Despite the fact that he was standing in front of a major success story — a Michigan battery plant that will supply GM and Ford, put 300 people to work and leverage $150 million in private funding that probably would have gone overseas — President Obama sounded a bit defensive Thursday.
Well, maybe he has reason to be prickly, considering the assault his stimulus spending has been under. "There are some folks who want to go back — who think that we should return to the policies that helped to lead to this recession," he said. "Some of them made the political calculation that it's better to obstruct than to lead. They said no to tax cuts, they said no to small business loans."
Wait a minute: No Republican ever said no to tax cuts. That must be a typo. These seemingly deranged "folks" also apparently didn't want to see the Holland, Mich., plant get built, or have the phrase "Made in U.S.A." stamped on battery packs headed for the Chevrolet Volt and Ford Focus EV.
The fact is, the Obama administration is on an offensive to prove that the stimulus is working, and the electric vehicle industry is one of the best test cases. Earlier this week, I stood with HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan at the opening of the first ChargePoint America EV station in Manhattan (funded by Obama's Department of Energy) and heard him boast of 3 million jobs saved or created as a result of the Recovery Act.
The DOE wrote a report on electric vehicle accomplishments, and the White House sent over a bullet-pointed list just in case we missed the point:
The $2.4 billion seed money provided through the Recovery Act was matched dollar for dollar by private funding.
Before the Recovery Act, a battery pack with 100-mile range would cost $33,000. By 2020-2030, it should be down to $3,333.
There were less than 500 EV charging stations before the Act, but there will be more than 20,000 by 2012 because of the spending.
Nine of the nine plants funded to launch through the Recovery Act (including this one in Holland, MI) have broken ground, and four will be up and running by the end of 2010.
Obama again: "I just want to make sure that everybody understands that this country would not be better off if this plant hadn't gotten built and if the clean energy package that made it possible wasn't in place." He also wanted the naysayers "to explain to these workers why it would be better for these things to be manufactured in other countries, or why the solar plants and wind turbines and biodiesel refineries that are being built shouldn't have happened."
I love that image: There "they" are, trying vainly to tell people who finally got hired to produce clean tech for America that it would have been better if the jobs had gone overseas.
Frankly, sliming the stimulus doesn't seem like really good political strategy to me, but I'm not out there attending Tea Parties. The electric vehicle revolution is supposed to be bipartisan — the cars are green, and that's a color we can all agree on, right?