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WARREN, Mich. ― Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) was in the Detroit area last Saturday, as part of the road show former President Donald Trump brings to his political rallies these days. When it was her turn to talk about it, she decided to criticize Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and the Biden administration’s efforts to support the purchase of electric vehicles.
“Democrats like Pete Buttigieg wants to emasculate the way we drive and force everyone to rely on electric vehicles,” Greene said.
The part of the quote that caught my attention, and I bet it caught your attention too, is the word “castrate.” Buttigieg is gay, and the choice of the word, almost certainly deliberate, sounds very much like an attempt to question his masculinity or attack his sexuality.
If so, it wouldn’t be the first time. Greene has a long history of such comments, as HuffPost’s Josephine Harvey noted this weekincluding the time she said that “mom and dad have been replaced by Chasten and Pete Buttigieg and their designer babies. Our society is sick.”
But let’s leave Greene’s undisguised homophobia aside, at least for now, and focus on the other part of his date on Saturday, namely his attacks on electric vehicles.
This is also family territory.
The Biden administration has made supporting electric vehicles a top priority. the Inflation Reduction Law, the spending bill that Biden signed over the summer, included new tax credits for people who buy electric vehicles, as well as for businesses that open charging stations. Greene has criticized this effort from the beginning, and in February he published a 21 part tweet storm calling the Biden plan, which, at the time, was still under discussion, “a one-way ticket to hell.”
Greene is not alone in making these kinds of arguments. By contrast, the list of Republican officials who have attacked the Biden administration’s EV agenda in similar terms is long and includes everyone from Florida Sen. rick scott to the representative from Texas Dan Crenshaw.
Opposition to electric vehicles also appears to be entrenched in the Republican base. A majority of Republican voters (54%) oppose the government’s support for electric vehicles, according to a poll that research bench released in August. An even larger majority (67%) said they were unlikely to ever buy one.
And while Republican critics of electric vehicles make arguments about the policy, such as suggesting that the tax credits will only help wealthy car buyers or that they will make the United States more dependent on China, it’s hard to escape the conclusion that the The GOP’s fight against electric vehicles is as much about culture and tribal identity as it is about the merits of what the Biden administration is trying to do.
To put it another way, the issue for Republicans is not what electric vehicle policy would mean for them or for the country. Rather, the problem is that the policy comes from the Democrats.
And yet, that’s also where the opposition to electric vehicles gets a bit puzzling, because it’s not hard to think of reasons why conservatives, even Trump lovers, should be excited about electric vehicles.
Three come quickly to mind:
1. Electric vehicles are fun to drive.
I know a lot about electric vehicles because I drive one. as i wrote in a HuffPost essay four years ago, our 2018 Chevy Volt is the best car we’ve ever owned. The only rival, really, was the 2015 Volt that he replaced when the lease was up. (We also leased the 2018 model, but loved it so much we decided to buy it outright when the lease was up.)
The Volt is a plug-in hybrid, meaning it initially runs on a small rechargeable battery and then switches to a more traditional hybrid mode once the battery runs out. The battery capacity is usually enough to cover our daily driving, which means we can fully recharge it overnight and as a result go weeks or sometimes months without putting gas.
I have never understood why conservatives despise these kinds of benefits so much. Fewer trips to the gas station is amazing. Spending less money on gas is really amazing.
But the appeal of electric vehicles goes beyond fuel efficiency.
They generally have more torque and as a result have quicker acceleration. You can see for yourself by looking at the viral video from Biden’s visit to Ford headquarters in Dearborn last year, when he tested the new electric F-150.
As Biden told reporters: “This chump is fast!”
2. Electric vehicles reduce dependence on foreign oil.
If Americans put less gasoline in their cars, then there will be less demand for oil, which, in turn, should mean less reliance on foreign countries that supply it.
It’s impossible to know exactly how much wider use of electric vehicles would reduce America’s oil consumption right now. there are all kinds of projections out there, each with different assumptions built into them.
And right now, electric vehicle production relies heavily on a different foreign input: batteries, the vast majority of which come from China, Japan and South Korea – a point that Greenamong others, has raised as a reason to stop supporting electric vehicles.
“The Democrats want to force Americans to trust China to drive,” Greene tweeted in February.
But a primary goal of the Inflation Reduction Act incentives is to bring battery production to the US, by limiting tax credits for electric vehicle purchases to only those vehicles whose parts are largely sourced from the USA and whose final assembly took place in North America.
And it seems to be working: just in the last few weeks, after the enactment of the IRA, a lots of major battery manufacturers and car companies have announced that they are opening new plants in the US.
3. Electric vehicles can help create jobs.
Another reason I feel good about my car is that I live in Michigan and it was built at GM’s Hamtramck plant, which is right in the middle of detroit. And while GM has discontinued the Volt, that same plant now makes other vehicles in GM’s rapidly expanding new all-electric lineup, which, just last January, GM announced would lead to the creation of 8,000 new jobs in the state.
Figures like that don’t tell the whole story of how growth in the electric vehicle business will affect employment, obviously. And the real story is a bit more complicated than it sounds: EVs have fewer mechanical parts than internal combustion vehicles, which may mean they require fewer workers to assemble and (once on the road) fewer mechanics to maintain. .
Still, a growth industry is a growth industry, and it’s impossible to look around Michigan and not see the impact. Perhaps the most visible symbol is the resurrection of the old, imposing and long abandoned. Michigan Central Station in Detroit that had become a widely seen symbol of the city’s decline.
Ford bought the property a few years ago and is now nearing completion with a full restoration project that will turn the building and surrounding structures into a campus that Ford says will be home to its electric (and automated) vehicle division. The project has the potential to do more than add jobs; it could revitalize an entire neighborhood.
And it’s not just in Michigan where electric vehicles have the potential to create jobs or anchor growth. New batteries, spare parts and assembly plants. they are showing up in states like Kentucky, South Carolina and Tennessee.
To put it another way: government support for electric vehicles is already creating new jobs in some fairly conservative parts of the country, and is likely to create many more in the future.
That seems to be the kind of thing Greene and his allies would at least support if they were genuinely focused on how the policies affect their constituents rather than whether the policies come from a Democratic administration.