A recent Gallup survey revealed that only seven percent of Americans have confidence in Congress, a new low for U.S. lawmakers. Nipping on their discredited heels is television news, which commands only an 11 percent confidence ranking. Newspapers fare slightly better, with a 16 percent confidence ranking.

The findings give me hope in the fundamental intelligence of Americans. They might not be able to articulate all the reasons for their dissatisfaction, but they instinctively know that all is not well with America’s government and the institution whose responsibility is to keep it accountable. If every American understood the significance of Michigan senior Senator Debbie Stabenow’s startling admission to the New York Times about the EV goodies in the Inflation Reduction Act, it might serve as a catalyst for meaningful Congressional leadership change.

This Times’ August 12 story was headlined, “Winners and Losers in Climate Bill,” which is how the Inflation Reduction Act is being peddled to the public. The subhead on the story: “Carmakers may need several years to revamp their supply chains to meet new rules, but the legislation is still seen as a win for electric vehicles.”

Several years?

Buried in the Times’ story is this nugget:

Some of the restrictions on eligibility for a tax credit may not be as strict as they appear and may be up for interpretation. For example, Ms. Stabenow said, it appeared that the $7,500 credit would be valid for all manufacturers through next year before content restrictions kicked in.

Debbie Stabenow/Deadline Detroit graphic

Stabenow’s comment is noteworthy because it appears she doesn’t understand for certain the details of the legislation she voted to approve. It’s been widely reported that Ford and GM have been squawking that the legislation’s provision requiring increased sourcing of U.S. metals and minerals in their electric vehicle batteries is too onerous on them and that most of their EVs won’t qualify when President Biden signs the bill.

Yet Stabenow believes that all electric vehicles will qualify for the $7,500 credit through 2023.

Stabenow, who I’ve previously profiled, is the elder Congressional person representing the state where Ford and GM are headquartered. If Michigan’s senior Senator doesn’t understand the details of the legislation she supported, then who does?

Real-world Washington

A possible reason Stabenow appears flummoxed is that she’s confused the message points the Biden Administration wants the media and public to believe and the real-world reality of Washington. This Politico story provides a deft explanation: The Deep State has enough tools at its disposal to circumvent both the spirit and intent of the U.S. battery content rules, which are designed to reduce America’s frightening dependence on China for the metals and minerals required to manufacture electric vehicles.

Politico, August 6, 2022

Ford’s deceptions

The Times’ August 12 story contained some deceptions that can’t go unchallenged. It quoted an anonymous Ford spokesperson as saying, “While (the bill’s) consumer tax credit targets for electric vehicles are not all achievable overnight, the bill is an important step forward to meet our shared national climate goals and help strengthen American manufacturing jobs.”

Strengthen American manufacturing jobs?

Ford’s electric Mustang, which likely will qualify for tax credits, is manufactured in Mexico, as are GM’s forthcoming Blazer and Equinox electric vehicles. The bill incentivizes Ford to gut its internal combustion engine business (ICE), which is why CEO Jim Farley leaked plans to lay off 8,000 white collar employees, representing 26 percent of his salaried workforce.

The bill also incentivizes automakers to continue building luxury electric vehicles priced way beyond the means of most Americans. If the intent of the bill is to save the planet, automakers should be incentivized to make EVs most Americans can afford. Instead, Congress wants to provide tax subsidies for people who can afford an $80,000 pickup truck. Luxury vehicles are considerably more profitable than sedans, which is why Ford and GM ceded that market to Japanese and other foreign automakers.

Margot Oge/LinkedIn photo

The Times quotes Margo Oge, former director of the Office of Transportation and Air Quality at the Environmental Protection Agency as saying, “We have to look at this law in its totality. Is it perfect? No. It will create jobs, and it will be good for the climate.”

In fact, electric vehicle conversion will lead to a reduction of jobs, as it takes fewer workers to assemble an EV. The bill also won’t result in one more electric vehicle being sold, as most EVs are in short supply and there’s a backlog of orders that can’t be filled.

Environmental challenges

As for the environmental benefits of electric vehicles, Washington Post reporter Evan Halper, who specializes in “the tensions between energy demands and decarbonizing the economy,” provided some sobering insights in this thoughtful article.

Halper reported that the International Energy Agency warned last month that battery and mineral supply chains will have to expand tenfold over the next decade to meet the world’s goals for electrifying the transportation fleet. The problem is that mining lithium and nickel, critical battery components, are environmental hazards, so understandably no one wants these mines built in their communities. That includes Native Americans, whose reservations are located within 35 miles of 97 percent of America’s nickel reserves and 79 percent of its lithium.

“It is a growing conundrum for climate activists: meeting the Biden administration’s ambitious goals for cutting car emissions hinges on the quick approval of large, invasive projects environmentalists are predisposed to resist,” Halper reported.

Ignore wildflower environmentalists

Brian Menell, chief executive of TechMet, an investment firm whose mission is to “make responsible investments and generate the highest level of returns within the boundaries of our commitment to social justice, protection of human life and dignity, stewardship of the plant, and promotion of the common good,” is quite open about how to deal with those who oppose nickel and lithium mining in their communities.

“We need government to say, ‘sure, we love wildflowers, and we’re going to respect environmental and social governance standards, because that’s part of our culture,’” Menell told the Post. “But, at some point, we’ve got to say, ‘mister wildflower group, you had your say, and now go and shut up. We are going to develop this mine, even if we destroy the habitat of a wildflower, which everybody would regret. It’s better than destroying the world with climate change.’”

Another source of lithium deposits is South America, but it turns out people there aren’t excited about having lithium mines being built in their communities. This Wall Street Journal story does an excellent job explaining the issues. Chilean environmentalists believe that lithium mining has caused some nearby lagoons to dry up, harming the population of wild flamingos that rely on them to feed on shrimp and build nests.

“The damage is irreversible,” Cristina Dorador, a biologist, told the Journal.  

I imagine Menell’s response would be, “Ms. Flamingo group, you had your say, now go shut up.”

Climate change sacrifices

Therein is the lesson on the Biden Administration’s strategy to address climate change. Some communities need to bite the bullet and give up their wildflowers and flamingos so there’s a sufficient source of available materials to build electric vehicles. I’d possibly support that strategy if we could build lithium and nickel mines in places like “Green Mountains” Vermont or Queens, communities respectively represented by Green New Deal champions Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Another deserving community would be Atherton in California’s Silicon Valley; the Bay area remains Tesla’s biggest market, despite the company relocating to Texas.

Atherton is home of billionaire tech investor and corporate jet polluting owner Marc Andreessen, who recently protested building affordable housing in his neighborhood because it would destroy property values. Andreessen previously urged the construction of more affordable housing in San Francisco.

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