Conservatives hit former Vice President Joe Biden hard after the third presidential debate for saying he wanted to move away from oil to protect the environment in an argument of great importance to the U.S. auto industry.
President Donald Trump said during a heated exchange with Biden towards the end of the 90-minute debate Biden is threatening the economy and jobs with his proposals for fighting climate change.
Climate change is driven by pollution from China, India and Russia, which is one of the reasons he withdrew from the Paris accords, Trump said. The U.S. also is energy independent for the first time since the 1960s thanks to the expansion of fracking, he added.
The expansion of fracking across the U.S. also has cut the price of gasoline, which is relatively low now by historic standards.
Biden advocated banning fracking, said Trump, whose 2016 promise to save the coal industry has fallen flat as utilities move away from burning coal.
The Democratic candidate has said he would not ban fracking. He would reduce the country’s dependence on oil by switching to other forms of clean energy that do less damage to the environment and climate.
“I would transition from the oil industry, yes,” said Biden, who emphasized he was not in favor of a total ban on fracking. However, Biden said say he favored banning fracking on federal land – a move favored by most environmentalists. In addition, he said he favored ending federal subsidies for the oil and gas industry.
Biden also emphasized that developing alternative energy sources as well as providing better insulation for homes and retrofitting buildings to reduce climate-killing carbon emissions would lead to the creation of millions of new, good-paying jobs.
Trump has ended subsidies for alternative energy such as wind and solar power. Trump said wind power creates its own kind of pollution while solar isn’t dependable enough to run. “How are you going to run these big factories without oil,” said Trump at one point during the exchange over fossil fuels.
For the auto industry, long reliant on gasoline and diesel fuel, the shift towards electric vehicles is already under way and gaining momentum with billions of dollars in new investment.
General Motors, in addition to having 20 battery-electric vehicles on the drawing board, has promised to reduce dependence the use of electricity from oil and coal-powered plants during the next decade. GM’s Factory Zero, where the newly introduced GMC Hummer EV will be built, plans to use alternative energy when production begins next year.
The company’s other assembly plants, including one in Texas that depends on electricity generated from wind, will follow suit as GM pursues a zero-emissions policy in its manufacturing operations.
For the auto industry and Detroit, long the hub of the U.S. auto industry, the transition to alternative energy is already well under way. In addition to GM, Ford Motor Co. announced plans for a new plant in Dearborn, Michigan to build battery electric pickup trucks and Fiat Chrysler confirmed plans to renovate an assembly plant in Windsor, Ontario, across the river from Detroit, to build a new family of electric vehicles. Parts for the Windsor plant typically come from the U.S. side of the river.
Biden noted during the debate his energy plan calls for construction of as many as 500,000 new charging stations to deliver the power needed to run battery-electric vehicles. GM said this week the new Hummer gains 100 miles of range with a 10-minute charge at a fast charger. It also called for expanding the incentives for purchase of electric vehicles. Auto executives believe a broad charging network is crucial to the adoption of electric vehicles.
He also noted the U.S. could lose the electric vehicle business to China if it is not more aggressive in promoting EV technology. Meanwhile, at least two states, California and New Jersey, are proposing a ban on the sale of vehicles with internal combustion engines after 2035.
Ford, which has long been the leader in pickup truck sales, said it has found its rural customers are curious about the potential of electric trucks.
GM President Mark Reuss told analysts and journalists this week the company’s employees, particularly younger workers with less seniority, are energized by the push for electrification. “It’s a generational shift, our employees are excited,” he said.
Nonetheless, during the post-debate analysis most conservatives, such as CNN’s Rick Santorum, felt Trump had scored during the debate on energy and was supported by Greg Abbott, Texas Republican governor.