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Todd Fisher with RAV4 EV
Fisher with his companion, Yippi, on hillside above his ranch. His Toyota RAV4 EV is powered by electricity generated by solar panels behind him.

The Force Is Strong With Him - Part 2

Conclusion of interview with Todd Fisher, producer, rancher, engineer, EV owner.

By Bill Moore

To Part One

Todd Fisher grew up in Hollywood and has been a part of the community all his life, so we asked him his views on liberalism and the environment. He agreed that from his personal perspective he thinks Hollywood is too liberal, in the traditional sense of the term. He views it as the path of least resistance. "It is easier to say yes than to say no."

"Hollywood never wants to make a movie that upsets anybody," Fisher commented. "We want a happy ending all the time." That being said, he noted that Hollywood has also championed a lot of unpopular causes over time and "you've got to give them credit for some of these things because there are a lot of things on the conservative side that are over the top."

He sees himself as more conservative than most people in the Hollywood establishment, certainly more so than his sister, Carrie.

"Unfortunately, I don't think that Hollywood has done anything to be proud of as reflects on the environment in terms of . . . propagating solar energy systems, electric cars and things. I just see very little, and I am not particularly happy with that."

Fisher firmly believes that solar energy is viable - - his California central coast ranch is proof of that - - and that if we invested the same amount of money that has been invested in nuclear power "we'd have an extremely viable solution" to California's peak power problems.

He did commend California's pioneering efforts with wind and solar thermal energy projects. He found the solar thermal project especially intriguing since the site sits atop a natural gas pipeline. When the solar concentrators aren't supplying enough heat, the power station can utilize the natural gas to supplement its energy needs, making it in effect, a solar-hybrid system.

When it comes to the current flap over Enron's energy trading manipulations - - apparently aided and abetted by several other greedy companies - - Fisher lets his feelings be known.

"My perception of all that is that these are big companies raping the environment and the world, taking advantage of all the little guys, and the government's asleep at the wheel. They don't know anything about energy, as far as I am concerned. Hollywood's doing very little to educate. . . Nor do they know much about energy. Now that the Enron fiasco has taken place, I hope that the film industry wakes up and takes advantage of this opportunity. They're always looking for a bad guy." Fisher figures someone in Hollywood will end up making a movie about the scandal, but he quickly turns back to solar.

"What about the idea of taking a hundred square miles of land in this country and covering it in [solar panels]?" he asked. A couple decades ago someone suggested that we could supply all of America's electric needs - - at least during daylight hours - - by covering a 10 mile by 10 mile square grid with photovoltaic panels. He wonders why the government ignores ideas like this.

"The idea of electric cars and electric bicycle, etc. is long overdue," he stated. He admits there is development money being poured into EVs and fuel cells, both public and private, but he thinks there should be much, much more. "This should be a substantial priority. This is just as important as finding bin Laden"

Fisher considers himself a "fencer" who votes sometimes for one party and sometimes the other, adding though that there are things he dislikes about both.

"I have a very hard time aligning myself. Carrie is pretty much a staunch Democrat and a lot of times she's wondering why I go the other way. It's generally because of things we're talking about right now. I see they're (the Democrats) more wrapped up in welfare programs than they are other things. And they let the environment slide a lot. Everyone perceives the Republicans as people who trash the environment and cut down all the forests. I don't know if that's 100% accurate, either. But I surely think that whether you're Democrat or Republican, you had better be an environmentalist first or we won't have anywhere to vote."

Balancing Escapism and Social Awareness
Next we turned to the topic of Hollywood's penchant for - - and our love of - - escapist entertainment. We asked Fisher what he thought the balance was between our sociological and psychological need for such fare and Hollywood's responsibility to raise social awareness, especially of environmental issues.

"I think you could always integrate reality problems, reality technologies and implement them easily into scripts. The opportunity has always been there. Perhaps some of the writers are not educated enough.

"This gets down to the real crux of the matter, which is the public in general, Hollywood community included, need to be educated in this area to understand what is possible with solar, what is possible with fuel cells, what is possible with geothermal. Then it could all be implemented in. It's so easy to tie in little sort of sub plots and little themes. . . In fact, it's a cool subject, and Hollywood loves to get a hold of those kinds of things. It's a great band wagon to play."

Of course getting the "band" to play the song, is another issue. "It's not as interesting as blowing up caves in Afghanistan," Fisher commented, adding that he's not sure he know how to get the Hollywood community "tuned into it," but he thinks there are more doing so every day.

Like other EV drivers, Fisher also finds himself frequently getting stopped on the street by curious passersby, so often in fact that he jested, "my wife keeps saying Toyota should be paying me because I spend so much time talking about it."

Up until his experience with the RAV4 EV, Fisher says he traditionally bought American automobiles - - though he currently owns two Range Rovers, which while owned by Ford are made in Britain. He said he would have preferred to buy an American EV. "I am sorry, but there just isn't anything out yet by a US company that is equal to this, but if they do, I'll buy it."

Hollywood After 9/11
Hollywood, like much of the rest of America, was deeply affected by the events of September 11, 2001. A renewed patriotic fervor swept over the studios, as it did nation, so we asked Fisher about this change and how its affected the film and television community there.

"I think everybody has certainly become more pro-America," he commented. "Some of that liberal gap that you were talking about has closed. There is a little bit more of an isolationist feeling in a lot of ways. Getting back to the days of Thomas Jefferson where there were arguments going on about isolationism in this country. It does make you a little paranoid out there when you think that there people outside the country that want to do you harm. You have the tendency to say, ŒWell screw you, I'll keep my door closed.' I think there is a bit of that going around. People are little bit less open.

"On the other hand," he continued, "there's a sense of community and patriotism inside of Hollywood that has very much been rejuvenated in a great way. I've always been a bit of a flag-waver and I am kind of glad, in that respect that at least we got that benefit out of this tragedy."

While he didn't want to get into the topic of the oil industry, Fisher simply couldn't help himself. "If you really want to look at the sins of both [political] parties, that would be the ultimate. Our involvement in the oil industry is criminal. The way that whole thing as been perpetuated over the years. . ." he stated, citing one particularly controversial film that depicted America's dependency on oil - - The Formula starring Marlon Brando.

"Here we are twenty-five, thirty years . . . And how many times have we been promised with the Alaskan pipeline and now we're going to sacrifice [the Arctic]. What's left? And we're not getting anywhere, yet the answer is so clear in other directions. It's a crime."

Californians and the ZEV Mandate
Fisher said he is not pleased with the changes that have been written into the original Zero Emission Vehicle mandate, which originally required 10% of all vehicles sold starting in 2003 to have zero tailpipe and evaporative emission.

"I thought it was a great thing to draw a line in the sand and say, one day we're going to do this and that day comes and you do it. That's what I taught my kids. Well, what we do is draw a line . . . and then we didn't do it. So now we want to change it back and you know, that pisses me off."

Fisher admits, however, that he also understands that technology has evolved and that some allowances needed to be made for it. "I think that they need to be accommodated, certainly. And I think you need to give credit for those hybrid vehicles, because I do believe that's a great step in the right direction."

"So my personal thing is, I think it's a good think to make those sort of promises that you are going to do these things, but then you damn well better do it. If you're going to change it, change it to accommodate the new technology, but don't back off on the EV. I think it should have stayed at ten percent for electric vehicles and then prorate the amount for a hybrid. But once again it's the government sucking into big business. I don't think it should have moved."

Fisher's rhetoric almost sounds as if he's about to declare himself a candidate for a Senate seat in the California legislature, but he quickly dismisses that notion saying, they're not ready for him.

"My mother is ŒApple Pie' We were brought up with very strong values and morals. . . and I don't do well around people that bend in the wind. A friend of mine is a politician and he gave me a line one time that I thought was an incredible quote. He said that if you're going to be a politician, you leave the shore with a full boat of ideals then along the way to stay afloat you've got toss a few overboard. I think there's a lot of good men in Washington that have that problem, and they do get something good done. The problem with me is, I don't think I'd be able to toss anything overboard, and I probably wouldn't make it.

"If you're going to be a politician today, you're going to have to become more knowledgeable in the areas that we're talking about. If you're not, you're not doing us any good. The California energy crisis was based on total stupidity on the part of the politicians, primarily; and just letting people do crazy stuff and not understanding how it works. And you've got to blame it all on them.

"You want to know why we're running a deficit in California right now?" Fisher continued. "That's why. It's total ignorance on the part of politicians. If you're going to run for office today, you need to know some of this stuff these days, because a big piece of the world is about energy. It may look small; an electric vehicle here, an electric vehicle there, solar power, a little windŠ but it's all pretty big and that's why I try to encourage everybody out here. . .

"You know I give my advice to hundreds of people for free, like Ed [Begley, Jr.] does. We talk to all kinds of people and we tell them how they can get the system done. We tell them where to buy the stuff cheaply. We help them out in anyway we can. To me, it's like your duty to pass along this information. That's why I think the education process needs to be expanded. I think the government could step in in that area. I think Hollywood needs to make more films that have accurate information," he stated, noting that too often the information presented is "bogus."

Fisher said he thinks these public education efforts need to be subsidized by the government, until such time as they can stand on their own feet. "We subsidize everything else: sex education, drug education. What? This isn't at least on par with that?" he asked.

Times Article Viewed: 4905
Published: 17-May-2002

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