Biden brings green car funding to Motor City

DETROIT — With an official unemployment rate of 17%, what better place than the Motor City for Vice President Joe Biden to announce grants of over $2.4 billion to auto companies and suppliers to research and develop the next generation of automotive batteries for the electric car.

Making that announcement here today, Biden said over half of the grant money would be used in Michigan, eventually creating 19,000 jobs for the state’s residents.

The vice president said this is more than a one-time project. It is aimed at laying the foundation for a new economy, he said, adding “The Motor City will still be known as a motor city but it may be an electric motor.”

Biden said the administration’s economic stimulus efforts had to help the “middle class,” and that means jobs. Even before the recent economic crisis started, he noted —referring to the previous Bush administration — working people were not doing well. “Now, we want the middle class to get a big chunk.” The grant money, he said, will create good paying jobs so desperately needed in this state.

Michigan Sen. Carl Levin, who joined Biden at the announcement, said the grants will assure that advanced batteries for the electric and hybrid cars of the future are made in the United States, and that the U.S. will begin doing what other countries have already started — providing support to their battery industries.

On hand to greet Biden as his motorcade drove down Woodward Avenue were a number of area activists and leaders.

Cutting emissions, which electric vehicles would do, also addresses another crisis that demands quick action — global warming and climate change — and this was a concern of many who turned out to see the vice president.

Jim Williams, a member of the Sierra Club since 1983, said clean energy is a step in the right direction and the U.S. has to take the lead. “We need to power up without polluting,” he said. “The earth can no longer keep up with our pollution.”

The need for health care reform brought Aletheia Henry, Michigan director of Organizing for America. “Health care reform is imperative,” she said. “President Obama wants something done before the end of the year and we all need to keep working at it.” She said OFA will keep working at it, going door to door, one conversation at a time.

Bruce Ewen, a teacher and steward for American Federation of Teachers Local 2000, said Americans need an alternative to the “terribly inefficient” private health care system. “Fifty percent of people who have gone bankrupt did so because of medical bills,” he pointed out. Those who worry about government involvement in heath care should look at the Veterans Administration, he said. “It’s the best example of socialized medicine.”

No one would want to give up their government-run Medicare either, others note.

jrummel @ pww.org