Joe Biden’s presumptive inauguration on Jan. 20 next year will see a Democratic administration back in the White House and, along with it, doubtless a renewed focus on climate policy from the executive branch of government. This should be good news on all fronts for those looking forward to a more sustainable future, and the electrification of transportation should gain a boost as a consequence. But to what extent can a change in administration shift policy toward greater adoption of electrification in a meaningful way?
This question was the subject of a virtual panel discussion last week co-hosted by Plug-In America and the Electrification Coalition, two organizations which have been promoting the electrification of the transportation sector through advocacy work for over a decade.
The mood was generally optimistic, but experts said a change in the administration isn’t likely to deliver a silver bullet. Rather, the work toward a more sustainable transportation future will continue to be a multi-faceted approach, though with more favorable — and indeed important — influence from the Biden administration.
Cabinet picks and Senate majority still up in the air
Jay Friedland, senior policy advisor for Plug-In America, said Biden’s cabinet picks — and how their confirmations shake out in the Senate — will be very important. So too will be the new administration’s nominee to run the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Who will control the Senate is still to be resolved by January runoff elections in Georgia, the outcome of which will likely bear heavily on what the administration will be able to accomplish.
With that in mind, however, Friedland pointed out that policymaking at the advent of electric vehicles was a bipartisan effort, noting that EV tax credits were a George W. Bush-era initiative. Friedland also observed that, over the last four years, more resistance to promoting electrification has come from the Donald Trump administration than from the Congress itself.
Leadership on transportation electrification could bring jobs to the U.S. South, Midwest
Time has moved on, too, and today the global picture has become more important than ever to consider. Ben Prochazka, national director of the Electrification Coalition, explained that never before has there been a greater focus globally on EVs, with China in the game in a big way. “The time is now for the U.S. to respond,” Prochazka said, and that while the country has a lot of talent in the market, the right policies will need to be in place to continue in a position of leadership.
Hopefully, a resumption in bipartisan cooperation might be available to maintain this leadership position. Sue Gander, managing director of EV policy for the Electrification Coalition, explained that car-makers are retooling for EV production in America, which could nudge things in the right direction. Cadillac’s production of the forthcoming Lyriq sedan in Tennessee, for example, will bring major investment and maintain jobs in this conservative-leaning state. Battery manufacturing by Volkswagen will provide opportunities for jobs in the South, too. Such investments are hard for elected