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J.D. Vance and Tim Ryan square off on electric vehicle measures in new federal climate change plan

 J.D. Vance and Tim Ryan, Ohio U.S. Senate candidates
Andy Chow/Jo Ingles
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Statehouse News Bureau
J.D. Vance and Tim Ryan, Ohio U.S. Senate candidates

The candidates for the U.S. Senate race in Ohio are offering different takes on the new federal plan that puts $369 billion into the fight against climate change.

That money, placed in the Inflation Reduction Act, will go towards investments in many areas, including renewable energy and electric vehicles.

Congressional Democrats, such as Ohio U.S. Senate candidate Tim Ryan, have said this is a major step for America in building up the clean energy industry and cutting down on carbon emissions.

Ryan said the bill will “make historic investments in domestic energy production and manufacturing that will set our nation on the path to dominate the clean energy industry — all while not raising a penny in taxes on middle class Americans.”

The federal investments will include $10 billion in tax credits for investments in clean technology manufacturing, such as facilities that build electric vehicles, and $30 billion in tax credits that incentivize U.S. manufacturing of products like solar panels and wind turbines.

But Republican Ohio U.S. Senate candidate J.D. Vance is critical of the spending and said the new federal plan could end up benefiting China, which mines the raw materials used for solar panels.

He argued instead that the federal government should do more to allow for production of natural gas.

“It’s not even a way to create a cleaner environment. The Chinese have the dirtiest economy in the world right now. If you want to make our environment more clean, the way to do it is to invest in Ohio natural gas,” Vance said.

Vance made the comments while touring a natural gas production site in Columbiana County during an event hosted by the Utica Energy Alliance.

While Vance said the credits for electric vehicles could ultimately benefit other countries, the legislative language for consumer credits specifically states that the EVs must be assembled in America.

The credit would be $7,500 for people buying new EVs and $4,000 for used electric vehicles.

But auto manufacturing groups have warned that a large number of currently produced electric vehicles, about 70%, would not be eligible for those credits.

Qualifications include a price cap of $55,000 for electric cars and $80,000 for electric trucks, vans and SUVs. That pool of qualifying vehicles could shrink further with eligibility requirements that raise the standards for the contents of the batteries, which must be made using minerals from North America, or through countries with free-trade agreements.

“So the question is what will happen? Well, we know what will happen. Because we've seen this with other ‘Buy American’ requirements. The IRS will issue carve outs for Chinese manufactured vehicles, and that's where the money's ultimately going to go. You cannot guarantee this money goes to Ohioans or to Americans. That's the problem with the legislation,” Vance said.

The credits requirements in the Inflation Reduction Act are specifically written to ban the use of raw materials that come from “foreign entities of concern," as of now that list — created by the U.S. Department of State — includes China and Russia.

Supporters and Democratic leaders have added that the other investments in the bill are geared towards building up the electric vehicle industry to keep pace with the qualifying standards.

Izzi Levy, Ryan’s campaign spokesperson, said the comments made by Vance proved that he “has no idea what’s happening in Ohio when he rails against our rapidly-growing electric vehicle industry.” Levy noted that the EV industry in Ohio promises to employ thousands of workers.

“While Vance spent the summer hiding from voters, Tim was hard at work fighting to cut taxes for working people, bring down costs, and reinvest in Ohio manufacturing while making sure our supply chains aren’t reliant on China,” Levy said.

Several electric vehicle-related projects are under way in Ohio. The Ford Motor Company has announced plans to build a new line of EVs in Avon Lake, with a $1.5 billion investment. A joint venture with General Motors and LG Energy Solutions, called Ultium Cells LLC, is putting several billion dollars into battery manufacturing, which includes a plant in Lordstown.

Copyright 2022 The Statehouse News Bureau. To see more, visit The Statehouse News Bureau.

Andy Chow is a general assignment state government reporter who focuses on environmental, energy, agriculture, and education-related issues. He started his journalism career as an associate producer with ABC 6/FOX 28 in Columbus before becoming a producer with WBNS 10TV.