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Electron Guzzlers, No Strings Attached

Whither Supertrain?


The United Auto Workers is not yet making an endorsement” of President Joe Biden for 2024, the group’s president Shawn Fain wrote to his more than 400,000 members. Fain explained that the UAW isn’t feeling the Joementum because the electric-vehicle incentives in the Inflation Reduction Act failed to support union-made vehicles:

“The federal government is pouring billions into the electric vehicle transition, with no strings attached and no commitment to workers. The EV transition is at serious risk of becoming a race to the bottom. We want to see national leadership have our back on this before we make any commitments.”

Biden’s original Build Back Better legislation included language providing a $4500 tax credit for union-made electric vehicles and other provisions consistent with a just transition.

“We’re going to make sure that the jobs of the future end up here in Michigan, not halfway around the world,” Biden told workers at a UAW training facility in November 2021, with “new purchase incentives for consumers to buy American-made, union-made clean vehicles.”

But Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), on behalf of anti-union auto manufacturers like Toyota and Tesla, killed the provision.

The United Auto Workers announcement is strikingly different from that of the Sierra Club and the League of Conservation Voters. Even though, thanks to Manchin, the IRA is as flawed on climate as it is on labor, the environmental groups warmly embraced Biden’s reëlection campaign, even parroting his “finish the job” slogan.1

There is, of course the problem that the Biden administration’s strategy of investing in highway and electric-vehicle construction—union-made or not—isn’t the greatest climate policy.

A recent study of the effect of the California’s clean-car rebates found that pollution largely went down as a result, but the reductions “disproportionately occurred in the wealthiest communities” where the electric vehicles were purchased.

And US car companies are hell-bent on building battery-powered behemoths, macho electron-guzzling tanks that are at least twice the size and weight of normal cars.

Bill McKibben doesn’t think the fight against cars, let alone megaton murder machines, is worth tackling for the climate movement at this moment in history, though:

“I think I may have organized the first big demonstration against SUVs in this country more than two decades ago, and there’s no campaign I’ve ever been involved in that’s been less successful. So it’s a daunting thought that the new Ford F-150 Lightning pickup has to be an adversary instead of an ally as we try to change the emissions profile of the most carbon-intensive population the world has ever known.”

Amtrak Joe, give me Supertrain!

Sen. Whitehouse’s hearing on the debt ceiling at 10 AM this morning has the engaging title of The Default on America Act: Blackmail, Brinkmanship, and Billionaire Backroom Deals. The witnesses were economist Mark Zandi, Environmental Defense Fund president Fred Krupp, Abigail Ross Hopper, president of the Solar Energy Industries Association, Jason Fichtner of the Bipartisan Policy Center and right-wing hack Brian Riedl from the Manhattan Institute. Krupp and Hopper lambasted the GOP debt-ceiling plan to kill the Inflation Reduction Act’s clean-energy provisions.

Meanwhile, Manchin conducted oversight of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, haranguing the commissioners on the wonders of coal, natural gas, and his dirty permitting plan, which he is again pushing for, what, the fourth time?

Foreign Relations chair Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) took testimony from the ambassadorial nominees for Peru, Ecuador, Jordan (all civil-service members), and the Caribbean (Roger Nyhus, a comms guy for the Gates Foundation and some Washington Democrats). The nominees emphasized they would advocate on behalf of U.S. corporate interests. The senators on the panel were primarily concerned with competing with China and fighting drug trafficking; climate disasters, environmental protection, and climate migration, not so much.

In the afternoon, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) chaired a hearing on the reauthorization of the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Act. The latest reauthorization, passed in 2019, includes the Administration for Strategic Preparedness and Response (ASPR) in the Department of Health and Human Services. Part of ASPR is the National Disaster Medical System, which provides “personnel, equipment, supplies, and a system of partner hospitals that work together with state and local personnel to provide care in response to disasters” including fossil-fueled hurricanes, floods, and wildfires.

Hearings on the Hill:

Maybe I shouldn’t admit it, but this video from Chris Ramsay made me tear up. I think it’s because it reminded me that we could be living in a world of the joyful expression of our dreams, if we could learn how to live together in compassion and care.

I try to share a little of myself in these newsletters, in the hope that it’s worthwhile to you that it’s not purely a corporate product PRESENTED BY CHEVRON. Even though my level of craft does not come anywhere close to that of the Karakuri Creation Group, if you find something of value in this work, please consider a paid subscription to keep it going.

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1 Biden’s second reëlect campaign ad, released yesterday on “good jobs and the dignity of work,” features shots from him on the campaign trail in 2020 with LiUNA, UA Local 85, and IBEW members. The ad talks about “making things here in America” with investments in domestic manufacturing but does not mention unions or labor rights.

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