Congressional Update: State of the Union, Climate, Infrastructure, EVs

Last week, President Joe Biden delivered his first State of the Union address. He spent the first twelve minutes pledging America’s support for Ukraine, which received strong bipartisan applause.

In addressing energy prices, which have spiked due to Russia’s invasion, President Biden announced that the U.S. and allies would release a combined 60 million barrels of oil from strategic reserves.

Meanwhile, key lawmakers, ranging from Senator Lindsay Graham (R-SC) to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), said they would support banning Russian oil imports to the U.S.

While President Biden made clear that everything is on the table in terms of sanctioning Russia, the White House (so far) has expressed little interest in targeting Russian oil due to effects on U.S. and European consumers.

Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Jon Tester (D-MT) as well as Congressmen Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) are pushing legislation that would effectuate the ban on Russian energy imports.

Climate Legislation

During his address, President Biden also pledged support for bold climate legislation, praising clean energy tax credits and investment, while not mentioning the Build Back Better Act (BBB) by name.

Later in the week, Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), who effectively killed the previous iteration of BBB, provided a rough outline of a package he could support.

The “pay-fors” would be prescription drug savings and tax increases, and the spending would be on clean energy tax credits and investment.

Congressional progressives said that this is a framework in which they could work, though no serious discussions have begun.

Any substantive efforts to restart a reconciliation framework would likely wait until May, given current Congressional attention on Ukraine, government funding, confirming a U.S. Supreme Court justice, and finalizing the research and development bill to compete with China.

Bipartisan Infrastructure Law

In Congress, Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg testified before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on implementation of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA).

He highlighted the network of 500,000 EV charging stations that will be deployed (as a reminder, roughly $5 billion is allocated for states, and $2 billion is allocated for competitive grants).

Sec. Buttigieg discussed EVs with several Senators:

— Ranking Member Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) asked about ownership of EV charging stations. Sec. Buttigieg said the charging stations would not be federally owned and emphasized public-private partnerships.

— Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) asked about equity in the roll out of an EV charging network. Sec. Buttigieg said that lower-income Americans would benefit from the charging network.

— Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA) expressed concern for prioritizing EVs over biofuels, which she stated could increase American dependence on foreign supply chains. Sec. Buttigieg expressed interest in opportunities surrounding sustainable aviation fuels.

Sec. Buttigieg also called on Congress to pass an FY 22 government funding package so that portions of IIJA can be completely funded.

Funding Package

Negotiations over a government funding package continued this week, with the White House requesting a supplemental package that would provide aid for Ukraine.

Lawmakers may need to pass another Continuing Resolution if an agreement is not reached by the deadline, March 11.

Gasoline Tax Suspension

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) criticized a federal gas tax suspension, arguing that there is no guarantee that energy companies would pass along savings to consumers.

EV Charging Hearing

Next week, the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee will hold a hearing on EV charging featuring non-government witnesses, including Ford Motor Company.

EMA has been in touch with the Committee about the hearing and issues of importance to marketers, including questions for witnesses.

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