WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Pete Domenici, ranking member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, today made the following statement at a full committee hearing to examine the current state of plug-in electric vehicles and the role they could play in the future:
Good morning. Thank you all for being here. Thank you also to Chairman Bingaman for convening this oversight hearing on plug-in electric vehicles – technology with tremendous potential.
Today, the American people are more focused on energy policy than at any other point in my 36 years as a United States Senator. And with good reason. Over the past year, gasoline prices have reached unprecedented levels. The transportation sector is the largest user of petroleum in the United States, totaling 70% of all consumption. Moreover, the transportation sector accounts for about 1/3 of the greenhouse gas emissions in the country. Sometimes we don’t agree on much around here. One thing we all agree on, however, is that we must reduce our reliance on imported oil.
It is no secret that I am a strong advocate for increasing domestic production through offshore drilling. And I am also a strong supporter of more investment in advanced technologies and more conservation of our resources will be needed if we are to meet our long term energy challenges. I have enacted legislation over the past few years that helps achieve both of these goals. And I have introduced legislation this year to do even more.
Last year, we took action by increasing the fuel efficiency standard by 40% for the first time in 32 years; establishing a 36 billion gallon renewable fuel standard; and dramatically increasing funding for clean energy technologies. While Congress has made considerable progress in advancing policies that will strengthen our nation’s energy security, we must go further to address our nation’s energy challenges.
Over the past several months, I’ve talked a lot about a bridge of increased domestic production that is needed to sustain the country until we have developed new technologies. On the far side of the bridge lies an age when clean energy technologies like plug-in hybrid electric vehicles are available and deployable on a wide scale basis across the country. We must continue to take greater steps toward implementing policies that speed our path across that bridge. The Gas Price Reduction Act, which I introduced along with Senator McConnell and 42 other Republicans, authorizes $500 million over the next five years to develop better battery technology.
In response to high gas prices, Americans have curtailed their behavior by driving less. They’re also trading in their gas guzzlers for more fuel efficient cars. The marketplace has certainly spoken. Today, as we’ll hear from our witnesses, nearly every major manufacturer is in production or development of some kind of hybrid electric technology.
According to the Electric Drive Transportation Association, increasing the number of electric and hybrid vehicles into our fleet could reduce our petroleum fuel consumption significantly.
Plug-in electric vehicles, with their potential to reduce our nation’s consumption of oil and our greenhouse gas emissions, have generated a great deal of excitement. However, technological hurdles – from battery manufacturing to grid infrastructure improvements – remain. I am hopeful that this new technology will benefit from the loan guarantee program that was set up in the Energy Policy Act of 2005. In addition, through the Appropriations process I am working with my colleagues to provide short-term assistance such as loans to help auto manufacturers re-tool and adjust to the new mandates and marketplace.
I thank the witnesses for appearing before us today. I look forward to your testimony on the state of today’s technology and what we can strive for in the near-term.