U.S. Treasury Secretary Yellen talks manufacturing, clean energy in Tennessee
U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen speaking in Spring Hill, Tenn. at the under-construction Ultium plant on Feb. 8, 2023. Ultium produces batteries for General Motors electric vehicles. (Photo: John Partipilo)
U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen touted President Joe Biden’s economic recovery plan in Spring Hill, Tenn. on Wednesday at a $2.6 billion manufacturing plant for electric vehicle batteries.
Yellen’s trip came a day after Biden’s State of the Union address, and on the home turf of U.S. Rep. Andy Ogles, who was among the GOP lawmakers who heckled the president during his speech.
Ogles yelled “it’s your fault” as Biden addressed the U.S. fentanyl crisis. Ogles was not present during Yellen’s visit to his district.
Speaking to a small crowd of construction workers at the Ultium, LLC plant, which is slated to be operational by the end of 2023, Yellen stressed plans by the Biden Administration to improve the nation’s infrastructure, transition to clean energy and increase the U.S.’s manufacturing capacity.
“We’ve seen the acute impacts of a chip shortage on the economy,” Yellen said, noting that the U.S. produces 12% of the world’s semiconductor technology, down from 37% three decades ago.
“In 2021, this shortage meant a loss of about $240 billion in U.S. gross domestic product. In Tennessee, companies like Nissan had to temporarily shutter production – and consumers faced skyrocketing prices for cars and other everyday goods,” she said.
Ultium, a partnership between General Motors and LV Energy Solutions, produces batteries exclusively for General Motors and those produced in Spring Hill will be used in vehicles produced at the adjacent GM plant. The company’s first manufacturing plant, in Warren, Ohio, began production in August and a third facility in Lansing, Mich., is under construction. Plans for a fourth joint manufacturing operation recently stalled.
The GM/Ultium project is one of two major investments in electric vehicle production in Tennessee. In 2021, Ford Motor announced the development of Blue Oval City in West Tennessee, to produce electric vehicles. A joint venture between Ford and Korean-based SK On will make batteries for Ford vehicles at Blue Oval City.
On Tuesday, Yellen met with French finance Minister Bruno le Maire and German Vice Chancellor and Minister for Economic Affairs and Climate Action Robert Habeck to discuss implementation of the Inflation Reduction Act and the European Union’s Green Deal Industrial Plan.
During her trip, Yellen also addressed interest rates, saying budget projections have long assumed that interest rates will move back to “more normal levels” and that deficit projections never assumed rates would move at the near-zero levels of recent years.
Columbia Mayor Chaz Molder was the only Tennessee elected official to attend.
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