News Story

John James cautions against China dependency, arbitrary deadlines in transition to EVs

EVs mean a slimmed down auto industry; James says government should not force transition

When incoming U.S. Rep. John James takes office in January, he will, he says, represent the top manufacturing district in all of America. While James hopes that Michigan can lead in the transition from internal combustion vehicles to electric vehicles, he cautions against doing so prematurely, on arbitrary deadlines, and in a way that makes the country dependent on China.

James has cited environmental and human rights reasons for his caution against a rush to EVs. In August, The Detroit News reported that James told a group of Macomb County voters that EVs are “terrible for the planet.”

As The News reported:

“I don't think folks are looking at how we go about mining these things,” James said.

James said he’d favor blocking the sale of metals for EVs from China, the Congo and other countries that commit human rights abuses, even if it crippled U.S. production of EVs.

“One thing we cannot have happen, under any circumstance, is condoning slavery,” said James, who is five generations removed from slavery in his own family. “I'm not good with that.”

Three months later, when posting to Twitter an interview he had with Fox Business Network, James wrote, “A successful transition from ICE to EVs is critical to Michigan’s & the U.S. economy,” adding “I will do everything to make sure the 10th CD not only has a voice but helps lead the discussion!”

Abby Mitch, a spokesperson for James, told Michigan Capitol Confidential that James is not against EVs, or pushing for them. James, Mitch said, worries about the pace of the transition, and the human rights and environmental concerns currently presented by EVs.

“Arbitrary deadlines cause us to be dependent on Chinese factories,” Mitch said. “We don't have any time to build our own infrastructure here, that causes us to be completely depending dependent on other countries for rare mineral mining, and it causes domestic job loss.”

CapCon has written previously that EVs come with serious moral and environmental trade-offs, just as internal combustion engines do.

It’s those trade-offs that James is trying to navigate. Michigan’s auto heritage does not guarantee the future, especially if EVs and internal combustion engines are viewed as different projects, as Ford views them.

James would prefer the market to decide which technology wins out, not Washington. Regardless of the means of powering the automobile, James hopes cars will continue to be built in Michigan.

“It's not the role of government to stop a private industry that wants to sell electric vehicles instead of combustion,” Mitch told CapCon. “It is not our job to tell them they can’t do that. However, it is also not the government’s job to force the hand of industry and force people out of jobs and create unwise dependencies on foreign actors that have not been kind.”

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.