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Electric vehicle advocates push jobs message on Capitol Hill

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Electric vehicle advocates push jobs message on Capitol Hill

Advocates for electric vehicles are pressing U.S. lawmakers to extend more support for the fledgling industry, emphasizing what they say are the economic benefits of building charging infrastructure and the risk of allowing China to dominate the market.

Rather than focus on the environment, "I think the story that we're trying to tell is really around economic development and jobs," Lang Reynolds, manager of electric transportation at Duke Energy Corp., said Feb. 27 in Washington, D.C., at an event arranged by the Electric Drive Transportation Association.

Lang is part of a group organized by the EDTA that will visit Capitol Hill on Feb. 28 to push lawmakers to support funding for research and development, update and extend tax credits for electric vehicles and charging infrastructure, and ensure that federal infrastructure policy "recognizes electric drive as an essential component of 21st century mobility."

Two Democratic lawmakers at the event said the electric vehicle industry is fighting an uphill battle.

The fossil fuel industry has opposed efforts to extend the $7,500 tax credit for electric vehicle purchases, Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., told the group Feb. 27. As for infrastructure, lawmakers seem chiefly concerned with whether the Trump administration's plan will fund basic work on roads and bridges.

The White House said it can generate at least $1.5 trillion in new investment over 10 years by providing $200 billion of federal seed money and streamlining regulatory reviews. However, a recent analysis by the nonpartisan Penn Wharton Budget Model initiative at the University of Pennsylvania found that under the Trump administration plan, new infrastructure investment would increase by between $20 billion and $230 billion, including the $200 billion federal investment.

"[The] 800-pound gorilla in the room at the end is how we're going to pay for this stuff," Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., told the EDTA on Feb. 27.

Meanwhile, some see China approaching the electric vehicle market with the same mass-production strategy it used to dominate the solar industry. That is happening at the same time countries including France and the U.K. are moving to phase out diesel and gas-power vehicles.

"All of this means that there's tremendous momentum for the conversation about electric vehicles. But where is America in this conversation? Way behind," Merkley said, adding that the Trump administration has shown no interest in fighting climate change.

"We need to reduce emissions. We need cleaner air. We need to reduce the threat of climate change and global warming," Carper said. "And we need to address those adversities in a way where we actually create jobs."