Energy & Environment

Buttigieg spars with GOP lawmakers over Biden’s EV goals

Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg answers questions from senators on the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Subcommittee regarding the 2023 Fiscal Year budget request for the Department of Transportation on Thursday, April 28, 2022.
Anna Rose Layden
Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg answers questions from senators on the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Subcommittee regarding the 2023 Fiscal Year budget request for the Department of Transportation on Thursday, April 28, 2022.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg on Tuesday defended the Biden administration’s goal of having 50 percent of vehicles on the market be electric by 2030 as House Republican lawmakers cast doubt on what they argued could further increase energy costs.

Buttigieg, testifying before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, lauded the goal as possibly bringing cost-saving technology to rural communities and fighting the climate crisis.

But Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) and others poured cold water on the idea.

Massie said he was “alarmed” at what he called “the naivete” in President Biden’s proposal, asking whether more Americans charging electric vehicles (EVs) would strain the country’s electrical grid, which Buttigieg acknowledged could be problematic.

“Well, if we didn’t make any upgrades to the grid, sure,” Buttigieg responded. “If we add yesterday’s grid with tomorrow’s cars, it’s not going to work.”

Buttigieg told Massie the grid will need to be able to support that number of electrical vehicles by 2030, with an initial investment included in the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill Biden signed into law in November. 

The secretary said that includes joint efforts by his department and the Department of Energy to map out what needs will be available.

“You actually use the word need. You could say want as well,” Massie told Buttigieg. “There’s needs and wants to make this fantasy work by 2030, but the reality is the capability is not going to be there.”

Reps. Scott Perry (R-Pa.) and Brian Babin (R-Texas) also questioned the increased cost of electric cars compared to traditional vehicles. They argued that the Biden administration has stated it wants to support low-income people and people of color but that the costs of energy-efficient vehicles could impede those very goals.

Buttigieg told Babin he has “never suggested” it would be easy for all Americans to obtain EVs and suggested policy measures could include tax credits for those who buy electric vehicles.

Massie also questioned whether the proposed increase in electrical use could contribute to blackouts or brownouts or failures in parts of the country where air conditioning is essential.

“Not if we prepare,” Buttigieg said. “Look, the fact that people who have electric vehicles are going to use more electricity can’t be a reason to give up. The idea that America is inferior to the other countries that have figured this out just doesn’t sit well with us, and that’s why we’re investing in a better grid.”

Massie pushed back and said he wasn’t suggesting the country shouldn’t prepare, adding he thought the numbers and rates of adoption Biden has suggested have “been developed using political science, not engineering.”

“They’re impractical, and if we blindly follow these goals that Biden has set out, it will cause pain and suffering for the middle class,” Massie said.

Tags Biden Pete Buttigieg Thomas Massie
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