Poor situational awareness? Herschel Walker disses EVs in 'Battery Belt' ahead of Senate runoff

This commentary was written by opinion columnist Adam Van Brimmer.

The Herschel Walker campaign bus is logging serious miles around Georgia as he stumps for the U.S. Senate, and his travels must be taking him through Bryan County on Interstate 16 frequently.

Surely he must have noticed the 2,000-plus acres of cleared land behind the truck weigh station near Exit 143. The expanse is hard to miss, as are the dust clouds that drift across the highway from the construction equipment hard at work prepping the site.

The location is the future home of the Hyundai Metaplant America, an automobile assembly facility and battery manufacturing factory that will mean 8,000-plus new jobs. Suppliers to Hyundai will employ thousands more — already three parts makers have announced projects, promising a combined 2,400 jobs.

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Clearing and site prep at the Bryan County Mega site, the future home of the Hyundai manufacturing facility.
Clearing and site prep at the Bryan County Mega site, the future home of the Hyundai manufacturing facility.

All this new job creation involves one specific product: Electric vehicles or EVs. The Hyundai Metaplant will build EVs exclusively, as will another facility planned for Georgia along Interstate 20, that one for Rivian. The Rivian plant estimates hiring 7,500 employees.

Right now, along Interstate 85 north of Athens, a factory that makes batteries for Ford’s all-electric F-150 Lightning is open and will employ 2,600 Georgians by the end of 2023.

It’s not hyperbole to say EVs are a new cornerstone of Georgia’s manufacturing economy. Clever journalists have already dubbed the state the “Battery Belt.”

Yet one high-profile Georgian stands against EVs: Would-be Sen. Walker.

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Walker is campaigning against EVs. “I don’t want an electric car, I like my hot rod,” Walker told several hundred at an early November rally in Richmond Hill — a couple dozen miles away from the Hyundai site.

He doubled down following his second-place finish in the Nov. 8 election, telling a crowd in Peachtree City, “What we need to do is keep having those gas-guzzling cars. We got the good emissions under those cars.” He repeated the mantra in a stop in Augusta as well.

Walker is dissing EVs as part of a broader attack on what he calls “green new deal” policies championed by Democratic President Joe Biden and Democrats in Congress, such as his runoff opponent, Sen. Raphael Warnock.

But for all but the GOP zealots, the approach has less juice than an EV in need of a charge. Georgia leaders, who are overwhelmingly Republican, are behind the push to attract EV manufacturers and related businesses to the state.

Georgia has seen several plants that make gas-powered automobiles shuttered in recent decades. Several automakers — Volvo, Volkswagen, Mercedes-Benz — have passed over Georgia as a location to build conventional cars, trucks and vans.

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Walker would be a transactional politician

Opinion Editor Adam Van Brimmer
Opinion Editor Adam Van Brimmer

EVs are a boon for Georgia’s economy, and Walker’s rhetoric is asinine. Is he going to advocate for Georgians to travel by train rather than air, oblivious to the economic impact of large-scale employers such as Delta, Gulfstream and Lockheed? Or wage war on chicken, pecans and sweet onions?

Walker’s campaign is what the teens call “cringey,” what with his takes on mental illness, transgender people and child rearing as well as his nauseating misappropriation of Christianity by claiming to be a modern-day archangel.

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But his ignorance on EVs shows just how transactional Walker the politician would be: If saying or doing something helps him, he doesn’t care who it hurts, even if those harmed are those he’s been elected to represent.

By his own admission, Walker is “not that smart” and in all likelihood is anti-EVs because his campaign handlers told him to be. Once the election ends, though, those advisors move on. If Walker is Georgia’s next senator, it’s painful to contemplate what policy positions he’ll come up with on his own.

Contact Van Brimmer at avanbrimmer@savannahnow.com.

This article originally appeared on Savannah Morning News: US Senate runoff Herschel Walker attacks EVs close to Hyundai plant