Chairman Carper’s Opening Statement: Hearing on Low Carbon Transportation Fuels

WASHINGTON, D.C. — On February 15, 2023, the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works held a hearing to examine low carbon transportation fuels and consider the development of a national clean fuels policy.

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

“Over the past two years, this committee has played a vital leadership role in passing historic infrastructure and climate legislation. Much of this success was bipartisan. Looking ahead, I’m eager to work with all of you as we aim to build on that record of success and further strengthen our nation’s economy. Together, I know we can continue to develop lasting solutions to some of our biggest challenges.

“That brings me to the topic of today’s hearing: exploring policies that support the development and deployment of low-carbon transportation fuels.

“As a senator from the lowest-lying state in our country, I can think of no greater challenge than the climate crisis.

“Last year, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reported that sea level rise is occurring even faster than predicted. NOAA also reported that there were 18 climate disasters in the United States with losses exceeding $1 billion each. These costly disasters underscore the urgent need for further action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and limit the impacts of climate change.

“We were reminded by Albert Einstein years ago that ‘in adversity lies opportunity.’ That is true here, as well, and those opportunities are enormous. By tackling the climate crisis, we can continue to fuel the growth of clean energy jobs in our country and reduce our dependence on foreign oil.

“To our new members, let me say that I often like to tell the story of Willie Sutton, a notorious bank robber during the Great Depression. A judge once asked him, ‘Mr. Sutton, why do you rob banks?’ He replied, ‘Because that’s where the money is.’ When people ask me, ‘Why do we need to reduce transportation emissions?’ I say, ‘Because that’s where a good deal of the emissions come from.’

“For some time now, our nation’s transportation sector has remained the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. economy – accounting today for more than 25 percent of emissions in America.

“Through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the Inflation Reduction Act, Congress and the Biden administration have made significant investments to support American clean energy and zero-emitting vehicles, while also securing the domestic supply chain of critical minerals for electric vehicles.

“Many Americans, including several members of this committee, are making the switch to electric vehicles and hybrid vehicles. Still, there’s more that we can and must do to support cleaner fuels for the vehicles on our roads and provide greater certainty and flexibility for those who produce these fuels.

“As a recovering governor, when exploring ways to improve federal policies, I often look to see what’s working well in our states and try to replicate those efforts.

“States have learned from the federal government’s mistakes when it comes to programs like the Renewable Fuel Standard. Many states, including California and Oregon, have implemented, or are considering implementing, technology-neutral low carbon fuel standards.

“These state-level programs have successfully advanced the production and use of cleaner fuels and kept consumer and compliance costs low while fostering local investment and job creation. As we will hear today, these state programs have fuel flexibilities, greater long-term predictability, and cost-containment mechanisms that are not included in the Renewable Fuel Standard.

“Unlike the Renewable Fuel Standard, existing state programs often focus more on emissions reduction potential when determining what qualifies as a clean fuel. In addition to reducing the number of questions the states have to ask when determining which fuels qualify for a clean fuels program, this structure allows multiple options for obligated parties to comply.

“For example, a wide range of stakeholders – including the Delaware City Refinery – are interested in producing clean hydrogen as a qualifying clean fuel. They believe they can do so with their existing infrastructure to secure a stronger financial future and create new jobs. That is why we have invested significant federal resources to support the development of clean hydrogen infrastructure in our country.

“However, unlike existing state-level programs, the Renewable Fuel Standard does not currently consider hydrogen a clean fuel. Increasing the production and use of clean hydrogen is key to reducing emissions in sectors of our economy that are difficult to decarbonize – think large trucks and buses. And, the challenges with the Renewable Fuel Standard do not stop at hydrogen. As we will hear today, there are challenges across clean fuel stakeholders, including biofuels, which we can address by moving toward a more technology-neutral approach.

“With that, I welcome the discussion on the benefits of establishing a federal Low Carbon Fuel Standard – a program that can provide certainty, predictability, and flexibility for all stakeholders while also spurring innovation across clean fuel technologies to help us meet our ambitious climate goals.

“My hope is that today’s hearing is the first of many conversations on how we can bring together industry, environmental groups, agriculture and other stakeholders to further decarbonize our nation’s transportation fuels, while also supporting job creation across our nation.”