What with the price of gas soaring, youd think the prospect of electric cars would turn Americans hearts aflutter. And however aflutter they may be just now, theyd be aflutterer still if the number of charging stations was greatly increased (the EU, which is spatially smaller than the U.S., has five times as many chargers) and the price of those newfangled electrics brought down.
The infrastructure bill that President Biden signed into law on Monday included $7.5 billion to increase the number of charging stations, while the Build Back Better bill, which, knock wood, may actually pass the House within the next day or two, provides a tax write-off of $12,500 to Americans who buy electric cars that are built in the U.S. by union labor. Absent the union labor, the subsidy is reduced to $8,000.
Not surprisingly, the car manufacturers whove successfully opposed any attempts by their workers to unionizeTesla, Toyota, and other foreign-based manufacturers whove set up shop in the South because of its historic preference for unpaid and underpaid laboroppose the unionization requirement for the full 12.5. And also not surprisingly, since nothing he does can by now surprise even the semi-sentient, so does Joe Manchin.
Manchin, of course, is Fossil Fuels Friend. (If hed been around when Thomas Edison was first trying to break into the illumination market, wed still be relying on gas lamps for light.) At Manchins insistence, House Democrats reduced the yearly income ceiling for eligibility for the electric-car subsidy from $400,000 to $250,000. But when the BBB bill arrives in the Senate, presumably next week, Manchin also wants to eliminate that unionized-worker requirement for receiving the full subsidy.
Looked at one way, this is a little odd even for Manchin, as he has endorsed the PRO Act, which would remove most of the hurdles workers encounter when they try to form or join a union. Indeed, he endorsed the PRO Act while sitting next to Cecil Roberts, president of the legendary United Mine Workers, a union now less than one-tenth the size it once boasted, but whose name still resonates in West Virginia. Looked at another way, the one major auto plant in West Virginia is Toyotas, which, presumably, is why Manchin has termed the union provision not American.
Actually, Bidens insistence on both going electric and going union is absolutely necessary if were to keep the planet from incinerating, which is politically possible only if we ensure a just transition for workers who now mine coal and build gas-powered cars. Instead, Manchin has spent his political capital, which will never be remotely as high as it is in the current session of Congress, on extending the dwindling life of the coal industry, rather than winning the kind of income guarantees that the government could devote to miners after the coal is kept in the ground. Rather than help craft a livable future, Manchin is determined to extend a doomed present. His conditioncall it temporal myopiais a threat to us all.
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