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Savior of GM? Democrats' rhetoric on infrastructure raises fears Biden harbors anti-car agenda

Vice President Kamala Harris and Transportation Secretary Buttigieg supported an all-out ban on the sale of gas and diesel vehicles as candidates for president.

Updated: May 17, 2021 - 9:15am

Some of the rhetoric from Democratic lawmakers this week, coupled with policy positions touted by Biden administration officials, has raised concerns that President Biden might be adopting an anti-car agenda, despite his personal connection to the auto industry.

Biden's father was a car salesman and the former vice president was a prominent supporter of the 2008 General Motors bailout. The federal government ultimately lost $11.2 billion on the bailout, but Biden and former President Obama have argued that it saved the American auto industry from collapse during the Great Recession.

In January, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg suggested a vehicle miles traveled fee that would tax drivers for the amount of miles they drive as a way to pay for Biden's infrastructure plan. He later said that proposal was off the table, but the funding mechanism for Biden's $2.25 American Jobs Plan is still not solidified. The plan has not been drafted into formal legislation yet.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who will lead the effort to win passage of Biden's infrastructure proposal in the House, said on Thursday that the plan that passes will have people "out of their cars with more mass transit."

Biden's infrastructure plan will "reduce automobile usage, but also we're investing in pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure" in a bid to "get at climate change," Democratic D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton said Wednesday.

Vice President Kamala Harris and Buttigieg supported an all-out ban on the sale of gas and diesel vehicles as candidates for president. Hybrid vehicles that don't need to be plugged in for charging would be covered by such a ban. California's two Democratic senators want Biden to formally set an end date for the sale of vehicles with gas or diesel engines in the U.S.

Toyota President Akio Toyoda has warned that moving toward fully electric vehicles could make vehicles unaffordable for the average person. Some consumers do not see electric cars as a viable option. A January 2021 survey shows that consumers are worried about the distance range of electric vehicles as well as long recharging times.

Biden's jobs plan includes a $174 billion investment to "win the EV market," according to the White House fact sheet about the proposal.

"It will give consumers point of sale rebates and tax incentives to buy American-made EVs, while ensuring that these vehicles are affordable for all families and manufactured by workers with good jobs," reads the fact sheet. "It will establish grant and incentive programs for state and local governments and the private sector to build a national network of 500,000 EV chargers by 2030, while promoting strong labor, training, and installation standards."

The infrastructure proposal would also use the funding for electric school buses and electric U.S. Postal Service vehicles.

According to the White House outline, Biden's plan would "replace 50,000 diesel transit vehicles and electrify at least 20 percent of our yellow school bus fleet through a new Clean Buses for Kids Program at the Environmental Protection Agency, with support from the Department of Energy."

Just the News asked the American Petroleum Institute about some of the recent statements from Democratic lawmakers about cutting automobile usage in the U.S. 

"Any new federal vehicle investments and requirements should be balanced, allowing market flexibility to meet consumer needs, smart efficiency and environmental goals," said API Vice President of Downstream Policy Ron Chittim. "There is no one-size-fits-all vehicle or mass transit option that meets every consumer requirement. The nation would benefit from a balanced approach that protects consumer choice and supports innovative technologies — including those using natural gas and oil — to drive environmental progress and a more sustainable transportation future."

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