Marco Rubio’s Concern About Chinese EVs Betrays Republican Support For Oil, Hindrance To Electrification

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Jennifer Sensiba wrote this week about a proposal from U.S. Senator Marco Rubio to put big tariffs on Chinese electric vehicle imports (which are non-existent at the moment, but expected). He’s not shy about it — he’s concerned that cheap electric cars from China will come into the US and steal auto sales and jobs away from US automakers. There’s a bit of irony here, though. Republicans in Congress have supported the oil industry and fought electric cars for years, or actually for decades.

After supporting oil subsidies for years, after holding back any efforts to require that automakers try harder to clean up their fleets and electrify, after considering electric cars token green machines, after hating on and blocking a Green New Deal, now it’s time to be concerned about electric cars from China coming in and gobbling up market share?

Perhaps, instead of uncritical allegiance to fossil fuels and an obsession against anything that will help maintain a stable climate and clean air, Rubio and his colleagues could have thought about the future of the US economy and US jobs. That’s what China did. It knew the future of automobiles would be electric. It knew that electric cars is where the economic boost and the jobs would come in the transportation sector. And so it supported strong emissions regulations on cars, supported buying electric cars via various subsidies, supported EV growth with EV charging infrastructure development. The result: It’s got the top electric car industry in the world! Its best electric car companies are now exporting vehicles to dozens of countries and climbing up the sales rankings from New Zealand to Norway to Mexico.

I think that if Chinese electric cars were allowed to compete on a level playing field in the US, they’d become major players in the US auto market within a decade. That said, it’s not a level playing field for foreign automakers versus Chinese ones back in China. So, why should it be a level playing field here in the US? Though, what would be really nice is if the US simply had more car companies and electric car models with great specs, great design, great powertrains, and great pricing. Yes, we have Tesla (thank goodness), we have Rivian, and we have legacy automakers doing a bit to electrify — but we are so far away from what China has. The reason for the difference is not at all unclear. China moves forward in a united way with a long-term vision on what will help the country, whereas the US is constantly split and at war with itself; politicians and their supporters can’t agree on anything. Republicans are effectively just another arm of the fossil fuel industries and work hard to stifle any cleantech progress of any kind. Is that going to change? Well, there’s no sign of it changing anytime soon. They’d rather block changes happening in the rest of the world from getting to the US, via tariffs, than focus on modernizing the USA.


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