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Ag Policy Blog: Senate Ag Chair Stabenow Under Fire for Comments on Gas Prices and Her EV

Chris Clayton
By  Chris Clayton , DTN Ag Policy Editor
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Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., speaking to reporters at an agricultural media event. Stabenow, chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, is coming under fire about her comments on her electric vehicle and passing by gas stations driving that EV from Michigan to Washington, D.C. (DTN file photo)

Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, came under an avalanche of criticism Tuesday from Republicans, conservative media and people as well as bots on social media for touting her electric vehicle, noting "it didn't matter how high" gas prices are at a Senate Finance Committee hearing.

The hearing with Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen was meant to focus on President Joe Biden's budget request for Treasury but much of the focus was directed toward Yellen's comments on inflation. Yellen said the country was going to continue to see high inflation, noting it is a global issue. Yellen also noted in the hearing that because oil markets are global, "it's virtually impossible for us to insulate ourselves from shocks like the ones that are occurring in Russia that move global oil prices."

As DTN energy reporters noted Wednesday, West Texas Intermediate futures have topped $121 a barrel while Goldman Sachs forecast Tuesday that oil prices will hit $140 a barrel this summer. U.S. average retail gasoline prices jumped another 5 cents on Tuesday to a fresh record $4.92 gallon, according to AAA. That's up by 30 cents during the past week and 62 cents in the past month.

With all of that as a backdrop, Stabenow talked at Tuesday's hearing about her experience driving an electric car from Michigan to Washington, D.C.

"I do have to say, just on the issue of gas prices, after waiting for a long time to have enough chips in this country to finally get my electric vehicle, I got it and drove it from Michigan to here this last weekend and went by every single gas station, and it didn't matter how high it was," the Michigan Democrat said.

Stabenow added, "I'm looking forward to the opportunity for us to move to vehicles that aren't going to be dependent on the whims of the oil companies and the international markets."

And boom. Conservative media pounced, noting the senator is "out of touch," "brags about driving her pricey electric vehicle," "blasted for dismissing surging gas prices," "Let them buy Teslas," and so on it went. Social media was, well, far less gracious in the comments on Twitter.

As the center of the auto industry in the country, Michigan is seeing tens of billions of dollars of investment in electric vehicle production right now. But with gas prices spiking, maybe touting a new electric vehicle is like walking into a lion's den.

In tweeting their criticisms of Stabenow, conservatives noted the average EV vehicle price is $60,000. However, reported Stabenow bought a Chevrolet Bolt EUV, a model that starts at $28,195 and is considered the cheapest electric car in the U.S.

There was no reporting on how many charge stops it took Stabenow to drive the Bolt from Michigan to Washington, D.C., or how long the senator had to wait each time that EV needed a charge.

A spokeswoman for Stabenow responded to GOP criticism of the senator's ownership of an electric vehicle and how it allowed her to avoid worrying about the price of gas on a drive from Michigan to Washington.

While conservatives accused Stabenow of driving an expensive Tesla, Robyn Bryan, Stabenow's spokesperson in her personal Senate office, told DTN Political Correspondent Jerry Hagstrom in an email, "The senator drives a Chevy Bolt EUV assembled in Lake Orion, Michigan."

Bryan said, "Every day, Sen. Stabenow stands up for our hardworking Michigan autoworkers -- the best in the world. She will never apologize for driving a Michigan-made vehicle built by the talented workers at GM's plant in Lake Orion. Instead of helping the oil companies line their pockets with Michigan drivers' hard-earned money, these critics should join the senator's fight to end price gouging at the pump. These critics also owe the autoworkers in Lake Orion, and all across Michigan, an apology for disrespecting the products they work hard to make every single day."

Stabenow's full comments on YouTube:…

DTN Political Correspondent Jerry Hagstrom contributed to this report.

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Chris Clayton