What Democrats’ climate change plans mean to Michigan automakers, workers

The Democratic candidates for president are proposing a series of proverbial carrots and sticks to ensure all new light vehicles sold in the United States emit no carbon as soon as 2030. (Shutterstock)

Climate change plans of Democrats in Michigan’s March 10 presidential primary would have major implications for Detroit automakers, suppliers and workers throughout Michigan.

The candidates are proposing a series of proverbial carrots and sticks to ensure all new light vehicles sold in the United States emit no carbon as soon as 2030.

That would be a major disruption for the domestic auto industry, which is moving toward electric vehicles but is far off that pace and would likely require major federal spending to incentive purchases, retool manufacturing facilities and build public charging stations across the country. 


The proposals come as Republican President Donald Trump, who is up for re-election, looks to roll back fuel economy standards established by his Democratic predecessor, Barack Obama. Trump says strict standards would keep vehicle prices low for consumers and expects newly brokered international trade deals to benefit manufacturers in states like Michigan. 

Here’s a look at the Democratic candidate plans: 

Bernie Sanders

Bernie Sanders

The Vermont senator proposes the most aggressive disruption to the U.S. auto industry — and specifying the most expensive price to ensure all new vehicles sold by 2030 are electric or otherwise produce zero-emissions. He wants to spend $100 billion on research and development to reduce the cost of electric vehicles and ensure they can be sold for $18,000 or less. Sanders also proposes $2.09 trillion in grants for low- and moderate-income families and small businesses to trade in fossil-fuel vehicles for electric versions, and a separate $681 billion trade-in program to get older cars off the road. The avowed democratic socialist wants to spend $85.6 billion to build a nationwide system of electric vehicle charging stations. It’s all part of a Green New Deal plan he’s suggested would “pay for itself” by creating jobs and a clean energy economy. Read Sanders’ climate and cars plan

Joe Biden

Joe Biden

The former vice president from Delaware wants a net-zero emissions economy by 2050 and is proposing to work with governors and mayors to deploy more than 500,000 public charging stations for electric vehicles by 2030. Biden promises to “restore the full” $7,500 federal tax incentive for consumers and says he’ll develop new fuel economy standards that go “beyond” regulations put in place by former President Barack Obama that President Donald Trump is working to scale back. Read Biden’s plan for climate and cars


Tulsi Gabbard

The Hawaiian member of Congress has not released a presidential campaign plan for the auto industry or electric vehicles, but she introduced aspirational legislation in 2017 that proposes requiring all new vehicle sales to be emissions-free by 2035. That legislation also proposed a “car allowance rebate” program for consumers who want to trade in an older vehicle for a zero-emissions model. Gabbard has also suggested further consumer incentives to purchase electric vehicles, including single-driver use of carpool lanes and reduced vehicle registration fees. Read Gabbard’s “Off Fossil Fuel” legislation

Editor's note: This article was updated March 5 to remove positions of candidates who have dropped out of the campaign since publication. Several candidates who have quit the race also will appear on Michigan's primary ballot.

Facts matter. Trust matters. Journalism matters.

If you learned something from the story you're reading please consider supporting our work. Your donation allows us to keep our Michigan-focused reporting and analysis free and accessible to all. All donations are voluntary, but for as little as $1 you can become a member of Bridge Club and support freedom of the press in Michigan during a crucial election year.

Pay with VISA Pay with MasterCard Pay with American Express Donate now

Comment Form

Add new comment

Dear Reader: We value your thoughts and criticism on the articles, but insist on civility. Criticizing comments or ideas is welcome, but Bridge won’t tolerate comments that are false or defamatory or that demean, personally attack, spread hate or harmful stereotypes. Violating these standards could result in a ban.

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.


Ann Swisher
Fri, 02/21/2020 - 9:25pm

Global warming, Mother Earth, doesn't care about us. It will happen, our weather patterns will turn upside down, so we better adapt. Electric cars are our only option.