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Biden’s Climate Agenda Is Running Headfirst Into A Wall Of His Own Making

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From the Daily Caller News Foundation

By WILL KESSLER

 

President Joe Biden’s administration unveiled tariffs this week aimed at boosting domestic production of green energy technology, but the move could end up hamstringing his larger climate goals.

The tariffs announced on Tuesday quadruple levies for Chinese electric vehicles (EVs) to 100% and raise rates for certain Chinese green energy and EV components like minerals and batteries. Biden has made the transition to green energy and EVs a key part of his climate agenda, but hiking tariffs on those products to help U.S. manufacturing could jack up prices on the already costly products, slowing adoption by struggling Americans, according to experts who spoke to the DCNF.

The risks posed by hiking levies on green technology expose the inherent tension between Biden’s climate agenda and his efforts to protect American industry, which often struggles to compete with cheap foreign labor. Items on his climate agenda typically raise costs, and requiring companies to comply could make them uncompetitive on the world stage.

“These tariffs are a classic example of the Biden administration’s left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing,” E.J. Antoni, a research fellow at the Heritage Foundation’s Grover M. Hermann Center for the Federal Budget, told the DCNF. “The inability to import Chinese-made EVs due to prohibitively high costs will necessitate importing raw materials and parts for EVs from China. Since automakers can’t afford to build and assemble the vehicles here, prices will have to rise. In other words, American consumers will pay the cost of this tariff, not the Chinese.”

The White House, in its fact sheet, pointed to China artificially lowering its prices and dumping goods on the global market as the justification for the new tariffs in an effort to help protect American businesses. China has pumped huge subsidies into its own EV industry and supply lines over the past few years, spawning a European Union investigation into vehicles from the country.

“Tariffs on Chinese EVs won’t just make Chinese EVs more expensive, they will also make American EVs more expensive,” Ryan Young, senior economist at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, told the DCNF. “This is because domestic producers can now raise their prices without fear of being undercut by competitors. Good for them but bad for consumers — and for the Biden administration’s policy goal of increased EV adoption.”

Several American manufacturers are already struggling to sell EVs at a profit, with Ford losing $4.7 billion on its electric line in 2023 while selling over 72,000 of the vehicles. To ease price concerns and increase EV adoption, the Biden administration created an EV tax credit of $7,500 per vehicle, depending on where its parts are made.

The market share of EVs out of all vehicles fell in the first quarter of 2024 from 7.6% to 7.1% as consumers opted to buy cheaper traditional vehicles instead. Growth in EV sales increased by just 2.7% in the quarter, far slower than the 47% growth that the industry saw in all of 2023.

The Biden administration has also sought to use regulations to push automakers toward electrifying their offerings as consumers refuse to voluntarily adopt EVs, finalizing rules in March that effectively require around 67% of all light-duty vehicles sold after 2032 to be electric or hybrids.

“By raising the price — and thereby stunting the deployment — of EVs, the tariffs undermine the Biden administration’s stated goals of reducing carbon emissions (as many U.S. environmentalists and EV fans have recently lamented),” Clark Packard, research fellow in the Herbert A. Stiefel Center for Trade Policy Studies at the Cato Institute, wrote following the announcement. “The EV tariffs (and also-​announced solar tariffs) would continue the administration’s habit of choosing politics and protectionism over their environmental agenda.”

Despite the subsidies, the 25% tariff that is currently in place for Chinese EVs already prices the product out of the U.S. market, resulting in no Chinese-branded EVs being sold in the country, according to Barron’s. Only a handful of the more than 100 EV models being sold in China appeal to American consumers, and none of them can compete under current levies.

“Something like this happened just a few years ago when former president Donald Trump enacted 25% steel tariffs in 2018,” Young told the DCNF. “Domestic steel producers raised their prices by almost exactly the amount of the tariff, and America soon had the world’s highest steel prices. As a result, car prices went up by about $200 to $300 on average. Larger trucks with more steel content increased even more. Now Biden is going to do the same thing to EVs.”

In the year following the increase in steel tariffs under the Trump administration, U.S. Steel’s operating profit rose 38%, prices were hiked 5 to 10% and revenue was up 15% due to reduced competition, according to CNN.

Despite the massive tariff hike on EVs, Biden only raised the tariff rate on Chinese lithium-ion EV batteries and battery parts to 25%, according to the White House. The tariff rate on certain essential minerals, like natural graphite, was also hiked to just 25%.

“Despite rapid and recent progress in U.S. onshoring, China currently controls over 80% of certain segments of the EV battery supply chain, particularly upstream nodes such as critical minerals mining, processing, and refining,” the White House wrote in its fact sheet. “Concentration of critical minerals mining and refining capacity in China leaves our supply chains vulnerable and our national security and clean energy goals at risk.”

China has broad control over the majority of minerals necessary to construct EVs, possessing nearly 90% of the world’s mineral refining capacity. Sources of the required minerals often also have serious human rights concerns, such as the world’s supply of cobalt, which has widespread ties to child labor.

Biden attacked former President Donald Trump during the 2020 election for the broad tariffs that he put on Chinese goods, noting that “any freshman econ student” could point out that the costs of the tariffs would be passed on to American consumers.

EV makers have increasingly struggled over the past year to maintain profits amid stalling demand, with the largest American EV manufacturer, Tesla, reporting a 10% drop in year-over-year revenue in the first quarter of 2024. Tesla is one of several EV makers that have announced layoffs in recent months.

“Fortunately, the EV market is still small in the U.S. and Chinese EVs are an even smaller slice of that small pie,” Antoni told the DCNF. “Even if the EV market in the U.S. were large, these tariffs would not help the domestic EV industry. While consumer demand for EVs would shift to domestic models, an increase in domestic production would rely on very expensive inputs from China, cutting into profits.”

The White House did not respond to a request to comment from the DCNF.

Automotive

US EV Industry Shifts Back Into Reality Gear

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From the Daily Caller News Foundation

By DAVID BLACKMON

 

At the start of each year, I write a piece in which I make a set of predictions about what will happen in the energy space during the coming 12 months. One prediction I made in this year’s story focused on the likelihood of a big fallout in America’s EV manufacturing industry.

Citing Fisker and Rivian as examples, I questioned whether any of the pure-play electric vehicle companies based in the United States had the ability to compete with Tesla in that market.

I took some heat from viewers that same week after I predicted on a podcast that every one of the U.S. pure-play EV makers besides Tesla would be either in bankruptcy or teetering on the brink by the end of 2024. As things are turning out, my only regret there is that I did not predict they would all be in that state by the middle of 2024 instead of the end of the year.

This week, Fisker filed for bankruptcy, becoming the latest in a series of casualties in the growing falling-out in the EV sector. As The New York Times noted in its story on the matter, Fisker was one of a number of pure-play EV makers who were able to raise billions in startup funds from investors who got caught up in the EV frenzy during 2020 and 2021.

Several of those firms, like ProterraArrival, and Lordstown Motors already preceded Fisker down the bankruptcy path. Others, like Rivian, are right on the verge of taking the same plunge.

Lucid makes just one model, a luxury sedan, and is struggling to find buyers. It boasted about setting a new delivery “record” in the first quarter of this year, but a closer search reveals that was for only 1,967 units. The carmaker followed that announcement with another in May that it would lay off 400 employees in an apparent effort to conserve cash.

Oof.

EV truck maker Nikola, meanwhile, saw its stock price hit a record low this week amid ongoing softening in the US EV market. At the close of June 20 trading, Nikola’s price had dropped to just 33 cents per share. The stock collapse comes months after the company had delivered its first hydrogen fuel cell heavy truck during Q1, but that amounted to sales of just 42 units.

These and other pure-play EV makers are not in any way serious competition for Tesla.

Note also that Tesla is having major struggles of its own as the pace of EV adoption growth slows to a snail’s pace. The company laid off 10% of its workforce in May amid the ongoing slowing of the EV market. Tesla’s rollout of its radically designed Cybertruck has been plagued by recalls, technical issues and customer complaints, and the company’s overall Q1 2024 sales numbers fell dramatically from both Q4’s numbers and year-over-year.

But its decade-long head start on the competition, vertical integration of supply chains and diversification into other ventures give Tesla advantages these other pure-play EV companies do not and cannot enjoy. It remains uniquely situated among its peer group to survive the market contraction.

Traditional automakers like Ford and GM have been able to placate investors about their stunning losses in EV ventures (Ford somehow managed to lose $132,000 per unit sold in Q1 2024) by offsetting them against major profits from their traditional gas and diesel-powered car divisions. But even those companies have invoked an array of strategic shifts over the past six months in which they have delayed or cancelled planned new investments in their EV dreams.

What we are seeing here is a rapid shifting back to reality in the US auto industry. EVs always have been, are today, and will remain a niche product that can fill specific needs for a limited segment of our population, mainly the wealthy. The reason why the traditional, gas-and-diesel-powered auto segments at companies like Ford and GM remain wildly profitable is because that is where the real auto market remains.

No amount of Soviet-style central planning, industrial policy and command-and-control edicts and regulations coming down from Washington, D.C., are going to change that reality.

David Blackmon is an energy writer and consultant based in Texas. He spent 40 years in the oil and gas business, where he specialized in public policy and communications.

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the Daily Caller News Foundation.

Featured image screenshot: (Screen Capture/PBS NewsHour)

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‘Save Our Cars’ Is A Winning Campaign Message In An Age Of EV Mandates

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From the Daily Caller News Foundation

By KEVIN MOONEY

 

Automobile consumers who treasure the open roads during the summertime could upend the presidential campaign and U.S. Senate races in surprising places if public opposition to electric-vehicle mandates and other regulations continues to rise.

That is what some recent polls suggest and it certainly helps to explain why the Biden administration is poised to artificially reduce fuel prices by selling one million barrels of gasoline from an energy reserve in New England timed with the summer driving season and in anticipation of the November elections.

Since the East Coast consumed in excess of three million barrels a day of gasoline last June, it is not evident that having an additional one million barrels on the market will make an appreciable difference.

Moreover, there is an argument to be made that by tapping into the reserve Team Biden is leaving the region open to cyberattacks that would disrupt energy supplies. (Recall, that is precisely what happened throughout the southeast in 2021 when a ransomware attack hit the Colonial Pipeline.)

But even in the absence of any cyber drama, the cumulative effect of President Joe Biden’s anti-energy agenda is already registering with consumers who benefit from affordable, reliable energy. This is particularly true where conventional, gas-powered cars are concerned.

On holiday weekends, cars erase differences, bring families together and improve the quality of life. The American Automobile Association (AAA) predicts almost 50 million people will travel 50 miles or more from their homes to celebrate Independence Day over the weekend of June 30 to July 4.

This would represent an increase of 3.7% from 2021 bringing travel volumes to where they were prior to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2019. This increase will be particularly acute with AAA expecting 42 million Americans to hit the roads this coming Independence Day.

But what about those EV mandates?

President Biden and California Gov. Gavin Newsom, a fellow Democrat, remain undeterred by the paucity of charging stations, the limited range of EV’s, their exorbitant costs, and the vulnerability of foreign supply chains leading back to China as they press ahead with new regulatory initiatives. Biden’s Environmental Protection Agency finalized a tailpipe emissions rule in March aimed at coercing automakers into selling more EVs while the California Air Resources Board is pressing ahead with a “zero emissions” rule the board approved last year to meet Newsom’s stated climate goals.

California is clearly working hand in glove with the Biden administration to achieve zero emissions goals for vehicles by 2035. This effort will most certainly limit consumer choice and raise costs.

Despite all the subsidies and regulatory schemes developed to favor EV’s, they represent only about 1% of the 290 million vehicles in the U.S. today. Meanwhile EV costs continue to soar.

Recent studies also show that EVs, on average, are more expensive to own and operate than their gas-powered counterparts. So how should consumers respond to the regulatory onslaught?

Enter the “Save Our Cars Coalition,” which includes 31 national and state organizations devoted to preserving the ability of consumers to select the vehicles most suitable to their needs.

Tom Pyle, president of the Institute for Energy Research, a coalition member that favors free market energy policies, views cars as an integral component of American life. The Biden-Newsom regulations amount to what Pyle describes as “an assault on American freedom.”

“In a nation as expansive as the United States, cars are not merely vehicles, they are integral to the American way of life,” Pyle says. “They play a pivotal role in our daily lives, especially in suburban and rural settings. This modern-day prohibition would outlaw a product and a value–in this case, gasoline-powered cars and trucks that have created personal mobility on an unprecedented scale – that it cannot persuade people to forego themselves.”

The coalition is perfectly positioned to make EV mandates a campaign issue in areas where the affordability of cars capable of traversing long distances without frequent stops is very much on the minds of voters. State officials who continue to double-down on California-type regulations will only serve to bolster the coalition’s arguments.

By contrast, states that break free from California’s emissions standards could become surprisingly competitive in the presidential race. Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin, a Republican, recently announced that he would end California’s EV mandate in his state by the end of this year. Although Virginia hasn’t backed a Republican for president since George W. Bush was re-elected in 2004, polls show Biden and  Donald Trump are in a dead heat. The former, and perhaps future Republican president, is on record opposing Biden’s EV mandates.

By contrast, Gov. Phil Murphy of New Jersey, a Democrat elected in 2017 and re-elected in 2021, is moving full speed ahead with a California-type mandate requiring all new car sales to be electric by 2035. Polls show Murphy’s Jersey constituents are not keen on the policy change. In fact, more than half of state residents say they are not inclined to buy an electric car even with the mandates.

New Jersey has not voted for a Republican presidential candidate since George Bush Sr. won the state in 1988. But fresh polls show Biden leading Trump by just seven points in the Garden State. It is worth noting that New Jersey has a large block of unaffiliated voters that can be pliable in tight races such as the most recent gubernatorial campaign.

Murphy almost lost his re-election bid to Republican Jack Ciattarelli, a former assemblyman and businessman, who came within a few percentage points of pulling off an upset. Trump’s campaign rally in Wildwood, N.J., that attracted more than 100,000 people could also serve as a barometer for a potentially close election. A beach resort community, Wildwood is practically inaccessible without the kind of vehicles Biden and Newsom are attempting to ban.

The big prize though may be Pennsylvania where Trump is leading Biden in recent polls. There is also a competitive U.S. Senate race in that state between Sen. Robert Casey Jr., the Democratic incumbent, and Dave McCormick, the Republican challenger.

Polls show Casey is only ahead by six points. So far, Casey has been ducking and avoiding any questions about his position on EV mandates. With Trump already leading, and McCormick gaining in the Keystone State, anyone running on a platform of “Save Our Cars” could have a field day.

Kevin Mooney is the Senior Investigative Reporter at the Commonwealth Foundation’s free-market think tank and writes for several national publications. Twitter: @KevinMooneyDC

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