Georgia Embraces Electric Vehicle Technology Without Explicit Climate Commitment, NPR Reports

In Atlanta, Republican Governor Brian Kemp proudly stands beside a striking Rivian electric truck, announcing the company’s plans to construct a plant in the east of Atlanta. This exciting development comes alongside Hyundai and Kia’s upcoming ventures into electric vehicle manufacturing in Georgia. The state is making significant strides towards establishing itself as the “electric mobility capital of the country,” and even the world, as Governor Kemp boldly proclaims. While Democrats have historically taken the lead in climate change efforts by reducing carbon emissions, Republican-led states are now recognizing the potential of green industries and actively competing to attract companies involved in electric vehicles, batteries, wind turbines, and solar panels. Consequently, Georgia is overtaking Michigan as a top destination for new investments from auto manufacturers and suppliers, as reported by the Center for Automotive Research.

Hyundai, Kia, and Rivian are just a few of the companies that will soon be producing electric vehicles in Georgia. Battery manufacturers and suppliers are also setting up shop in the state, while a South Korean solar panel company is embarking on a multi-billion dollar expansion. These businesses have been enticed by Georgia’s generous incentives, including tax breaks, infrastructure investments, and state-backed training programs. Governor Kemp is confident that these new job opportunities will revolutionize Georgia’s economy.

However, Governor Kemp is reticent to discuss the driving force behind this electric vehicle push – climate change. In an interview with member station WABE, he emphasizes Georgia’s strong commitment to environmental stewardship, citing the state’s agricultural roots and farmers’ dedication to conservation. His approach provides a potential blueprint for like-minded Republicans: pursuing clean energy jobs without explicitly addressing climate change and promoting electric vehicle production without mandating their purchase. Governor Kemp believes that consumer choice should drive the market and opposes government interference in people’s purchasing decisions.

Nevertheless, despite Governor Kemp’s reservations, the electrification movement is gaining momentum. Anne Blair, the policy director for the Electrification Coalition, acknowledges the importance of supporting a broad market while underscoring the role of electricity as a cost-effective and efficient alternative for powering vehicles. The Electrification Coalition praises both state and federal initiatives, such as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and Inflation Reduction Act, for bolstering investments in public infrastructure, research, manufacturing, and consumer incentives. Democratic Senator Jon Ossoff shares the belief that these efforts are crucial for revitalizing American manufacturing, showcasing global leadership in transitioning away from greenhouse gas-emitting combustion fuels, and positioning Georgia as a pioneer in clean technology.

Republicans like Tim Echols, Vice Chair of Georgia’s Public Service Commission, have been strong proponents of alternative fuels long before it became fashionable. Echols, a self-proclaimed “cheerleader and evangelist,” encourages the EV community to learn to speak the language of Republicans to effectively communicate the benefits of electric vehicles. While there are still some skeptical Republicans who raise concerns about the safety, usability, and government investments in electric vehicles, many states without explicit climate goals are still interested in clean energy jobs. For instance, states like Louisiana, Texas, Wyoming, Georgia, and South Dakota are experiencing significant growth in industries such as solar energy, battery manufacturing, and biofuels.

Environmentalists acknowledge the importance of job creation but assert that state policy must also directly address climate change. Mike O’Reilly, the director of policy and climate strategy for the Nature Conservancy in Georgia, emphasizes the significance of reducing the state’s carbon footprint while simultaneously promoting economic growth. Monica Thornton, the executive director of the Nature Conservancy’s Georgia chapter, highlights the need for bipartisan action on statewide climate goals to ensure a sustainable future for future generations. While not every state has embraced this grant funding opportunity, O’Reilly points out that Georgia has received a federal Climate Pollution Reduction Grant to develop its first-ever statewide climate action plan.

Overall, Georgia is making significant strides in the electric mobility sector, attracting major companies and investments to the state. While some Republican politicians remain cautious about explicitly addressing climate change, the growth of clean energy industries is undeniable. With a focus on job creation, economic development, and environmental stewardship, Georgia has the potential to become a leading force in clean technology.



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