The Inflation Reduction Act, passed last year by congressional Democrats, is in part intended to wean the U.S. automotive industry off of its reliance on critical minerals imported from China and other "foreign entities of concern" and encourage domestic production of electric vehicles and batteries, while the bipartisan infrastructure law is how clean-energy infrastructure will be funded.
But once again, partisanship is impeding the auto industry's progress toward cleaner personal transportation. This time, the conflict is over how to reform the slow, outdated and uncompetitive federal process for permitting mines, infrastructure and other industrial projects, an agenda largely pushed by Republicans and supported by automakers such as Ford Motor Co. and Rivian.
In one of the rare instances of common ground between fossil fuel and green-energy interests, a very large, very diverse coalition of trade and municipal groups last week implored Congress to reduce the 4.5 to 7.5 years it takes to win a permit. Slow permitting is the "single biggest obstacle to building the infrastructure of the future," the group claims.
Last year, coal state Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., introduced permitting reform measures in the government spending bill but was shot down. Now, he and House Natural Resources Chairman Bruce Westerman, R-Ark., who said he sees a bipartisan path forward, are making another attempt. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., this month called the House GOP proposal an "unserious" wish list for Big Oil, but he said he also sees opportunity for good-faith bipartisan talks on permitting.
Our sibling publication Automotive News Canada in February pointed out how that nation's policies and experience in natural resources have given it an advantage.
Have we not learned what happens when we are overreliant on overseas sourcing for things needed to build cars? Look no further than the microchip shortage and the high prices of batteries' raw materials. Vertically integrated sourcing and production can mitigate that risk, especially as EV factories and battery plants mushroom in the U.S.
The Democrats birthed the Inflation Reduction Act. Now, they must make compromises with the GOP to reduce permitting bureaucracy — within reasonable bounds — to make their clean-energy vision come to fruition.