The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee on March 17 held a four-hour hearing on business solutions to climate change. The Committee, which invited NATSO to testify, effectively kicked off the first of a series of hearings that will undoubtedly lay the groundwork for Congress to draft infrastructure legislation in the coming months.
Representing NATSO was Pilot Company CEO Shameek Konar. Konar joined seven other witnesses from the private sector and public utilities, including FedEX Chair and CEO Fred Smith as well as Laurie Giammona from Pacific Gas and Electric.
During the hearing, lawmakers and panelists discussed the Biden Administration’s goal of adding 50,000 electric vehicle charging stations along U.S. highways and the need for modernizing America’s transportation and infrastructure systems while lowering the nation's carbon footprint.
Of importance to NATSO members, lawmakers and witnesses discussed the role of the private sector in advancing electric vehicle charging in the marketplace and the need for public utilities to perform the necessary generation development and power grid restructuring work through its regulated monopoly.
Pilot’s CEO Shameek Konar testified that with the right policy framework and incentive structure, fuel retailers provide the best opportunity for advancing alternative fuels, including electricity, into the marketplace. Konar also urged the committee to improve policies that incentivize liquid renewable fuels such as biodiesel, renewable diesel and ethanol.
FedEx CEO Fred Smith, meanwhile, touted longer truck trailers as a climate strategy.
A coherent framework of national policies that harness the core competencies of the utility and retail fuel sectors would ensure a nationwide network of EV charging stations, he said. Konar encouraged lawmakers to structure and implement policies that encourage utilities and fuel retailers to focus where each is most productive.
Konar cautioned that policies which allow electric vehicle charging stations at rest areas or permit utility companies to increase rates to all ratepayers to offset their consumer-facing EV charging station investments will discourage the private sector from investing in electric vehicle charging. Such approaches, he testified, undermine the business case for all fuel retailers nationwide to invest in EV charging infrastructure.
Utilities are best suited to perform the necessary generation development and power grid restructuring work through its regulated monopoly; however they should not be given a leg up over private companies seeking to enter the market for electric vehicle charging infrastructure that consumers use to power their vehicles.
Responding to Rep. Grace Napolitano (D-Calif.) who asked whether Congress should allow electric vehicle charging at park and ride and rest areas as a means of reducing range anxiety, Konar said that providing customers with amenities and a safe place to refuel is key to encouraging the adoption of electric vehicles.
Konar asked the committee to consider the EV charging experience for customers as they transition to electric vehicles. “You’ve gone from two minutes to fuel a car to 40 minutes or 30 minutes to charge your car. If you can keep people more engaged and give them more things they can do—like at our travel centers or at retail stops, where you can eat, you can shower, you can do other things,” he said. “It will only help the adoption of EVs. We need to keep that in mind. If you are stuck for 40 minutes in some place and it does not have a lot of amenities, it will be challenging.”
Rep. Grace Napolitano has previously introduced an amendment to infrastructure legislation that would allow electric vehicle charging stations at rest areas located on the Interstate right-of-way. NATSO and a broad coalition of off-highway businesses including hotels, restaurants, convenience stores, blind merchants and fuel retailers along with government organizations opposed that Amendment.
NATSO thinks that policies to advance the adoption of electric vehicles should foster a dynamic and competitive marketplace that encourages private sector investment in electric vehicle charging infrastructure, and avoid harming those businesses best positioned to accelerate EVs in the market.
Responding to a question from Rep. Bost (R-Ill.) as to how the private sector can help make EVs economically viable, Konar encouraged lawmakers to create a strong incentive for fuel retailers to invest in the infrastructure necessary to bring electric vehicle charging to market, similar to the Renewable Fuel Standard and the biodiesel tax credit.
This policy structure resulted in a vibrant market for biofuels because the private sector responded to policy signals and incentives and made the investments necessary to bring new fuels to market. Konar said the same approach will work with respect to EV charging infrastructure.
“About 10 years ago biodiesel and biofuels were not [economically viable] and available in the market and our customers didn’t want it,” Konar said. “Through the correct market incentives and public policy, the federal government enabled us to provide biofuels cheaper to our customers, which has led to a significant adoption of biofuel.” Pilot Company expects to sell 1 billion gallons of biofuels next year, Konar said.
The biggest impediment to the adoption of electric vehicles remains the lack of a nationwide network of fueling stations, Konar said. “What we need to solve expediently is: ‘How do we solve range anxiety and provide a fueling experience that is safe and has additional attractions for our customers and doesn’t force them to change habits?’,” Konar said. “We are able and willing to do that but today the economics are very challenging for us to invest and do that effectively. The way we can do this is to get some support from the federal government.”
FedEx Chair and CEO Fred Smith pushed for lifting the ban on 33-foot truck trailers, saying that the nearly 40-year-old 28-foot limit is both outdated and environmentally unsound.
Smith testified that increased capacity in our nation’s transportation system could reduce annual fuel use by 225 million gallons per year and reduce carbon emissions by 3 million tons per year. He did not push for an increase in truck weight limits.
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