Gas for electric: Top US politician proposes $462bn car trade-in

Democratic Party hopefuls for the 2020 US presidential campaign are laying out plans to tackle climate change.

Chuck Schumer
US Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer wants to help Americans switch from petrol-based cars to electric or hybrid vehicles as climate change emerges as a key issue in the 2020 presidential elections [Aaron P Bernstein/Reuters]

United States Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer is moving the Democrats’ climate talk to where the rubber meets the road. He’s proposing a $462bn trade-in programme to get millions of Americans out of climate-damaging petrol vehicles and into electric or hybrid cars over the next 10 years.

Schumer’s rebate proposal late on Thursday joins a mix of trillion- and multitrillion-dollar programmes that Democratic presidential candidates have outlined to urgently cut oil, gas and coal emissions, as climate change weighs as an issue in the 2020 campaigns.

Schumer said the “proposal to bring clean cars to all of America” would be a key part of climate legislation by Senate Democrats. The injection of government-supported spending for electric cars “could position the US to lead the world in clean auto manufacturing,” he said.

The New York Democrat’s plan would give American car buyers thousands of dollars each to trade in petrol-burning cars for US-assembled electric, hybrid or hydrogen fuel cell cars. Lower-income households, and buyers of cars with American-made parts would get extra credits.

About $45bn would go to boost the availability of charging stations and other electric car infrastructure. And $17bn would help automakers increase their production of electric cars, batteries and parts.

He didn’t outline how he would pay for the plan.

It is the opposite direction of President Donald Trump, who has sought to boost US oil and gas production, eliminate tax credits for electric cars, and has mocked electric cars outright. Some Republican legislators call the credits an unfair subsidy for what they depict as well-off electric vehicle owners.

Schumer, who contends the scheme would create tens of thousands of jobs, pledged to introduce his clean-car programme in Senate legislation should Democrats win control there next year.

Climate change has become an issue in 2020 campaigns as never before in the US. Even as polls show climate falling below other issues in terms of priority, an AP-NORC poll conducted earlier this year found that most Americans link worsening extreme weather to man-made global warming. Democrats are more likely than others to consider climate issues a high priority for the country.

Demands for all-out government action on climate change helped power Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and other young Democrats to Congress in 2016. Top Democratic presidential candidates at a minimum have proposed spending big on investment and research to wean the country off fossil fuels by the mid-century.

Source: AP