AP FACT CHECK: Biden’s fuzzy math on 1 million new auto jobs

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This photo provided by General Motors shows EP1 electric pallet. General Motors is forming a new business unit to tap the market for delivery vehicles… This photo provided by General Motors shows EP1 electric pallet. General Motors is forming a new business unit to tap the market for delivery vehicles and equipment powered by electricity. The new venture is called BrightDrop, and its first product will be a battery-powered wheeled pallet that will take goods from the warehouse to trucks and from trucks to destinations. (General Motors via AP)

FILE-This Thursday, June 25, 2020 file photo shows the electric Endurance pick-up truck at Lordstown Motors Corporation, in Lordstown, Ohio. Lordstown… FILE-This Thursday, June 25, 2020 file photo shows the electric Endurance pick-up truck at Lordstown Motors Corporation, in Lordstown, Ohio. Lordstown Motors Corp. said it already has begun metal stamping and welding for the Endurance All-Electric Pickup Truck prototypes, which will be used for testing. Full production of the Endurance pickups is slated to begin in September 2021 at the former General Motors assembly plant near Youngstown, which Lordstown Motors bought in 2019. The company took over the plant after GM ended its more than 50 years of car manufacturing at the plant. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak, File)

President Joe Biden delivers remarks on climate change and green jobs, in the State Dining Room of the White House, Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2021, in Washi… President Joe Biden delivers remarks on climate change and green jobs, in the State Dining Room of the White House, Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

DETROIT (AP) — Casting his climate policy as a jobs plan, President Joe Biden left out important context and used fuzzy math when he announced sweeping new green initiatives that he says will boost the U.S. economy with the creation of 1 million new auto jobs.

That’s actually far from certain, if not unlikely.

A look at Biden’s statements at his signing of executive orders Wednesday that will replace the U.S. government’s fleet of roughly 650,000 vehicles with electric models and encourage a broader national shift to electric cars:

BIDEN: “Today is ‘Climate Day’ at the White House, which means that today is ‘Jobs Day’ at the White House. … We see these workers building new buildings, installing 500,000 new electric vehicle charging stations across the country as we modernize our highway systems to adapt to the changes that have already taken place. … We’re going to harness the purchasing power of the federal government to buy clean, zero-emission vehicles that are made and sourced by union workers right here in America. … This will mean 1 million new jobs in the American automobile industry. One million.”

THE FACTS: There’s plenty of skepticism about this claim. At least some of those new auto-related jobs would come at the expense of current ones. Auto industry analysts don’t see how a net gain of 1 million jobs in that sector can come from Biden’s plan.

One million new jobs in the auto industry is a highly ambitious goal that would mean more than doubling the number of workers now employed in motor vehicle and parts manufacturing.

Many analysts and the United Auto Workers union, in fact, have warned that electric vehicle manufacturing probably will mean fewer net auto-making jobs.

If more Americans drive electric vehicles, then it stands that fewer will drive gas-powered ones. And because electric vehicles generally have 30% to 40% fewer parts and are simpler to build, fewer workers will be needed to assemble them. That will require a reshuffling of jobs, as workers who once made engines, transmissions and other components for gas-powered cars have to switch to electric motors and batteries.

“Because they are simpler, you’re probably going to have far fewer people working in vehicle manufacturing than you have today,” said Sam Abuelsamid, principal analyst for Guidehouse Insights. He noted that it’s far easier to automate manufacturing of battery cells and packs, which could reduce job levels even more.

More than 100,000 workers are engaged in building gas-powered engines alone.

Abuelsamid added that creating a million new auto jobs will be difficult in future years because U.S. new vehicle sales are projected to be flat at around pre-pandemic levels for the next decade. “If nothing changed, you’re not going to have a whole lot more employment,” he said.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment when asked for a breakdown of the 1 million new auto jobs that shows an accounting for lost jobs.

Nor would a shift of jobs from one sector to another necessarily mean that workers losing their jobs could easily make the jump to green jobs in the new economy. Part of Biden’s campaign promise has been to promote economic equity, such as bringing fuller opportunity for people without college degrees. In the short run, though, those workers may be hurt the most by initial job layoffs.

Kristin Dziczek, a vice president at the Center for Automotive Research, an industry think tank, said Biden’s goal isn’t well defined and will be “a heavy lift.” For example, the administration hasn’t said in what time frame the 1 million jobs would be added.

The move toward electric vehicles already is happening, even though fully electric vehicles accounted for less than 2% of U.S. new vehicle sales last year. On Thursday, General Motors announced a goal of making most of its vehicles electric by 2035, the same year California plans to ban sales of new gas-powered vehicles.

Currently, automakers pay workers who assemble batteries less than they pay those who manufacture vehicles. Also, much of the battery work is done by other companies that pay less than what members of the United Auto Workers union make at vehicle assembly plants.

Biden’s campaign has said the additional jobs also would include those building and installing the half-million new charging stations, and construction workers who would retool factories to build electric vehicles. Many electric vehicle components are now made in other countries, and part of Biden’s plan is to build a U.S. supply chain to create additional factory jobs, the campaign has said.

“Anybody who tells you it’s all positive for jobs — you can’t say one way or the other at this point,” Dziczek said.

Rugaber and Yen reported from Washington. AP Economics Writer Josh Boak contributed to this report.

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Fact-Checking Biden’s First Week in Office

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President Biden, in his first week in office, typically stuck to vetted scripts and verified facts — a departure from his predecessor’s freewheeling and fact-free rhetorical style.

Over all, Mr. Biden used the presidential podium to promote his policy priorities. His remarks were aspirational and light on empirical assertions. Of 20 factual claims The New York Times analyzed from Jan. 20 to Jan. 26, all but three were largely if not completely accurate. One claim was an overly optimistic projection, another falsely criticized former President Donald J. Trump and a third Mr. Biden corrected almost immediately.

Here’s a review.

The president got basic facts right on the toll and racial disparities of the pandemic.

Mr. Biden most often used statistics from government agencies and think tanks to emphasize the severity of the coronavirus pandemic.

His assertions that 900,000 Americans filed for unemployment the week before his inauguration, and that almost 16 million continued to claim unemployment benefits, that almost 10 percent of Black Americans and just over 9 percent of Hispanic Americans are unemployed, and that 600,000 workers in local education have lost their jobs are all backed by the latest Labor Department reports.

Fact check: WHO recommends mask-wearing to prevent COVID-19 spread

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The claim: The World Health Organization said healthy people do not need to wear masks

Amid the pandemic, there has been rampant misinformation about the use of masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19. One such example is an online article that baselessly claims the World Health Organization said healthy people do not have to wear a mask outside of hospitals.

“If you do not have any respiratory symptoms, such as fever, cough, or runny nose, you do not need to wear a medical mask. When used alone, masks can give you a false feeling of protection and can even be a source of infection when not used correctly,” the Jan. 25 article claims.

The article was updated the next day to include additional information that purportedly supported the claim. The author included an advisory from the WHO, issued in December that states that masks alone are insufficient to prevent contracting COVID-19 or spreading the virus.

The article, “WHO: You Do NOT Need To Wear A Mask,” was published by Principia Scientific International and later picked up by another blog, “rainbowwarrior2005.”

Media Bias/Fact Check rates Principia Scientific International as a conspiracy and pseudoscience website that “promotes anti-vaccine propaganda and frequent misinformation regarding climate change.”

In a statement to USA TODAY, Principia Scientific International CEO John O’Sullivan cited a quote from Dr. Michael Ryan, executive director of the WHO’s health emergencies program, from March 2020.

“There is no specific evidence to suggest that the wearing of masks by the mass population has any particular benefit. In fact, there is some evidence to suggest the opposite in the misuse of wearing a mask properly or fitting it properly,” Ryan said at a March 30 press conference.

Ryan added that there was a “massive global shortage” of masks at the time and front-line health care workers most at risk should be prioritized.

Although the WHO originally suggested that health care workers, infected people and caregivers of people with COVID-19 should wear masks, the WHO updated that guidance in June 2020 to include the general public.

Story continues

“In light of evolving evidence, WHO advises that governments should encourage the general public to wear masks where there is widespread transmission and physical distancing is difficult, such as on public transport, in shops or in other confined or crowded environments,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a June 5 press conference.

COVID-19 vaccine on Jan. 26, 2021, in New York City.

WHO advises people to wear masks

The WHO has not suggested healthy people should stop wearing masks. In fact, the WHO recently reiterated its guidance that people continue to wear masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and new variants.

“Masks are one aspect of control. One aspect of reducing the spread of this virus and they can’t be used alone,” said Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO’s COVID-19 technical lead, at a Jan. 22 press conference.

She added that people should take other approaches, such as maintaining physical distancing and practicing good hand hygiene, in addition to mask-wearing. Kerkhove also said the WHO recommends a three-layer mask for people who choose to wear fabric masks.

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Masks worn by healthy people in the general public can reduce the spread of respiratory droplets containing infectious viral particles, according to guidance issued by the WHO in December.

When asked for comment, WHO spokesperson Amna Smailbegovic sent USA TODAY links to two web pages: a Q&A page on masks and another on when and how to wear masks.

“Masks are a key measure to suppress transmission and save lives,” the WHO website states.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also urges people to wear a mask even when they do not feel sick because asymptomatic people with COVID-19 can still spread the virus.

Studies show that masks help reduce the spray of respiratory droplets when worn over the nose and mouth, according to the CDC.

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Officials are encouraging double masking

Health officials are now urging people to double up on masks as new COVID-19 variants emerge from the United Kingdom, South Africa and Brazil.

“So, if you have a physical covering with one layer, you put another layer on, it just makes common sense that it likely would be more effective," Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, told NBC News’ “TODAY” on Jan. 25. “That’s the reason why you see people either double masking or doing a version of an N95.”

Officials said the U.K. variant, which appears to be more contagious, could also be deadlier. A variant first found in South Africa appears to be about 50% more contagious, USA TODAY reported.

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Our rating: False

The claim that the World Health Organization said healthy people do not need to wear masks is FALSE, based on our research. There is no evidence that the WHO recently said this, and health officials continue to encourage people to wear masks, even if they are not sick.

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: WHO advises mask wearing, contrary to false report