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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Tag: electric vehicles

Biden Infrastructure Plan Can Slow Climate Change: Expert

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

A bipartisan infrastructure deal backed by President Joe Biden could be key in addressing climate change, one climate expert says, even if talks on the bill have been slowed by GOP pushback.

Evan Endres, climate and energy policy manager for The Nature Conservancy in Pennsylvania, told The American Independent Foundation on Monday that his state has a "complicated carbon puzzle that needs to be solved" and that a set of bipartisan infrastructure investments being considered by Congress could be one part of the solution.

Last month, Biden and a bipartisan group of senators agreed on a $579 billion framework for those investments in transportation, broadband, and water systems infrastructure. Although negotiations on the exact language of the bill have stalled, discussions are ongoing.

The framework includes funds to invest in electric vehicle infrastructure, electrify school and transit buses, upgrade the power grid, and clean up pollution.

Addressing those issues alone would be a boon to Pennsylvania, Endres said. "A lot of positive things are being discussed — concrete climate solutions that would create jobs and opportunity in Pennsylvania," he said.

Electrification of trucks and "heavy duty equipment," for instance, would jumpstart the state's economy directly, he explained.

"Mack Trucks, an American stalwart brand, makes an electric truck right here in Pennsylvania, at the Lehigh Valley Operations in Macungie ... heavy duty electric trucks you might see in a municipal trash fleet," he said. "A lot of the support for heavy duty electrification of equipment speaks directly to a brand that's part of the heart and soul of Pennsylvania."

He also noted that investments in battery and storage capacity could benefit the state. "We're a major exporter of electricity to other states," Endres said. "The more we can improve storage, the more we can export renewable energy."

As of now, the state is not only emitting greenhouse gases at home — it is also sending it out to other states.

"We're fifth in the nation for carbon emissions, we're a major exporter of energy to most states in the mid-Atlantic. We're the second largest net exporter of electricity behind Texas," he said. "Not only are we a large carbon emitter, but we're exporting that carbon-intensive electricity to other states who are also working to solve the carbon problem, the climate problem."

Endres is similarly bullish on provisions to deploy renewable energy generation efforts on the same lands that were once used for coal mining.

"That's something that should excite Pennsylvanians, particularly communities close to those formerly mined lands," he said. "You're bringing a new economic stimulation, development to those same lands through renewable energy, solar energy. That's a great intersection for those areas."

With a bipartisan infrastructure package passed, he added, more jobs will follow. "That tech requires a lot of construction, jobs for pipefitters, electricians, building trades, laborers," he said.

Endres also flagged another area that could lead to a jobs boost: cleaning up abandoned oil and gas wells.

The state's fossil fuel legacy, he said, includes "an unfathomable number of abandoned oil and gas wells. It's not uncommon to hear of hunters in the woods in Pennsylvania stumbling on an open well emitting methane as a pollutant — maybe it was drilled 80 or 90 years ago and no one is responsible."

Pennsylvania's Department of Environmental Protection has documented about 9,000 of those orphaned wells — but estimates the number that need to be capped is in the hundreds of thousands.

"Going through, finding these things, capping them safely," Endres said, is "not only a climate solution but a big job that will require engineers, technicians, people who know how to work safely with open gas wells, people being out in the field to identify, tag them, and assess the priority."

He added, "It's a big problem and a climate liability. Methane is a far more potent greenhouse gas than just carbon emission."

In all, the bipartisan package is a series of "really great first steps" and some "really great second steps," but ones that need to be hurried along soon.

"There's a lot of promising change happening. What we need is the kind of policy and investments that put a little gasoline on that fire of change," he concluded, before adding jokingly, "...Or flip the switch on the solar panels."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

Why Henry Ford Would Support Biden’s Infrastructure Plan

When Henry Ford introduced the Model T in 1908, he had a problem. There were almost no paved roads in America. To sell his product to the masses, he needed good roads.

No one would ever deny his place among titans of American capitalism, but Ford was not shy about urging the government to supply the infrastructure essential to his business. And it did.

The Federal Aid Road Act of 1916 spent $2.1 billion (in today's dollars) to help states build modern roads. It survived a U.S. Supreme Court challenge claiming that the federal government should not pay for such things.

Besides, cars were a novelty at the time, and many asked, "Why even bother with them when horses can do the job on muddy paths?"

To which Ford is said to have quipped, "If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses."

Fast-forward to the unfounded criticism that no more than 7 percent of President Joe Biden's $2.3 trillion infrastructure plan goes to real infrastructure, defined as roads, bridges and ports. It comes from Russell Vought, director of former President Donald Trump's Office of Management and Budget.

Vought is, to put it politely, full of it. We're all for replacing worn-out bridges, but expanding access to high-speed broadband and strengthening the electric grid are infrastructure projects in the year 2021. And so, we would be helping our carmakers and truck-makers transition to electric vehicles.

That's where the world is going. Britain will ban the sale of new gasoline-powered cars and trucks in 2030, and California will in 2035. Norway, despite its huge oil and gas reserves, will do it in 2025. Strong domestic demand for this technology would grow the U.S. EV car industry, which has been falling behind the rest of the industrial world in sales.

If electric vehicles are the future, China has been grabbing it. China is the world's largest market for EVs, accounting for 41 percent of global sales last year. Europe held 42 percent of world sales. And the United States? A paltry 2.4 percent.

A major theme of foreign policy prominent in the Biden infrastructure plan is helping America better compete with China in this area and elsewhere.

"We are one of the few major economies whose public investments in research and development have declined as a percent of GDP in the past 25 years," the White House fact sheet complains. China, meanwhile, now ranks No. 2 in the world in R&D spending.

And so, what is Biden's infrastructure plan doing about electric vehicles? Importantly, it addresses the big reason more Americans haven't been buying EVs in huge numbers: their understandable concern that they won't find places to charge their batteries. That's why it calls for building 500,000 charging stations by 2030. (There are currently only 100,000.)

The plan also includes incentives for buying electric vehicles. China offers such subsidies to its people, as does Europe. Note that the Trump administration tried to get rid of them altogether.

It also fought to kill California's more stringent fuel economy standards, which act to spur EV sales. When Ford joined four automakers in making a deal with California, Trump revenge-tweeted that "Henry Ford would be very disappointed if he saw his modern-day descendants," because they refused to fight the state's regulators. He also falsely claimed that EVs are less safe.

Electric vehicle charging stations are as essential to the prosperity of today's U.S. automakers as paved roads were to Henry Ford in 1908. Can anyone doubt that if Ford were with us today, he'd be on the talk shows banging the drums for Biden's plan to support his industry?

Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at fharrop@gmail.com. To find out more about Froma Harrop and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators webpage at www.creators.com

Danziger Draws

Jeff Danziger lives in New York City. He is represented by CWS Syndicate and the Washington Post Writers Group. He is the recipient of the Herblock Prize and the Thomas Nast (Landau) Prize. He served in the US Army in Vietnam and was awarded the Bronze Star and the Air Medal. He has published eleven books of cartoons and one novel. Visit him at DanzigerCartoons.

Auto Industry Accelerates Toward A Clean Energy Future

General Motors has just delivered an electric shock to the automotive world. America's biggest automaker says that it wants its entire vehicle lineup to be electric by 2035. That's a mere 14 years from now.

This shouldn't be a shock. Electric cars are coming at us fast.

But recall that less than two years ago, then-President Donald Trump tried to slow this necessary transition. He demanded that carmakers reject California's tighter carbon-emissions standards — rules that would have helped Detroit move more quickly toward the clean energy vehicles the world was demanding.

GM sided with Trump, while Ford, Honda, Volkswagen and BMW were happy to work with California. Trump then retaliated against America's No. 2 carmaker, accusing Ford of wanting to build "a much more expensive car, that is far less safe and doesn't work as well." None of those charges are true, in case you're wondering.

Cynics say that GM CEO Mary Barra was playing up to Trump then and is now playing up to President Joe Biden, who is going big on clean energy. In any case, the move to an all-electric fleet is a business decision.

Britain, Ireland, and the Netherlands say they will ban the sale of new gasoline cars by 2030. China announced that most vehicles sold there by 2035 must be electric. (GM sells more cars in China, through joint ventures, than in the United States.)

For an idea of how Wall Street views the electric vehicle future, consider that investors put a value on Tesla — an electric car and clean energy company founded in 2003 — ten times that of GM.

Oh, and while Washington was trying to hold domestic carmakers back, China was building dominance. China leads the world in making battery packs for electric vehicles, by far. It's grabbed control of much of Earth's raw materials needed for electric cars. And it is offering princely subsidies for the vehicles' purchase.

Biden wants to extend the $7,500 tax incentive to buy EVs and says he will build 500,000 charging stations coast to coast. Both moves would further boost domestic demand for electric vehicles. That would lower the automakers' per-vehicle costs in a global market, raising the companies' profits.

But how strong is current domestic demand for electric vehicles? Let's put it this way: One day after GM started taking orders for a zero-emission Hummer, the first year's production was sold out.

Back in the days of oil supremacy, the Hummer had become the epitome of polluting excess. Some owners seemed to like it for that reason. But power is no longer the province of fossil fuels. The electric Hummer has 1,000 horsepower and can go zero to 60 miles per hour in three seconds.

Meanwhile, the Ford Mustang Mach-E sport utility vehicle was a star at the recent Beijing Auto Show. The Mach-E is a complicated concept. Not your pony car of yore, it is an electrified SUV cosmetically altered to look a bit Mustang-like. It has four doors! Whatever. Edmunds just made this car its top-rated luxury EV, beating out Audi, Porsche, Jaguar, Polestar, and Tesla.

Funny to read that Rep. Debbie Dingell, a Michigan Democrat and former GM executive, said she told carmakers: "When Joe Biden gets elected, your world will turn upside down. You've got to be at the table or else this thing gets jammed down your throat."

By contrast, Bloomberg News reports that "Biden's position has been met with a collective sigh of relief in some quarters of Detroit." Finally, an administration is interested in easing the necessary transition.

GM plans to build an electric-vehicle battery factory in the Lordstown, Ohio, area. Here we go.

Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at fharrop@gmail.com. To find out more about Froma Harrop and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators webpage at www.creators.com.

Auto execs. want to sell you an electric car

Despite polls indicating an unwillingness to pay for the technology, auto executive are pushing ahead with plans to produce and market electric vehicles. Mark Perry, Nissan’s North American product planning chief, estimated that electric vehicles will take 10% of the market over the next 10 years. The Center for Automotive Research disagreed, releasing a study saying car prices could jump by up to $9,000 to cover manufacturing costs, which could cannibalize any money the consumer was hoping to save on gas. [Detroit Free Press]