Why Have Some Republicans In Congress Suddenly Embraced The EV Revolution?

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New York Times contributor Margaret Renkl wrote an opinion piece recently that examined why some Republicans in Congress who have made a career out of bashing electric cars have suddenly gotten religion and become EV supporters. As they say in DC — the District of Corruption — “They were agin’ it a-fore they were for it.” Here are a few examples.

The Dishonorable Senator From Tennessee

Marsha Blackburn, the Republican senior senator from Tennessee, is not about building a green future, Renkl writes. In 2008, while a member of the House, she voted against tax incentives for renewable energy. During her 2018 Senate campaign and before, she expressed doubt about human responsibility for climate change.

This year, when the United States rejoined the Paris climate agreement, she complained that doing so would “kill another 400,000 jobs and lead our country away from energy independence.” In August she voted against the Senate’s bipartisan infrastructure bill, calling it “the gateway to socialism” and “the down payment on the Green New Deal.”

Then suddenly in September, the two-faced, lying senator for Tennessee started talking out of the other side of her mouth when Ford announced a partnership with SK Innovtion to build an electric vehicle and battery factory in the Volunteer State. “Altogether, the $5.6 billion in investment will directly create 5,800 jobs in addition to countless opportunities in supporting industries,” the duplicitous Blackburn said in a statement. “Through this historic project, our state will gain access to trainings and work force development for years to come.”

Mitch McConnell Does A Backflip

If Marsha Blackburn is a two-faced weasel, she has nothing on the senior senator from the great state of Kentucky, Mitch McConnell. In July he railed against the efforts of Senate Democrats’ efforts “to wage war on fossil fuels,” but in September, when Ford announced it would be building its new BlueOval SK battery manufacturing site in Kentucky, he twisted himself into a pretzel to make this statement, “I applaud Ford for their decision to bring their new battery plants to Hardin County, which will provide a much needed economic boost to the region and create thousands of well paying Kentucky jobs.”

Tennessee Governor Gets In On The Act

Bill Lee, the Republican governor of Tennessee, says he isn’t sure fossil fuels are causing climate change, despite the fact that 99.9% of climate scientists are certain they are. But when Ford came calling, Lee called the Tennessee legislature into special session to approve a $900 million incentive package for site development, construction, and work force training — the largest economic development packing in state’s history. Despite the costs, legislators were giddy about the deal with Ford, Renkl writes. “It represents a metamorphic moment,” said Page Walley, a Republican state senator. “This is our crossing the Jordan.”

Why Such Hyperbole?

How to explain such switcheroos in high places? Some might point to the old joke that goes like this: Q: How can you tell politicians are lying? A: Their lips are moving. But the answer is simple. Jobs, jobs, and more jobs. Our elected officials have little to do with job creation but they are always eager to shoulder their way forward to claim credit for themselves.

Ford and SK Innovation are not talking about just 11,000 permanent jobs at the two new manufacturing sites. There will also be many thousands of construction and infrastructure jobs to build and maintain the huge new campuses. Bob Rolfe, commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development, estimates that the West Tennessee site alone will create about 33,000 construction jobs, along with some 27,000 corollary jobs once the complex is fully operational.

Turning Red To Green

Renkle ends her opinion piece with this observation. “These electric car and battery plants are just the most visible manifestations of the green future that is coming, even in the reddest of red states. It doesn’t matter in the least whether Republicans like it. As with the Ford Motor Co., they can participate in and profit from it, or they can get left behind. They are finally showing signs that they don’t wish to be left behind.”

Then she really cranks up her attack on the hypocrites and charlatans who pretend to be leaders but are really nothing more than poseurs — stuffed shirts who are caricatures of real leaders.

“All deathbed conversions smack of hypocrisy, and this level of overt hypocrisy is almost unbelievable. Green technology is economically viable today only because Democrats seeded this field years ago. Obama-era funding for clean energy research and electric vehicles, for example, is a key reason for growth in those sectors during even the environmentally hostile Trump years. Red state politicians have worked unceasingly to subvert policies that created the very economic harvest they are now reaping themselves. It is truly nothing less than enraging.

“But rage, no matter how justified, should not obscure the real point here. The point is for human behavior to change in time to save this gorgeous, teeming, irreplaceable, suffering planet. Deathbed conversions happen because time has run out, and our time has run out.

“If even dug-in science deniers such as Marsha Blackburn and Mitch McConnell can come around on climate issues when they are convinced that doing so would benefit their constituents in visible and measurable ways, then it’s conceivable that an environmentally sound future is possible even in regions now tightly tethered to fossil fuels. It’s even conceivable that renewable energy could cease to be a political issue and become simply a common-sense strategy for a country that doesn’t want to run the planet into the ground.

“It’s really only a matter of understanding that human beings — not just endangered species and imperiled ecosystems but also our red state brothers and sisters — stand to benefit from a green future, too. And nature is already making that point very clearly.”

The United States is facing a gathering political storm that could sweep aside the razor-thin advantage Democrats hold in Congress. The cause? Rising gas prices, which are being blamed on Joe Biden even though the responsibility lies elsewhere. It’s the kind of pocketbook issue that Republicans will use to hammer their opponents.

The US has one last chance to assert its leadership on the world stage. If it slips backwards into the culture of climate denialism and unlimited support for fossil fuels, as was the case under the Orange Ogre, it will become a merely a sideshow on the world stage.

Bloomberg Green says capital is fleeing fossil fuels and there is nothing politicians can do about that. As one of our readers commented recently, the difference with renewables is simply that sunshine and wind (and geothermal heat and tides) are virtually inexhaustible — and free. There is no way in God’s (formerly) green Earth that fossil fuels can compete with free much longer. The only things that can stop the renewables revolution are willful ignorance and hatred of “the other.” Sadly, there are ample supplies of both, so what should be a foregone conclusion is still an open question.

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Steve Hanley

Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Florida or anywhere else The Force may lead him. He is proud to be "woke" and doesn't really give a damn why the glass broke. He believes passionately in what Socrates said 3000 years ago: "The secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new."

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