Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg stunned a Republican member of Congress Tuesday by asking him to help subsidize electric vehicle purchases while millions of Americans struggle to fill up their gas-powered cars.
“The more pain we are all experiencing from the high price of gas, the more benefit there is for those who can access electric vehicles,” Buttigieg told the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee — just before asking Rep. Carlos Gimenez (R-Fla.) to “reconsider opposing the reduction of EV upfront prices with tax credits.”
“So you’re saying the more pain we have, the more benefit we’re going to get?” a flabbergasted Gimenez asked Buttigieg.
“Of course — no,” Buttigieg chuckled as Gimenez said: “I think that’s what I heard you say.”
“No, no,” the laughing transportation secretary insisted. “That’s what you heard me say?”
“Yeah, that’s what I heard you say,” the lawmaker insisted.
“I know you want me to say it so bad,” Buttigieg responded. “Honestly, sir, what we’re saying is that we could have no pain at all by making EVs cheaper for everybody, and we’d love to have your support on that.”
“Are EVs cheaper by subsidizing them?” Gimenez asked, to which Buttigieg responded, “Yes, that’s part of it.”
“Yeah, but that doesn’t make it cheaper,” the congressman said. “We’re all paying for it at the end. We’re all paying taxes.”
As the back-and-forth played out in Congress, gas prices stood at an average of $4.50 per gallon nationwide — $1.33 higher than at this time last year, according to AAA.
Republicans lit up Buttigieg on social media, with Gimenez tweeting: “Pete Buttigieg may be a small town mayor, but his policies have been a big time problem for America.
“At today’s hearing, he told me the White House’s logic was the more pain Americans felt, the better for electric vehicles,” Gimenez added. “It’s an evil way of governing.”
“To sum up: ‘The more pain’ Americans are experiencing, the better it is for our agenda,” added Rep. Dan Bishop (R-NC).
“The cruelty is the point,” tweeted Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas).
Buttigieg has frequently encouraged Americans frustrated by high gas prices to consider going electric, telling MSNBC in November that families who make the switch would see a “$12,500 discount” in transportation costs.
President Biden himself hailed high gas prices in May by saying they were part of “an incredible transition that is taking place that, God willing, when it’s over, we’ll be stronger and the world will be stronger and less reliant on fossil fuels. ”
According to Kelly Blue Book, the average price of a new electric vehicle as of June was $66,997 — 13.7% more than last year — compared to $26,211 for a new compact car. The average price of a new compact SUV was $35,021, while the average new sports car cost $39,880.
Buttigieg also on Tuesday defended the administration’s goal of having half of all vehicles on the market be electric by 2030, as Republicans questioned whether the country’s energy grid could handle the transition.
At one point, Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) noted a study indicating that under full compliance, an American family would use 25 times more electricity for their cars than to power their refrigerators.
“Do you think it would strain the grid if everybody plugged in 25 refrigerators in every household?” Massie asked.
“Well, if we didn’t make any upgrades to the grid, sure,” Buttigieg responded. “If we add yesterday’s grid with tomorrow’s cars, it’s not going to work.”
Buttigieg went on to claim that work has already begun to bolster the grid to support more electric vehicles and claimed the Energy and Transportation Departments were meeting to “map out some of the needs.”
“You actually use the word ‘need.’ You could say ‘want’ as well,” Massie said. “There’s needs and wants to make this fantasy work by 2030, but the reality is the capability is not going to be there.”