The remarks were Trump’s newest effort to turn Biden’s clean-energy policies into a liability among the Rust Belt voters who could hold the key to victory in next year’s presidential election — even as the White House touts those same policies as a jobs-creating bonanza.
“Joe Biden is waging war on the U.S. auto industry with a series of crippling mandates designed to force Americans into expensive electric cars — that’s just what he wants — even as thousands of electric cars are piling up on car lots all unsold,” Trump said in the video, appearing to reference a recent Cox Automotive analysis that found that electric vehicle supplies at dealerships have risen more than 300 percent this year. Cox’s analysis does not include vehicles sold by Tesla, the country’s dominant EV manufacturer, because it does not sell through dealerships.
“This ridiculous Green New Deal crusade is causing car prices to skyrocket while setting the stage for the destruction of American auto production,” he said.
Biden has said his clean-energy policies are “creating millions of good-paying clean energy manufacturing jobs” — as he put it in an appearance Thursday in Philadelphia — and will save consumers money, while lessening the greenhouse gas pollution that is warming the planet.
Trump also contended in the video that he “saved the American auto industry” during his previous time in the White House from 2017 to 2021, and he promised to do it again. Vehicle sales were steady for most of Trump’s presidency but fell significantly at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“If Biden’s assault is not stopped, American auto production will be totally dead. That’s why I am going to terminate these Green New Deal atrocities on Day One,” he said.
He added: “I hope United Auto Workers is listening to this, because I think you’d better endorse Trump, because I am going to grow your business and they are destroying your business.”
Trump’s hopes on that front are all but doomed — in a memo in May, UAW President Shawn Fain wrote that another Trump term “would be a disaster” and that union members need to get “organized behind a pro-worker, pro-climate, and pro-democracy political program that can deliver for the working class.”
On the other hand, the union has also declined — so far — to endorse Biden. UAW said in May that it would hold off on endorsing a presidential candidate, despite its previous support for Biden and numerous other unions backing him for 2024. The auto union cited its skepticism of the electric vehicle transition, which threatens to reduce industry jobs.
Trump’s promises laid out Thursday are the latest in a series of steps he’s taken to try to leverage auto workers’ fears about electric vehicles into an electoral advantage in Rust Belt states, particularly Michigan, which narrowly voted for him in 2016 but flipped to Biden in 2020.
“Biden is a catastrophe for Michigan, and his environmental extremism is heartless and disloyal and horrible for the American worker, and you’re starting to see it,” he said at a Michigan campaign event in June, his third to the state in the 2024 race.
Biden has used a number of policies to push EVs, beyond the emissions rules. The Inflation Reduction Act he signed last year rewrote the tax incentives that can encourage consumers to buy electric vehicles, the 2021 infrastructure law put billions into charging stations and the administration is offering billions of dollars in grants, loans and loan guarantees to boost EV technology.
Biden met with Fain this week, focusing on contract talks with major automakers and the looming threat of a strike.
Trump’s antipathy to toughened rules on car and truck pollution is not new. His administration in 2019 sought to dramatically roll back the Obama administration’s auto emissions and efficiency standards, but Biden immediately paused that rollback when he took office in 2021. The Environmental Protection Agency and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration have been working on stricter standards since then.
A version of this report first ran in E&E News PM. Get access to more comprehensive and in-depth reporting on the energy transition, natural resources, climate change and more in E&E News.