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OPINION

Big Auto Turns Its Back on AM(erica)

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
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Keith Srakocic

With Congress and the Biden administration greenlighting multi-billion-dollar wealth transfers from the pockets of hard-working Americans to the bank accounts of big electric vehicle manufacturers in the form of subsidies and tax credits, folks on Main Street have fully expected the quality of their vehicles to increase. Instead, it seems some of these auto manufacturers are pocketing billions while ignoring significant public safety concerns. 

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Last month, The Wall Street Journal reported that seven former administrators of FEMA, spanning administrations from Clinton through Trump, want policymakers to do something — anything — to stop these auto conglomerates from removing AM radios from their car dashes. Nathan Simington, one of the Federal Communication Commission’s Republican commissioners, “underscor[ed] and affirm[ed] their concerns in the strongest possible terms” because “the public safety community and the American public rely on AM radio.” 

It's easy to understand why FEMA and the FCC are so up in arms over the EV makers’ corporate carelessness. The FCC regulates broadcast FM and AM stations and is charged with ensuring these stations serve the public interest (including public safety). FEMA is responsible for overseeing the National Public Warning System and is charged by law with ensuring the government can communicate with the citizenry under even the worst weather conditions. AM radio is the backbone of the nation’s public warning system, and it is where listeners instinctively tune in when there is a danger to public safety.

The EV makers in question, which include major players like Ford, BMW, and Tesla, say they are ditching AM because their electric motors interfere with the AM signal. However, other automakers, such as GM and Toyota, have implemented workarounds and solved the interference issues

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There are billions of reasons why these holdout companies should fix the problem their motors caused. The recently-passed Inflation Reduction Act allocated $5 billion in grants and loans for electric vehicle manufacturing, not to mention dozens of other financial incentives to stimulate EV production and ownership. And the IRA is just the tip of the iceberg. The Bipartisan Infrastructure package included massive credits for charging station build-outs. In recent years, local, state, and federal governments have handed more than $13.8 billion in incentives to EV and EV-related companies.

Ironically, states situated in tornado alleys or in hurricane pathways — the areas that rely on AM radio to warn and inform their residents the most — are some of the largest subsidizers of these companies. These EV makers are swimming in government subsidies from some of the most AM-dependent states in the nation, yet many of these companies aren’t even investing a minuscule portion of these funds to keep the public safe.

Let’s not pretend that most of these automakers don’t know what’s at stake here. After all, Ford, Tesla, and their cousin companies are neck deep in space exploration and superconductivity research and development. If their competitors have found simple workarounds to the interference created by electric engines, maybe the simple answer is that the holdouts find protecting public safety not worth the cost. Maybe they don’t consider ensuring Americans have access to critical information a business priority despite the warnings they’ve received from the nation’s leading public safety experts and the billions of generous subsidies they’ve pocketed from America’s taxpayers. Let’s pray they don’t categorize the seat belt or airbag as their next unneeded inconvenience.

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The old saying, “he who pays the piper, gets to play the tune,” seems to have been forgotten by the bureaucrats who are handing out billions of dollars to EV makers with seemingly few, if any, strings attached. If these EV makers want to continue to live off the largesse of taxpayers, the least the government can do is ensure they don’t put taxpayers’ safety at risk in the process. It’s what America’s national security needs and demands.

Chuck Muth is the president of Citizen Outreach

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