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Ending Our Oil Addiction: Are Advanced Vehicles and Fuels the Answer?

Date: 
Monday, June 5, 2006 - 12:00am
Location: 
Naperville Municipal Center<br>Naperville, Illinois
Subcommittees: 

Opening Statement By Hon. Daniel Lipinski

Thank you, Chairwoman Biggert; I am pleased to be here today for this hearing on alternative vehicles and fuels.  I would like to thank you for holding this hearing, and for all of the work that you have done in Congress promoting scientific research and the development of new technologies – especially your support for Argonne National Lab.  I would also like to thank our witnesses for being here today and look forward to hearing their testimony on this critical topic.

Right now, every American is affected by high energy prices.  Working families, small businesses, and consumers next door in the Third District and across the country are feeling the pinch with no end in sight.  But America’s current energy situation is not only a threat to our pocketbooks, it is also the threat to our national security as well as our environment and public health.  We depend too much on importing oil from unstable, undemocratic countries.  And the burning of fossil fuels contribute to public health problems and global climate change.  We need to develop a new energy paradigm, finding solutions here at home - solutions that will strengthen our national security, boost our economy, and help protect our environment.

There are many possible alternatives.  These range from short-term solutions, such as conservation and increasing efficiency, to long-term approaches such as the use of hydrogen, biofuels, and batteries, as well as other ideas that our witnesses here today will discuss.

Some of these tools are already in use on our highways and roads.  Hybrid technology has allowed vehicles to increase their mileage by tapping previously unused energy created while driving.  I am proud to drive a Ford Escape Hybrid which has served me very well.  While hybrids demonstrate some of the advances we can make with technology, they are not a complete solution to our energy problems.  We must continue to invest in research and development and take action now to assemble the tools needed to build an energy model for the future.  Otherwise, we will be no better off 20 years from now than we are today, and likely we will be much worse off.

One area that I think is especially promising is hydrogen, which has great potential to provide much of our transportation energy needs and be environmentally friendly when produced from renewable fuels.  I was very pleased that the House passed legislation just a few weeks ago to help address the research challenges posed by hydrogen.  H.R. 5143, The H-Prize Act of 2006, introduced by myself and fellow Committee member Bob Inglis of South Carolina among others, will offer competitively awarded cash prizes for finding specific solutions to the major challenges facing development and commercialization of hydrogen fuel.  The H-Prize will help expand the possibilities of hydrogen research, encouraging people not normally involved in federal research and development to explore one of the greatest challenges facing us today.

Americans have consistently faced monumental challenges and conquered them.  We did this with air travel and space exploration - just to name a few - and now we must do it with energy, by using our greatest resource, our ingenuity and creativity.  We have some of the best and brightest minds in the world in the United States, as well as an economy that supports and encourages entrepreneurship, and we must focus this inventiveness to address the great energy challenge that faces us today.

Thank you, Madam Chairwoman, and I yield back my time.


Opening Statement By Hon. Mike Honda

I’m glad to be here in the Prairie State today, and I thank Chairwoman Judy Biggert for inviting me to participate in this hearing.

Thanks to all of the witnesses for being here to testify and to all of you who have come to hear more about this very important subject.

I’m especially glad that we’ve got a panel that can talk about a wide range of vehicle and fuel options for the future, because I suspect it is going to take some combination of a number of different approaches to truly end our addiction to oil.

 Rep. Honda with the hybrid police cruiser operated by the Northern Illinois University Police Department
Mr. Honda checked out alternative-fuel vehicles on display at the Energy Subcommittee field hearing
 Mr. Honda with a sport-utility vehicle designed to operate with varying mixtures of gasoline and ethanol

We will probably need to use different solutions at different points in time, and we will probably want to use multiple technologies at the same time depending on the application.

What do I mean?  Well, I have a hybrid Toyota Prius, I recently had the opportunity to drive a Honda hydrogen fuel cell car, and while I wasn’t able to participate, there was a plug-in hybrid test drive near the Capitol.

These are three different technologies at different states of commercial readiness – one is here today (hybrid), one will be available fairly soon (plug-in hybrid; some would say it is here today!) and one still requires the development of technology and infrastructure to be viable.  At different points in time, different technologies will make the most sense economically.

When you think about applications, passenger car use in the city is very different from freight hauling over long distances.  Different technologies are likely to prove most appropriate for the different uses, and so a single solution probably isn’t the best way to go.

That can be a good thing - even if a traditional hybrid in use today gets "bumped aside" by plug-in hybrids for urban passenger use, we will still be able to use hybrids for other purposes.

Back in Washington, we have had a few hearings over the last couple of years about particular aspects of this subject – plug-in hybrids, prizes for developments of hydrogen technology, hydrogen and the progress that is being made in addressing technical barriers to the use of hydrogen in vehicles – but because of the time constraints we have to work within there, we aren’t able to get a broad group of people together at the same time.

I’m glad that today we will get to hear about many different technologies all in one hearing and we will have the opportunity to compare them to each other and see where they complement each other.

I know that in many cases there is still much basic R&D that needs to be done to overcome technical barriers, and I certainly want to hear about those so we can learn where we need to focus our efforts on the subcommittee.

But I also hope that we will hear about the value of demonstration projects, which can serve to help to identify some of the very technical barriers that an increased emphasis on research would aim to overcome. I fear that we might miss more obstacles until after we have made significant investments of time and resources if we stop working on demonstration projects.

Back in my own district, we are fortunate to have some projects, such as the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority’ Zero Emission Bus program and the use of natural gas vehicles at the Norm Mineta San Jose Airport, that have helped to demonstrate the feasibility of alternative fuel vehicles.

Chairwoman Biggert, thank you for putting together an interesting and technologically diverse panel from whom I look forward to learning a lot today.  I yield back the balance of my time.

Witnesses

Panel

1 - Dr. Daniel Gibbs
President General Biomass Co. General Biomass Co.
Download the Witness Testimony

2 - Philip Gott
Director for Automotive Custom Solutions Global Insight Global Insight
Download the Witness Testimony

3 - Deron Lovaas
Vehicles Campaign Director Natural Resources Defense Council Natural Resources Defense Council
Download the Witness Testimony

4 - Dr. James Miller
Manager, Electrochemical Technology Program Argonne National Laboratory Argonne National Laboratory
Download the Witness Testimony

5 - Al Weverstad
Executive Director for Mobile Emissions and Fuel Efficiency General Motors Public Policy Center General Motors Public Policy Center
Download the Witness Testimony

Members of the Energy Subcommittee at the alternative-fuel vehicle field hearing
Rep. Honda meets Dr. Daniel Gibbs, President of the General Biomass Co. of Evanston, Illinois Energy Subcommittee members Mike Honda and Daniel Lipinski joined Chair Judy Biggert for a field hearing on alternative-fuel vehicles in Naperville, Illinois.  At left, Rep. Honda meets witness Daniel Gibbs, President of the General Biomass Co. of Evanston, Illinois.
109th Congress