The emails show that Biden’s administration contacted Tesla on his first day in office, kicking off a consultation between federal officials and companies involved in the electric vehicle industry. In the following months, the two sides held a series of meetings on renewable fuel policy reform.
Early and extensive engagement by the Biden administration shows that expanding the scope of the U.S. Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) as a tool for electrifying U.S. vehicles is one of Biden’s priorities for addressing climate change. The Renewable Fuel Standard, dating back to 2005, is a federal program that requires a minimum amount of renewable fuel in transportation fuel sold in the United States. So far, it has mostly subsidized corn-based ethanol.
At the same time, the White House’s proactive contact with Tesla also showed that despite the public feud between Biden and Tesla founder Elon Musk, the Biden team tried early to get Tesla involved in one of its key policy promotion. Biden has set a goal of making half of all new cars sold by 2030 zero-emission vehicles.
The documents show that in January 2021, on the morning that Biden was sworn in as U.S. president, EPA staffer Dallas Burkholder gave Tesla’s top lobbyist Rohan Patel. Rohan Patel) sent an email asking for a meeting to discuss how electric vehicles could be included in the renewable fuel standard. They arranged a meeting a week later, records show.
Since then, the EPA has held more meetings on the topic with Tesla, Waste Management, a group representing biogas producers, Republic Services and charging station companies such as ChargePoint Holdings. The EPA also held at least one meeting with White House staff, including climate adviser Ali Zaidi, to discuss reforms, the emails show.
The Biden-led White House has been a staunch supporter of the electric vehicle industry, pinning its hopes of tackling climate change on getting more electric cars on the road. The bipartisan infrastructure bill passed last year included $7.5 billion for new electric vehicle charging stations, and Biden is also seeking to restore expired tax credits to help consumers buy new cars.
Early indications are that the government is leaning toward a rule that favors automakers such as Tesla, allowing them to maximize the use of so-called “electric renewable energy identification numbers,” or e-RINS. But industry sources say the reform could also extend subsidies to related industries, such as car charging companies and landfills that supply renewable biogas to power plants.
Tesla is seeking to revise the renewable fuel standard to allow it to earn renewable fuel credits based on the kilowatt-hours a car drives or a similar metric, people familiar with the matter said. Tesla has also looked into partnerships with biogas producers in order to give them a presence in any market the new regulations create.
Even so, Musk has frequently sparred with the White House, and he has been harshly critical of Biden on Twitter. In February, Biden publicly acknowledged Tesla’s role in electric-vehicle manufacturing after Musk repeatedly complained about being ignored.
The EPA said it was consulting “all interested stakeholders” in its policy review process on renewable fuel standards. Tesla and the White House have yet to comment. (Author/Xiao Yu)