Is the Tea Party, newly enshrined in the midterm elections, going to throw EVs into Boston Harbor, along with the wind turbines and solar panels that are potent symbols of President Obama?
Actually, I think not, though it could go either way. It is time to think of framing, a concept made famous by Bush operative Frank Luntz (and further popularized from another direction by Democrat George Lakoff). The idea is not so much what you're for as how you frame it. And in the case of EVs and clean energy, Luntz has already framed this one masterfully: Here's his memo on the subject.
Americans hate it that we're dependent on foreign oil. They hate it that "our" oil is under "their" sand, and they support efforts to make us "energy independent." According to Luntz, Republicans are supposed to say, "America must be energy independent and energy self sufficient." That can be code for drill, baby drill (and it certainly is for some Tea Party Congressman who put together the Energy Roadmap seen here, which would open virtually all of the Outer Continental Shelf to drilling, as well as the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and then fast track 200 nuclear plants).
But electric cars are all about "energy independence," too. Unlike those gas-guzzling SUVs, they don't need fossil fuel or imported oil. And as I've written, it's the Red States that are by far the most vulnerable to oil price shocks. So maybe that's why a Plug In America survey found surprisingly strong bipartisan voting records in favor of EVs. Only two Senators, Mike Johanns (R-NE) and (no surprise) Tea Party leader Jim DeMint (R-SC) have zero records. DeMint was against tougher fuel economy standards, too.
The Electrification Coalition, which has automakers like Nissan and utilities like NRG Energy aboard, is trying to be optimistic following the Democratic shellacking on Election Day. And it has framing language down--it's all about energy independence and bipartisan agreement. "Electric cars remain an area in which Republicans and Democrats alike agree," said Robbie Diamond, the Coalition's president and CEO. He pointed out that Republican Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN), whose state is benefiting big from its Nissan Leaf and battery plants, was among the sponsors of the Electric Vehicle Deployment Act of 2010.
That legislation, which creates strategic EV deployment communities and funds them to the tune of $500 million, was approved by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on a certainly bipartisan 19-4 vote in July. Soon after, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who's fondest wish is to make Obama a one-term president, said that electric cars are one area that Democrats and Republicans can work together.
There is considerable unfinished business, and not just a House vote on the EV legislation. Congress also has to reauthorize the up to $2,000 tax credit for home EV chargers, which expires at the end of December. It would be terrible timing to let that languish, only to have to reauthorize it retroactively when Congress gets its act together.
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