Alexander: Bipartisan Energy Legislation Will Help Fuel Innovation, Put U.S. on “Reasonable Path” to Double Energy Research

Posted on April 20, 2016

If signed into law, legislation would be first major energy policy law in more than eight years

“This bipartisan energy bill will help the United States maintain its brainpower advantage and create an abundance of clean, cheap, reliable energy to fuel innovation in our free enterprise system.”

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WASHINGTON, April 20, 2016 – U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) said today a broad, bipartisan energy bill that passed the Senate will bolster the United States’ competitive advantage and put the country on a reasonable path to create clean, cheap, reliable energy.

The bill, the Energy Policy Modernization Act of 2016, includes several provisions supported by Sen. Alexander and passed the Senate by a vote of 85 to 12. If signed into law, the legislation would be the first broad energy legislation in eight years.

“This bipartisan energy bill will help the United States maintain its brainpower advantage and create an abundance of clean, cheap, reliable energy to fuel innovation in our free enterprise system. This bill reauthorizes energy programs in the America COMPETES Act and authorizes the Department of Energy to double basic energy research over the next 10 years,” Alexander said. “The legislation also authorizes the Department of Energy to continue with plans to build the world’s fastest supercomputers, which is essential to national security and competitiveness and would create high-wage jobs. I commend Sen. Murkowski for her leadership on this broad bipartisan bill.”

The bill includes provisions from three Alexander-sponsored bills – the Energy Title of America COMPETES Reauthorization Act, the ExaSCALE Computing Leadership Act, and the James K. Polk Presidential Home Study Act. The legislation also includes language from the Vehicle Innovation Act and the National Park Access Act, which Alexander cosponsored.

Alexander said language from the Energy Title of America COMPETES Reauthorization Act, which was amended on the floor to increase authorized funding levels for the Office of Science, will help grow jobs and boost the Department of Energy’s ability to find new ways to make clean, cheap, reliable energy.

“Supporting government sponsored research is an important part of a Republican pro-growth energy policy. That's how we got 3-D mapping and horizontal drilling that led to unconventional gas and oil production. That's how we're going to get the cost of carbon capture low enough to make it commercially viable. We should cut wasteful spending on subsidies for mature energy technology and double energy research, and this lays out a reasonable path to do that,” Alexander said.

The ExaSCALE Computing Leadership Act authorizes funding for public-private research partnerships between industry, universities and the Department of Energy’s national laboratories to research and design at least two different types of exascale supercomputers capable of one quintrillion (i.e., a billion multiplied by a billion) calculations per second, which is a thousand-fold increase over the supercomputers in use today.

The bipartisan energy bill also reauthorizes the Vehicle Technologies Office at the Department of Energy, which supports the development of cutting-edge technologies in the American auto industry. Automotive innovation is very important to Tennessee’s auto industry and the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Such innovation helped create new jobs related to carbon fiber and composites manufacturing in Tennessee.

The Energy Policy Modernization Act of 2016 passed Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee in July 2015, by a vote of 18 to 4. The bill includes the following provisions and amendments supported by Sen. Alexander:

Energy Title of America COMPETES Reauthorization Act, as amended

  • Authorizes a 7 percent increase in funding each year for basic energy research and reauthorizes the Department of Energy’s Office of Science and ARPA-E, an agency that supports research in energy technology, for five years. The legislation would put the Department of Energy on a path toward doubling the roughly $5 billion it spends on basic energy research.
  • Eliminates six Department of Energy programs that were never fully implemented and reforms five other department programs.
  • Attracts and keeps the country’s most talented scientists in the lab through competitive grant programs.

ExaSCALE Computing Leadership Act of 2015

  • Authorizes funding for research partnerships between industry, universities and national laboratories to design at least two different types of exascale supercomputers capable of a billion billion calculations per second, which is a thousand-fold increase over the supercomputers in use today.

The Vehicle Innovation Act

  • Reauthorizes the Vehicle Technologies Office at the Department of Energy, which supports research and development to make vehicles more efficient.

The Utility Energy Service Contracts Improvement Act

  • Allows federal agencies to enter into long-term contracts with utilities to improve energy efficiency, which some day could include small modular reactors.

The Quadrennial Energy Review Act

  • Requires the president to conduct a review of domestic energy capabilities and needs and establish a government-wide federal energy policy plan to submit to Congress.

The Smart Manufacturing Leadership Act

  • Leverages existing Department of Energy programs and the smart manufacturing infrastructure at national laboratories, including high-performance computing, to assist small and medium manufacturers.

The National Park Access Act

  • Reimburses Tennessee, Arizona, Colorado, New York, South Dakota and Utah for spending state and local funds to reopen some national parks during the 2013 government shutdown.
  • Tennessee along with Blount and Sevier counties would receive approximately $60,000 as reimbursement for reopening the Great Smoky Mountains National Park during the shutdown.

James K. Polk Presidential Home Study Act

  • Directs the Secretary of the Interior to conduct a special resource study for the James K. Polk Home, which is the next step in preserving the former president’s home as part of the National Park System.

Second Use of Batteries Amendment

  • Instructs the Department of Energy to research secondary uses for electric vehicle batteries, which typically retain 70 to 80 percent of their capacity after they can no longer be used in vehicles.
  • Creating a secondary market for electric vehicle batteries could help reduce the cost of electric vehicles to consumers.

WaterSense Amendment

  • Codifies an existing, voluntary water efficiency program at the Environmental Protection Agency for water appliances and fixtures, such as faucets.

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