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Durbin: Central Illinois Can Become 'EV Silicon Valley Of 21st Century'

Normal Mayor Chris Koos, left, and U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin talk Thursday with reporters about the need for electric vehicle infrastructure.
Charlie Schlenker
/
WGLT
Normal Mayor Chris Koos, left, and U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin talk Thursday with reporters about the need for electric vehicle infrastructure.

Democratic lawmakers are busy stumping for President Biden's American Jobs Plan, with U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin taking his efforts to create public support for the massive bill to a parking garage above the Amtrak Station in Uptown Normal where there are charging docks for electric vehicles.

Durbin said the American Jobs Plan puts $174 billion toward electric vehicle charging stations and vehicle buyer tax credits by 2030. And he said central Illinois has a bright EV future based on what he's heard from Rivian executives.

"I can't name names because they weren't prepared to make it public, but many sub-contractors will be working with Rivian and locating their businesses here in Illinois and central Illinois. Central Illinois has the opportunity to become the EV Silicon Valley of the 21st Century. I'm not exaggerating," Durbin said at a Thursday news conference.

The Illinois lawmaker said battery tech technology and Illinois are important in another way. Most batteries and their elements are produced in China that has a large share of the world's lithium. The U.S. has relatively little. Durbin said he believes there is a way the U.S. can be more self-sufficient.

"There are other sources that are being developed. There is a lithium mine now in the southwestern part of the United States. There are even plans to reclaim lithium from the tailings of coal mines," said Durbin.

Durbin said the nation also is researching other materials than lithium for the next several generations of electric storage batteries. The Biden administration jobs plan includes another $180 billion for that research at places like the Argonne and Fermi National Labs, also in Illinois.

Durbin said the government and private sector need to get ready for all the electricity those new electric vehicles will suck down, and the Biden infrastructure and jobs plan has money for that, too.

"It isn't just highways and roads and bridges and tunnels and airports and ports. It also is our electrical grid, transmission of electric power across the U.S. from all sorts of sources. Is it necessary? Ask the people in Texas who went through a week or two of no electricity because the current system is just not up to the challenge," said Durbin.

Getting the legislative package approved in Congress may be difficult. Republicans are not on board. Pandemic relief passed through a mechanism called reconciliation that avoided Senate filibuster. Not every piece of legislation can be passed with such an end run.

Durbin said Democrats will try to work with Republicans, but if they can't get 60 votes to close debate on the bill, they'll look again at doing away with the filibuster.

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