Two of Tennessee's top Republicans say Biden's economic policies are hurting US

Energy debate comes to Chattanooga this week with differing claims from White House, GOP leaders

Staff Photo by Robin Rudd / From left, Chattanooga Mayor Tim Kelly listens as U.S. Sen. Bill Hagerty speaks during the tour. Hagerty toured the new quantum lab at EPB headquarters Thursday.
Staff Photo by Robin Rudd / From left, Chattanooga Mayor Tim Kelly listens as U.S. Sen. Bill Hagerty speaks during the tour. Hagerty toured the new quantum lab at EPB headquarters Thursday.

Only hours after top officials from the White House came to Chattanooga to promote the economic gains for Tennessee from President Biden's clean energy policies, two of Tennessee's top Republicans in Congress pushed back on the claims from the Biden administration and warned the president's policies are raising prices and weakening America.

During his statewide economic development tour this week, U.S. Sen. Bill Hagerty said regulations and excessive spending from Biden and his Democratic allies in Congress have created the highest inflation rate in 40 years and made America more energy dependent upon the rest of the world than the energy independence achieved for the United States under former President Donald Trump.

"This administration decided to wage war on American energy the day they came into office, and energy is key to almost everything we make in our country," Hagerty told the Hamilton County Farm Bureau during its annual legislative breakfast Thursday. "We're still dealing with record levels of inflation."

Hagerty and U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann blamed excessive regulations, stimulus measures and government assistance programs for raising prices and discouraging some Americans from going back to work.

"We had abundant oil, but we don't any more under President Biden," Fleischmann said.

(READ MORE: Tennessee business leaders more optimistic about state's economic outlook than nation's, survey shows)

Hagerty said workforce participation rates have dropped and government debt has increased because of programs like forgiving student debt or extending pandemic relief programs even once the COVID-19 outbreak was largely over.

"There is the disinformation tour now by the president and his supporters saying he has brought inflation down, but inflation is still growing at 4% a year," Hagerty said. "The president is trying to claim he has somehow turned the tide and brought inflation back down, but that's not true at all."

The GOP criticism of the White House came Thursday morning, just after U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm and White House infrastructure advisor Mitch Landrieu told unionized electricians in Chattanooga on Wednesday night that the Inflation Reduction Act pushed by Biden was helping to develop new types of cleaner energy to replace dirty coal and other fossil fuels they said contribute to global warming.

"The South is doing really well in attracting investment as a result of the president's 'Invest in America' agenda," Granholm said during her visit to the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 175.

(READ MORE: Tennessee's economy grew the second fastest of any state in 2022)

Tennessee has attracted more than $11 billion of investments in electric vehicles and batteries, and Georgia has landed more than twice that amount of EV, battery and clean energy projects aided by new federal incentives.

Hagerty and Fleischmann said they welcome such investments and want to encourage new forms of energy and transportation. But the GOP lawmakers, who each play critical roles in appropriations in their respective chambers in the U.S. Congress, both said they want the U.S. to continue to use fossil fuels to help promote American energy independence, economic growth and power reliability.

Granholm said she thinks the U.S. electric utility industry can move to zero carbon generation by 2035, but the Tennessee Valley Authority has not been able to establish such a target as yet even though the federal utility is leading most U.S. utilities in carbon reductions so far.

"I'm not for a wholesale discard of combustion engine technology or use of fossil fuels," Hagerty said, claiming such an approach threatens to overload the power grid and leave some people in the dark.

Hagerty said he is "thrilled" by some of the EV investments in Tennessee by Nissan, Volkswagen, General Moors and soon Ford Motors Co. But in his speech to the farm group, Hagerty also said he recently talked with recycling and landfill operations that worry that they can't recycle or dispose of some of the parts in EV batteries.

"We need to make sure that we are less dependent on countries like China where many of these batteries are now made," Hagerty said.

Contact Dave Flessner at dflessner@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6340.

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