Energy & Environment — Biden admin proposes regs for EV charging stations

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The Biden administration is proposing regulations for electric vehicle chargers, and by one count, gasoline reaches an average price of $5 per gallon.

This is Overnight Energy & Environment, your source for the latest news focused on energy, the environment and beyond. For The Hill, we’re Rachel Frazin and Zack Budryk. Someone forward you this newsletter? Subscribe here.

Biden officials propose EV charging regulations

The Biden administration on Wednesday evening announced new standards for federally funded electric vehicle chargers as it seeks to expand electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure throughout the U.S.

The standards will be laid out formally in a proposed rule from the Federal Highway Administration, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg told reporters on a press call Wednesday.

The rule will require EV charging stations every 50 miles and no more than a mile off the highway, emphasizing the interstate highway system and alternative fuel corridors, according to Buttigieg. 

“The proposed rule requires at least four 150-kilowatt DC fast-charging ports per station so that the station can serve multiple customers, and it ensures safe installation and maintenance by qualified technicians, creating new jobs in this EV infrastructure sector,” Buttigieg said. 

Buttigieg said the proposal will also bar any EV charging station receiving federal funds from requiring memberships in a club or loyalty program to use the chargers, which “ensures that charging stations funded under these programs can serve a broad range of vehicles … and it sends a market signal toward a standard charging port for stations to accommodate the widest possible set of vehicles and accommodate adapters for all vehicles.”

Read more about the proposed standards here.

BIDEN TALKS ENERGY ON KIMMEL

President Biden late Wednesday said that Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) disagrees with other Democrats on climate policy as Democrats try to advance their policies in Congress.

President Biden late Wednesday noted some of the policy differences among Senate Democrats as the party struggles to advance several of its priorities.

In an interview with Jimmy Kimmel, the TV host asked Biden what he would say to Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.).

“They agree on a lot of these proposals,” Biden said. “The place where they’re not there is — Joe’s not there on a lot of the things having to do with the climate and the environment because he comes from coal country and he has a different view.”

The background: His comments come as Democrats are hoping to hammer out a spending deal with Manchin on legislation that would fight climate change and advance the president’s economic agenda.

Average gasoline price surpasses $5: GasBuddy

The average price of gasoline in the U.S. surpassed $5 per gallon for the first time ever on Thursday, according to gas price site GasBuddy.

The latest high price comes after months of rising prices and is likely to add to a political headache from the Biden administration even though presidents only have limited control over the price of the fuel.

GasBuddy, in a statement, attributed price increases to high seasonal demand — people tend to drive more in the summer — and pandemic-related supply constraints.

The site, and other experts, have also cited Russia’s War in Ukraine and lowered U.S. capacity to refine oil into gasoline as additional factors.

Over the past few years, a handful of North American refiners have shuttered because of a fire, flooding and the COVID-19 pandemic.

“All of these factors have created an environment ripe for a surge in gas prices, while Americans balk at prices but continue filling up as demand has seen little decline,” the group said in a statement.

Read more about gasoline prices here.

HOUSE PASSES WATER BILL

The House late Wednesday passed the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA), a bipartisan water infrastructure bill.

The legislation passed 384-37, with only Republicans opposing it.

WRDA passes every other year and seeks to invest in ports and waterways and improve resilience.

US seeks to compete on batteries

As battery-powered electric vehicles become a mainstay on the nation’s highways — and a key piece of President Biden’s environmental policy — the U.S. is facing a formidable challenge in its efforts to compete in the global battery race.

“The problem is, we’re just pretty far behind here,” Ethan Elkind, director of the climate program at Berkeley Law’s Center for Law, Energy & the Environment, told The Hill. 

“We should have been planning for this a decade ago,” he added. “But I think we can get things moving, now that there’s bipartisan support for it.”

Some of that support was evident in November’s passage of the bipartisan infrastructure bill, which allocated $7.5 billion toward a national network of electric vehicle (EV) chargers — and followed the Biden administration’s August declaration that half of new cars sold in the U.S. would be zero-emission by 2030.

Just last month, the U.S. Department of Energy announced that it would be allocating $3.16 billion in funding from the infrastructure bill to produce more batteries and associated components in America, while bolstering related supply chains.

Despite the fact that lithium-ion battery technology was invented in the U.S. in the 1970s, China has been able to control the supply chain thus far.

“The Chinese Communist Party for over 30 years has been thinking very strategically about, as we shift from a fossil fuel-based economy to a minerals, clean energy-based economy, how can they leapfrog ahead of the rest of the world, I think, and become sort of the global powerhouse in this new energy economy,” said Abigail Wulf, director of critical minerals strategy at the think tank Securing America’s Energy Future.

Wulf called the announcement of the $3 billion for batteries under the bipartisan infrastructure law a “huge” step toward addressing the imbalance.

“Is it going to solve all our problems? No,” she said. “But it’s the first time that our government has ever really gotten to this in any major way, which I think is really exciting.”

George Crabtree, a senior scientist at the Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory, noted the U.S. is also “way behind” Europe in battery production. He said that China’s dominance went beyond the mining of materials.

“They traveled the world and made deals with the foreign suppliers. And they dominate a lot of the refining of the materials that they don’t mine themselves. So there’s really a two-level lock on the supply chain,” he said.

Read more here from Zack, Sharon Udasin and Caitlin McLean.

SPECIAL FEATURE

This week The Hill is exploring what’s next for electric and autonomous vehicles in the series “Driving Into the Future. Articles from Hill reporters and opinion contributors will be posted throughout the week here.

WHAT WE’RE READING

  • Proposed deal could slash toxic emissions in America’s ‘Cancer Alley’ (The Guardian)

  • How a battery shortage is hampering the U.S. switch to wind, solar power (Reuters)

  • Illinois governor signs bill banning burning of PFAS (ABC7)

  • California tells San Francisco, Valley farmers to halt water diversions as drought worsens (Sacramento Bee)

  • Lake Mead falls below 30% capacity (8NewsNow)

ICYMI

That’s it for today, thanks for reading. Check out The Hill’s Energy & Environment page for the latest news and coverage. We’ll see you tomorrow.

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