LGBT leaders raise awareness of electric vehicles at ‘Drive Your Values’ eventOnline Only, Top Highlights, Around the City Monday, July 28th, 2014
The San Diego LGBT community’s top movers and shakers gathered Thursday, July 24 at the SDG&E Energy Innovation Center on Claremont Mesa Boulevard to honor Toni Atkins and Todd Gloria with the inaugural Drive Electric Green Megaphone Awards for their commitment and service in raising awareness of environmental issues and, by extension, their support and promotion of the electric vehicle (EV).
“We’re so pleased to be able to partner with San Diego’s remarkable leadership to help raise awareness about the numerous health and economic benefits of a growing EV marketplace while showing how fun EV’s are to drive,” lauded Eileen Wenger Tuft, executive director of the California Electric Transportation Coalition (CalETC), who organized the “Drive Your Values” event.
The host committee for the event included Jason Anderson, of CleanTECH San Diego; Kathleen Connell, Equality Professionals Network; Stampp Corbin, chair Citizens’ Equal Opportunity Commission and publisher of San Diego LGBT Weekly; Joselyn Harris, Equality Professionals Network; Shawn J. VanDiver, Truman Project Defense Council and Jaye Whittaker, Equality Professionals Network.
The event, which lasted just under three hours, featured three components: an opportunity to see and drive from a fleet of electric vehicles from Fiat (500e and available only in California and Oregon), Cadillac (ELR), Nissan (Leaf), Chevrolet (Volt) and an electric ‘smart’ car from the folks at Car2go.com. The awards ceremony and an all-too-brief panel discussion featuring Tuft (who sat in for Barbara Blake, the CEO of the Greater San Diego Business Association (GSDBA) due to her mother being rushed to hospital), Kathleen Connell, sustainability chair for the Equality Professionals Network (EPN) and Shad Balch, GM manager for Product Policy and Communication and liaison to the LGBT community.
I asked Balch if marketing EVs to the LGBT community was somehow different than marketing to the non-LGBT community. “I wouldn’t necessarily say the marketing is different,” Balch explained. “But it is certainly deliberate. By that I mean, when you look at electric cars, they represent something new and what is coming in the form of future transportation. For us, when we launched the electric car, we had to figure out who the influencers, the tastemakers and the people who set trends were. We needed to target them, get them to fall in love with the car, and that would help spur and grow the market. When we did that, when we looked at who they are, we found a lot of them were part of the LGBT community. So there was a very deliberate approach when we launched the Chevy Volt that we aimed our marketing and our outreach to the LGBT community. Things like Ride and Drives, advertisements in LGBT publications and news media and a whole host of other things that would enable us get the word out.”
The evening began with two Madonna selections from members of the San Diego Gay Men’s Chorus (incorrectly identified by a number of speakers as the Gay Men’s Choir) before the night began in earnest. Tuft made some introductory remarks, including a vaguely gay-friendly observation that, “[As] goes the LGBT community, so goes the country,” before introducing former democratic State Sen. and Assembly member Christine Kehoe. Kehoe, who left politics in 2012 to become the executive director of the California Plug-In Vehicle Collaborative, spoke about themes that would continue to act as a sort of leitmotif to the evening: environmental sustainability, economic growth and green jobs. “We want a California that is cleaner, healthier and economically stronger,” Kehoe declared.
She was then followed by the San Diego Gay Men’s Chorus who appropriated three songs to make the evening’s point : Janis Joplin’s “Oh Lord Won’t You Buy Me a Mercedes Benz” (“Oh, Lord, won’t you buy me a Prius plug-in”), “Walking in a Winter Wonderland” (“There’s no sound, are you listenin’”) and, naturally, “Baby You Can Drive My Car” (“Baby You Can Drive My Caddy ELR…”).
Tuft then introduced State Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins who graciously accepted the first of Drive Electric Green Megaphone Awards but not before underscoring that the award was fitting – shaped as it is as a bullhorn – because the recipients, she remarked “were not afraid to use a platform to help promote electric vehicles.” In her prepared remarks, she was quick to point out that, “Within a few weeks, [California] will have the distinction of selling the 100,000th plug-in electric vehicle.” She further discussed the withering attacks she is facing as a proponent of AB32 (frequently referred to as Cap and Trade). AB 32 requires California to reduce its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 — a reduction of approximately 15 percent below emissions expected under a “business as usual” scenario according to the California Environmental Protection’s Web site. Atkins added that 40 percent of those emissions are caused by the petroleum-based energy sector.
A business panel followed. Kathleen Connell, from the EPN, injected a note of levity when she remarked that while the LGBT community is presumed to have 790 billion dollars in spending power, 750 billion of that is spent on brunch. Shad reiterated many of the points from above. What was interesting about Connell’s remarks came toward the end when, in a piece of LGBT history/nostalgia, she pointed out that Harvey Milk won his first election – after a string of losses – not simply on pushing for equality but because he championed the cleanup of Deboce park. She also explained that two of the colors of the rainbow flag – green and yellow – owe their significance to the environment with green representing nature and yellow representing sunshine.
The night concluded with Tuft presenting the second Drive Electric Green Megaphone Awards to Todd Gloria. Gloria, who has a breezy, likeable manner, noted that, “If I’m lucky to stay in office after 2016, I will recognize and will continue to work for environmental sustainability.” He discussed emerging technologies (e.g. cars that talk to each other) and the need to address what he calls ‘charging anxiety,’ the fear that some consumers have that they will be stuck in the middle of somewhere with a dead battery. In closing, he added that, as far as environmentalism goes, “We have no other choice. The Earth demands it.”
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