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January 11, 2024

“We Are Fiddling While the World Burns,” King Says About U.S. Inaction on Climate Change

Senator King pushes for urgency in clean energy projects, touts impressive progress in electric vehicles

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, as extreme storms and flooding continue to hammer Maine, New England and the midwest, U.S. Senator Angus King expressed continued concern at the lack of urgency in tackling the climate crisis. In a hearing of the Senate Energy and Natural Resource (ENR) Committee, Senator King addressed Deputy Secretary of the Department of Energy, David Turk, about the significant impacts of climate change, making clear the tremendous costs to both the environment and the economy.

“I think it's important to sort of set the context of this hearing. We're talking about all these various details of these programs. But why are we here? We're here because the overarching crisis is the climate. Just in the last 10 days, two massive storms on the East Coast have made an enormous impact and an enormous cost. I've seen it. And it's happening in my state all along the coast, all along the eastern seaboard. This is — there's just no question that this is the most significant problem that we face. And history will not judge us well if we don't confront it. And I believe the Inflation Reduction Act did confront it in very significant ways. Can we fix it? Can we improve it? Absolutely. Can we work on how it's being implemented? Absolutely. But what worries me is when we're talking about trying to undermine these various programs, I just wrote down, we are fiddling while the planet burns,” began Senator King.

We are fiddling while the planet burns, and people are going to look back and say, yes, you addressed it, but you didn't really address it with a sufficient sense of urgency. And I think we got to talk about the impact of the climate crisis on us. And if you don't want to talk about saving the environment, talk about saving taxpayer dollars to deal with these with these Stafford Act responses that we're going to have to be undertaking in the next few weeks,” continued Senator King.

Senator King also highlighted the electric vehicle (EV) investments in the landmark Inflation Reduction Act, which was signed into law by President Biden in 2022. Prior to the Inflation Reduction Act, there were no federal incentives for domestic manufacturing of electric vehicles (EVs). Since its enactment, more than $157 billion has been directed towards American electric vehicle and battery manufacturing — one of the causes of the plummeting price of EVs.

“The other piece about this is that I think we need to emphasize, is what's happening as a result of the Inflation Reduction Act. This is amazing. This is the expansion of battery manufacturing in the United States, largely as a result of this Inflation Reduction Act and the work of the Department in terms of research, but what it shows is — this is EV demand. This is the projected growth, both announced, under construction and fully commissioned that shows — this is the sort of dollars and cents impact of the Inflation Reduction Act that is really making a great difference in U.S. manufacturing and jobs and bringing the supply chain home. I've got eight seconds left Mr. Turk, if you could find a question in there somewhere you're welcome to it,” said Senator King.

So, maybe make a few points on the cost perspective and where we expect cost to go into the future. We've seen battery costs that goes into EVs, and that's a huge part of the cost going into an EV, decreased 90% since 2008. And when we look at where that's going in the future, we continue to see dramatic cost reductions. Again, that's a huge part of the EV costs. 48% additional reductions on top of that 90% reduction already going out to 2030. So that's another data point in terms of the trajectory of where we're headed, going forward,” said Deputy Secretary of the Department of Energy David Turk.

The other nugget I'd throw out there is for those who are an EV owner, the average savings you have every year because of the lower cost of fueling and the less maintenance is $1,000 per year, every year that you save because you have an EV,” concluded Turk.

Most recently, the State of Maine announced a new federal grant award under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to expand public electric vehicle charging in Maine. The $15 million discretionary grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation will support the installation of 62 Level 3 fast charging ports and 520 Level 2 charger ports at more than 70 sites in 63 Maine cities and towns — adding to the more than 1,000 public EV charging ports now available across the state.

As a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Senator King has advocated for climate solutions that deliver on the clean energy potential of the historic Inflation Reduction Act. He has repeatedly emphasized the importance of permitting reform to deliver carefully considered, timely approvals of sorely-needed clean energy projects. Last year, he introduced a bill to maximize the potential from electric school buses in an effort to help optimize the electric grid. He has been one of the Senate’s most vocal advocates for improving energy storage technologies and development and worked to include significant storage investments in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and Inflation Reduction Act


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