New studies show that a shift to electric vehicles could create thousands of new jobs in Indiana. However, the public health benefits of zero-emission vehicles could be billions of dollar.
All that potential comes with some very large challenges.
Workers in the auto industry fear that if they aren’t properly trained, the transition could lead to them losing their jobs.
According to environmental experts, manufacturers must adopt a more holistic approach that does away with the legacy of pollution that negatively affects low-income communities and minorities.
State and local officials need to move quickly to keep up to Ohio and Michigan in the race to capitalize on the opportunities that could be transformative to the Indiana economy.
J.D., state senator, said that we are kind of at a fork when it comes down to large investments in the state. Ford stated. We won’t see another opportunity for EV infrastructure like we do now.
Scrub Hub:Why doesn’t Indiana have an auto emissions inspection program?
The MIT Roosevelt Project released its recent study on the future state of the auto industry as it shifts to electric vehicles. It found that Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio could see 3.1 Million new jobs in manufacturing over the next 30-years if the right federal policies were in place.
Dealerships, repair and maintenance and auto parts shops are just a few of the other job sectors that would be benefited.
A strong, worker-friendly policy framework to address the climate crisis could allow electrification to bring an exciting new era to shared prosperity to Industrial Heartland areas,” David Foster, from the MIT Roosevelt Project, stated in a statement.
Gov. Eric Holcomb, the state legislature, and the Electric Vehicle Production Commission were formed recently to draw from experts throughout Indiana to create a path forward.
Ford, a Democrat from Indianapolis, sits on this commission and said he hopes that the group can make policy recommendations in a final document within a year.
Ford stated that Ohio, Michigan, and Ohio are lightyears behind Indiana in terms of electric vehicle production. He said that Indiana must take a serious approach to charting its role in the new industry, especially with the federal funding now available.
Ford announced that Indiana will receive $100 million to support EV charging and that more funding will be available through grants. We are doing a critical job.
Ford mentioned the money as part of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which was passed by the U.S. Congress in November.
Public Health: Benefits and pitfalls
The Roosevelt Projects report was published just before another American Lung Association study, which found that a transition to zero emission vehicles in Indiana would bring $36.8 billion in health benefits.
Tiffany Nichols (director of advocacy for the association) stated that transportation is the largest contributor to climate change and pollution. Moving toward zero-emissions would reduce harmful gases like greenhouse gasses.
Nichols said that Indiana leaders need to take action to implement fair policies and invest in healthy air.
More:How much extra money will Biden’s infrastructure bill be used for Central Indiana roads?
The study shows that Hoosiers could enjoy cumulative health benefits by 2050, including avoiding more than 3000 pre-mature death. To calculate mortality, the lung association used statistics from Environmental Protection Agency.
The study shows that while reducing pollution rates would be beneficial for all Americans, current emissions create environmental and public health disparities in low-income communities and communities with racial makeup.
Jalonne White-Newsome is the founder and CEO at Empowering a Green Environment and Economy. The study focuses on how these communities are left behind.
She stated that the transition to electric cars is not about creating new jobs or putting new vehicles on the market. This process must also consider the effects of this transition on the physical environment and on the health of individuals.
The truth is that there aren’t many Black and brown people represented in the spaces, at the table of organisations and in leadership positions in local and state governments. That’s where the problem lies, White Newsome stated.
She stated that the transition to zero emission transportation should not be made without taking care of legacy pollution, and creating an equitable future.
She stated that the first step in this work is to capture data on the health outcomes experienced local populations.
We also need information about transportation needs. How many public transport options are available to low income communities and communities of colour? Are there sufficient bus lines that run on renewable energy? White-Newsome stated this is the kind of data that we need to make the most informed decisions.
More:Indiana communities are looking to trees as a way to lessen the impacts of climate change
More:Indiana will receive $127 million to clean up lead and other water projects in the state
State senator Ford stated that public health is a key selling point for this transition. He stated that the transition will result in a reduction of air pollution, which would be a great benefit to Hoosiers. The new commission has not yet had conversations about public health or environmental implications in its first few meetings.
Ford stated, “I think it’s something we should be considering.” The purpose of the EV Commission is to examine all aspects of how these will impact and affect state policy. It could be a topic that the commission might consider.
Ford stated that the legislative session has ended and that the commission will meet again on April 8.
Training the workforce
Although Ohio and Michigan are moving faster than Indiana on the EV Transition, Ford said that Indiana’s jobs will be competing for wages and that Hoosiers will reap the benefits of the technology.
It’s one thing to build an industrial plant, but without workers, it is a major stalling point. How can we scale up our workers’ capabilities? There’s so much runway to talk about.
David Konisky, a professor at Indiana University’s ONeill School of Public and Environmental Affairs, researched workforce issues for the MIT report.
He and his coworkers set out to find out how the industry would impact the lives of people in the communities.
Konisky stated that the transition to EVs could have huge ramifications on those who work in auto plants and their communities. Our goal was to talk with them and get their views on the transition.
The big takeaway is that there is a lot anxiety and dread.
Konisky said that they see huge announcements and commitments from auto companies to move toward EVs on a rapid timeline and are concerned about what this means for their families and communities. Their impending doom is very apparent.
Workers worry that they might lose their jobs or not be selected to train in EV plants. Konisky said that many have worked for these companies all their lives and feel like they’ll be left behind during the transition.
However, there was optimism among the ranks of community leaders and managers.
Konisky stated that those people saw the changes as opportunities for communities, a chance to revitalize and be part the future economy in which EVs are a major part of success.
More:Rolls-Royce invests $400M to upgrade Indianapolis and West Lafayette facilities
More:“An extraordinary disruption”: Hoosiers struggle after COVID closes schools and businesses
Konisky and his co-researchers said that workers believe they are entitled to build the next car and that this would be taken from them during a transition.
Konisky’s team and White-Newsome’s work led them to the same conclusion: Include everyone in the process.
According to the IU report, there is a lot at stake for workers, communities, and how they will respond politically. This has serious implications for public trust, social and economic integration, and can have serious consequences for workers. In this crucial moment, it is important to consider the voices of those most affected by the transition.
Karl Schneider is an IndyStar Environmentreporter. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.Follow him on Twitter@karlstartswithk
The Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust generously supports IndyStar’s environmental reporting projects.