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Electric car industry leaders told to focus on policy

Oregon’s electric vehicle industry should bid farewell to the days of incentives — at least for now — and look to policymaking and discretionary spending to shape government support for the electric vehicle industry.

That was the gist of a talk lobbyist Daniel Bates gave this week in Portland to the electric vehicle industry group Drive Oregon.

Bates, the former director of government relations for the city of Portland, has been handling government relations for a number of electric vehicle companies since 2010 as a partner in the Oregon office of Thorn Run Partners.

Pointing out changes in Washington, D.C., and Salem following the last election, and drawing some not-so-obvious conclusions, Bates offered Drive Oregon members suggestions for keeping EV policy on track — even as financing for incentive programs wanes.

Bates outlined the current situation as a backdrop:

In Washington: the re-election of a pro-EV president; a Senate controlled by Democrats; a Republican-controlled House of Representatives.
In Salem: a state legislature with a lot of freshman, shifting leadership and new power for Democrats in the House.

What’s it all mean?

Bates cautioned against getting too concerned about who’s in power in the House and Senate and how that may or may not mesh with White House priorities. But with a nod to former House Speaker Tip O’Neill, he added, “Politics are local.”

Bates noted many supporters of the EV industry remain in place in Washington, including Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley, a democrat, and Sen. Lamar Alexander, the Republican from Tennessee, who together advanced a bill aimed at deployment in communities that authorizes investment in the EV space. The bill’s other four sponsors are also coming back. Whether legislators support EVs as an economic development cause, for national or energy security, or because of climate concerns, they all want programs that perform well in communities.


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