Chuck Schumer Proposes $454 Billion Plan to Swap Gas Guzzlers for Electric Vehicles
The Senate's top Democrat, Charles Schumer of New York, proposed on Thursday a $454 billion 10-year plan to boost the sale of electric vehicles and reduce the number of gasoline-powered cars. His plan would offer cash vouchers to entice Americans to trade in their internal combustion engine car for a car that runs on hybrid, electric or hydrogen fuel cells, according to Reuters.
Schumer said in a statement that his plan would offer rebates of $3,000 or more to individual buyers, to help transition nearly one-fourth of the U.S. car and light-truck fleet, or 63 million vehicles, to cleaner technology over the next decade, as Reuters reported.
In an opinion piece in The New York Times, Schumer touted his plan for "its ability to unite the American environmental movement, the American labor movement and large automakers. It has already earned the support of climate groups like the Sierra Club, the Natural Resources Defense Council and the League of Conservation Voters; labor unions like the United Automobile Workers and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers; and car manufacturers like Ford and General Motors."
"We need to act urgently and ambitiously, which will require building diverse coalitions of political support," Schumer said.
His plan, if ever enacted, would take a significant chunk of carbon emissions out of the atmosphere. Automobiles are America's largest producer of planet-warming emissions, according to The New York Times.
To reduce vehicular emissions, the U.S. car fleet will need to be overhauled. In the U.S., nearly half of all car sales are SUVs, which over the last decade have emitted more greenhouse gases than planes and ships combined, according to recent research from International Energy Agency (IEA), as CBS News reported.
From 2010 to 2018, "SUVs were the second-largest contributor to the increase in global CO2 emissions since 2010 after the power sector, but ahead of heavy industry (including iron and steel, cement, aluminum), as well as trucks and aviation," the IEA reported.
Schumer's plan is far less ambitious than the Green New Deal, which would overhaul the country's infrastructure and economy in an attempt to stop the climate crisis. It also stands little chance of passing in a Republican-led senate, according to The New York Times.
However, it does make a strategic move as the 2020 campaign season ramps up to appeal to a broad coalition from environmentalists to autoworkers in crucial Midwest states.
The plan would "reduce the number of carbon-emitting cars on the road, create thousands of good-paying jobs, and accelerate the transition to net-zero carbon emissions by mid-century," Schumer said, as Reuters reported.
Schumer's plan has three parts. The first is $392 billion in vouchers for Americans to trade in their current car for a zero-emissions vehicle that is manufactured in the U.S. The second part is $45 billion earmarked for cities and states to build charging stations so the infrastructure to power an electric vehicle is more widely available. Finally, the third part is $17 billion given to auto manufacturers to overhaul their factories to enable them to manufacture hybrid, electric and hydrogen vehicles, as The New York Times reported.
"The goal of the plan, which also aims to spur a transformation in American manufacturing, is that by 2040 all vehicles on the road should be clean," Schumer wrote in his op-ed in The New York Times.
American automobile makers and workers lauded the proposal.
General Motors praised the effort to "advance electrification through much-needed infrastructure investments, consumer incentives and promotion of American electric vehicle manufacturing," as Reuters reported.
Reuters also reported that United Auto Workers President Gary Jones said in a statement that the Schumer proposal "honors the sweat and sacrifice of American autoworkers by investing in domestic manufacturing of electric vehicles and incentivizing high quality jobs across the auto supply chain."
Now, the question remains what the future of the proposal will be in a Republican-controlled Senate and with a president hostile to advancing environmental initiatives.
"If this were something that Congress could pass, it could make a difference," said Kevin Book, an analyst with ClearView Energy Partners, a nonpartisan Washington research firm, to The New York Times. "The question is whether it could ever pass."
BREAKING: I just announced bold new plan to:— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) October 25, 2019
1. Make #CleanCars affordable
2. Make charging infrastructure accessible to all
3. Make America a leader in clean car manufacturing
And here’s how it works: pic.twitter.com/YhR02werTu
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The speed and scale of the response to COVID-19 by governments, businesses and individuals seems to provide hope that we can react to the climate change crisis in a similarly decisive manner - but history tells us that humans do not react to slow-moving and distant threats.
A Game of Jenga<p>Think of it as a game of Jenga and the planet's climate system as the tower. For generations, we have been slowly removing blocks. But at some point, we will remove a pivotal block, such as the collapse of one of the major global ocean circulation systems, for example the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), that will cause all or part of the global climate system to fall into a planetary emergency.</p><p>But worse still, it could cause runaway damage: Where the tipping points form a domino-like cascade, where breaching one triggers breaches of others, creating an unstoppable shift to a radically and swiftly changing climate.</p><p>One of the most concerning tipping points is mass methane release. Methane can be found in deep freeze storage within permafrost and at the bottom of the deepest oceans in the form of methane hydrates. But rising sea and air temperatures are beginning to thaw these stores of methane.</p><p>This would release a powerful greenhouse gas into the atmosphere, 30-times more potent than carbon dioxide as a global warming agent. This would drastically increase temperatures and rush us towards the breach of other tipping points.</p><p>This could include the acceleration of ice thaw on all three of the globe's large, land-based ice sheets – Greenland, West Antarctica and the Wilkes Basin in East Antarctica. The potential collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet is seen as a key tipping point, as its loss could eventually <a href="https://science.sciencemag.org/content/324/5929/901" target="_blank">raise global sea levels by 3.3 meters</a> with important regional variations.</p><p>More than that, we would be on the irreversible path to full land-ice melt, causing sea levels to rise by up to 30 meters, roughly at the rate of two meters per century, or maybe faster. Just look at the raised beaches around the world, at the last high stand of global sea level, at the end of the Pleistocene period around 120,0000 years ago, to see the evidence of such a warm world, which was just 2°C warmer than the present day.</p>
Cutting Off Circulation<p>As well as devastating low-lying and coastal areas around the world, melting polar ice could set off another tipping point: a disablement to the AMOC.</p><p>This circulation system drives a northward flow of warm, salty water on the upper layers of the ocean from the tropics to the northeast Atlantic region, and a southward flow of cold water deep in the ocean.</p><p>The ocean conveyor belt has a major effect on the climate, seasonal cycles and temperature in western and northern Europe. It means the region is warmer than other areas of similar latitude.</p><p>But melting ice from the Greenland ice sheet could threaten the AMOC system. It would dilute the salty sea water in the north Atlantic, making the water lighter and less able or unable to sink. This would slow the engine that drives this ocean circulation.</p><p><a href="https://www.carbonbrief.org/atlantic-conveyor-belt-has-slowed-15-per-cent-since-mid-twentieth-century" target="_blank">Recent research</a> suggests the AMOC has already weakened by around 15% since the middle of the 20th century. If this continues, it could have a major impact on the climate of the northern hemisphere, but particularly Europe. It may even lead to the <a href="https://ore.exeter.ac.uk/repository/handle/10871/39731?show=full" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">cessation of arable farming</a> in the UK, for instance.</p><p>It may also reduce rainfall over the Amazon basin, impact the monsoon systems in Asia and, by bringing warm waters into the Southern Ocean, further destabilize ice in Antarctica and accelerate global sea level rise.</p>
The Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation has a major effect on the climate. Praetorius (2018)
Is it Time to Declare a Climate Emergency?<p>At what stage, and at what rise in global temperatures, will these tipping points be reached? No one is entirely sure. It may take centuries, millennia or it could be imminent.</p><p>But as COVID-19 taught us, we need to prepare for the expected. We were aware of the risk of a pandemic. We also knew that we were not sufficiently prepared. But we didn't act in a meaningful manner. Thankfully, we have been able to fast-track the production of vaccines to combat COVID-19. But there is no vaccine for climate change once we have passed these tipping points.</p><p><a href="https://www.weforum.org/reports/the-global-risks-report-2021" target="_blank">We need to act now on our climate</a>. Act like these tipping points are imminent. And stop thinking of climate change as a slow-moving, long-term threat that enables us to kick the problem down the road and let future generations deal with it. We must take immediate action to reduce global warming and fulfill our commitments to the <a href="https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Paris Agreement</a>, and build resilience with these tipping points in mind.</p><p>We need to plan now to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions, but we also need to plan for the impacts, such as the ability to feed everyone on the planet, develop plans to manage flood risk, as well as manage the social and geopolitical impacts of human migrations that will be a consequence of fight or flight decisions.</p><p>Breaching these tipping points would be cataclysmic and potentially far more devastating than COVID-19. Some may not enjoy hearing these messages, or consider them to be in the realm of science fiction. But if it injects a sense of urgency to make us respond to climate change like we have done to the pandemic, then we must talk more about what has happened before and will happen again.</p><p>Otherwise we will continue playing Jenga with our planet. And ultimately, there will only be one loser – us.</p>
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