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Biden Announces Target of 50 Percent Electric Vehicles By 2030; Biden Says No Reason U.S. Can Lead Electrical Vehicle Technology; Phoenix School District Defies State Law Banning Mask Mandates. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired August 5, 2021 - 15:30   ET



JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Tom. And I know that I, I kid my Michigan friends, but I just want you to know, say to Senators Heinrich and Markey and White House, Padilla and you know, Duckworth, I'm leaving some folks out I'm sure. Representative Kathy Castor. The Michigan delegation that's here today, Debbie Stabenow, Senator Gary Peters, Congresswoman Debbie Dingell -- who is automobiles -- and Dan Kildee.

But I want you all to know I remind the Michigan delegation of this. It used to be when I first got elected and I used to tell your husband this as well, we had a higher percentage of auto workers in Delaware than any state in the union including, including Michigan. Now the fact, we had a very small population and we had almost 100,000 auto workers in our states counting the Autolite and others was had something to do with it. But I just want to be very straightforward. You know the UAW bring me to the dance, as they say.

And I also I know we're missing someone truly special, and a dear friend of all of us, Senator Carl Levin who passed away last week. Carl and I served together for 30 years in the United States Senate together. He was one of the most -- I think all my colleagues will attest to this -- one of the most honorable people, most decent people I not only served with, but I've ever known. He was a tireless champion of the American worker and the iconic American automobile industry. And so, he embodied everything that his beloved Michigan and our country represents, respect, dignity, pride. Pride in the nation and pride in what we built.

And so today, labor and industry, state and local leaders are all working together to write the next chapter of the American story. As I said before, we're in competition with China and many other nations for the 21st century. To win we're going to have to make sure the future will be made in America.

You know back in May I toured the Ford plant, as I mentioned, a state- of-the-art facility in Dearborn. Where the UAW workers like Bernie are building the first ever all electric Ford 150. And I said the best part is I got to drive it. It's incredible just like the other vehicles that are behind me today. They're a vision of the future that is now beginning to happen, a future of the automobile industry that is electric, battery electric, plug-in hybrid electric, fuel cell electric. It's electric and there's no turning back.

The question is whether we'll lead or fall behind in the race for the future. It's whether we'll build these vehicles and the batteries that got them to where they are in the United States -- here in the United States. We're going to have to rely on other countries for those batteries.

Whether or not the job to build these vehicles and batteries are good paying union, jobs with benefits, jobs that are going to sustain the continued growth of the middle class. They have to be. They have to be made here in America.

Right now, China is leading the race. It's one of the largest and fastest-growing electric vehicle markets in the world. And a key part of an electric vehicle to state the obvious is the battery. And right now, 80 percent of the manufacturing capacity for these batteries is done in China. And here's the deal, it's not China's battery technology that's much more innovative than anyone else's.

Remember our national labs in America, our universities, our auto makers led in the development of this technology. We led in the development of this technology. And there's no reason why we can't reclaim that leadership and lead again. But we just have to move, and we have to move fast.

You know when Barack and I were in office, President Obama and I were in office, that's what we were doing. In 2009 the automobile industry was flat on its back. We were told we'd never be able to sell American made cars at the same rate as we did before. But we didn't listen to naysayers. We even had some in both parties who didn't think we should, quote, bail out the industry if you remember.

Well, we bet on the American worker, and we extended a lifeline. And they stepped up, made sacrifices to do it. And they saved more than a -- we saved more than a million jobs in the process.

Working with auto industry, we set fuel efficiency standards and provided incentives for folks to buy fuel efficient vehicles. Through the Recovery Act we made the largest investment in clean energy and battery technology ever made.


And then the previous administration came along into office, and they rolled back the standards we set. Despite bipartisan support for consumer incentives, they also let the federal tax credit expire, penalizing auto workers who were at the time selling the most electric vehicles in the world in the United States.

They announced infrastructure week. They did it for every week for four years and not once got anything done, not once.

Folks, the rest of the world is moving ahead. We've just got to step up, government, labor and industry working together which you're seeing here today. We have a play book and it's going to work. Today I'm announcing steps we're taking to set a new pace for electric vehicles.

First, I'm following through on the campaign commitment to reverse the previous administration's shortsighted roll back of vehicle emissions and efficiency standards. I'm doing so and with the support of the auto industry, the automobile industry.

Today the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Transportation are unveiling proposals to do just that. These agencies are beginning to work on the next round of standards for a broad class of vehicles, for cars, SUVs, pickup trucks, medium and heavy-duty vehicles.

Importantly, we have announcements today from auto makers representing nearly the entire auto industry market who have positioned around the ambition of 40-50 percent of all vehicles sold by 2030 in America being electric. This is a big deal.

But to unlock the full potential we have to keep investing in our workers and our manufacturing capacity. And that's what our Build Back Better plan is about. It's about leveraging once in a generation investment and a whole of government effort to lift up American auto workers and strengthen the American leadership in the world in a clean car technology -- trucks, not just cars, but trucks well and buses.

You know that's why today I'm signing an executive order setting out a target of 50 percent of all passenger vehicles sold by 2030 will be electric and set into motion an all-out effort. That's why along with the members of Congress here today we're working around the clock on the Build Back Better plan which does three critical things.

One, it transforms our infrastructure. We're going to put Americans to work modernizing our roads, our highways, our ports, our airports, rail and transit systems.

You know that included putting IBEW members and other union workers to work installing a national network of 500,000 charging stations on our roads and highways and at our homes and our apartments.

Two, we're going to boost our manufacturing capacity. The Build Back Better plan invests in new and retooled facilities and employing worker with good paying wages, good jobs.

The grants to kick start new battery and parts production, loans and tax credits to boost manufacturing of these clean vehicles.

And our Build Back Better plan makes the largest investment of research and development in generations. This will help innovate, manufacture and build the supply chains for batteries, semiconductors, those small computer chips in electric trucks and cars are going to be even more reliant upon as we move forward.

Never again should we be in a situation we face today with a semiconductor shortage. And we know these federal investments, we know that they work. It was the Defense Department and NASA that got the modern semiconductor industry on its feet decades ago. Our own Department of Energy pioneered and transformed the battery industry when Barack and I were in office.

And with the help of the Recovery Act, grants and loans, battery prices dropped 85 percent because we were forward looking. We need that same mindset today.

Thirdly, support of consumers and fleets. That means purchasing incentives for consumers to buy clean vehicles, union made right here in America, like the ones championed by Debbie Stabenow and Ron Wyden in the Senate, which provides $7,500 basic credit, $2,500 credit for vehicles made in America and an additional $2,500 credit for union made vehicles.

That means spurring demand by converting the Federal government's enormous fleet of vehicles. We have 600,000. A lot of vehicles, 60,000 of them I should say. Into an all American made clean vehicles.


So that's what we're going to do as we roll out and get rid of the existing fleet, we're going to support the electric transit system as well and the electric school buses.

Look, and there's one other thing we have in our play book, that will help us outcompete other nations, the American worker. The American worker. I really believe this, and I know you guys do too. The American workers is our ace in the deck.

Now I know many of you watching at home are like the folks I grew up with in Scranton and Claymont, Delaware. They feel left out, left behind in an economy and in an industry that's rapidly changing. I get it, I understand it. But we're going to leave no one behind.

Nearly 90 percent of the jobs created in our infrastructure plan do not require a bachelor's degree. And when we invest in our infrastructure, we're going to buy American products, American materials and services from American businesses made in America by American workers. And we're going to do everything in our power to encourage and protect the right of workers to unionize and collectively bargain.

The bottom line is, we are proposing a blue-collar blueprint to rebuild America. That's what it's going to be.

And we need auto makers and other companies to keep investing in America. We need them not to take the benefits of our public investments and expand electric vehicles and battery manufacturing production abroad. We need you to deepen your partnership with the UAW, continue to pay good wages, support local communities across the country.

That's why I'm so proud the UAW is standing here today as well. It's why I'm proud that the three largest employers are sitting here, and their sights are set not only on electric vehicles but on expansion, expanding union jobs, expanding the middle class. It matters.

You know in the spring I kept my commitment to convene leaders of all the major economies in world. It was not in person, but we did it on a Zoom call with a whole bunch of folks including the heads of state of China, India, Japan, the European Union for a meeting hosted in the White House on the most consequential issues facing the world.

And the agreement was the climate crisis. And I made clear, I made clear what I've long believed, and I think -- when I think of the climate crisis.

Beyond the devastation of the lives and the health of our very planet, when I hear climate I think jobs, good paying union jobs. I want the world to see there was a consensus that we're at an inflection point in world history.

If we act to save the planet, we can also come out of it better, we can create millions of good paying jobs that generate significant economic growth and opportunity, raise the standard of living for people not only here but around the world. But I also wanted to put the world on notice. America is back. America is back.

We're in the competition for the 21st century, the future that will be built right here in America.

Let me close with this. Our economy is recovering. In six months, we're seeing the fastest job growth on record at this point in any administration in history.

The fastest economic growth in nearly 40 years. And we've shown each other and the world that there's no quit in America, none, none, none. And it's never, ever, ever been a good bet to bet against America. We are the United States of America. There's not a single solitary thing, nothing beyond our capacity to get done if we -- when we do it together. We have to act. That's what we're doing today.

And again, I want to thank the CEOs of the automobile companies and I also want to thank all the auto workers. Thank you all for being here today. Now I'm going to sign executive order. But I'd like to invite my Congressional colleagues to come up if they're willing to stand behind me here when we do this, and others who know they're supposed to come on up.

Thank you all very much.


BIDEN: Now when I sign -- it's so bright, when I sign this executive order, usually I'm able to give a pen to all the folks who are part of it. I've got one pen.


You each are going to get a pen. I promise you. This is the executive order strengthening America's leadership in clean cars and trucks. And again, let me start off by thanking the CEOs as well as UAW. You all, all of you elected are the reason why it's happening. Thank you, thank you, thank you.


BIDEN: All right.


VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: All right, so you have listened to the president here. You just saw he signed the executive order. The White House says, that of course, as I said at the top, the goal is so ensure that 50 percent of vehicles sold in the U.S. by the end of the decade will be zero emissions.

They also say the goal is to save consumers money, cut pollution, boost health, advance environmental justice and tackle the climate crisis. So that from the White House.

Millions of students and teachers are heading back to school in states where mask mandates are banned. In Arizona a superintendent is rejecting the governor's ban and mandating masks. Now a teacher is suing him. We'll speak with that superintendent ahead.



BLACKWELL: All right. This just happened. Actually, it's live actually so I guess he's taken a second lap here. This is President Biden driving an electric Jeep Wrangler Rubicon. This is how he wrapped up the executive order signing that we talked about a little earlier. If you remember the president had an opportunity to drive an electric, I believe it was an F-150 a couple of months ago. He really enjoyed that, and he's also talked about the first electric Corvette. He wants to drive that as well so there we go.

Oh, he's taking another lap. OK, one more for the president. All right. Let's move on.

U.S. Education Secretary is pushing back against bans on mask mandates in schools.


MIGUEL CARDONA, EDUCATION SECRETARY: Don't be the reason why schools are interrupted. Our kids have suffered enough. Let's do what we know works. Let's do what we know works across the country. We shouldn't get -- politics doesn't have a role in this. Educators know what to do.


BLACKWELL: One of the states where school masks mandates are banned there, that's Arizona, and today we've learned that the second largest school district in the state has more than 100 active coronavirus cases in just the last two weeks since classes started. The Chandler Unified School District has reported 140 infections, but school officials could not tell us how many students and teachers are quarantining as a result of those positive cases. Another Arizona school district is challenging the governor's ban on

school mask mandates. Phoenix Union High School District is requiring students, staff and visitors to wear masks indoors, and a biology teacher is suing the district for imposing a mask mandate in defiance of state law.

The lawyer for that teacher says the, quote, no school district is above the law. My next guest is one of the district officials named in the lawsuit. Phoenix Union High School District Superintendent Chad Gestson.

Mr. Superintendent, I thank you for being with us. Listen, for the last couple of weeks I've spoken with superintendents in these states that say my hands are tied. There's nothing I can do. We can encourage masks, but we're seeing a change in the trend here. You're leading it by mandating masks despite the ban. Why?

CHAD GESTSON, PHOENIX UNION HIGH SCHOOL DISTRICT SUPERINTENDENT: We made a commitment from day one, minute one, that we would do all we can in our power and control to protect the health, safety and wellness of our staff, students and community.

We're aware of the spread. We're also aware of the mask mandate ban, but our commitment is to our local community, and we're going to hold true to that. We know that masks along with vaccines and other mitigation measures work, and so masks in Phoenix Union are required.

BLACKWELL: So, let me ask you about this lawsuit. This teacher at one of the school districts has sued you in your official capacity. The district, the board as well. Back in court next week. The teacher claims that you don't have the authority, that you don't have the legal authority to mandate masks. What's your reaction to that?

GESTSON: Well, our reaction has been clear, and we're aware of that active litigation. Can't comment specifically, but we have required masks. We're on day four in school. As the Superintendent of this district, I have the authority to require masks. We've made that decision very clearly.

It's been a great launch of school, a safe launch of school, and we have also said that when we come back, we want to stay back. We do not want massive amounts of quarantines, and this is an important step for us.

BLACKWELL: You obviously think that you have the authority in the lawsuit which I read. The spokesperson for the governor's office, Governor Ducey, say that your mandate has no teeth. Let's put up part of the statement.

It's not allowed under Arizona law. It's unenforceable.

So are there consequences for students, teachers who do not comply with this mandate?

[15:55:00] GESTSON: Well, we've said right away from day one that we would handle cases one by one, but what we've seen all across Phoenix Union is compliance with this because our community knows the spread. We serve 32 zip codes. All 32 zip codes have high or substantial spread.

We also deal with 32,000 souls, right. We're called to shepherd the lives of our people. They go home to siblings, parents, grandparents. We must do everything in our control to protect our people and our people support our decision.

BLACKWELL: So, I get that you say that people support the decision, but there's at least one teacher who doesn't support it here. And the enforceability of it is only codified by there being a consequence for not complying. So again, is there a consequence if teachers, students do not wear a mask? That way other than that, if it's not -- if there's no consequence then it's a strong suggestion.

GESTSON: No, it's a requirement. Anyone that would choose not to comply would be dealt with one-on-one just like breaking any other and not complying with any other policy in our system.

And we're aware. We've talked through legal consequences but here's what we also know that the consequences to human lives are even more important. And that we have said from day one that our people must be above all else, and so we'll continue to protect at all costs.

BLACKWELL: You know what I find interesting about this lawsuit is that it's not filed by a student or a parent on behalf of a student. It's by a teacher which I think is unique here. What has been the reaction from the students?

GESTSON: Well, our students all across our district, I've had a chance to speak with many of them. Many interviewed by our own staff, local media. Our students are so excited to be back. Many of whom have said, hey, I prefer not to wear a mask.

The truth is I prefer not to wear a mask but what we want is safe return to in-person learning, and our students are willing to do all that they can and have to, to come back. Clubs, sports, activities, we're high schools. Our kids want to be back, and they want to reconnect.

BLACKWELL: All right, Superintendent Chad Guesten, thank you for your time.

GESTSON: Thank you, sir.

BLACKWELL: All right. Breaking news. Amazon just announced that it will delay its employees return to the office until 2022. The company is not the first major company to do this. Earlier today U.S. Bank and Wells Fargo both postponed a return to the office for their workers.

CNN business lead writer Matt Egan is with me now. So how did these companies arrive at this decision?

MATT EGAN, CNN BUSINESS LEAD WRITER: Well, this is all about the Delta variant. You know, we had been expecting this grand reopening in offices across America come September, and that is now in serious doubt.

In just the last 24 hours, a series of major companies have announced that employees are no longer expected to come in.

The biggest name, longest delay is Amazon. The company was originally planning to welcome back corporate employees the day after Labor Day. That's now being pushed all the way back until January 2022.

Not just Amazon, Viacom, CBS, Wells Fargo, BlackRock, U.S. Bank, they have all delayed their reopening plans.

Now BlackRock pointed to the Delta variant and indoor mask-wearing guidelines as reasons for that delay. Let me read a keyline from the BlackRock memo to employees.

They said, we know that this raise concerns about returning to the office. Even for those who are vaccinated and particularly for those of you with dependents at home who are currently ineligible for the vaccine.

And earlier this hour CNN also announced that it is delaying its official return until October. These delays, they do make a lot of sense because a lot of people are concerned right now about going into crowded offices or hopping on crowded subways.


EGAN: It also shows how worried business leaders are right now about the direction of the pandemic, and let's not forgot that this is going to deal a blow to all the local restaurants and bars, dry cleaners that had really been banking on the return of office workers this fall.

BLACKWELL: Yes, I just saw that CNN email in my box. I hadn't finished reading it. What are these companies though trying to do to get things to go in the right direction?

EGAN: So, a lot of them are starting to mandate vaccines. They have Google, Facebook, Disney, Walmart, Tyson Foods, they are all requiring that at least part of their workforce get vaccinated, and experts that I've been talking to are saying this is likely to be the norm.

More and more companies are probably going to be mandating vaccines because they want their employees to feel more comfortable in the office. Also because they are worried that the longer there are a large number of people who are not vaccinated, the more likely that there's going to be variants out there that actually evade vaccines.


EGAN: Other companies though they're taking a different approach. They are trying to incentivize employees to get vaccinated. Kroger is offering employees a one-time payment of $100. McDonald's says that people who get vaccinated, they can get up to four hours of paid time off. And then there's Vanguard, the asset management company just this week told employees that if they show proof of vaccination, they can get $1,000 as long as they show that proof by October 1, a $1,000. Leave it to Wall Street to figure out a way to really get the attention of the unvaccinated.