The Biden administration announced a plan to promote electric vehicles today, part of its response to the world’s growing climate emergency. This is a vast improvement from the previous administration’s do-nothing stance but it is still woefully inadequate.
Part of the reason for the plan’s shortcomings is its constantly touted “bipartisan” approach. Thanks to this bipartisanship, Biden’s infrastructure plan has been substantially cut back, is running behind schedule, and is far from guaranteed Congressional passage. Its shrinkage of electric vehicle support is particularly notable—what had been the largest single portion of the infrastructure bill has been significantly reduced.
At today’s event, Detroit’s three major automakers were present. They say they support Biden’s modest goal of having EVs or plug-in electric hybrids constitute half of all auto sales by 2030. There are several striking things wrong with this picture:
Plug-in electric hybrids currently only travel 25 to 40 miles on electric alone; they depend heavily on gas. Therefore they should not count toward Biden’s 50% goal.
Even if the goal were 50% purely battery electric vehicles (BEVs), it would still well lag behind what is needed to address climate change today.
While representatives of Detroit’s “Big 3” smiled and shuffled and congratulated themselves on their forward thinking, the largest and most successful EV manufacturer on earth was conspicuously absent, having not been invited.
I am of course referring to Tesla, the company which put BEVs on the map and which still maintains a wide technological and sales lead in the sector.
Tesla, operating in less than ideal circumstances (the four years of Trump’s administration, to cite just one example) has almost single-handedly pushed electric vehicles into the public spotlight. The company has also managed to get a large number of electric vehicles onto the nation’s streets and highways, having sold more than 200,000 cars last quarter. Yet Tesla was not invited to be part of Biden’s big EV event, an event where he joked about one day driving an “electric Corvette.”
I’m sorry to say this yet again, but the Tesla omission is yet another example of the current administration’s fumbling, inadequate response to both America’s mediocre infrastructure and our accelerating climate crisis.
The Conservative party’s decisive win last Thursday in Britain, and the consequent path forward to a massively misguided Brexit, is only the latest in a series of increasingly ominous events circulating through the 24-hour news cycle.
Nationalism wins again. Ignorance wins again. And so the West (and indeed the world at large, cf. India) continues to march backward, steadfastly ignoring science, history and common sense.
I won’t spend much time on the twisted announcement reversing U. S. climate change policy that Trump made yesterday. There’s plenty of analysis regarding that already. Instead, I’d like to suggest you focus on something other than our buffoonish president for a moment. That something is the Republican Party itself, which MIT gadfly Noam Chomsky recently said is “racing as rapidly as possible to destruction of organized human life.”
The GOP, and conservatives in general, have always been laggards when it comes to keeping pace with change—any sort of change. But today’s Republicans are another breed entirely. Motivated by a toxic combination of greed and hatred, and almost entirely devoid of empathy, the Republicans, as David Brooks puts it in today’s Times, “share [a] core worldview that life is nakedly a selfish struggle for money and dominance.”
Chomsky, in addressing the dangers this worldview and the Republicans pose, cites a 2013 Daedalus article by conservative political analysts Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein in arriving at his dire prognosis. They wrote that the Republican Party is now “ideologically extreme, scornful of facts and compromise, and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.” Those words date from four years ago and their truth has only intensified in 2017. Moreover, Chomsky is not only considering climate change when he speaks of dangers to human survival but nuclear weapons as well.
Given what we saw yesterday in Washington, and given recent developments on the Korean Peninsula, we would do well to take Chomsky’s warning seriously.