Alleyn Harned, Executive director of Virginia Clean Cities Harrisonburg
Decarbonizing our economy, with provisions in the “Build Back Better” plan, is critical to realizing a cleaner, more sustainable future. The politics of delay are making it harder to achieve the energy, economic and environmental security we need.
We saw this year how one company could cause so much volatility in oil prices. The Colonial Pipeline was shut down by a ransomware attack. This caused price shocks and fuel shortages. Recent evidence showed that a slight increase of gasoline prices and profits at pumps rippled throughout the economy, requiring all levels to work together to increase the supply. Virginia and the midatlantic were particularly hard hit because we have little oil production. Our vehicles heavily depend on fuel imported from Mexico, a few states, or abroad.
It doesn’t have that way. We can make clean transportation fuels like solar- and wind-generated electricity locally at a lower cost. Many recent economic development announcements include electric vehicles. They can help us move away from the oil industry’s pollution and expense to cleantech jobs. If electric vehicles were affordable, we could see an equivalent fuel price of $1/gallon for commuters as well as the workforce. This would provide a boost to everyone’s finances.
Unfortunately, Washington’s debates are not moving at the speed needed to make this technology available to everyone. The Build Back Better plan, which aims to increase the number and accessibility of electric vehicles (EVs), is being considered by Congress. The new credit will not be accessible to all EVs in the U.S. and should therefore be limited to a few vehicles. We need an accessible credit. Congress must ensure that all workers, communities, and the environment are represented.
The EV credit should reduce our environmental footprint by encouraging EV production and providing affordable options for electric cars to all consumers. EVs are too expensive to purchase for many Americans and Virginians. This could all change with the addition of the vitally important federal credit to state and local programs.
The federal tax credit as it stands now could be more difficult to communicate with consumers. There is widespread reporting that only a small number of vehicles can access the draft funding. A comprehensive credit could be used to increase sales of EVs, and also encourage new EV companies and technology investments nationwide.
Virginia studied an EV incentive and developed a plan for a state incentive in 2021. This incentive would apply to all technologies still paired with a functional and valuable federal credit. These technologies are requested by automakers, businesses, dealers, and the environment. These companies and the auto dealers who sell their electric vehicles support almost 700,000. There are more than 282 dealers in Virginia that support over 17,000 job opportunities. Electric vehicle charging will create thousands of jobs to electricians. This is how you earn your livelihood and save lives. The 2020 Lung Associations Road to Clean Air ReportThe transition to EVs in Virginia would result in a 43% drop in asthma attacks. There would also be 1,783 fewer asthma attacks per year. It is expected that improving air quality will reduce the number of premature deaths in Virginia by 115 per year by 2050. Clean fuel vehicles are ethically as well as economically important to reduce our carbon footprint.
Any confusion or over-complication regarding the tax credit, limiting technology only to a few vehicles, could prevent all Americans from enjoying the full potential that domestically built electric vehicles have to offer. It doesn’t have that to be.
Virginia and West Virginia have very little oil production, but they have large workforces that work in cleaner energies and electricity. This gives us the opportunity to lead in the effort to use domestically produced, affordable power in our vehicles. I hope Senators Joe Manchin, Shelley Moore Capito, and Virginia Senators Mark Warner, and Tim Kaine, will consider the benefits these technologies can bring to cleaner, more domestic energy sources in West Virginia. They will also push Congress to amend the proposed EV credit so it applies to all road-ready, qualifying EVs before the final bill is up for a vote. This tax credit is essential to encourage EV adoption and protect good-paying Virginia jobs.