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Manufacturing

Rivian electric vehicles

The Biden administration, to its credit, never misses a chance to emphasize the importance of dealing with climate change. President Joe Biden calls it an "existential" threat to humanity. John Kerry, his special envoy on the issue, said in April: "That means life and death. And the question is, are we behaving as if it is? And the answer is no."

That was certainly true under former President Donald Trump, who championed coal, abandoned the 2015 Paris agreement on climate, and dismissed global warming as a hoax. Biden has brought a badly needed shift on policy. But his policies sometimes are at war with his rhetoric.

One crucial part of his agenda is speeding the transition from gasoline-powered vehicles to electric ones. Cars and light trucks account for 16 percent of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, and Biden wants half of all autos sold in this country to be electric or plug-in hybrids by 2030. That transition would significantly reduce carbon output.

But let's not get the idea that the administration is laser-focused on whatever it takes to curb climate change. Its enthusiasm for electric vehicles, it turns out, is not unlimited. In Biden's eyes, some electric vehicles are good and some are bad, and the difference has nothing to do with greenhouse gases.

The social spending and climate package recently approved by the House of Representatives would encourage Americans to buy electric vehicles by providing a tax credit of as much as $12,500 for each purchase, an increase over the existing $7,500 credit. That indirect subsidy is needed because these cars generally cost more to purchase than comparable conventional cars.

But Biden and his congressional allies are not enamored of all electric vehicles. They want to restrict the full tax break to those cars that are built by union workers in the United States and have batteries built by union workers in the United States. Buyers of other vehicles would get only a $7,500 credit — a $5,000 penalty.

That penalty would apply to almost all of the 50 electric vehicles currently sold here, including every model made by Tesla, the Ford Mustang Mach-E, the Nissan Leaf, the Rivian pickup, the Hyundai Ioniq, and more. The only exceptions are two Chevy Bolt models. It would also harm workers in U.S. plants operated by foreign automakers, which are nonunion and produce nearly half of all the vehicles sold here.

The discrimination is a giant favor to the United Auto Workers, a stalwart of the Democratic Party that has been weathering a major corruption scandal. "The union has stressed to the Biden administration that the country shouldn't sacrifice union jobs to meet its climate goals," reported The Wall Street Journal. A White House spokesman insisted that "jobs taking on the climate crisis must also be jobs that build the middle class."

There are some obvious flaws in the administration's logic. One is that given the monumental size of the battle against climate change, it is imperative to enlist every automaker, including nonunion ones.

To exclude nearly all electric cars from the full tax credit will make the national transition away from gas-powered vehicles — a hugely formidable undertaking under the best of circumstances — slower and more expensive. It's exactly the wrong strategy if you place a supreme priority on saving the planet from excessively high temperatures.

The UAW has repeatedly lost elections allowing workers at foreign-owned plants to decide whether to sign up with the union. Limiting the tax credit will hurt those workers. It will also encourage automakers to build electric cars abroad, where they can achieve lower labor costs — enough, perhaps, to overcome the tax disadvantage.

It will also be a boon to the internal combustion engine. As Jeffrey Schott, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, told me, "If you raise the cost of electric vehicles too much, people will buy gas-powered cars."

The Trump administration refused to require any sacrifice from fossil fuel companies and their employees merely to avert the worst-case climate scenario. The Biden administration is willing to act against climate change, but it too insists on protecting certain groups at the expense of the broad American public — and all humanity.

Denying the full tax credit to the vast majority of electric vehicles will mean more carbon emissions and warming of the planet. But hey — it's not like this is a matter of life and death, right?

Follow Steve Chapman on Twitter @SteveChapman13 or at https://www.facebook.com/stevechapman13. To find out more about Steve Chapman and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

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On the campaign trail, Trump promised voters in Ohio and throughout the midwest that he would save manufacturing jobs. But it turns out that was just another broken promise by a boastful liar.

Instead, an embarrassed Trump melted down this weekend in reaction to a General Motors plant in Lordstown, Ohio, that recently stopped production.

Trump tweeted Saturday, “Because the economy is so good, General Motors must get their Lordstown, Ohio, plant open, maybe in a different form or with a new owner, FAST!” “G.M. MUST ACT QUICKLY. Time is of the essence!”

The next day, Trump decided to blame union workers — falsely — for GM’s decision to shutter the plant, going so far as to call out the president of the local union by name.

“Democrat UAW Local 1112 President David Green ought to get his act together and produce. G.M. let our Country down, but other much better car companies are coming into the U.S. in droves. I want action on Lordstown fast. Stop complaining and get the job done! 3.8% Unemployment!” Trump wrote.

Trump’s meltdown comes months after GM initially announced, in November 2018, that it would close five North American plants, including the one in Lordstown. At the time, GM noted that Trump’s disastrous trade wars cost the company more than $1 billion. Between the five plants, GM said almost 15,000 workers would lose their jobs.

In early March, the final car — a Chevy Cruze — rolled off the Lordstown assembly line.

On Monday morning, GM made clear to Trump that they were, in fact, working closely with the union when making decisions about which plants to close. But an angry, and perhaps humiliated, Trump was apparently looking for someone to blame in light of his broken campaign pledges.

During the 2016 campaign, Trump repeatedly told workers in Ohio that he would single-handedly save manufacturing in the region. Trump promised to make Ohio a “manufacturing behemoth,” saying companies would flood the region with manufacturing plants and provide jobs.

Even after he was in office, he kept making the same boasts. “I was looking at some of those big, once-incredible job-producing factories…Those jobs have left Ohio,” Trump said in Youngstown, Ohio in July 2017. “They’re all coming back. They’re all coming back. Don’t move. Don’t sell your house,” he advised people.

GM’s announcement to shutter five plants came a year after those comments, and Ohio workers know who’s to blame.

Nanette Senters worked in the Lordstown plant. After news broke that the plant would close, she organized a letter-writing campaign to Trump, asking for him to help. As of early February, she never heard from him. “He lied,” Senters said of Trump. “He doesn’t care.”

Yet Trump absolutely refuses to accept responsibility for either his broken promise, or the fact that his failed trade war played a role in the massive layoffs and plant closures.

Published with permission of The American Independent.

IMAGE: A worker installs parts onto the dashboard for the Chevrolet Cruze car as it moves along the assembly line at the General Motors Cruze assembly plant in Lordstown, Ohio July 22, 2011. REUTERS/Aaron Josefczyk