WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) recently joined Republican members of the Senate Finance Committee to argue for an “all-of-the-above” energy strategy to address America’s growing energy needs and promote bipartisan efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Thune opposed the $259 billion “Clean Energy for America Act” being considered by the committee because of its expansive wish list of new spending on liberal energy programs. Thune offered an amendment to require that significant improvements to the federal infrastructure permitting process be made before the bill’s energy production tax credits would go into effect. He also sought a vote on his amendment to set a common-sense limit to the bill’s overly generous electric vehicle tax credit. Both amendments were defeated on a party-line vote.
Thune also filed an amendment to require The Department of the Treasury to utilize the most current lifecycle emissions modeling and carbon intensity scores available from any federal agency, including the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Energy, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, when determining energy tax credit eligibility. Additionally, he filed an amendment to certify that U.S. energy component manufacturers will not be undercut by foreign suppliers that use low-cost labor and high-emissions manufacturing, putting the United States at a competitive disadvantage. Thune also filed an amendment to bar heavier electric vehicles from claiming energy tax credits if they do not pay into the Highway Trust Fund, arguing that these heavier vehicles will strain America’s aging infrastructure without contributing to the upkeep of roads and bridges. The Democrat majority did not accept these amendments.
Full text of Sen. Thune’s opening remarks is below (as prepared for delivery):
“Thank you, Chairman Wyden and Ranking Member Crapo.
“Like my colleagues, I understand the importance of protecting our environment, and I believe it is in our nation’s long-term interest to embrace cleaner energy sources to reduce greenhouse gases, especially as other countries around the world become more industrialized.
“Since being elected to Congress, I have worked to increase the availability and use of alternative energy sources.
“I believe this is important not only because it can reduce our dangerous dependence on foreign sources of energy, but also because of the environmental benefits of using cleaner sources of energy.
“Through alternative energy resources, including wind, hydropower, and a strong agriculture sector that allows for the production of renewable fuels such as ethanol and biodiesel, South Dakota is leading the way toward cleaner and more efficient energy technologies.
“My colleagues may be surprised to learn that due to robust hydroelectric and wind energy, approximately 70 percent of South Dakota’s energy production is renewable.
“As a member of the Senate Finance Committee, I have promoted the responsible use of energy tax credits to bring technologies to a point of competitive maturity, notably wind energy, which has seen expansive growth on the Great Plains.
“In fact, the fourth quarter of 2020 saw more wind projects come online nationally than in any previous year other than 2012.
“As a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, I have also promoted the use of home-grown biofuels to lower carbon emissions from the transportation section.
“Biofuels like ethanol have, on average, 46 percent lower carbon emissions than conventional gasoline.
“Ethanol and biodiesel are readily available carbon solutions that can leverage the existing vehicle fleet and a majority of existing fueling infrastructure across the country.
“Even as more electric vehicles hit the road, we must not forget that millions of Americans will continue to drive liquid-fuel vehicles for years to come.
“Biofuels can make each American driver part of our climate solution.
“Congress and this administration should not overlook American agriculture and the immense opportunities the Ag sector brings to the table.
“This starts with accurate data and modeling to fully recognize the emissions contributions of biofuels, and I have an amendment to address this.
“By encouraging domestic energy production, increasing America’s renewable energy supply, and reducing consumption, we can ultimately achieve lower energy costs, lower emissions, energy independence, and a stronger economy.
“Unfortunately, provisions in this $260 billion energy tax bill miss the mark, and it will impose new costs on American families at a time when many can ill-afford them.
“My colleagues will characterize this bill as “tech-neutral,” but right out of the gate, they strip energy programs that help deliver affordable and reliable energy to Americans every day and support good-paying jobs across the country.
“Just three weeks ago, the Colonial Pipeline hack was a wake-up call to the importance of American energy security and energy independence.
“American consumers should never have to question whether they will have reliable and affordable access to energy and fuel, and I have concerns that this bill will undercut the great strides we have made in America’s recent energy renaissance, particularly through natural gas and hydraulic fracking.
“In order for America to maintain its competitive energy posture, we cannot hamstring our energy industries that have reduced our dependency on foreign sources of energy.
“Nor should we overlook the readily available technologies that have made America a leader in clean energy.
“If we are to make meaningful, fiscally responsible investments in American energy, delivering affordable and reliable energy to consumers, growing good-paying jobs for the American worker, all while lowering our emissions, it will require a truly “all-the-above” approach.
“I welcome the robust discussion here today, and I have no doubt it will not be the last time this committee or this Congress debates this important topic.”
“Colleagues, the arduous permitting process is one of the primary reasons holding up American energy investment. Multi-year permitting delays do not incentivize investment, and they block otherwise shovel-ready projects from becoming a reality. Delays also add to the cost of each project to the tune of 20 to 30 percent per project. I would add that canceling the Keystone XL pipeline, which endured a decade of permitting and was already underway, does not instill confidence that even approved projects are safe. Keystone XL would be paired with $1.7 billion of private investment in renewable energy, the very same projects we are discussing today. Energy technologies are already trending toward efficiency, but 5-plus year permitting delays, delays in grid connection studies, and a tangle of federal regulations, are significant obstacles to bringing the energy technologies we are discussing today online. I ask my colleagues that before we award billions of dollars of taxpayer money in the tax credits proposed today, that we first address a real hurdle to modernizing our grid and bringing new energy technologies online—a broken and burdensome permitting process.”
On limiting the electric vehicle tax credit:
“My straightforward amendment would lower the phase-out trigger for the EV tax credit to 10 percent, down from the current threshold of 50 percent in the underlying mark. Current EV sales are approximately 2.5 percent of annual sales. I suspect it will be a long time until that figure reaches 50 percent. Not only does this generous threshold drive the high cost of the credit, estimated to be more than $31 billion, this effectively open-ended credit minimizes any urgency to claim it.”