Federal Climate Bills Can Retool the U.S. Auto Industry to Build the Clean Cars of the Future

Today, NRDC and joined automotive labor union UAW, and the Center for American Progress (CAP) to release a new report showing that building cleaner, more efficient cars can create jobs. In today’s global auto industry, the question is: where will those jobs be located? Europe, Asia, the U.S.? Passing comprehensive climate and energy legislation can provide the investment needed to make those jobs American jobs.  

The report, “Driving Growth: How Clean Cars and Climate Policy Can Create Jobs,” notes that “federal policy will play an important role in ensuring that both jobs and the manufacture of vehicle content [for more efficient vehicles] are located in the United States.” If policy is structured properly, the U.S. can capture up to 150,000 jobs related to manufacturing clean vehicle technologies. A cap on global warming pollution is a critical part of the policy package because resulting pool of allowance revenue can fund retooling of U.S. manufacturing that has been focused on gas guzzlers for too long. When combined with strengthened fuel economy and tailpipe pollution standards, climate protection bills can ensure that U.S. manufacturers are producing the next generation of vehicles that consumers want.

Climate bills in Congress would deliver massive funding for clean auto manufacturing and deployment. NRDC analysis of the House-passed American Clean Energy and Security (H.R. 2454) and the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act (S. 1733, Manager’s Mark) estimates that each bill would provide over $23 billion in grants for domestic production of advanced combustion vehicles, electric-drive (e.g. plug-in) vehicles and advanced and plug-in vehicle deployment. The funding is long-term, stretching from 2012 through 2025, and unlike typical Congressional authorizations, the allowance revenue provides the industry with investment certainty for incremental advancements as well as wholesale redesigns.

We have an opportunity to have American workers build the clean cars of the future and passing comprehensive energy and climate legislation is a key step in achieving that goal. Investing in domestic cleaner, more efficient vehicle manufacturing is a win-win for our economy. It employs our workers and makes us less dependent on oil, protecting us from costly high and volatile prices at the pump. It’s an opportunity we should seize.