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Trump Trashed Electric Cars Instead of Going to the GOP Debate

The former president zeroes in on range anxiety.

Donald Trump.
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

Former President Donald Trump spent much of his not-a-debate-for-me speech at a non-union Michigan auto parts company trashing the Biden administration’s economic and climate policy, specifically its support for electric vehicles.

The United Autoworkers strike against the “Big Three” American automakers has split Republicans while Democrats, including President Biden, have largely supported the striking workers. Some Republicans, like Josh Hawley and J.D. Vance, have voiced support for the workers’ demands for higher pay, while others, like Nikki Halley and Tim Scott, both of whom are on stage tonight in California, have criticized the union.

Trump, meanwhile, has consistently used the strike to attack Biden’s climate policy and tonight was no different.

“Biden’s cruel and ridiculous” mandates for electric vehicles, Trump said, “will spell the death of the U.S. auto industry.”

Addressing striking autoworkers directly, Trump said “you’re all on picket lines … it doesn’t make a damn bit of difference what you get, because in two years you’ll all be out of business, you’re not getting anything, what they’re doing to the auto industry in Michigan and throughout the country is absolutely horrible and ridiculous.”

Trump brought this rambling critique around to a point of view that might be shared by more rhetorically constrained conservatives like Hawley and Vance, namely that electrifying the United States automobile fleet will largely benefit China.

“A vote for crooked Joe means the future of the auto industry will be made in China,” he said later in the speech. Biden’s signature piece of legislation, the Inflation Reduction Act, actually offers incentives for domestic manufacturing.

Trump also attacked electric cars specifically, echoing common complaints about a lack of range and the environmental effects of mining for the minerals used to make batteries.

“Those batteries, when they get rid of them, lots of bad things happen. When they’re digging it out of the ground to make those batteries, it’s going to be bad for the environment,” he said.

Trump often mixes support for American fossil fuel extraction with environmental-coded attacks on green energy. Frequent objects of his ire are wind turbines (he loves talking about how they kill birds) and, recently, he has started talking about how offshore wind turbines kill whales.

“Crooked Joe Biden is siding with the left wing crazies who will destroy automobile manufacturing and will destroy our country itself,” he said.

He also repeatedly mentioned electric vehicle range. “[Electric cars] are built specifically for people who want to take very short trips. ‘Darling, let’s drive down to the store and let’s drive back!’ Oh, it’s crazy,” Trump said. He also accused the Biden administration of purposefully raising gas prices to force people into buying electrical vehicles.

While American auto companies hardly see eye-to-eye with the Biden administration on everything, they have dived into electrification, suggesting that Trump’s claims that the American auto industry will die thanks to environmental policy are at least not shared by the industry itself.

So Trump attacked the car industry, saying “I don’t get one thing, I don’t get why … these carmakers are fighting to make cars that are going to sell, cars that are going to long distances.” He said that these carmakers, as well as oil companies that invest in wind energy, are “going against their industry” and are “either stupid or gutless.”

“Why is it that these big powerful car companies with guys making $35 million a year” are making electric vehicles, “when the damn things don’t go far enough and they’re too expensive,” Trump said.

“Why are they all agreeing to this?” Trump said, “why are they not fighting, saying, ‘it doesn’t work.’”

Matthew Zeitlin profile image

Matthew Zeitlin

Matthew is a correspondent at Heatmap. Previously he was an economics reporter at Grid, where he covered macroeconomics and energy, and a business reporter at BuzzFeed News, where he covered finance. He has written for The New York Times, the Guardian, Barron's, and New York Magazine.


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