UNITED STATES NEWS

Georgia governor attacks Biden’s electric vehicle policy at federally-backed battery plant

Jun 27, 2023, 9:13 AM

ATLANTA (AP) — Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp is escalating his attack on President Joe Biden’s electric vehicle policy, speaking Tuesday at the groundbreaking for a company that received more than $100 million to refine graphite for electric batteries from the infrastructure law Biden signed.

“Georgia’s electric mobility boom is taking place because our state is second to none for companies looking to invest, relocate, expand, and innovate – not because the federal government continues to put their thumb on the scale, favoring a few companies over the industry as a whole,” Kemp said, according to advance remarks of his speech at Anovion Technologies.

The remarks are unusually partisan for a factory groundbreaking. Anovion’s $800 million investment promises 400 new jobs in rural Bainbridge, in the state’s far southwest corner.

Georgia has been a top beneficiary of a nationwide electric vehicle investment boom, with more than 40 electric vehicle-related projects since 2020 pledging $22.7 billion of investment and 28,400 jobs in the state.

“When President Biden and others falsely try to take credit for Georgia’s success, don’t forget that next year is an election year,” Kemp said.

The Republican governor planned this attack knowing Democratic Sen. Jon Ossoff would likely share his stage at the groundbreaking. Ossoff has been Georgia’s most high-profile supporter of Biden’s electric vehicle policies. The two could be rivals for the Senate seat in 2026.

Ossoff has argued that Georgia’s investment boom wouldn’t happen without Democratic policies.

“It is bizarre to attend a groundbreaking and launch a political attack on the very policy that made the groundbreaking possible,” Ossoff told The Associated Press before the event, where he was invited but not scheduled for a speaking role. “The governor is throwing a panicked political tantrum over the success of federal manufacturing policies in his own state.”

Kemp has always opposed the Inflation Reduction Act, which is pumping billions into electric vehicle subsidies. He’s disagreed in particular with its domestic content standards, meant to increase America’s clean-energy manufacturing capacity. They make tax incentives on electric vehicles available only when the vehicle, the battery, and key raw materials in the battery are all made in the United States.

Hyundai Motor Group, which is building a $5.5 billion plant to assemble electric vehicles and batteries in Ellabell, Georgia, near Savannah, has said the tax credits are unfair because its electric vehicles aren’t currently eligible. Kemp referenced the South Korean conglomerate’s criticism in his speech Tuesday, saying “that approach simply doesn’t work.”

While Ossoff’s fellow Democratic senator, Raphael Warnock, had proposed making the tax credits more flexible, Ossoff has emphasized that benefits will be available to Hyundai once the Ellabell plant starts production.

Kemp has said it’s wrong to credit Biden for the boom, noting that Rivian Automotive announced a $5 billion plant east of Atlanta in December 2021, while Hyundai announced in May 2022, both before Biden signed the Inflation Reduction Act.

For his part, Kemp said again Tuesday that he wants to make Georgia the “e-mobility capital of the nation” as his second-term legacy.

But Ossoff has claimed credit for Biden and Democrats, including for solar panel plant expansions in northwest Georgia.

Things got tenser when Hyundai and LG Energy Solution announced a $4.3 billion electric battery plant in May at Hyundai’s new complex. Ossoff assertively trumpeted the news while Kemp was in Israel, a move that chafed some Kemp administration officials.

Kemp attributed Anovion’s choice of location to state and local officials, saying “they don’t posture or showboat, and they don’t try to steal credit.”

The governor himself is in an awkward spot politically, with many Republicans opposing electric vehicles. Weeks after the Hyundai battery announcement, former President Donald Trump told the Georgia Republican convention that he would abolish Biden’s electric vehicle policies, saying “First day in office, I’ll be ending all of that,” to cheers from a crowd in Columbus.

Kemp who didn’t attend that convention out of dissatisfaction with state the party’s leadership, has tried to persuade Republicans to break off their love affair with Trump, while at the same time opposing a Democratic president whose administration has lavished electric vehicle makers with billions in incentives.

“Unlike top-down systems like China’s, and those advocated by some on the federal level, we aren’t dictating how this growth happens,” Kemp said Tuesday. “We aren’t picking winners and losers. We’re letting the market drive this innovation and expansion.”

But it’s hard to say Anovion is solely a creature of the market. The Chicago-based firm’s Georgia factory will make synthetic graphite — a key ingredient for lithium batteries — benefitting from the content standards that are boosting domestic graphite demand. It won $117 million in federal financing to build and improve factories. And it may be able to claim federal tax credits of 10% on the costs of producing graphite as well as 30% on its factory investment, both part of the Inflation Reduction Act.

“Manufacturing is coming back to America and it’s coming to Georgia, as we intended when we passed these infrastructure and manufacturing policies,” Ossoff said.

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Georgia governor attacks Biden’s electric vehicle policy at federally-backed battery plant