facebook linkedin twitter

U.S. Push For Electric Vehicles for Emergency, Economy, Environment

January 25, 2021 by Kate Michael
Electric vehicle charging stations on Interstate-95. (Photo by Dan McCue)

WASHINGTON — President Biden’s early agenda shows sustainability enjoying the highest priority it has ever received. Yet analysts wonder how this focus on the environment will affect America’s economy.

Take, for example, the automobile industry.

The manufacture and sale of automobiles is a significant component of the U.S. economy, directly employing some 2.5 million workers and generating over 17.5 million in vehicle sales. A push for electric vehicles appears to fit strongly into the Biden Administration’s climate change plans, but a future of sustainable vehicles may shake up an industry that accounts for about 3.5% of U.S. GDP.

To dive further into the issue, the website Axios held an online discussion on the future of sustainable vehicles featuring Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., as well Kuman Galhotra, Ford Motor Company Americas and International Markets Group president, and SAFE CEO Robbie Diamond. 

“I don’t believe we have an economy unless somebody makes something or grows something,” said Stabenow, whose state economy relies heavily on the financial fortunes of the auto industry. “When we talk about leveraging what we grow [and] opportunities for farmers… leveraging manufacturing is really a big part of that.” 

Stabenow pointed to automobile manufacturers’ current use of sustainable materials in their products, like Ford seats comprised of soybean foam in lieu of petroleum foam and cup holders made of corn byproducts. And she sees the push toward electric vehicles as an important extension of this sustainability work. 

Ford is a 117-year-old American company, which employs over 55,000 hourly workers and builds and exports more vehicles than any other automaker in the U.S. With a look toward the future, Ford has invested heavily in electric vehicles, committing $11.5 billion to electrify its portfolio with products like the Mustang Mach-E, a purely electric F150, and a van coming in 2022. 

“We are committed. These are the vehicles of the future [and electric] is the fuel of the future. We don’t want to get left behind,” said Galhotra. 

But will the American public buy in? 

“[Eventually], it’ll happen, it will drive by itself,” said Stabenow. “But until we get to critical mass, where the price comes down because of buy-in, we need to encourage purchasers,” said Stabenow, arguing for consumer credits. In addition to incentivizing consumers, she also called for the government to support electric vehicle infrastructure as well as additional research around heavy-duty trucks and larger vehicles. 

“To truly electrify vehicles in America is going to take a strong public/private partnership,” agreed Galhotra, echoing Stabenow’s call for tax credits and infrastructure to include charging capabilities and R & D for batteries, which is where he says “the battle will be won or lost.”

Last year’s transportation bill offered a strong start, including a $1 billion investment in electric vehicle infrastructure, specifically charging stations. But advocates say that a major investment in the entire supply chain, starting with the development of batteries, is as important to the nation’s future security as it may be to its environmental stability. 

“Even beyond climate change, we need to be doing this,” said Diamond, who argued the electric vehicle supply chain is an essential national security issue. “It’s not a question of if, but when and where this electrification will happen,” he said. 

And for Diamond, it’s happening in China. 

Not only does China have a greater appetite for electric vehicles and enjoys a cost advantage on electric cars due to national and foreign investments in their EV products, but other countries are rapidly becoming dependent on batteries and transportation technology from China, he said.

“The supply chain China has over electric vehicles is even bigger than [the one] Saudis have over oil,” Diamond said, saying that 95% of battery processing is done in China, even in cases where America supplied the raw materials.

“We need this in Michigan – in America,” said Stabenow. “China is way ahead of us. Shame on the U.S.! We need to turn that around.”

“What’s happening around the climate crisis is important to us,” said Stabenow, focused equally on national competitiveness, the “serious and existential threat of carbon pollution,” and “a robust open economy with clean jobs… and I’m glad the Biden Administration sees [all] these together.”

“I think we have to get over this sense that this is hard. This is not hard,” she insisted. “This is a win, win, win. For the environment and for jobs, yes, and if we’re talking about making things, then Michigan can do it.”

In The News

Health

Voting

Climate

July 26, 2021
by Daniel Mollenkamp
As Heat Waves Worsen Researchers Offer Policy Options

Heat waves across the country this year have shattered temperature records, and climate scientists expect it to keep getting worse.... Read More

Heat waves across the country this year have shattered temperature records, and climate scientists expect it to keep getting worse. Some policy options for dealing with the lethal and inequitable impact of heat have been recommended by researchers. In addition to increasing risk for numerous health... Read More

July 23, 2021
by Tom Ramstack
Senate Seeks Environmental Justice for Disadvantaged Hurt by Climate Change

WASHINGTON -- Tracy Harden, owner of Chuck’s Dairy Bar in Rolling Fork, Mississippi, told a Senate panel Thursday about how... Read More

WASHINGTON -- Tracy Harden, owner of Chuck’s Dairy Bar in Rolling Fork, Mississippi, told a Senate panel Thursday about how a 2019 flood along the Mississippi River Delta devastated her community. High waters inundated 548,000 acres, nearly half of it cropland. Hundreds of residents in the... Read More

Wildfires in US West Blowing 'So Much Smoke' into East Coast

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Smoke and ash from massive wildfires in the American West clouded the sky and led to... Read More

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Smoke and ash from massive wildfires in the American West clouded the sky and led to air quality alerts Wednesday on parts of the East Coast as the effects of the blazes were felt 2,500 miles (4,023 kilometers) away. Strong winds blew... Read More

July 21, 2021
by Tom Ramstack
Greenhouse Gases Heat Up Lawmakers’ Health Concerns

WASHINGTON -- The million acres of forest that burned in western states in the past week were a lesser concern... Read More

WASHINGTON -- The million acres of forest that burned in western states in the past week were a lesser concern for a congressional panel that discussed the hazards of high heat caused by climate change Wednesday. “It’s becoming a routine part of life on the West... Read More

July 20, 2021
by Reece Nations
Manchin in the Middle of Budget Plan Progression

WASHINGTON — Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, met with his Democratic colleagues... Read More

WASHINGTON — Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, met with his Democratic colleagues earlier last week to discuss the proposed budget deal legislation. Democrats are hoping to pass the budget plan using the Senate’s reconciliation process but they will... Read More

Largest Wildfire in Oregon Expands Further; New Evacuations

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Firefighters scrambled on Friday to control a raging inferno in southeastern Oregon that's spreading miles a... Read More

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Firefighters scrambled on Friday to control a raging inferno in southeastern Oregon that's spreading miles a day in windy conditions, one of numerous conflagrations across the U.S. West that are straining resources.  Authorities ordered a new round of evacuations Thursday amid worries... Read More

News From The Well
scroll top