The big news in the EV business for the last month or so has been tax reform. The House of Representatives passed a new tax bill that eliminates the Federal Income Tax Credit on plug-in vehicles. Fortunately, the Senate is working on their version of the tax bill, which (at this time) retains the tax credit. If the Senate version passes, as is, it’ll be decided in conference committee, behind closed doors without us having a say in the matter. As displeased as I have been with the methodology of the tax credit (see this and this), I believe it is absolutely essential to keep it, so we do not trade away America’s leadership in EVs.
For a little background: My career began in manufacturing, specifically oil field manufacturing. I worked for wellhead and down-hole manufacturing companies from 1976 to 1985. In 1984, the price of oil collapsed, devastating the industry. My home town, Houston was brought to its knees. A huge number of people lost their jobs and their homes. When I got laid off, I had to move to the Dallas/Fort Worth area to find work and was fortunate to find it. I left the oil patch and worked as a manufacturing engineer for a printing press manufacturer and after three years, transitioned into the software industry. I was the technical member of a sales team that offered computer-aided design and manufacturing (CAD/CAM) solutions, across many different industries. I eventually left that field to go back into manufacturing engineering in the aerospace and defense sector.
During my entire career, in manufacturing, I read about the decline in manufacturing jobs in the U.S. The primary issue was, as global communication and transportation became more inexpensive, manufacturing shifted to emerging markets in Asia and South America and Mexico. Wages were much lower there, and factory automation reduced the skill level required to produce products. Only the products most difficult to manufacture, or seen as a strategic priority (military) continued to thrive in our country.
Americans seem to have difficulty with long-term memory. In World War II, American automobile manufacturers produced aircraft and tanks. The domestic strength in manufacturing was one of the reasons we prevailed. Today, those same companies are global, with parts (and entire vehicles) produced overseas. Our continued desire for big SUVs, trucks and cars illustrates that we’ve forgotten when OPEC crippled our economy (twice). Today, OPEC is weaker and is not perceived as a threat. Saudi Arabia recently announced a shift away from an oil-dominated economy and will focus more on global finance (thanks to the tons of money earned by selling their oil to the world). The Saudis have read the writing on the wall and are responding appropriately. That’s one of the strengths of a state guided by a monarchy.
If only our government had the same foresight.
Unfortunately, our democracy, due to what appeared to be minor tweaks in our tax laws, over decades, has become an oligarchy. Money, rather than individual votes, rules the day. The loss of manufacturing jobs meant a loss of union influence because there were fewer and fewer middle-class people employed in manufacturing. In my early career, I got a new job offer monthly and my employers knew this. My wages increased regularly. I felt secure in my job and could save and invest in my family’s future. Today, wages are stagnant. As a result, I moved to a career in sales. This allows me to have some control over my earnings and my future, but nowhere near the security I felt back in the 70’s and early 80’s. The recession, after 9/11, ended my career in software. The reckless gambling, by mortgage bankers, that caused the global recession in 2008 (which lingers to this day) destroyed my retirement savings. However, the bankers and investment houses have worked to minimize the effect of legislation to curb their behavior and are working to undo the last of the changes enacted to prevent future irresponsibility.
America leads today in two industries, which arguably started here: electric vehicles and the internet.
The internet gave the ability to publish to even the smallest organization or even individuals. My blog is an example. My words and opinions have been shared with literally thousands of people, around the world and allowed me to share thoughts about things important to me.
Much more importantly, it has enabled those being oppressed by tyrants to share their plight with the world. We’ve seen people rise up, with a united voice, in lands where small groups would have been snuffed out quickly. We’ve seen light shine, just this week, on slave auctions, things we thought were from the distant past. Now, the monied interests are plotting to end Net Neutrality so that only those with wealth can have a voice and only those willing to pay extra can search for the truth about the world in which we live. The Internet started as a DARPA-funded project, paid for by the tax payers. Now, the politicians are going to see to it we have no voice.
Electric cars started, over a century ago, in the U.S. Gasoline, with a better capacity to store energy (back then) came to dominate transportation and our nation grew and thrived, due to it. However, times, and technologies, change. A new way is being pioneered by Tesla Motors, General Motors, Ford Motor Company and yes, Nissan. I’ve written before about the countries that have stated their intention to end gasoline-powered cars, within their borders. We can lead the way and have those countries buy our vehicles or we can ceded our lead and watch other countries continue to develop ideas that came to fruition here. China represents more than 1/3 of the global market for vehicles. They will move to cleaner forms of transportation. If they have to, they’ll develop their own vehicles and we’ll be buying Chinese cars a decade from now. They’ll use the old smoke screen of “letting the free market decide the winners,” while ignoring the fact that our tax dollars subsidize the fossil fuel industry to the tune of billions of dollars a year.
Want a level playing field so the market can decide? Fine. End all subsidies for renewable energy and fossil fuels. Let the chips fall where they may. If the gutless politicians don’t have the testicular fortitude to pull our tax money from their masters, they sure as hell shouldn’t cripple our nation, as they line their pockets.
As we say in Texas, we all have a dog in this fight. Let your elected officials know exactly where you stand on these critical issues.