As the Trump administration does all it can to ignore the real danger of climate change, it is threatening to exacerbate the problem by eliminating a tax credit designed to bolster electric-car sales.

This idea is as shortsighted as the rest of the White House’s climate stance. Members of Congress who care about the planet’s future should put the brakes on it. In fact, the tax credit, set to phase out over the next few years, should be extended to encourage the public as much as possible to switch from vehicles that contribute inordinately to global warming.

The facts on climate change are clear: Global temperatures are rising at an alarming rate, as greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide increase. Overwhelming majorities of scientists warn that severe weather, coastal flooding, crop failures and other consequences are inevitable without a reduction in greenhouse gases.

Those gases are produced mostly by burning fossil fuels, and automobiles are a major culprit. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, more than 28 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions come from transportation, with passenger vehicles making up the majority of them.

Electric cars aren’t quite a silver bullet because the batteries have to be charged with electricity, which is produced in large part by fossil fuels. But electric cars are a positive step, because electricity increasingly is also produced by wind farms, solar power and other sustainable methods. The more of those non-emission methods that come on line, the more sense electric cars will make.

That’s why it’s good to incentivize consumers now and bolster that young market. Since electric cars are generally more expensive than gas-burning vehicles, the federal government offers a tax credit for electric-car buyers of up to $7,500 per vehicle.

Count on the Trump administration to thumb its nose at such foresight. General Motors, the nation’s largest automaker, is planning to close several U.S. factories, in part to restructure for more focus on electric cars. The White House is threatening to cut off the electric-car tax credit in retaliation.

The layoffs are distressing, but making it more difficult to sell electric cars isn’t the solution — especially when it would also impede progress toward lower emissions.

It’s unclear whether the administration can carry out this threat because the tax credit was created by law, and Democrats are about to take over the House. The credits are set to phase out eventually anyway, because of a provision in the law ending them for each manufacturer that crosses the 200,000-vehicle sales threshold.

Incoming Democrats should take the lead in raising that threshold to keep the subsidies in place for this still-struggling market. And if President Donald Trump really wants to defend American workers, he should recognize the job-growth potential in sustainable technologies instead of trying to kill them.

Editorial by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch

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