On a day many motorists in the southeastern United States could not find gasoline, President Joe Biden promoted the transition to electrical vehicles while warning that China is ahead in the race to build the next-generation automobiles.
"They think they're going to win, but I got news for them. They will not win this race. We can't let them. We have to move fast," said the president during a visit to a Michigan plant where electric pickup trucks are made.
Ford on Wednesday will formally unveil its F-150 Lightning, an all-electric version of its best-selling pickup truck, which the president drove on a test track following his remarks.
"We're going to set a new pace for electric vehicles," Biden promised. "That means reversing the previous administration's shortsighted rollback of vehicle emissions and efficiency standards."
The president made the remarks after a tour of the Ford Rouge Electric Vehicle Center in Dearborn, the latest of his road trips to promote his sweeping economic revitalization legislative packages.
"We're at an inflection point in America," the president told a group of Ford employees during the tour.
Biden's $2 trillion American Jobs Plan, which would need to be approved by Congress, calls for $174 billion in funding for electric vehicles. He has also set a goal of reaching net-zero emissions for the U.S. economy by no later than 2050.
To achieve that goal, existing nuclear power plants are "going to be absolutely essential," the White House's national climate adviser, Gina McCarthy, told a virtual event of the Columbia University Center on Global Energy Policy on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, the International Energy Agency, a Paris-based intergovernmental organization that until now has generally supported the fossil fuel industry, surprised experts Tuesday by saying investors should not fund new oil, gas and coal supply projects if the world is to achieve net-zero emissions by mid-century.
"The IEA's pathway to this brighter future brings a historic surge in clean energy investment that creates millions of new jobs and lifts global economic growth. Moving the world onto that pathway requires strong and credible policy actions from governments, underpinned by much greater international cooperation," said Fatih Birol, the IEA executive director.
Daniel Stewart, senior research associate at As You Sow, a nonprofit organization that promotes environmental and social corporate responsibility, noted the agency's about-face. "Until now, the IEA's research has been used to play down transition risks faced by the fossil fuel industry and as a support for inadequate energy and climate policy," he said.
Biden's visit to the electric truck facility came amid a continuing fuel crunch in more than a dozen U.S. states. Panic buying of gasoline was triggered by the shutdown of a key pipeline targeted by cybercriminals.
The 8,900-kilometer Colonial Pipeline has resumed operations and the gasoline supply chain is gradually recovering, although the company confirmed a new network issue on Tuesday after shippers reported difficulty scheduling fuel deliveries.
"Our internal server that runs our nomination system experienced intermittent disruptions this morning due to some of the hardening efforts that are ongoing and part of our restoration process," the company told VOA.
A nomination refers to a type of service request that identifies the amount of gas a shipper expects to transport through the pipeline.
"These issues were not related to the ransomware or any type of reinfection," the company said. "We are working diligently to bring our nomination system back online and will continue to keep our shippers updated. The Colonial Pipeline system continues to deliver refined products as nominated by our shippers."
A prolonged network outage, however, would prevent shippers from scheduling deliveries amid a high demand for fuel following the reopening of the pipeline.
Just kilometers from the White House, the gas crunch remains evident, with 70% of filling stations in Washington still without fuel on Tuesday, although that was down from about 90% from just a few days ago.
Such problems highlight the need for more electric vehicles, according to proponents of the technology. But a quick transition away from internal combustion engines depends on the availability of such affordable vehicles, ample charging stations and improvements in battery technology to improve range.
America's legacy automakers are making the transition, hoping to put their downturn far in the rearview mirror after the economy of Michigan — and especially its largest city, Detroit — went into a decadeslong decline as Japanese auto manufacturing surpassed American production.
The $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, signed into law by Biden in mid-March, aims to pump more than $10 billion into Michigan in fiscal relief at the local and state level, plus create thousands of clean energy jobs, according to the White House.
Republicans in Congress in general have opposed the Democratic president's spending packages, contending they include much unnecessary and wasteful spending.
"The total amount of funding it would direct to roads, bridges, ports, waterways and airports combined adds up to less than what it would spend just on electric cars," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said last month of Biden's infrastructure package. "The far left sees a strong family resemblance between these proposals and their socialist 'Green New Deal.'"
The Green New Deal is a group of goals advanced by some Democrats, especially from the party's progressive wing, which goes beyond environmental policy and calls for universal health care, affordable housing, good-paying jobs for all and stronger labor rights.
Biden has adopted some of these ideas in his ambitious legislative proposals.