Opening Statement: Republican Leader Glenn "GT" Thompson Full Committee Hearing: "Implications of Electric Vehicle Investments for Agriculture and Rural America”
Washington, January 12, 2022
Electric vehicles are impressive feats of technology and engineering and the substantial industry investment in EVs is testament to the hope they can meet the varied needs of drivers across America, including in rural communities.
In recent years, the electrification of our transportation systems and the elimination of liquid fuels has been advertised as a critical component of the global fight to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.
Last Congress, the Democratic members of the Select Committee on the Climate Crisis called for eliminating internal combustion engines by 2035. Then, this past August, President Biden pledged half of all new cars would be electric by 2030.
I am skeptical such top-down planning from Washington will meet the needs of rural residents. Congress should not be picking winners and losers. Drivers in the marketplace must decide what technology meets their transportation needs, especially rural residents for whom vehicles and private transportation are an essential service. The ability to choose ensures vehicles remain a productive tool and not a technological burden to work around.
While I’m encouraged by the substantial investments being made by private industry, I do have a few honest concerns associated with this government-first drive to electrify the transportation system. Chief among them are:
1. Who will finance the huge new investments in electric generation and transmission capacity, new retail distribution points, and all the associated equipment necessary for a robust, ubiquitous charging infrastructure?
2. Will EVs be able to meet the needs of all drivers as efficiently as a conventional vehicle, without demanding unacceptable tradeoffs in cost, range, capacity, or time of service, particularly for rural residents?
3. What will the impact of a transition to EVs be on the liquid transportation fuel industry, particularly for the agricultural producers and oil producers, two industries which often form the foundation of regional rural economies?
4. Will expanding EV manufacturing increase our dependance on unfriendly, unstable, or underregulated foreign nations for the raw materials necessary to build EV batteries?
These potential costs associated with answering these questions must be balanced against the purpose of the policy: reducing global CO2 emissions. If, at the end of the day, an accurate accounting of the totality of emissions associated with transitioning to electric vehicles fails to make a significant dent in global carbon dioxide emissions, then Congress must ask the difficult question of whether a national policy of promoting or imposing EVs is worth it. If not, what other policies could meet our goals at a lower cost with more flexibility for consumers?
This question is especially pressing in rural communities like those I represent in Pennsylvania 15, which stand to bear the brunt of the costs of building new infrastructure and eliminating liquid transportation fuels. Are the global emissions reductions worth the potential disruptions to rural communities, implications for our national security, and costs for new infrastructure?
As we consider the impact of electric vehicles in rural America, we should ensure policies are in place which meet the needs of drivers and integrate these vehicles into the transportation system as seamlessly as possible, without exacerbating other public policy problems.
I want to thank each of our witnesses for their time today and their willingness to share their perspectives. I look forward to hearing each of you testify.
As I close, Mr. Chairman, I want to thank you again for holding this hearing. I appreciate you convening a panel of experts who can help us sort through our many questions.