Biden’s New Emissions Regulations Could Reduce Auto Industry Jobs. Rust Belt Dems Are Backing Them Anyway

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Several Democratic lawmakers from manufacturing-intensive Midwestern states are backing new regulations by the Biden administration restricting vehicle emissions, which experts say could dramatically reduce the number of gas-powered cars and result in fewer automobile industry jobs.

On March 20, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized a new rule — Multi Pollutant Emissions Standards for Model Years 2027 and Later Light-Duty and Medium-Duty Vehicles — which would effectively require roughly two-thirds of all light-duty vehicles sold after model year 2032 to be electric vehicles (EVs) or hybrids. Critics have argued the rule is a de facto electric vehicle mandate and will result in fewer jobs in the long run, yet the rule has been supported by Democratic members of Congress from Rust Belt states.

“For producing an electric vehicle as opposed to a traditional internal combustion engine vehicle, it requires significantly fewer workers to actually produce one electric vehicle. There are less parts involved in assembly,” Chris Ventura, an executive director of the Consumer Energy Alliance, told the DCNF.

“A shift to electric vehicles along the lines EPA has announced will make lives worse for everyday consumers while costing them more for the privilege of having their lives inconvenienced,” O.H. Skinner, the executive director of the Alliance for Consumers, told the DCNF.

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“The Biden administration has finalized a regulation that will unequivocally eliminate most new gas cars and traditional hybrids from the U.S. market in less than a decade,” wrote the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers and American Petroleum Institute in a joint statement.

While the United Auto Workers labor union expressed support for the regulations, many rank-and-file autoworkers are less sanguine about the mandate, believing it would result in fewer jobs, the DCNF previously reported.

It is estimated that the regulations will force manufacturers to ensure electric vehicles make up approximately 44% of their sales by 2030. Many Democratic representatives from Michigan, the historic home of the automotive industry, and other manufacturing states have supported the new rule.

“[T]he auto industry and government officials stood together to announce new auto emissions standards that will enable the cars and trucks of tomorrow to be built here in America by American workers,” wrote Democratic Rep. Elissa Slotkin of Michigan, who is also running for the Senate in 2024, in a statement shared by her office with the DCNF. “Importantly, as industry officials have emphasized, [the] announcement will ensure that consumers can choose the car that’s right for them, however, it’s powered.”

“I appreciate EPA’s commitment to engaging with our automakers and autoworkers to develop an ambitious but achievable final rule. It represents an opportunity for union workers to continue to build the vehicles of the future right here in the U.S. and tackle the climate crisis,” said retiring Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, which was featured in the EPA’s press release announcing the rule. Slotkin is running for Stabenow’s seat in what is likely to be a close race.

“The EPA has worked with all stakeholders to reach this final rule that includes hybrid and electric vehicles, and ensure these goals are achievable,” said Democratic Rep. Debbie Dingell of Michigan in a statement her office shared with the DCNF. “It’s important to protect vehicle choice – the number of available models has doubled in the last three years, and in the last year sticker prices are down 20%. We need to continue to work on making sure that these vehicles are affordable to everyone, that we have the infrastructure in place to make them accessible and practical for consumers, and bring jobs back to the U.S.”

Dingell’s district includes several automobile manufacturing facilities, such as Ford’s Rawsonville Plant and a General Motors parts packaging facility.

One Democrat, Sen. Gary Peters of Michigan, couched his support for the rule in its endorsement by the United Auto Workers. “The union embraces the future of the auto industry, but they also want to make sure that it can be done at a pace that’s realistic, and has minimal impact on jobs. This was a decision that certainly attempts to address all that,” Peters told Politico.

Not every Rust Belt Democratic representative was sanguine about the new rules. Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia criticized them in a statement released by his office.

“The federal government has no authority and no right to mandate what type of car or truck Americans can purchase for their everyday lives. This reckless and ill-informed rule will impose what is effectively an EV mandate without ensuring the security of our supply chains from nations like China and without a realistic transition plan that addresses our domestic infrastructure needs,” Manchin wrote.

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