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Republicans eye new fees on electric-vehicle owners

The more Biden pushes for the United States to lead the electric-car market, the more Republicans push in the opposite direction.
A man charges an electric vehicle at an EVgo charging station at Union Station in Washington on April 22, 2021.
A man charges an electric vehicle at an EVgo charging station at Union Station in Washington on April 22, 2021.Caroline Brehman / CQ-Roll Call via Getty Images file

When President Biden addressed a joint session of Congress in late April, he appeared especially animated by the idea of creating economic opportunities by addressing the climate crisis. "For me, when I think 'climate change,' I think 'jobs,'" the Democrat said.

Biden added, "The American Jobs Plan will put engineers and construction workers to work building more energy-efficient buildings and homes. Electrical workers — IBEW members — installing 500,000 charging stations along our highways so we can own the electric-car market."

The remarks generated applause from congressional Democrats, but there's a predictable problem: Republicans appear wholly uninterested in the United States owning the electric-car market.

CNBC reported recently that the White House infrastructure plan proposed $174 billion to "boost the EV market and shift away from gas-powered cars in an effort to reduce domestic greenhouse gas emissions." The Republican counteroffer, meanwhile, included "just $4 billion for electric vehicle infrastructure."

Or put another way, GOP officials intended to cut Biden's EV plan by 98%.

A week later, the New York Times reported that the president was determined to include funding in an infrastructure package for hundreds of thousands of new charging stations for electric vehicles, but such initiatives "have little Republican support in Congress."

All of which led up to yesterday, when Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) appeared on CBS News' "Face the Nation" and explained how a center-right group of senators would pay for their as-yet-unreleased compromise. After referencing the group's reliance on unspent COVID relief funds, the Maine Republican suggested the plan would impose new fees on electric-vehicle owners.

A key member of a group of moderate senators offering a new infrastructure package said yesterday that users of electric vehicles were "free riders" who should be forced to pay a fee. Speaking about the plan on CBS's "Face the Nation" yesterday, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) said that among the pay-fors for the bill "would be a provision for electric vehicles to pay their fair share of using our roads and bridges. Right now, they are literally free riders because they're not paying any gas tax."

Bloomberg News reported a few months ago on how quickly China is "pulling ahead" in the race to own the EV market in the coming years. The article noted, for example, "China had over 800,000 EV charging outlets available for public use installed at the end of 2020, up from 516,000 in 2019 and 300,000 in 2018. In December 2020 alone, China installed 112,000 public charging points — more than the entire U.S. public charging network."

When Biden visited Ford's headquarters last month to celebrate the electric F-150 Lightning pickup, he soon after published a tweet that read, "Get in folks, we're going to win the competition for the 21st century."

There's ample reason to believe Republicans don't even want to be part of the race.