On October 24th, Chuck Schumer announced his radical new plan to cut carbon emissions in the United States, while stimulating the economy. The new initiative plans to provide a trade in policy for gas-cars, by providing vouchers, making it easier for low-income Americans to buy electric vehicles. The goal is to substitute 63 million of the 270 million American cars for zero-emissions vehicles by 2040. The $450 million dollar plan breaks down with $392 billion in vouchers, $45 billion to help cities install charging stations and accommodations for the vehicles, and $17 billion to assist auto-makers.
This bold new announcement follows in the wake of other ambitious strides announced by Democrats, many of which fail to manifest, like the notorious Green New Deal. These sweeping climate regulations tend to be overwhelmingly partisan, often unrealistic, and so divisive they never pass. While Schumer’s plan hasn’t made it to Congress yet, it has a surprising amount of support from independent groups across the political spectrum. Liberal climate champions like the Sierra Club, the Natural Resources Defense Council and the League of Conservation Voters have signed onto it, while more conservative labor unions like the United Automobile Workers and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, and car manufacturers like Ford and General Motors, have also indicated support. The new trade-in policy would only be applicable to cars made in the USA, which is why many auto-unionists and companies alike support it.
This new plan, though vague, comes at a key time in the 2020 race, as Democrats scramble to reclaim the states they lost in 2016. Schumer’s plan is a bid to get the attention of some of the more conservative Midwestern states, while maintaining the party’s liberal base. The Midwest has suffered enormous cuts in the past years, as car manufacturers move their factories from the heartlands to overseas countries, where they can produce more cars for less money. One of Trump’s key campaign issues was bringing back American labor and factory jobs to the rust belt, and while he upheld part of it, many are still unsatisfied. This is where Democrats step in, to appeal to companies, unionists, and the average Midwestern voter, by showing that you can reconcile liberal ideology and the conservative protection of factory jobs, and produce something that stimulates the economy while preserving the environment.
The USA also lags in electric car development and manufacturing. Schumer hopes that his plan will position America at the head of the race to control this technology. He sees America as the pioneer and innovator of electric vehicles, and all their future uses. This appeals to the sense of patriotism felt by many in the more conservative states, who would rather their country dominate this new industry, than perhaps China. Just as America produced the best cars at the beginning of the auto-industry’s boom, Schumer would like to see us do the same for this new cutting edge technology.
Despite it’s idealist glory, Schumer’s proposal is just that, a proposal. No bill has been put forward, no law has been drafted, there have not been any actual steps besides submitting this idea to the public. As wonderful, and uniting, as it sounds, Schumer is only the Senate minority leader, and Congress does not have a very inspiring track record when it comes to passing radical climate legislation. This three pronged approach, appealing the the liberal love for the climate, the conservative preservation of factory jobs and the economy, and a ubiquitous sense of national patriotism, seems promising, and may be enough to convince Republicans to support it. The idea of uniting economic stimulation and climate regulation is not new, however may be our best bet when it comes to supporting the economy and the planet.