January 16, 2021


Aston Martin is at the centre of a climate lobbying controversy after a study co-commissioned by the company that cast doubt on the green credentials of electric vehicles was found to have been attributed to a PR company registered to the wife of a director at the luxury carmaker.

a blue car parked in a parking lot: Photograph: Rebecca Naden/Reuters

© Provided by The Guardian
Photograph: Rebecca Naden/Reuters

The study, which has since been widely debunked by experts, was presented as “groundbreaking” third-party research and appeared to show that electric cars would have to travel as far as 50,000 miles before matching the carbon footprint of a petrol model.

Thursday’s report was commissioned by companies including Aston Martin, Bosch, Honda and McLaren shortly after the UK prime minister, Boris Johnson, called for a ban on the sale of new fossil fuel vehicles from 2030, and presented as the work of Clarendon Communications.

But it can be revealed that the same companies that commissioned the study collaborated to write the report themselves, and the communications firm is a company registered under the name of Rebecca Stephen, who is the wife of Aston Martin’s government affairs director, James Stephen. The company was set up in February, and registered to the address of a property jointly owned by the married couple.

a blue car parked in a parking lot: Aston Martin, which co-commissioned the study, does not manufacture any electric vehicles.

© Photograph: Rebecca Naden/Reuters
Aston Martin, which co-commissioned the study, does not manufacture any electric vehicles.

The study was first reported in the Times, before the Daily Mail and the Daily Telegraph, among other news publications, followed suit.

Rebecca Stephen, a part-time NHS nurse, told the Guardian via email that the report attributed to Clarendon was “compiled” by the same companies that commissioned the study. She added that Clarendon was contracted by Bosch “to provide public affairs and stakeholder support” so its logo and contact details appear on the back of the report “for this purpose”.

A spokeswoman for Bosch said the company fully supports the report “which has been drawn from independent, referenced data”, and called for “greater transparency” on the carbon footprint of vehicles.

Concerns over the report were first raised by Michael Liebreich, the founder of Bloomberg’s clean energy research arm BNEF, in a Twitter thread which has become known within the industry as “Astongate”.

“We need to have a proper discussion about how we are going to get to net zero,” he said. “What we can’t have is the auto industry and fossil fuel incumbents twisting the discussion to their own advantage using sockpuppet PR companies and underhand tactics. The time for that is over.”

Independent experts including Auke Hoekstra, an authority on the emissions of electric vehicles (EVs), have refuted the findings of the report and warned that the data presented may have overstated the carbon footprint of EVs threefold by failing to account for a number of factors within the data.

Francis Ingham, the director general of the Public Relations and Communications Association, said: “We have a duty to fight misinformation, not purvey it. PR agencies should be fully transparent about who they represent. Failure to disclose


Rudy Giuliani wearing a suit and tie smiling and looking at the camera: Former Mayor of New York Rudy Giuliani, a lawyer for President Donald Trump, speaks during a news conference at the Republican National Committee headquarters, Thursday Nov. 19, 2020, in Washington. AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

© AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin
Former Mayor of New York Rudy Giuliani, a lawyer for President Donald Trump, speaks during a news conference at the Republican National Committee headquarters, Thursday Nov. 19, 2020, in Washington. AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

Lawyers working on the Trump campaign have said Rudy Giuliani seemed “deranged’ and ill-prepared to lead the legal effort to overturn the election result, reported The Washington Post Sunday. 

In a deep-dive into the Trump campaign’s unprecedented attempt to overturn the election result, the Post reports that a rift developed in the campaign’s legal team earlier in November. 

A turning point was reportedly a November 13 defeat in the 3rd District US Court of Appeals in Pennsylvania, where a judge threw out the Trump’s campaign’s bid to invalidate thousands of mail-in ballots received after Election Day. 

After the result some of the campaign’s key attorneys began to drift away from the effort to overturn the result, believing it signaled the end of the campaign’s bid to credibly challenge vote counts. But Giuliani, the president’s personal attorney, battled on. 

Giuliani’s efforts to overturn the election result have at times been farcical, with the former New York City mayor holding a press conference at a suburban garden center in an apparent mix-up in booking venues. At a media briefing on November 19, black liquid could be seen trickling down Giuliani’s face, and fellow campaign attorney Sidney Powell alleged a vast conspiracy to overturn the election involving Venezuelan communists and Democrats. 

Neither she nor Giuliani have provided compelling evidence to substantiate the claim, and the campaign has parted ways with Powell. 

According to the Post, some of the campaign and GOP attorneys involved in the election challenge began to distance themselves from Giuliani earlier in November and sought to avoid meetings with Giuliani and his team. When Giuliani and Powell were asked by other campaign officials for evidence to substantiate their fraud claims, they were unable to produce it. 

Some attorneys described Giuliani as seeming “deranged” in comments to the Post. 

Giuliani clashed with other Trump campaign attorneys, according to the report, and continued to tell the president he had a serious chance of winning his lawsuits, while other officials offered more realistic assessments. Trump after November 13 handed Giuliani and his team control of the legal effort. 

One senior administration official was scathing about Giuliani’s strategy. “Just roll everybody up who is willing to do it into a clown car, and when it’s time for a press conference, roll them out,” is how the official characterized it to the Post. 

The Trump campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Giuliani’s conspiracy theories have reportedly proved too much even for Trump, according to reports, and though he continues to claim the election was stolen from him he has approved vital funds be released for Biden’s transition. 

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