Musk Not a Fan of Biden’s Build Back Better Act
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Tesla Inc.’s Elon Musk spoke out in opposition to President Joe Biden’s signature economic package, questioning the need for legislation that would support electric car adoption due to concerns government spending is out of control.
“Honestly, I would just can this whole bill,” Tesla’s CEO said late Dec. 6, during a remote appearance at a Wall Street Journal conference. “Don’t pass it. That’s my recommendation.”
Musk’s stance would seem to be in conflict with Tesla’s stated mission: to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy. But the last several years, the company has been competing at a disadvantage to other automakers marketing electric vehicles in the U.S. Tesla reached a limit for the number of vehicles that qualified for a $7,500 federal tax credit in mid-2018, which led the incentive to gradually shrink to zero as of January 2020.
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While Biden’s Build Back Better proposal would reinstate a $7,500 credit for Tesla and do away with any limit on the number of EVs that are eligible per manufacturer, it also would give consumers another $4,500 if the car is assembled by union workers. That would preserve a leg up for other automakers, since Musk has opposed the United Auto Workers’ effort to organize Tesla’s car plant in Fremont, Calif.
Musk’s criticisms — he described the federal budget deficit as “insane” and unsustainable — follow months of public tension between the world’s richest man and the White House. In August, Biden welcomed General Motors Co., Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler owner Stellantis NV to the White House lawn to announce an executive order to electrify cars sold in the U.S. over the remainder of the decade. Tesla wasn’t invited.
Last month, Biden visited a plant GM has retooled to make EVs and said the company and Detroit were playing leading roles in advancing electric cars. Tesla is the world’s largest maker and seller of EVs.
Speaking remotely from the factory Tesla has been building in Austin, Texas, Musk did acknowledge the U.S. could have better airports and highways and better address traffic congestion in cities. He called for building some combination of double-decker freeways and tunnels — the latter suggestion would align with the mission of The Boring Co., the company he founded in 2016.
But those pointers are too late for the infrastructure package Biden signed into law last month, which included $7.5 billion to expand the nation’s network of electric vehicle charging stations. Musk called that specific measure “unnecessary” and said he’s in favor of dropping all federal subsidies, including for the oil and gas industry.
“The role of government should be that of like a referee, but not a player on the field,” Musk said. It should “get out of the way and not impede progress.”
Tesla benefited from a $465 million federal government loan in 2010, which the company paid back three years later.
Musk said Tesla’s forthcoming Cybertruck, which should reach volume production in 2023, could be the company’s “best product ever,” but warned it has a lot of new technology and is difficult to make.
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