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Biden’s Climate Agenda Launches Him Head-First Into A Political Maelstrom

President Joe Biden finds himself in an uncomfortable political position, as his green agenda has incentivized the electric vehicle (EV) manufacturing push now at the center of the united Auto Workers (UAW) strike.

The UAW announced late Thursday night that their strike against America’s “Big Three” auto manufacturers is underway, and the conflict between labor and management largely stems from UAW’s concerns that long-term increases in electric vehicle (EV) production will disadvantage UAW workers. The situation puts Biden, who has long billed himself as a staunch ally of the working man, in a tenuous political position because his sweeping climate agenda is responsible for driving the EV production plans at the heart of the dispute between labor and management.

His administration has committed billions to build out EV charging infrastructure, subsidize EV supply chains, help manufacturers retrofit their plants and to provide tax credits to consumers who make the switch to EVs, all in order to curb emissions in the administration’s whole-of-government approach to countering climate change. This spending is pushing manufacturers to ramp up their long-term plans for EV production, complemented with aggressive regulations from agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) that clamp down on future production of internal combustion engine vehicles.

The administration is aiming for EVs to make up 50% of all new car sales by 2030, and the NHTSA and EPA regulations could effectively force manufacturers to push that figure to 67% starting in model year 2o32. The transition away from internal combustion engine vehicles is a key pillar of Biden’s goal to have the U.S. economy reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Meanwhile, the UAW and management from the “Big Three” could not come to terms before the established deadline, which came and went late Thursday night. UAW leadership expressed concerns that because EVs require fewer hands to assemble, their prospective market dominance could result in thousands of its workers losing their jobs in the absence of strong protections against such an outcome, according to E&E News.

UAW President Shawn Fain has slammed the administration for “actively funding the race to the bottom with billions in public money” and the “poverty-level” wages that Biden’s EV policies may bring about for UAW’s workers.

“I’m proud to be the most pro-union president,” Biden said during a Labor Day speech delivered in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in which he recalled his own experiences growing up in a union household. “And by the way, I make no bones about that.”

Meanwhile, Ford Motors CEO Jim Farley has stated that UAW’s contract demands could bankrupt his company, according to Reuters, and a prolonged strike could disrupt timelines for manufacturers’ plans to bring EVs to market in the coming months, according to E&E News. In the longer-term, a renegotiated contract that meets some or all of the UAW demands could force the manufacturers to raise prices for EVs, which in turn may make them less appealing to consumers.

The UAW has so far withheld its endorsement of Biden’s 2024 reelection campaign despite the union’s past support for Democratic candidates.

Neither the White House nor the UAW responded immediately to requests for comment.

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