What Happens When Machines Replace Man in the Auto Industry?

David M. Hart

Climate plans are the order of the day in the presidential primary campaign because carbon pollution is a global threat of unique proportions. But it’s worth asking whether candidates’ plans are based in the reality of the climate, the economy and the election.

All three dimensions must come together for any climate plan to achieve its goals – and this is especially true when the subject is electric vehicles. There is no point in putting forward an EV plan that is so aggressive that it cannot be implemented even under the most auspicious economic circumstances. Nor is there a point in advancing an EV plan that would not yield significant climate benefits. And, if such a plan might hurt a candidate’s chances in the election, it would be worse than pointless.

Following the lead of Governor Jay Inslee, who dropped out of the race earlier this fall, Senators Cory Booker, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren said they would require all passenger cars sold in the United States to be zero-emissions by 2030, while Senator Kamala Harris and Mayor Pete Buttigieg set a 2035 deadline.

In a recent research paper, I examined some of the challenges in transitioning from internal combustion engine vehicles to EVs. I think these Democratic candidates might want to give themselves some wiggle room to pursue a more measured approach – for environmental, economic and political reasons.

A momentous transition

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