Transportation Secretary Updates Lawmakers on Infrastructure Funding

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg updated lawmakers on how he’s doling out infrastructure dollars.

The federal government will hand out more than half a trillion dollars over the next 5 years to shore up the nation’s infrastructure and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. During a hearing on implementation of the funds, Iowa Republican Joni Ernst expressed her concerns about electric vehicles being prioritized over biofuels.

“This will only make us more dependent on those foreign adversaries who control the majority of worldwide production for a number of the key components that do go into electric vehicles.”

Secretary Buttigieg said the department’s focus is on zero emissions vehicles, but thinks biofuels can still be part of the energy mix.

“While our work on zero emission vehicles doesn’t really allow us to pick winners and losers outside the boundaries of the categories put forward in the law, certainly interested in opportunities that exist and notably one area resident there’s increasing interest. While there of course is continued very important role in fueling the cars on the road today is around sustainable aviation fuels.”

Senate Ag Committee Chair, Debbie Stabenow took a different direction on electric vehicles by asking how the department is working to provide technical assistance to states.

“This is exactly the kind of work that the new Joint Office of Energy and Transportation that we’ve set up with Secretary Granholm is taking on and now that we’ve put out the call for states to submit their plans. We’re looking forward to seeing what they come back with by the august deadline and working very closely with them on how to make sure that no state no community is left behind with the opportunity.”

Buttigieg also faced multiple lines of questioning about a department of transportation memo providing guidance to states on how they can spend federal dollars for surface transportation projects. He pushed back, saying it was the mandates that were rejected not the specific goals, which he went on to give examples of.

“The first one I see is progress in achieving a state of good repair, consistent with the state’s asset management plan. Now, I cannot imagine that anyone here rejects the proposition that it’s a good thing to have progress in achieving a state of good repair consistent with the state’s asset management plan. What I do recognize is that there was a move in the house to say that unless you’ve shown that progress, you couldn’t even go forward on some of that new construction. And if that were to prevail, then of course, my department would be responsible for implementing that law. But that’s not what the law says that you passed.”

Committee members also tasked Secretary Buttigieg with taking a closer look at how the transportation industry and the American supply chain are reliant on foreign powers like Russia and China and how that reliance could impact resiliency.

When asked today if he would consider banning Russian oil, the president said nothing is off the table. But in his state of the union address, he emphasized making more electric vehicles in the US, without mentioning biofuels. In response, ace energy said American consumers need relief at the pump now. CEO Brian Jennings said,

“…We urgently call on the Biden administration to pursue every option at their disposal to ensure uninterrupted market access for e15. Ensuring year-round access to e15 for all parts of the country is the quickest way to address pain at the pump and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the US transportation fleet.”


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