Speaking at the Automotive News World Congress in Detroit, Ron Gettelfinger, the president of the United Auto Workers (UAW), called for the government to provide economic incentives for the production of flexible-fuel, hybrid, clean diesel, and other advanced-technology vehicles and parts in the United States.
The International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America (UAW) has about 640,000 active members in more than 800 local unions across a wide range of industries, not just automotive. Its representation of the workers employed at Ford, GM and the Chrysler has the highest profile, however, and is currently the most charged given the financial difficulties of two of those companies.
As some U.S. senators have pointed out, the United States dependence on oil means dependence on foreign oil, because U.S. oil reserves are less than one percent of the world’s oil reserves. We need to reduce our consumption of oil and that obviously poses a tremendous challenge for the auto industry.
It also presents a tremendous opportunity to develop bold new national policies that promote greater energy independence, improve our environment and create tens of thousands of good jobs in the auto industry.
This will make it possible for all automakers and automotive parts suppliers to move forward aggressively with investment in the domestic production of alternative fuel and advanced technology vehicles.—Ron Gettelfinger
Although the UAW does not agree with all of the provisions in various legislation such as the “Vehicle and Fuel Choices for American Security Act” (earlier post) and various proposals to spur the development of flex-fuel and plug-in vehicles (earlier post), the union agrees with the central proposition.
We are not advocating a “bail out for Detroit’s Big Three.” We firmly believe that any incentives must be designed to establish a truly level playing field among all the automakers and automotive parts suppliers. We believe that, in the near term, the most important thing the federal government can do to reduce our nation’s dependence on foreign oil would be to aggressively promote the production, sale and use of alternative fuel vehicles.
Gettelfinger proposed the following as possible approaches:
Mandating that a certain percentage of all vehicles sold in the U.S. be flex-fuel capable by a specified date. “Indeed, there’s no reason why automakers can’t make 100 percent of their vehicles flex-fuel capable within a reasonable timeframe.”
Providing incentives to encourage the creation of more processing plants to increase the supply of alternative fuels.
Increasing and extending the tax credit that was included in the 2005 Energy Bill to encourage the conversion of existing filling stations so they have the capability to distribute alternative fuels.
Although the UAW supports incentives for cars such as hybrids, it believes that the current consumer tax credit has the effect of subsidizing overseas production at the expense of jobs in the US.
A study by the University of Michigan indicates automotive job loss will intensify by tens of thousands of U.S. jobs as gas-electric hybrids and clean diesels gain a larger share of the U.S. market because all the key components for these advanced technology vehicles are currently manufactured overseas.
The UAW believes the federal government should provide incentives to encourage the production of these advanced vehicles and their key components.
Gettelfinger proposed that assistance provided to the auto companies—whether through the existing corporate tax rate reduction or the alternative of health care relief—be expressly tied to the company’s investment in the domestic production of flex-fuel and advanced technology vehicles and their key components.