Republicans' takeover of the U.S. House of Representatives could slow President Joe Biden's plans for adoption in the country of electric vehicles.
The administration's 2030 goal for half of all new vehicles sold being electric or plug-in hybrids is a big target for the Republicans, who this week won a slim House majority. That sets the stage for two years of divided government as the Democrats held control of the Senate.
House Republican leaders see Biden's EV efforts as heavy handed.
"You can't force it," incoming Republican House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee chair Sam Graves told Reuters. "They are still trying to shove this down people's throats."
But the White House and Senate Democrats will strongly oppose any efforts to repeal or trim any part of tens of billions of dollars in government support for EVs, which are a crucial part of President Joe Biden's climate agenda.
Biden says the administration is helping ensure an "electric vehicle revolution."
Republican opposition is likely to block any efforts to expand eligibility for a $7,500 EV tax credit that was restructured in August but immediately barred any vehicles assembled outside North America.
Congress, under Democratic control, approved nearly $5 billion over five years to give grants to states to build thousands of electric vehicle charging stations. In addition to the 50% target by 2030, Biden wants 500,000 new EV charging stations. The president has not endorsed phasing out of new gasoline-powered vehicle sales by 2030.
Sales of electric vehicles accounted for about 6% of U.S. new-car sales in the third quarter.
Republicans in Congress have heaped criticism on the EV plans and pledge to scrutinize the specific projects that have received grants and loans. During the election campaign, they criticized the Biden administration's focus on EVs as a way for people to avoid high fuel prices citing the high price of EVs.
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm say the higher prices are why they backed consumer tax credits to reduce the price of EVs and add it is critical long term to move away from gasoline to reduce emissions.
Many Republicans are not anti-EV, however, as many new EV plants are being built in states that have historically backed Republican candidates. Republicans also have promised to shorten EV mine permitting in a move to boost U.S. production of such key EV battery materials as lithium and copper.
In addition, incoming Republican chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee Cathy McMorris Rodgers and other Republicans last month vowed "vigorous oversight over the implementation" of Energy Department loan programs. They warn of waste, fraud and abuse.
The Democratic-controlled Congress has awarded more than $100 billion to the department for use across its applied energy, electricity, and efficiency programs and provided new authorities for $350 billion in loan guarantees.
Rodgers called the program "Solyndra on steroids," referring to a solar panel maker that received $535 million in federal loan guarantees and later filed for bankruptcy in 2011.
Another point of resistance for Republicans will likely be the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's plans to propose by March new, more stringent vehicle emissions rules through at least the 2030 model year.
In December 2021, the EPA finalized new light-duty tailpipe emissions requirements through the 2026 model year that reversed then-President Donald Trump's rollback of car pollution cuts and will speed a U.S. shift to more EVs.
Graves, who says the U.S. does not have the electric grid to handle the rising number of EVs, questioned the administration's focus on boosting mass transit and rail funding over cars and flying. "This isn't Europe."
© 2023 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.