- - Monday, March 23, 2020

“You never want a serious crisis to go to waste.” Those words, made famous by former White House chief of staff and mayor of Chicago, Rahm Emanuel, appear in the same playbook House Democrats are using in the midst of the coronavirus epidemic that’s grinding the global economy to a halt and affected thousands of Americans and hundreds of thousands worldwide.

Most on Capitol Hill are focused on ways in which they can help all Americans and those industries deeply impacted by this public health crisis. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said federal recovery packages are necessary to get money “into the hands of families that need it most.”

But, as is sadly too often the case in Washington, others are actively plotting ways in which they can advance their own personal agendas. Green New Deal advocates who recognize their outside-the-mainstream ideas don’t stand a chance of passage under normal circumstances are leveraging our current crisis to provide cash payouts to companies who don’t need it and are far less impacted by the epidemic.

House Democrats, including Reps. Gerry Connolly, Paul Tonko, and Doris Matsui, are looking to include an extension of the electric vehicle tax credit and other green energy tax incentives in the massive $1 trillion coronavirus package that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is putting together. In short, Democrats have identified their crisis, and they’re not going to let it slip away without adding a few goodies for their friends in the green energy business.

Apart from the fact that bailing out electric vehicle makers has nothing to do with helping “families that need it most,” as Mr. Schumer said, these companies simply do not need a handout at all. Tesla is the best-selling electric vehicle brand in the world, and the company’s Model 3 accounted for 14 percent of all EVs sold worldwide (and that’s just one model!). The Elon Musk-founded company generated $24.6 billion in revenue in 2019, and the company boasted a profit in excess of $100 million in the final quarter of 2019.

Put another way, Tesla just passed Boeing as the most valuable industrial company in the United States. Is this the type of company we should be bailing out at a time like this?

Tesla clearly has the most to benefit from a federal EV tax credit expansion. The company has sold nearly 500,000 EVs in the U.S. as of October 2019, which means it has surpassed the 200,000-vehicle threshold for the tax credit. General Motors is the only other manufacturer to hit that limit, meaning vehicles produced by all other automakers still qualify for the $7,500 tax credit. If the House Democrats’ expansion of the program mirrors others put forward, it would bump up that threshold and allow Tesla and GM to once again become eligible for the credit. But it wouldn’t do anything for any other auto manufacturer.

Meanwhile, the coronavirus has put uncertainty in the market. In 2019, EV sales made up about 2 percent of all vehicle sales in the U.S. Do the lawmakers pushing an EV tax credit expansion really think that in the midst of a global pandemic and with gas prices lower than they have been in months, that suddenly consumers will want to switch from traditional vehicles to EVs?

The average electric vehicle costs $55,600, pricing out most Americans even with a $7,500 tax credit. At-home EV charging equipment can cost hundreds more. So with the median household income in the U.S. at about $62,000, is it any surprise that about 80 percent of EV tax credits were claimed by those earning more than $100,000?

Rather than expand the EV tax credit program in the midst of a global pandemic and economic crisis, we should allow it to expire and focus our finite resources on the American people and those affected most by this devastating situation.

• Thomas Pyle is president of the American Energy Alliance.

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