Sen. Murkowski’s Opening Statement at Electric Vehicles Hearing
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, today made the following opening remarks at the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing on federal support for the development of electric vehicles:
“Good morning, Mr. Chairman, and thank you for holding this hearing. As you noted, we’re here to consider legislation that would promote electric vehicles through a number of new plans and programs, and by significantly increasing federal support for everything from charging stations to basic R&D.
“I think every member of our committee agrees that electric vehicles have great promise and potential. All of us want to see them take off and transform the auto industry. We’re excited about the Nissan Leaf and the Chevy Volt. And we’re equally excited about the vehicles that will shortly follow, including those from new companies like Tesla and Fisker.
“As we look for ways to increase our energy security, decrease the cost of energy, and create new jobs, electric vehicles offer a unique opportunity to make progress on all three of those fronts at once. So I’d also like to commend Senator Dorgan for crafting new policies, beyond the tax credits and subsidies that the government already offers, that could hasten their development.
“There’s certainly a lot to like in this bill. Having said that, however, I do have several concerns that I hope will be addressed here today.
“One is that we’re once again tipping the playing field to advantage a technology that has captured our attention. This isn’t new: in the Clinton Administration, it was diesel hybrids. In the Bush Administration, it was hydrogen and fuel cells. And for the past several years, the focus has been on plug-in hybrids.
“I’m as hopeful as anyone that electric vehicles are here to stay – but the truth is that Washington has a dismal record of picking winners and losers. So the question is, are we finally right? And even if we are, would it still be better to adopt a balanced approach that promotes technologies equally and requires them to compete against each other?
“I’m also concerned by the amount of spending in this bill. I understand that authorizations are different than appropriations, and that any tax credits added to this bill are likely to be offset. But $4 billion to $6 billion is a lot to ask for anything right now.
“Just a couple years ago, in 2007, I proposed legislation with $100 million in grants for plug-in electrics. I considered that a lot of money, and still do. But now we’re looking at 40 to 60 times as much funding, just in this bill, in addition to existing support. The federal government can certainly play a role in the development of vehicle technologies, but it’s unclear how large that role can be – especially with the national debt at $13.1 trillion and growing rapidly.
“Mr. Chairman, I’m glad we found time to learn more about this bill. I’d like to thank you for holding this hearing, Senator Dorgan for developing this legislation, and our witnesses for joining us to share their expertise.”