Chairman Carper’s Opening Statement: Hearing on American Energy Security and Climate Solutions

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works held a hearing on advancing American energy security through climate solutions.

Below is the opening statement of Chairman Tom Carper (D-Del.), as prepared for delivery:

“At a time when American energy costs are tied to the whims of dictators like Vladimir Putin, our hearing today will explore how our nation can promote American energy security by facilitating investments and innovation in climate solutions.

“To help inform our conversation, we have a panel of expert witnesses joining us. Thank you all for your willingness to participate in this important and timely discussion.

“Winston Churchill is credited with saying, ‘The farther backward you can look, the farther forward you can see.’ When we look to find solutions for rising fossil fuel prices, it’s helpful to look back at history for answers.

“Since the Arab oil embargo of 1973, many in Washington have argued that if we simply drilled more oil, we could be free of the price whiplash caused by international disruptions in the global oil market.

“That wasn’t true during the Arab oil embargo. And, it isn’t true today. This narrative clings to a false hope that the oil market in the United States is somehow separate from the global oil market. In truth, it is not.

“So, let’s lay out some facts. The oil and gas industry has been slow to ramp up production on the more than 9,000 unused, approved permits they hold to drill onshore. Now, after experiencing falling revenues during the pandemic, many in the industry are more interested in paying back their shareholders, than taking action to lower gas prices. High gas prices are not a result of the Biden Administration’s policies.

“Still, the United States is a net exporter of oil products and is drilling more today than a year ago. Our nation is on track to surpass our historic, pre-pandemic levels of oil production in the next year.

“Despite this increased oil production, American energy prices continue to be directly tied to global events, such as Vladimir Putin’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine and the pandemic. In fact, prices at the pump have spiked nearly a dollar since Putin moved his forces into Ukraine.

“As long as our economy runs mostly on fossil fuels, energy prices will continue to be vulnerable to forces outside the United States. That’s not energy security. For many families, it can mean energy insecurity.

“Our overreliance on fossil fuels is also driving another existential threat — climate change.

“Just last month, a study by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) highlighted the alarming rate of sea level rise due to climate change. NOAA estimates that our oceans will rise as much as a foot in the next 30 years without action. This would devastate coastal towns like those in my state.

“Increased sea level rise is just one challenge of many that Americans will face — and are already facing — because of climate change. The climate economic costs are starting to add up. According to Government Accountability Office, the economic impacts Americans are experiencing from the Russian invasion of Ukraine pale in comparison to the economic devastation we can look forward to if we fail to properly address the climate crisis.

“So instead of doubling down on an antiquated energy playbook that doesn’t work anymore, we need policies that help our economy smoothly transition towards cleaner, American-made energy.

“The good news? We can adopt these policies while also giving consumers more choices to fuel their lives. By giving Americans a choice about how to heat their homes and fuel their vehicles, we can reduce price volatility and energy costs for all Americans.

“Fortunately, Congress and President Biden have already taken steps to relieve the pressure that high energy prices are putting on families and small businesses.

“Thanks in large part to our successful passage of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the Biden Administration has made significant investments in expanding domestic clean energy and infrastructure for zero-emitting vehicles.

“These investments include $7.5 billion for clean vehicle infrastructure. They also include over $3 billion in the domestic battery supply chain and battery recycling, so U.S. electric vehicle manufacturing does not depend on critical minerals from China or countries in Africa.

“While these investments represent real progress, we can and must do more if we are going to meet our energy security and climate goals. This is the challenge of our time. But as my wife reminds me, I’m an eternal optimist. Where most people see defeat, I see opportunity.

“While fossil fuels will continue to power part of the U.S. economy for years to come, many American businesses are already making investments toward a cleaner, more secure energy future. They need our encouragement and support to go faster, not slower. With that, here are three things we can do today to accelerate our clean energy transition:

“First, we should help ensure that Americans have the choice to fuel their vehicles with electricity from renewable and nuclear energy, biofuels made by our farmers, or clean hydrogen produced by our refineries rather than oil from foreign countries. We can do this through direct investments in clean vehicles and their refueling infrastructure.

“Second, we must ensure that all Americans benefit from our investments in clean energy and energy efficiency. More often than not, lower-income families use a large portion of their household income on energy costs. We need to ensure that low-income communities have access to clean technologies and that no community is left behind in the transition of clean energy. The Marines have a saying, ‘Leave no man behind.’ We have a moral obligation to leave no community behind in our energy transition. 

“Finally, we must redouble our efforts to improve energy efficiency and reduce waste. For example, the oil and gas industry should no longer be able to waste our nation’s supply of natural gas into the air, which harms our lungs and climate, just because it is inconvenient to capture. Encouraging greater energy efficiency in our homes, our federal buildings, and our manufacturing facilities lowers costs and saves energy — a win-win.

“If we make these investments, I firmly believe we can break our addiction to foreign oil, reduce harmful climate emissions, and lower consumer costs. At the same time, we can strengthen our national security and create good-paying jobs across our country. That’s the promise of a clean energy future.

“In closing, as one of the strongest supporters of electric vehicles in the Senate, I know it’s important to remember that we aren’t yet in a post-liquid fuel world. We must retain our domestic capabilities to produce and refine the motor vehicle fuels that power our lives. However, we must also ensure these fuels are as clean as possible, while also investing in zero-emitting vehicles.

“Investments in clean energy and energy efficiency are the greatest long-term solutions for energy security — domestically and internationally. The United States is at our best when we lead. Now is our opportunity to do so by passing legislation that unleashes the potential of American clean energy and benefits all Americans.“