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Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Elon Musk slams Biden’s Build Back Better bill and its electric car incentives

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Elon Musk criticized new incentives and infrastructure for electric vehicles in a huge spending bill backed by Joe Biden, saying he would “delete” the measures and even ditch the entire legislation if he had the power.

Musk, the multibillionaire founder of the electric car company Tesla, said that if he were in charge of the federal government “I would just can this whole bill. That’s my recommendation.” The entrepreneur, speaking at a Wall Street Journal summit on Monday, added: “It might be better if the bill doesn’t pass because we’ve spent so much money, you know, it’s like the federal budget deficit is insane.”

The nearly $2tn reconciliation package, called the Build Back Better bill, carries the weight of Biden’s agenda across numerous policy areas and has been hailed as the biggest, and arguably first, legislation in US history to tackle the climate crisis. The bill passed the House of Representatives last month and Democrats hope it can navigate through a sharply divided Senate before Christmas.

The spending includes significant incentives for Americans to leave behind polluting vehicles and opt instead to go electric, including a tax rebate that will offer up to $12,500 to anyone buying a zero emissions car. There is also funding towards the president’s goal of building out 500,000 new electric car charging stations across the US.

But Musk, despite operating the world’s largest electric vehicle maker, said that these measures are “unnecessary”. He added: “Do we need federal support for gas stations? We don’t. So there’s no need for this, for support for a charging network. I would delete it. Delete.”

Musk, who in October became the first person to have a net financial worth of more than $300bn, also did not welcome the bill’s funding for public transit, seen as an important way to slash US emissions, instead touting the need to build more roads, only underground.

“In cities that are congested we’ve got to do something about extreme traffic, which is some combination of double-deckering freeways and building tunnels,” said Musk, who in addition to running a car company also founded a tunnel construction business called the Boring Company.

Critics were quick to point out that Musk has himself benefited from billions of dollars in government subsidies in order to get his various ventures off the ground, with Tesla making large sums from a system of zero emissions credits offered in California.

Musk’s opposition to the $12,500 tax credit may also stem from the fact it applies to electric cars made in the US by a union workforce. Tesla is not unionized. Other nonunion automakers – including Toyota, Volkswagen and BMW – have urged lawmakers to drop the “discriminatory” incentive, with the Mexican government also raising objections to the American-made stipulation.

“Elon Musk is butt-hurt that Tesla is not getting as many electric car subsidies as Ford and GM (who have union workforces, unlike Tesla),” tweeted Tristan Snell, a business lawyer and CNN pundit. “So he’s whining that no one should get subsidies. That’s all this is.”

Others had some pointed advice for Musk. “If Elon Musk is so concerned about the deficit, perhaps he should pay his fair share of taxes,” said Robert Reich, who was secretary of labor in Bill Clinton’s administration.

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