Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg Stands Up To Republicans With EV Lesson

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Want to have some fun? Conservative media outlets and House Republicans are all fired up over comments Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg made earlier this month supporting President Biden’s goal of 50% EVs in the marketplace by 2030.

Let’s deconstruct these anti-EV claims for inaccuracies, hyperbole, and convoluted argumentation, shall we? We’ll also take a look at Buttigieg’s responses, which answer criticisms but also call out opponents for their short-sightedness about bringing cost-saving technology to rural communities and about the expediency needed to fight the climate crisis.

We’ll also make transparent the persuasive techniques the internal combustion engine (ICE) diehards use to delay the transition to zero emissions transportation.

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Pete Buttigieg
Image retrieved from public domain

Following testimony in front of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Buttigieg praised the Biden administration goal  of having 50% of all new car sales transition to all-electric transportation by 2030. The goal is possible “if we prepare,” Buttigieg said. “Look, the fact that people who have electric vehicles are going to use more electricity can’t be a reason to give up. The idea that America is inferior to the other countries that have figured this out just doesn’t sit well with us, and that’s why we’re investing in a better grid.”

The Association of Mature American Citizens (Better for You. Better for America) insists Secretary Buttigieg is “living in la-la land.” This media publication suggests that he’s the most likely Democratic candidate for president in 2024 if Joe Biden doesn’t run for reelection. Should Buttigieg be elected, they rationalize, “we’ll be living in green hell, compelled to buy pricey EVs to comply with his climate zealotry.”

Major points of their argument are next, with followup analysis.

EVs cost too much. The average new EV costs about $66,000. Like ICE vehicles, there is a wide range of EV buying options. Capital cost has always been a major factor in the EV purchase decision, with 63% of consumers believing that an EV is beyond their budget. Yet a 2022 Nissan Leaf or Mini Electric Hardtop starts at under $30,000. Sure, a 2022 Mercedes-Benz EQS sells for $120,000, but that’s a rare consumer purchase. New vehicle average transaction prices (ATPs) increased to $47,148 in May 2022, according to new data released by Kelley Blue Book.

EVs are for big spenders. Driving a conventional car 100 miles costs $14 for gasoline on average; an EV on the same route would use a little over $5 in electricity. So EV drivers win out on energy costs. EVs are soon to reach the total cost of ownership (TCO) of ICE vehicles — and not just for “big spenders.”

Charging them is a logistical nightmare. Getting a charge away from home isn’t fast or easy. To think about it differently, a conventional car needs to find a gas pump, but an EV can plug in anywhere there is an outlet, and most people charge at home. The number of fast-charging stations are increasing every year. Virginia, for example, just released a new charging program.

The Tesla Model Y, with a 220-volt charger installed in your home, takes up to 11 hours to power up this model. That’s more than most people sleep in a night. My Model Y gets 326 miles from empty to full; I usually only charge to 80% and hardly ever let it fall below 10%. I definitely don’t need more than a good night’s sleep to get my needed charge.

Buttigieg’s proposed regulations to compel states to reduce CO2 highway emissions is effectively outlawing gas-powered vehicles. Actually, legacy OEMs must start making BEVs in time to survive; otherwise, they’ll become obsolete. The demise of ICE vehicles extends well beyond Buttigieg’s comments. California has a first-in-the-nation goal of banning new ICE cars by 2035, and, as the largest auto market in the US, other states are sure to follow.

More Backlash from Conservative Media Outlets

The New York Post focused on a give-and-take that Buttigieg and Rep. Carlos Gimenez (R-FL) had, with the Secretary asking Gimenez to “reconsider opposing the reduction of EV upfront prices with tax credits.”

“Are EVs cheaper by subsidizing them?” Gimenez asked.

Buttigieg responded, “Yes, that’s part of it.”

“Yeah, but that doesn’t make it cheaper,” the congressman said. “We’re all paying for it at the end. We’re all paying taxes.” In a followup tweet, he said Buttigieg “told me the White House’s logic was the more pain Americans felt, the better for electric vehicles. It’s an evil way of governing.”

“To sum up: ‘The more pain’ Americans are experiencing, the better it is for our agenda,” added Rep. Dan Bishop (R-NC).

“The cruelty is the point,” tweeted Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX).

“You actually use the word ‘need.’ You could say ‘want’ as well,” Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY) told Buttigieg. “There’s ‘needs’ and ‘wants’ to make this fantasy work by 2030, but the reality is the capability is not going to be there.” Massie also said he was “alarmed” at what he called “the naivete” in President Biden’s proposal,

“Evil.” “Cruelty.” “Fantasy.” “Alarmed.” “Naivete.” It’s interesting that these lawmakers would invoke words that are emotion-laden to make their climate delaying points. Is there no science to support conservative claims about lack of EV viability?

Fox News chose to frame the Buttigieg remarks as an example of how the “US government is looking to cut the cost of electric vehicles so that more Americans will buy them and get out of paying so much for gas.Read: It’s all about politics, stupid — the environment is a nice byproduct.

Buttigieg acknowledged that the US needs to make upgrades to the grid. He also noted, “If we add yesterday’s grid with tomorrow’s cars, it’s not going to work.”

The Secretary was described as “all smiles” and as someone who “added insult to injury” to “Americans angry at Biden’s energy policies… (which) followed through on his campaign promise to get Americans off fossil fuels.”

“Smiles.” “Insult.” “Angry.” We know people in the US have lots of questions about EVs. That’s fine. But why should anyone be insulted by a smiling government official who is trying to promote a healthier, safer, equitable, higher tech future? Don’t we crave a reliable energy system that offers increasing system flexibility and resilience within the electricity sector? Oh, yeah. Lots of conservative people in the US have a higher tendency to balk at the idea of sustainable transportation because of doubletalk from media outlets like Fox News.

Final Thoughts about Buttigieg & EV Adversaries

Buttigieg’s nearly 5 hours of testimony before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee covered a wide range of topics – everything from the need for broader deployment of electric vehicles to transit, port, and bridge improvements designed to foster economic growth and improve quality of life for residents.

Buttigieg noted that, to date, USDOT has announced nearly $84 billion in grant funding, with more to come for legislators and their constituents.

“In this good work, we will need your continued leadership and partnership—as well as that of communities across the country, organized labor, businesses, state, tribal, and local officials, and so many more. Together, we have the opportunity to improve countless lives, support good paying jobs, strengthen America’s manufacturers, modernize our infrastructure for decades to come, and cement America’s position as the world’s leading economy.”

To persuade fossil fuel capitalists that renewable energy transportation options are the way to go is really tough slogging for Buttigieg. But it’s really important work.

After all, it was John F. Kennedy who said, “Conformity is the jailer of freedom and the enemy of growth.”

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Carolyn Fortuna

Carolyn Fortuna, PhD, is a writer, researcher, and educator with a lifelong dedication to ecojustice. Carolyn has won awards from the Anti-Defamation League, The International Literacy Association, and The Leavey Foundation. Carolyn is a small-time investor in Tesla and an owner of a 2022 Tesla Model Y as well as a 2017 Chevy Bolt. Please follow Carolyn on Substack:

Carolyn Fortuna has 1310 posts and counting. See all posts by Carolyn Fortuna