House Committee Examines the Future of Transportation Fuels and Vehicles

Source: By House Environment Subcommittee • Posted: Thursday, March 8, 2018

WASHINGTON, DC – The Environment Subcommittee, chaired by Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL), yesterday held a hearing examining the future of transportation fuels and vehicles.

“We have experienced very gradual and incremental change in transportation fuels and vehicles over the last several decades, but there are signs that the pace of change will accelerate in the years ahead,” said #SubEnvironment Chairman Shimkus. “Many factors are contributing to this evolving marketplace in transportation. One driver is government policy. We are also seeing technological advances and for every alternative vehicle breakthrough, there are alternative fueling infrastructure challenges for which solutions are being developed.”

Witnesses listen to member opening statements

John Maples, Senior Transportation Analyst, U.S. Energy Information Administration, mentioned the four areas of uncertainty when it comes to projecting the future of vehicles and fuels markets, stating, “Higher or lower fuel prices can change the relative attractiveness of all vehicle types. … On-demand ride hailing is already affecting how consumers utilize personal vehicles and mass transit. … Consumer acceptance affects future market success of vehicle types and alternative fuels – cost and performance, alternative fuel prices and availability, and refueling infrastructure availability. Finally, the future regulatory environment is also uncertain.”

Joshua Linn, Senior Fellow, Resources for the Future, spoke to the things impacting the future of transportation vehicles and the fuels they run on, testifying, “New technologies are fundamentally changing the vehicles people buy and the way they travel… Information technologies continue to create new travel options, such as ride-sharing services and bike-share programs. The future may bring ever-increasing levels of automated driving, further benefiting consumers. At the same time, policies to promote innovation and new technologies exist at both federal and state levels – including standards for vehicle fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions, tax credits for plug-ins, and subsidies for infrastructure and research.”

John Eichberger, Executive Director, Fuels Institute, took a more measured approach when it comes to changes in the vehicles and fuels market, commenting, “I do not see overwhelming evidence that the consumer is inclined to drive a significant pace of change, so it falls to external forces to influence the pace of change. In absence of aggressive policies or market forces inspiring an acceleration in market transition, it is most likely that the internal combustion engine will remain the dominant powertrain in the U.S. vehicle fleet for the next several decades.”

Chairman Walden delivers his opening statement

“Bottom line – the success of alternative fuels in the marketplace relies heavily upon their ability to bring down the cost per mile traveled, and the success of alternative vehicles relies on avoiding sticker shock,” concluded #FullCmte Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR). “The good news is that the breakthroughs in fuels and vehicles can be done in a way that benefits consumers while also achieving environmental and other objectives. As someone who owns and drives hybrids on both coasts, I hope we can look forward to a future of cleaner, safer, and more efficient, and yes cheaper personal transportation.”