Today, the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology's Subcommittee on Energy and Environment held a hearing to examine the Department of Energy's (DOE) Vehicle Technologies Program (VTP), with a focus on DOE's alternative vehicle research, development, demonstration, and commercialization activities. Testifying before the Subcommittee were: Dr. Kathleen Hogan, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency at DOE; Mr. Rickey Hass, Deputy Inspector General for Audits and Inspections at DOE; and Mr. Brian Wynne, President of the Electric Drive Transportation Association. Members heard testimony on the successes stemming from federally-funded advanced vehicle research and development, and on the rapidly expanding market for these vehicles.
Mr. Wynne spoke on the importance of displacing oil with alternative vehicles and the growing market for these vehicles. He said, "Last year, more than a quarter of a million plug-in electric and hybrid vehicles were sold in the United States. In the first two months of this year alone, Americans bought another 62,000. That's more than 1000 vehicles per day, a 30 percent increase over the sales rate from the same period in 2011 Internationally, steady growth is also projected." He also discussed how public/private partnerships help advance innovation and deployment of new technologies. He said, "Federal, state, and local partners leverage these investments and accelerate the development and availability of real transportation options. The return on the public investment is a nation that is less dependent on foreign oil, spends its energy dollars domestically, and competes effectively in the global market for advanced technologies."
Members and witnesses also discussed the challenges DOE has faced in managing large and complex activities such as the Vehicle Technologies Program and the EV Project. The DOE Inspector General highlighted past reviews that found that certain administrative actions could be taken to better oversee the execution of contracts and accounting of project costs. The Department had addressed many of the concerns raised by IG, as well as those raised by outside auditors.
After the hearing, Ranking Member Brad Miller (D-NC) stated, "Today, we heard testimony about the promise of vehicle electrification, the progress we have made so far, and the role the federal government can play in bridging market gaps to move this sector along. The potential payoffs for our domestic industries, for consumers, for the environment, and for our national security are immense. We need to invest now."
"Where there is federal investment, there should also be congressional oversight. However oversight should not be used to score political points, or, for plain old scandal-mongering. I will work with my colleagues to ensure proper oversight of this program, but will not support airing lightly substantiated charges, like we heard in this hearing. These charges can do significant damage to the livelihoods of real people at real companies, and waste billions of dollars invested by taxpayers and the private sector, for the purpose of scoring political points."