U.S. Rep. Dingell Proposes Bill to Encourage More Electric Cars

Published April 2, 2020

Congress is considering a bill to continue and expand taxpayer support for electric vehicle (EV) manufacturers and purchasers by dedicating $2 billion per year for development and adoption of plug-in cars.

The USA Electrify Forward Act, sponsored by U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI), would direct U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao to “accelerate domestic manufacturing efforts directed toward the improvement of batteries, power electronics, and other technologies for use in plug-in electric vehicles.”

The legislation also directs the transportation department to update residential and commercial building codes to encourage installation of electric-vehicle charging stations and directs states to consider measures to encourage station installation.

Dingell’s bill would also appropriate $2 billion per year for the U.S. Department of Energy’s 2007 Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing Incentive Program to provide direct loans to electric vehicle component manufacturers for constructing new U.S. factories or retrofitting existing factories to make electric vehicle parts more affordable and functional, from 2021 through 2035.

Sees No Environmental Benefit

Dingell’s bill is unlikely to improve the environment, says Baruch Feigenbaum, assistant director of transportation policy at the Reason Foundation.

“That’s a very large amount of money, and it’s not even clear to me that some of the things she is proposing would be good for reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” Feigenbaum said. “Moreover, some of the batteries for the plug-in electric vehicles have major negative environmental impacts a lot of folks fail to consider.

“Even if this had positive overall environmental benefits, it’s not clear to me why the federal government should do this,” Feigenbaum said. “I don’t know if Dingell’s intending this as a [virtue-]signaling bill or maybe it’s something to help the auto industry, since she’s from Michigan, but I don’t know why she’s doing this.”

Prefers Market Answers

Dingell does not understand what consumers want better than the market does, Feigenbaum says.

“The free market could put the money Dingell wants the government to direct to better use,” Feigenbaum said. “If Dingell’s bill becomes law, it will really distort the marketplace.

“The reason manufacturers are not selling as many of these vehicles as Dingell and others would like is because they don’t work for most folks,” Feigenbaum said. “Getting out of the way of the free market would achieve the sorts of things Dingell wants quicker than having Congress spend more money.”

Kenneth Artz ([email protected]) writes from Dallas, Texas.

Official Connections:

U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI): https://debbiedingell.house.gov/; https://debbiedingell.house.gov/contact/