WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — As Congress looks to pass a bipartisan infrastructure package, senators on Tuesday held a hearing to discuss a key component: transportation technology.
Republicans and Democrats remain divided over the future of electric vehicles as one of the main ways the transportation industry will reduce carbon emissions.
“We’ve got to advance the technologies needed for the vehicles of the future,” Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., said during a meeting of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.
He doesn’t want coal country to be left behind, saying he supports “carving out $4 billion for exclusive use in coal communities, driving those jobs in the areas that have seen the biggest economic impact of the transition to a cleaner energy future.”
As automotive companies have started to sink money into making more electric vehicles, Kelly Speakes-Backman, principal deputy assistant secretary for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, said reducing their cost will be critical to achieving President Joe Biden’s goal of net zero emissions by 2025.
“It’s important that EVs aren’t just a luxury but that they are the most affordable and accessible choice for all Americans,” Speakes-Backman said.
Republicans are concerned that a focus on electric vehicles could ultimately hurt consumers by driving up prices and eliminate jobs.
“Too often, regulation raises costs, punishes people,” said Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., whose state’s economy relies heavily on the oil industry.
He argued Biden’s plan picks winners and losers.
“I’m concerned he wants to regulate the internal combustion engine out of existence,” Barrasso said.
“It seems counter-intuitive to me,” Sen. Roger Marshall, R-Kan., agreed.
He said he doesn’t think electric vehicles have the power to move the combines and tractors that fuel the Midwest’s economy.
“In the world I live in, we need power,” he said.
The Department of Energy says it’s researching not only electric vehicles, but also hydrofuels and biofuels.