This commentary was written by opinion columnist Adam Van Brimmer.
Herschel Walker’s campaign bus travels many miles across Georgia while tripping for the US Senate, and his travels must frequently take him through Bryan County on Interstate 16.
Surely he must have noticed the more than 5,000 acres of cleared land behind the truck weigh station near exit 143. The expanse is hard to miss, as are the clouds of dust drifting across the highway from the construction machinery working hard to prepare the site.
The site is the future home of Hyundai Metaplant America, an automotive assembly and battery factory that will create over 8,000 new jobs. Hyundai suppliers will hire thousands more – three parts manufacturers have already announced projects that promise a total of 2,400 jobs.
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All of this job creation is about a specific product: electric vehicles or electric vehicles. The Hyundai Metaplant will build all electric vehicles, as will another plant planned for Georgia along Interstate 20, that for Rivian. The Rivian plant estimates that it will hire 7,500 people.
A factory is currently open off Interstate 85 north of Athens, making batteries for Ford’s all-electric F-150 Lightning, and will employ 2,600 Georgians by the end of 2023.
It is no exaggeration to say that electric vehicles are a new cornerstone of the manufacturing economy in Georgia. Clever journalists have dubbed the state the “Battery Belt.”
But one high-profile Georgian is opposed to electric vehicles: would-be Senator Walker.
Walker: “I like my hot rod”
Walker is against electric cars. “I don’t want an electric car, I like my hot rod,” Walker told hundreds at a rally in early November in Richmond Hill — a few dozen miles from Hyundai’s compound.
He doubled down on his second place finish in the Nov. 8 election, telling a crowd in Peachtree City: “What we have to do is keep having these gas-guzzling cars. We have the good emissions among those cars.” He also repeated the mantra at a stopover in Augusta.
Walker dissed EVs as part of a broader attack on what he calls “Green New Deal” policies being championed by Democratic President Joe Biden and Congressional Democrats like his runoff opponent, Senator Raphael Warnock.
But for all but the GOP zealots, the approach has less juice than an EV that needs a charge. Georgia leaders, who are overwhelmingly Republican, are behind the push to attract electric vehicle manufacturers and related companies to the state.
Several factories that produce gas-powered cars have closed in Georgia in the last few decades. Several automakers – Volvo, Volkswagen, Mercedes-Benz – have bypassed Georgia as a base for building conventional cars, trucks and vans.
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Walker would be a transactional politician
Electric vehicles are a boon to Georgia’s economy, and Walker’s rhetoric is stupid. Will he advocate for Georgians to travel by train instead of air, unaware of the economic impact of big employers like Delta, Gulfstream and Lockheed? Or wage war on chicken, pecans and sweet onions?
Walker’s campaign is what the teens call “Cringey,” which has to do with his exploration of mental illness, transgender people and child-rearing, as well as his sickening misappropriation of Christianity by claiming to be a modern-day archangel.
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But his ignorance of EVs shows how transactional Walker the politician would be: if he says or does something, he doesn’t care who it hurts, even if the injured parties are those he was elected to represent.
Walker says he’s “not that smart” and is most likely against electric vehicles because his campaign managers told him so. However, once the election ends, these advisors move on. If Walker is Georgia’s next senator, it’s painful to think about what political positions he himself will take.
Contact Van Brimmer at [email protected]