EPW Hearing Statement: Promoting American Leadership in Reducing Air Emissions Through Innovation

WASHINGTON – Today, the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee held the hearing, “Promoting American Leadership in Reducing Air Emissions Through Innovation.” Below is the opening statement of Ranking Member Tom Carper (D-Del.), as prepared for delivery:

“I would like to thank the Chairman for having this hearing today. I believe that improving the understanding and celebrating the role that technological innovation plays in helping the country meet our clean air and climate challenges is very important, and I hope we can have more hearings like this. I also thank our witnesses for being here today.

“Abraham Lincoln famously said that the role of government is to do for the people what they cannot do for themselves. One of those tasks, I believe, is for government to help create a nurturing environment for job creation and job preservation.  Our government also has an obligation to help protect the health of the public to ensure that all Americans can pursue life, liberty and happiness. Luckily, the two are not mutually exclusive. In fact, history shows that cleaner air is good for business.

“Today, our country is undergoing a clean energy revolution. That didn’t happen by accident. Over the past eight years, starting with the Recovery Act, the federal government has provided economic incentives, environmental targets and has supported market development to encourage investments in the clean energy of the future. This carrot and stick approach resulted in more than $507 billion dollars of investment in the clean energy sector over the last decade and in our country becoming a leader in exporting clean air and clean energy technologies. Thanks to our investments, consumers are paying less for energy, and jobs are being created here at home to keep up with the demand for the products that these technologies enable. In 2016 alone, one out of every fifty new jobs added in the United States was created by the solar energy industry.

“Today, we will hear from one of our witnesses about a particular manufacturing sector that has reaped the benefits of the past actions of the federal government – the automobile industry. I’d like to remind my colleagues how this sector has changed over the past decade. It’s a story near and dear to my heart and I think a perfect example of how American innovation and economic opportunities can be driven by federal investments AND regulations.

“Despite decades of federal government funding for advancements in automobile fuel efficiency technology, it wasn’t until after Congress increased fuel economy standards in 2007 that consumers really started to see the benefits. The 2007 compromise crafted by my colleagues former Senator Stevens, Senator Feinstein, then-Congressman Markey and myself increased the fuel efficiency standards for cars, trucks and vans for the first time in 32 years. The 2007 light-duty vehicle efficiency targets were replaced by tighter efficiency targets and greenhouse gas emissions limits in 2010 and again in 2012, with the support of the major automakers, labor, environmental and health groups, and consumer groups. The results have been remarkable, but you don’t have to believe me – the numbers prove it.

“Taken together, these car and light-duty truck standards are projected to almost double the fuel economy of cars and light-duty trucks to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. These standards are reducing the amount of oil we import by 2 million barrels per day, and will save American drivers nearly $1.7 trillion in gasoline they will no longer have to buy.

“In even better news, these regulations have not been the job killers that many would have you believe. In fact, they have been quite the opposite. Automakers found that making more fuel-efficient vehicles allowed American companies to better compete here at home and abroad. Early implementation of these standards occurred during seven years of unprecedented growth in the auto industry and record sales in 2016. The industry has also added roughly 700,000 direct auto sector jobs since 2009.

“It’s clear we’ve made great gains in reducing emissions in our transportation and energy sectors over the past eight years, while still growing our economy. We’ve been doing something right. And, although our air is cleaner today and our economy is strong, we still need to do more to protect public health and ensure that America remains a leader in the global economy.

“Having said that, I fear this Administration is taking us in the wrong direction in this arena. Walking away from the Paris Climate Agreement – leaving the U.S. the only country in the entire world not part of this historic deal – and walking away from other climate and clean air protections is beyond irresponsible. And saying that you have to do so for the good of the American economy is blatantly false. In fact, scrapping forward-looking standards will only provide more uncertainty for businesses and threaten to stifle American innovation.

“For me, it is clear – this is not an either/or situation. In order for the United States to continue to be the world’s leader in this new clean energy revolution, we need both federal investments in technology AND commonsense regulations. Thank you again to the Chairman for holding this important hearing. I look forward to hearing from our witnesses their ideas on how we can do that.”