During the recent presidential debate, Donald Trump falsely stated that he has “given big incentives for electric cars.” At least one credulous major news outlet took the bait, and ran a headline saying that Biden and Trump agreed on support for EVs. In fact, as everyone who follows the industry knows, nothing could be further from the truth. As Charged and others have reported in great detail, the current administration has gutted federal fuel economy standards, which were the main incentive for automakers to sell EVs in the US market, and is waging an ongoing legal battle to take away states’ rights to set their own more stringent standards.
This is only the most sweeping of the president’s anti-EV efforts. In his 2019 budget, he proposed to eliminate the federal EV tax credit (the credit lives on, thanks to bipartisan support in Congress). The administration also launched an audit of taxpayers who claimed the credit, and claimed to find some $74 million worth of undeserved credits (we’re not aware of any analogous effort to ferret out fraud and waste related to tax breaks for oil and gas production).
Over the past four years, the US has fallen far behind other major auto markets on EV adoption—Europe in particular is leaving us in the dust. Our lax emissions standards are a major proximate cause of this failure, but the larger underlying cause is the US administration’s consistent lack of interest in promoting e-mobility or clean energy.
At Charged, we have always believed that EVs are for everyone, regardless of political orientation. The electrification of transportation will not only benefit the environment and human health—it will also bring better products and cost savings to consumers, and generate high-quality American jobs. These are benefits that should appeal to both conservatives and liberals.
Both major US parties have supported pro-EV policies in the past. The Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing Loan Program, which supported the production of more than 4 million low-emission vehicles, passed Congress in 2007 with bipartisan support, and was signed into law by President George W Bush. Republican administrations in Texas, Florida and other states have implemented some pro-EV policies.
However, in the upcoming presidential election, the divide between the two candidates’ positions vis a vis EVs is as wide as it is clear. Candidate Trump promised to sweep away environmental regulations, and as president, he’s kept that promise with a vengeance. In July, the New York Times reported on 100 major environmental policies that the administration has reversed. Among them: abandoning the Paris climate accord; replacing the Clean Power Plan with a dramatically weaker set of rules; and disbanding the EPA’s review process for fine particulate matter.
The president has also aggressively encouraged the expansion of oil and gas production, opening up previously-protected areas to oil exploration, reducing the prices for oil leases on public lands, and encouraging US oil exports. Some may believe his recent extension of an existing ban on oil drilling off the Florida, Georgia and South Carolina coasts represents a change of heart, but it looks more like an attempt to shore up support in a crucial swing state where pols of both parties have long strongly opposed drilling. Trump extended the drilling ban by an executive order, which he could easily reverse at any time. In August, the administration announced plans to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas development, and in early September, just days before announcing the extension of the Florida drilling ban, it proposed a rule change that would open up large areas of national forests to oil drilling.
Vice President Joe Biden, who has pledged not to accept campaign contributions from fossil fuel interests, has unveiled an extremely detailed environmental plan that includes substantial support for the EV industry, including measures to maximize the green jobs created here in the US. His proposals include: federal investment of $1.7 trillion in climate and environmental justice projects over ten years, paid for by reversing some of the 2017 tax cuts for corporations and ending subsidies for fossil fuels; using the federal government procurement system to drive a transition to zero-emission vehicles; preserving the existing Clean Air Act, and developing rigorous new fuel economy standards; and establishing a new Advanced Research Projects Agency focused on climate.
Joe Biden says he will work with state and local governments to support the deployment of 500,000 new public charging outlets by 2030, redesign the EV tax credit to target middle-class consumers and prioritize the purchase of vehicles made in America, and encourage the creation of clean-tech jobs that offer good wages, benefits and worker protections. He has also pledged to support American workers in legacy industries whose jobs are at risk as our nation makes the transition to a clean energy and transportation system.
Whichever way the political winds blow in November, Charged will continue to advocate forward-looking policies that support new technologies and new business opportunities. The most important thing you can do to help is to make sure your voter registration is up to date, make a plan to vote, and do it!