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Bill O'Reilly - Tesla's most influential fan

The popular conservative host of "The O’Reilly Factor" on Fox News has devoted plenty of attention on his show to Tesla this week, and he is a surprisingly strong supporter of the electric car company. Here’s why his opinion is so important.


On Monday, the day after a Tesla-heavy Elon Musk segment ran on 60 Minutes, O’Reilly brought up the disruptive automaker on his daily talk show. (See the video here – I’d suggest just skipping to 1:38.)

O'Reilly begins by dismissing man-made climate change and the new IPCC report, but then goes on to say that there is one company every American should support: Tesla Motors. In fact, he goes so far as to say that “everyone on the planet should be rooting for Tesla.”

O’Reilly reasons that if Tesla can make a clean car, the entire automotive industry can. The benefits he cites are cleaner air and thicker wallets, which we won’t disagree with. Equally as important is his statement that “I hope [Conservatives] rethink the energy part,” meaning the de facto opposition to alternative energy among many prominent political conservatives.

Rather than halting climate change, the benefits of EVs that O’Reilly focuses on are defeating the “enemies” that are OPEC and Vladimir Putin. Going beyond just Tesla, O’Reilly adds that “electric cars would greatly help America.”

This could be more important for Tesla and the electric vehicle industry as a whole than people realize. O’Reilly’s viewer demographic tends to be more conservative and more old, a demographic that is far more likely to be skeptical of electric cars than most. But if one of the most prominent champions of all things conservative starts talking up Tesla and the benefits of electric cars, a whole lot of people might consider them more seriously.

Even better than Monday’s clip was a six-minute debate segment with Fox News pundit Eric Bolling on Tuesday’s O’Reilly Factor. Repeatedly rebuffing Bolling’s scornful display of ignorance of Tesla and electric vehicles in general, O’Reilly pointed out that electric cars are not powered by 100% coal (as many critics, especially Bolling, would have you believe) and dismissed the notion that the federal $7,500 tax credit is special treatment, because it is granted for purchasing a product that is “good for the country.” He also reminded Bolling that Tesla did in fact pay back their government loan.

Continuing his theme of cleaning our air and hurting our enemies, O’Reilly effectively offers an endorsement of electric cars to his viewers. He even cites Tesla’s plan to bring their vehicles to the mass market, and tells Bolling that “you can be as cynical as you want, but this is big.”

I gained a lot of respect for O’Reilly this week. According to his website, over 5 million viewers tune in to his show each night; his opinion influences a great segment of the American population, and it is heartening to see him take a logical and thoughtfully considered stance on electric vehicles. Taking up a position strongly in support of Tesla and electric vehicles in general sends a message to his conservative fan base that even if you have blinded yourself to the reality of climate change, there are plenty of reasons to get behind the EV movement. O’Reilly’s views will cause many others to reconsider their own, and that is great news for those of us pulling for electric vehicles to succeed.


Jessica Chang (not verified)    April 4, 2014 - 4:14PM

Sure, I could buy a Tesla...but I'd have to sell my house and live in it. No thank you Mr. O'Reilly...I prefer to have a bed to sleep in at night, and a garage to park my Dodge in.

O'Reilly may be referring to the future Model E but Tesla is not the only maker of plugin cars. According to Edmunds dot com "true cost to own" calculator the Nissan Leaf and Chevy Volt have a lower five year cost of ownership than any car you can buy new or USED.

You gotta love the Leaf! Talk about a quality car. Also, the insurance companies are all jumping on the opportunity to insure them... I found insurance for mine for $25/month from Insurance Panda... Not to mention the fact that every electric car buyer is still getting a federal government subsidy of $7500. I'm sure you'll start seeing more and more EV's in people's garages over time...

I wouldn't mind driving one of the Tesla cars....BUT in REALITY....the average American consumer can not afford this car...

Todd Fry (not verified)    April 4, 2014 - 9:31PM

If Bill can take a "logical and thoughtfully considered stance on electric vehicles", it'd be nice to see you do the same concerning the IPCC (and, I assume global warming). It is bunk. If the general population (and you) realized that there is no such thing as "consensus science", this would cease to be an issue. Fortunately, the general population isn't interested and global warming (I'm sorry, climate change) is becoming less important to the average person with each passing day.

For the record: I'm what you'd consider conservative (and very libertarian), but I'm all for electric cars if they can help our country become more self-sufficient and off foreign oil. But it still needs a battery break through to bring the price down and range up.

Luke Ottaway    April 5, 2014 - 9:11AM

Todd, I agree that electric cars need advancements in battery technology to increase range while lowering purchase price. However, I will strongly disagree with the statement that climate change is "bunk." I'm not sure exactly what you mean by consensus science, but if you're referring to the fact that nearly all climatologists have come to similar conclusions on climate change, that seems to me a reason to believe them rather than scoff at them.

Richard Hubert (not verified)    April 5, 2014 - 6:13PM

In reply to by Luke Ottaway

Agree with Bill O'Reilly and the author about how great Tesla is. Tesla has broken the mold and changed the industry by showing that an EV can be practical while advancing automotive luxury. We know they are working on a new mass market models for a far lower price, and with their new battery plant we should see even lower prices on batteries down the road.

But I do not see that having EVs will make much difference in climate change (since that topic was brought up several times) . I know the argument is that since they operate on electricity and do not burn hydrocarbon fuel directly that they release no CO2 while in operation. True - but they still require massive amounts of electricity to run, and that has to be generated somehow. Since much of the electric grid in the US remains powered by coal powered plants, there are still CO2 emissions generated, just earlier in the process. In California, when they shut down the San Onofre nuclear plant last year they had to fire up their 2nd natural gas plant north of there to maintain the electric supply for LA. And then - within a few months we find that local CO2 levels in the LA basin have shot up due to this - so what can you do?

One thing is to stop believing that CO2 is the total, single, or even major cause of climate change. That's ridiculous. Instead, people need to do some basic research on earth's climatic history to realize that earth's climate has historically gone through freezing and warming cycles lasting thousands of years which had absolutely nothing to do with CO2 levels, and everything to do with many other, much greater cosmic forces over which we have zero control.. So yes - climate change is happening, because it has been doing that in regular cycles for millions of years.

I'll end with one question - What should earth's temperature be? What is the "correct" temperature that the earth should be averaging? If you have an answer to this one, then I would ask - based on what?

Luke Ottaway    April 6, 2014 - 2:19PM

In reply to by Richard Hubert (not verified)

Richard, I can understand where you're coming from. A couple points, however: depending on what conventional vehicle you compare it to, an EV charging on the grid national average energy mix (which is slowly getting cleaner as old coal plants are phased out) typically emits from 40% to 60% less CO2. It does depend significantly on location, however; for example the most efficient gasoline vehicle (a Prius) is cleaner than an EV in West Virginia or North Dakota, but even then not by much due to the immense efficiency advantage. As to the climate change point, which I shouldn't get into but I can never help myself: I assume the cosmic forces you refer to are the Milankovitch cycles. They do have a huge influence on climate, but they operate on a time scale of tens of thousands of years. And CO2 levels in fact correlate very, very closely with temperatures as far back as we have records (300,000-400,000 years or so). That's assuming we trust the science behind ice core analysis, which I do. The worrying bit is that historically the earth's climate and CO2 levels have changed very slowly, whereas we have so rapidly increased CO2 levels since the industrial revolution that it is the equivalent of "off the charts."

mike w (not verified)    April 6, 2014 - 7:20PM

In reply to by Richard Hubert (not verified)

Yes Richard H. EVs do not produce tail pipe emissions. However EVs do not typically require "Massive amounts of Electricity" We have an all electric house and use about 13,000 KWH of electricity per year. 85% comes from solar panels in the back yard and the rest from the electric company. Driving a Nissan Leaf 7000 miles a year at 5+ miles per kwh we only increased our electric consumption by about 1200 KWH which is less than 10% of the total energy requirements of a modern house. Massive amounts of electricity ....not even close. As you were quick to point out CO2 is produced (sometimes) when electricity is generated. You also neglected to tell us that CO2 is also generated when gasoline is produced which almost triples the CO2 signature of the typical gas car. The generally accepted number is 7 KWH of electricity is required to produce 1 ( ONE) gallon of gasoline. Therefor most gas car required MORE electricity per mile of travel than an EV.
So yes we all should be supporting Tesla for many reasons.