Published on September 17th, 2020 |
by Johnna Crider
September 17th, 2020 by Johnna Crider
I recently wrote this article that highlighted one written by Micheal E. Mann, who pointed out how President Trump is a threat to the planet. That article, in a nutshell, cited several others that pointed out the damage Trump has caused to the environment through his executive orders and dismantling of the EPA. When Mann (and I, by agreeing with him) said “Threat to the planet,” we were not talking about wars or Trump’s radicalization of the extreme far-right. We were addressing his stance in favor of the fossil fuel industry.
I was tagged in a post by someone who claimed that Tesla “is flourishing under Trump.” That post inspired this article, in which I want to address my thoughts on the bigger picture — something I feel that many have missed.
No, President Trump is not the reason Tesla is thriving. That alone is due to Elon Musk and the hardworking employees at Tesla. The timeframe of Tesla’s mass-market success does happen to be during the timeframe of Trump’s presidency — but Trump has had zero influence upon Tesla’s success. Tesla’s success is the result of long-running trends in certain industries (most notably, the lithium-ion battery industry) and years of foundational work by Tesla. If anything, Trumps actions seem to have undermined Tesla by placing obstacles in the company’s path. Let’s look at some examples.
Before I dive in, I want to remind you what Tesla’s mission is: to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy.
In other words, Tesla is focused on helping the environment we all rely on for life on Earth, including trying to stop climate change — something many Republicans don’t believe exists.
EV Tax Credit
Trump and the Republicans who killed the EV tax credit extension back in 2019 said they believed that these credits were benefitting “rich Californians and Tesla.” That quote came from a Bloomberg article that I analyzed. This language is not only spiteful, but it sets apart Tesla and Californians as if they were un-American. The American government didn’t want Tesla or Californians to benefit from tax credits. Let that sink in.
“I don’t know why the White House would want to stop jobs and the future of the auto industry.” — Senator Debbie Stabenow, MI (D)
The NEPA Act Takes A Hit
The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), signed into law by President Nixon, was one of the first laws written that set up the “broad national framework for protecting our environment.” Trump signed an executive order that limited NEPA’s ability to protect the environment from greedy fossil fuel corporations.
This is just one of many EPA policies that Trump trampled over, dismantled, or trashed, to the delight of the oil and gas industries. The new executive order regarding NEPA states: “Unnecessary regulatory delays will deny our citizens opportunities for jobs and economic security, keeping millions of Americans out of work and hindering our economic recovery from the national emergency.”
What does this have to do with Tesla? This was an attack on everything Tesla is fighting for.
Trump Denied Tesla Tariff Exemption For Autopilot ECU
Tesla, which assembles its new computer — the brain behind Autopilot 3 — in Shanghai is subject to a 25% retaliatory tariff that Trump imposed to “punish China.” His reasoning was that Americans buy too much from the Chinese. Quanta Computer, which is vital to the tech world, assembles Tesla’s computers, along with other items for Apple and a few others.
When Tesla applied for an exemption from the tariff, the company had a lot to say, including that this tariff was having a “reverse impact” for what it believed the intention of the tariff to be. In essence, Trump was punishing American companies and customers — not China.
The Trump administration promptly denied Tesla’s request, saying the tariff “concerns a product strategically important or related to ‘Made in China 2025’ or other Chinese industrial programs.” It should be noted that Apple, Amazon, and even Verizon are not being punished for their relationship with Quanta Computer — yet Tesla is.
Trade War & Solar Power
The trade war with China has also had a harmful effect on the US solar power industry. While Europe has rolled back tariffs on various solar panels built in China, the Trump administration has added onto them, having a chilling effect on US solar power growth. For more on US solar power trends, see: “US Solar Power — Hit, Kicked, But Still Running.” Going further back, into 2017 and 2018, here are more stories on solar tariffs in the US:
A Trump Win In November Could Be Bad For Tesla
In an article by Business Insider, the writer points out that a Biden win in November could restore policies that support Tesla. The article noted that major automakers have benefitted from Trump’s policies and tax cuts, but the article emphasized that President Trump, for the past 4 years has not been good for Tesla.
The article pointed out that, while it’s not clear what would have happened under Democrats, the GOP and Trump decided to do nothing as the US federal tax credit for Tesla buyers faded away. Buyers of electric vehicles from foreign companies as well as Ford can still get the tax credit, because they have very slowly offered compelling electric vehicles and sold them in the US (meaning it has taken much longer for them to cross the 200,000 vehicle milestone), but Tesla and GM electric vehicle buyers are now punished because those companies led in electric vehicle innovation and sales. Yes, Tesla and its buyers are being punished for being leaders, and the GOP didn’t lift a finger to try to fix the problem.
Many forget that Tesla is an energy company as well as a car company. If our nation was being led by those who supported clean energy, the possibilities are enormous. National policies to support clean energy and energy storage could be strongly complementary to Tesla’s work in their shared mission to accelerate the transition to sustainable energy. Indeed, the Obama–Biden administration did many, many things to help stimulate the green economy. That was one of the administration’s top agenda items and it was pursued throughout various government agencies in a pro-market, pro-American way that was extremely successful.
A Biden–Harris administration could also do more to support automakers’ transitions to electric transport, instead of doing what Trump has been doing — the opposite, watering down fuel economy targets and even trying to force California and other states to have weaker emissions requirements. “A Trump win could mean more business-as-usual. But a Biden win could accelerate a historical transformation that pretty much all the carmakers recognize is underway and that they’re now risking billions on,” the author wrote. Elon Musk has said time and again that Tesla needs competitors — these so-called Tesla killers could be allies in a larger fashion.
I don’t support Trump, but I am not telling you how to vote. What I am saying is that Trump hasn’t been good to Tesla. Yes, some people on the left has been attacking Elon Musk and Tesla, similar to how some on the right did so for years for other reasons. Some far-left influencers have been pointing out that Elon Musk is a billionaire, so, therefore, must be bad. This is part of a game that is being played, sometimes not very intelligently or effectively.
Elon Musk is just a piece in this game. His very name is being used to politicize and radicalize people against an idea that is being marketed as bad or wrong. Granted, excess wealth can lead one into their own bubble, where they don’t have to struggle with homelessness or the issues that many of us struggle from. And some people do hoard it without a purpose.
But when you look at what Elon Musk wants to do, one has to realize that it takes mega amounts of money to do them. Elon Musk is using his money to fund his dreams — big dreams that many scoff at. Those dreams are focused on saving lives, helping the average human in ways that we may never realize. Additionally, his wealth seems to be entirely in stock. He is only a super-billionaire because his companies are extremely successful, but that also helps those employees in real financial ways. And he does not sell that stock to do other things or live a life of excess. He is a workaholic whose wealth is “on paper” — in stock that he owns because of the companies he started and built up. So is much of the wealth of tens of thousands of people who have worked and are working at those companies, some of whom have cashed out on their stock bonuses and some of whom have their wealth still tied to the future of Tesla or SpaceX. but that is all a matter of messaging and politics, not policy. When it comes to policy, Trump props up and funnels money to the oil & gas industry, whereas Obama and Biden had a long-term, highly effective portfolio of policies to help make the USA a clean energy leader.
I fully believe that not only is Trump a threat to this planet environmentally, but his presidency is not in favor of Tesla or those who really, truly care about Tesla’s mission. Wake up, people. Scientific facts are not fake news, and extremely swampy subsidizing of oil and gas companies is not helping Tesla.
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