Barrasso: Innovation, Not Regulation, is the Best Way to Improve Our Country’s Mobility

March 16, 2021

Click here to watch Ranking Member Barrasso’s remarks.  

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), ranking member of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources (ENR), delivered the following remarks at a full committee hearing on transportation technologies. 

The hearing featured testimony from Kelly Speakes-Backman, principal deputy assistant secretary and acting assistant secretary of energy efficiency and renewable energy at the U.S. Department of Energy; Edmund Adam Muellerweiss, chief sustainability officer at Clarios; Janvier Désiré Nkurunziza, officer-in-charge of the commodities branch and chief of commodity research and analysis section for the division on international trade and commodities at the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development; Tony Satterthwaite, vice president of Cummins; and Robert Wimmer, director of the energy and environmental research group at Toyota Motor North America. 

For more information on witness testimony click here. 

Senator Barrasso’s remarks: 

“Our transportation sector is critical to our economy. 

“It moves people and products reliably and affordably across a huge network of roads, rails, runways, and rivers. 

“The transportation sector is also a big energy user, consuming 28 percent of our nation’s total demand. 

“There are a lot of exciting new technologies to make this sector cleaner and more efficient. 

“I believe innovation, not regulation, is the best way to improve our country’s mobility. 

“We need to expand — not limit — choices in the transportation sector.

“If we’ve learned anything, it is that government does a pretty poor job of picking winners and losers. 

“We should encourage a variety of technologies that reduce costs for consumers, lower emissions, and take advantage of the vast energy and mineral resources we have in this country. 

“President Biden is taking the opposite approach. 

“I’m concerned that he wants to regulate the internal combustion engine out of existence and insist that all Americans use electric vehicles. 

“Too often regulation raises costs, punishing people who can least afford it. 

“In December, the president of Toyota pointed out that regulating the internal combustion engine out of existence could make automobiles ‘[a] flower on a high summit.’ 

“In other words, something out of the reach of ordinary people. 

“He’s right. 

“In the United States, the typical Tesla owner has no children and makes an annual income of more than $140,000.

“Limiting consumer options to just expensive electric vehicles is bad for consumers and the economy. 

“It’s bad for the environment too, as it will just slow the turnover to a cleaner, more efficient fleet. 

“Requiring a shift to electric vehicles will also put America in the position of importing critical materials, often from bad actors.

“We will need to import minerals like cobalt, lithium, graphite, manganese, and other rare earths. 

“China, for example, controlled about 60 percent of the graphite and rare earths produced in 2020. 

“At the same time, we must not pursue emission reduction strategies that contribute to child labor, human rights abuses, and environmental damage. 

“For example, the Democratic Republic of the Congo produces about 70 percent of the world’s cobalt supply. 

“According to a United Nations report, about 20 percent of the cobalt it produces comes from small mines where 40,000 children are at work. 

“In the lithium-producing region of Chile, mining consumed 65 percent of the area’s water, causing soil contamination and harming local communities. 

“If President Biden and others in Congress are serious about promoting electric vehicles, they should encourage mining here at home. 

“Expanding American mining would help secure our nation’s supply chains and ensure minerals are produced responsibly. 

“Instead, last month the Biden administration withdrew a land exchange for the Resolution Copper mine in Arizona — casting doubt on what would be North America’s largest copper mine. 

“Electric vehicles are part of the solution. 

“But they are not the only solution.  

“More efficient internal combustion engines and a diverse set of fuels will have to be a significant part of the solution. 

“That is especially true for – heavy trucks, buses, trains, and vessels. 

“In trucking and rail, diesel engines are likely to remain the technology of choice for decades.

“We can reduce emissions through the use of clean diesel and even renewable diesel. 

“We can also reduce emissions through the use of natural gas. 

“The United States produces more natural gas than any other country in the world. 

“We should look for ways to use compressed or liquefied natural gas to power trucks, trains, and vessels. 

“Additionally, we can convert natural gas to hydrogen for use in fuel cells. 

“Natural gas is a great opportunity to keep costs low for consumers, improve air quality, and use the resources that America is blessed with. 

“The people of Wyoming, drive greater distances than people in any other state — by far. 

“We depend on our vehicles in ways people from other states don’t. 

“Our cars and trucks must be reliable and affordable. 

“When alternative vehicles and fuels can pass the test in Wyoming, we’ll know we’ve hit upon great technologies. 

“Until then, consumers in Wyoming and across the country need to be able to drive the cars and trucks they require for them to get to work and for their families. 

“Thank you, Mr. Chairman and I look forward to the testimony.”