WASHINGTON — Electric vehicles are an "essential tool" in the Biden administration's plan to clean up the U.S. transportation sector, White House Climate Adviser Gina McCarthy said Wednesday.
Transportation is the nation's largest source of greenhouse gas emissions. McCarthy, a former EPA chief during the Obama administration, said "there's no doubt" the future of transportation in the U.S. and globally is electric.
"We know where the global marketplace is actually moving," she said during an opening keynote here at the 2022 Government/Industry Meeting organized by SAE International. "The only question that we have in front of us today is whether the United States is actually going to lead, whether we're going to seize the jobs and opportunities electric vehicles bring right here" in the U.S.
McCarthy pointed to actions taken by the administration to "jump start" an EV future, including a goal set by President Joe Biden for half of all new vehicles sold in the U.S. in 2030 to be zero-emission: battery-electric, plug-in hybrid and fuel cell. The president last year also signed an executive order to transition the federal vehicle fleet to ZEVs by 2035.
Biden will mark one year in office on Thursday.
"It sounds like a daunting task," McCarthy said. "But the federal government is leading the way to make sure that this is not just a daunting task but a deliverable that we can all embrace together because the federal government is using its own purchasing power to lead by example, with an even faster EV trajectory for us than we expect for the country as a whole."
McCarthy said the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package that was signed into law last year will help make EVs "convenient for all Americans." The law includes $7.5 billion to build out 500,000 EV charging stations across the U.S.
Of the $7.5 billion, the law provides $5 billion for states to build out a charging network and $2.5 billion for local grants to support access to EV charging in rural areas and disadvantaged communities.
As part of the implementation effort, the departments of Transportation and Energy in December formed a new joint office to oversee the EV charging infrastructure and other provisions of the law. The office will provide guidance to states and cities to strategically deploy EV charging stations in February.
"We're going to give every American confidence that when they buy an EV, they'll be able to get it charged without worrying about where that's going to be," Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said in virtual remarks at the event.
Granholm said the administration also is "committed to delivering the full Build Back Better agenda and transforming transportation in the process."
The roughly $2 trillion spending bill — a centerpiece of Biden's economic and climate agenda — stalled out in the Senate last month after Sen. Joe Manchin said he couldn't support the legislation.
The bill includes a controversial provision that would boost consumer tax credits to as much as $12,500 for EVs assembled in a factory represented by a labor union with U.S.-produced batteries. After five years, only EVs assembled in the U.S. would be eligible for the proposal's $7,500 base credit.
"The agenda's EV tax credits and rebates, that is going to help make new EVs affordable for middle-class families," Granholm said. "And let me tell you: Those EVs are going to be American-made EVs."