saving. They were early adopters, of course, willing to pay a high price ($40,000 before a $7,500 tax credit) to get their hands on a new technology. Many of them had become nearly obsessed with avoiding the gas station; for those with short commutes, it could be months between fill-ups.

But all was not well in Voltville, with Fox News and Rush Limbaugh afoot:

Yet there was also an undercurrent of nervousness at the breakfast. A reporter for Fox News had been prowling the auto show, asking nasty questions about the Volt. For months, the conservative propaganda machine -- including Rush Limbaugh, Bill O’Reilly, and Neil Cavuto, the Fox News business editor -- had been mocking the Volt, and linking it to President Obama, who has long touted the promise of electric cars. Cavuto, who has called the Volt “roller skates with a plug,” was rumored to be going on the air that very night with yet another Volt hatchet job.

Nocera quoted Volt "brainchild" and retired auto executivce Bob Lutz:

The last straw came when his conservative intellectual hero, Charles Krauthammer, described the Volt as “flammable.” Krauthammer, Lutz felt, had to know better. Although he remains deeply conservative, Lutz told me that he has become disenchanted with the right’s willingness to spread lies to aid the cause.

Nocera had to awkwardly admit Cavuto went easy on The Volt: "He used a recent article in The New York Times -- about how long it takes for electric cars to reap savings for their owners -- to take a few jabs at the electric car movement."

(Indeed, Nick Bunkley's April 5 article blew a montetarily efficient hole in rationalizations for buying a Volt, at least as a money-saving purchase: "....the added cost of the fuel-efficient technologies is so high that it would take the average driver many years -- in some cases more than a decade -- to save money over comparable new models with conventional internal-combustion engines....Gas would have to approach $8 a gallon before many of the cars could be expected to pay off in the six years an average person owns a car.")

Nocera signed off by smearing Fox News:

Not to worry, though. With seven months to go before the election, Cavuto and his Fox News brethren will have plenty of opportunities to denigrate an innovative car, employing American technology and creating American jobs, in order to besmirch a president who had nothing to do with it.

It is, after all, what they do.

It's a bit rich for Joe ("Tea Partiers" are terrorists) Nocera to accuse anyone else of "besmirching" someone in the political arena.