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Congress must strengthen US economy by fixing semiconductor supply chain

Detroit News: Congress must strengthen US economy by fixing semiconductor supply chain

A nano-sized set of electric circuits is wreaking havoc on the auto industry and autoworkers — especially right here in Michigan. And it’s because these vital semiconductor chips — the chips that ensure safety, electrification, connectivity and so much more in cars — are nowhere to be found.

Just last week, Ford’s Flat Rock Assembly Plant was one of the many plants that halted production lines because workers are short of necessary supplies and can’t assemble vehicles without a key piece of the automotive puzzle: semiconductor chips.

This is just the latest example of how the semiconductor chip shortage is hurting the auto industry, union workers and our nation’s competitiveness by the hour. Within the last several months, many more auto plants across the United States have shut down for lack of parts. Workers are struggling to make ends meet, some are being laid off, car prices are skyrocketing and consumers are feeling the impact.

The auto manufacturing industry employs over 900,000 workers nationwide. And one job in an auto assembly plant creates about seven more jobs in the economy. We cannot afford to lose this workforce. And if we don’t solve this, we’re well on our way to threatening vehicle production by millions of vehicles.

Let’s rewind to the root of this situation. Semiconductor chips are the basic unit of electronics, and advancements in chip technology have allowed us to produce faster, smarter and more reliable devices.

We’re moving toward more renewable energy, electric vehicles, artificial intelligence and other advanced technologies, which will require more chips. As a result, global consumption of chips has increased dramatically, and manufacturers are struggling to keep up with the market’s escalating need for more chips. We also have a pandemic slowing production and increasing unpredictability.

So, why don’t we just make more chips and solve this shortage? The problem lies with the lengthy process required to produce a single chip and build the specialized plants to manufacture them.

One speck of dust can render a chip useless, so we need investments across the entire manufacturing process to ensure our time, money and resources are not being wasted. The reality is, we need to make more chips and we need to make them in America.

So, we need Congress to act immediately by voting to provide this critical funding.

Back in November, I invited Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo to Michigan. We sat in a UAW hall in Taylor with everyone at the table – the Governor, Members of Congress, suppliers, the auto industry, workers, colleges – to figure out how we can attack this issue together because it’s all connected.

We can’t make cars or other electronics without chips. We can’t boost our economy or support consumers without chips. We can’t support our workforce or offer manufacturing apprenticeships without chips.

It’s time for the United States and U.S. companies to take the lead. This begins by all of us working together — no drama, no fighting. Just good collaboration so we can protect American workers, strengthen domestic manufacturing and boost the economy.

This is all directly impacting the climate crisis, too. If we can’t manufacture the clean vehicles of the future, we’ll continue slipping further and further behind in combating climate change.

Supporting funding for chips will help us advance electric vehicles, build the infrastructure to support them, and decarbonize the economy. That’s why I introduced a bill last year to secure $2 billion for domestic semiconductor chip manufacturing, which Sens. Gary Peters and Debbie Stabenow helped pass in the Senate.

Designing and building the next evolution of vehicles is an opportunity to ensure the United States remains at the center of the global automotive industry, so I introduced the U.S.A. Electrify Forward Act to encourage domestic production of charging infrastructure and electric vehicles.

But this can only be done when we have a reliable supply of the basic units of automation: chips. We have a responsibility to our workers and to our future generations to keep jobs here in America and to protect our planet with a cleaner economy — and creating chips here at home is the key to solving this puzzle.

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