Alexander: Energy Committee Approval of Basic Energy Research Programs, Development of Supercomputers Will Help Maintain U.S. “Brainpower Advantage”

Committee passes separate Alexander proposals to take next step to preserve President Polk’s home in Columbia, reimburse Tennessee for reopening Smokies in 2013

Posted on July 30, 2015

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“[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.” - Lamar Alexander

WASHINGTON, D.C., July 30 – U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) today voted in committee for the bipartisan “Energy Policy Modernization Act of 2015,” which passed the Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee by a vote of 18 to 4. The bill includes a number of proposals offered by Alexander.

Alexander said: “I commend Chairman Murkowski’s leadership of the Energy committee in crafting a bipartisan energy bill that 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. I am pleased the committee approved an amendment I offered to reauthorize a key energy research program and legislation I introduced to take the next step in preserving President Polk’s home in Columbia as a site within the National Park System.”

The Energy Policy Modernization Act of 2015 included the following proposals supported by Alexander:

  • Energy Title of America COMPETES Reauthorization Act:

Alexander said: “Governing is about setting priorities, and this legislation will put us on a path to double basic energy research – one of the best ways to keep good-paying jobs from going overseas – while streamlining basic energy research programs at the U.S. Department of Energy. As researchers have told me, it’s hard to think of an important technological advance since World War II that has not involved at least some government-sponsored research.” 

The COMPETES reauthorization bill would:

o    Authorize a 4 percent increase in funding each year for basic energy research, and reauthorize for five years the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science and ARPA-E, an agency that supports research in energy technology. The legislation would put the Department on a path toward doubling the roughly $5 billion it spends on basic energy research.

o    Eliminate six Department programs that were never fully implemented, and reform five other Department programs.

o    Attract and keep the country’s most talented scientists in the lab through competitive grant programs funded through the Department.

  • The ExaSCALE Computing Leadership Act of 2015 to create research partnerships between industry, universities and U.S. Department of Energy’s national labs to research and develop at least two exascale supercomputer architectures, with the goal of having a fully operational computer system that has reached “exascale” – a measure of speed that is beyond any computer system in the world – by 2023. It authorizes funding for these partnerships and requires the department to provide regular status reports to Congress on the progress of the project.

Alexander said: “Supercomputing is essential to U.S. national security, competitiveness in science and technology and the ability of our free enterprise system to create the good-paying jobs of the future. It has helped maintain our nuclear stockpile, enabled manufacturers to make better products and even allowed scientists to map the human heart at one beat per second.”‎

  • The Vehicle Innovation Act to reauthorize the Vehicle Technologies Office at the Department of Energy, which supports research and development to make vehicles more efficient. The Oak Ridge National Laboratory has worked on several projects with the Vehicle Technologies Office.

Alexander said: “This energy research for fuel-efficient cars fits perfectly with Tennessee’s expanding auto industry. Already Alcoa is selling more aluminum to manufacturers for auto parts and is expanding as it sells more aluminum to auto manufacturers. The Oak Ridge National Laboratory is researching lighter materials and helped to develop a non-destructive technology that checks welds in real time on the production line, dramatically improving manufacturing efficiency.”

The energy bill also permanently reauthorizes the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which funds conservation programs and supports outdoor recreation.  “I believe we should use revenue from oil and gas drilling, and other activities that deplete our natural resources, to fund conservation efforts,” said Alexander.

The Energy Committee today also passed the following pieces of legislation:

  • The James K. Polk Presidential Home Study Act, first introduced by Alexander in June, would direct the U.S. Secretary of the Interior to conduct a special resource study for the James K. Polk Home in Columbia, Tenn., and evaluate the suitability and feasibility of designating the site as a unit of the National Park System, thereby preserving the site, Alexander said, as “a national treasure.”

Alexander said: “Tennessee is full of history, and the presidency of James K. Polk is one of our state’s great contributions to our nation’s history. Columbia’s dedicated residents are making progress, and this special resource study is the next step in the process toward preserving President Polk’s home and belongings and elevating the site to the national treasure it deserves to be.” 

  • The National Park Access Act, which would reimburse states that paid to keep national parks open during the federal government shutdown in October 2013.

Alexander said: “The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one of America’s greatest treasures, and it was forced to be shut down during its prime tourist season when the park welcomes the most visitors and the surrounding businesses make most of their money. I am glad Congress decided to relieve the pain caused in these areas and their surrounding communities and ensure Tennessee taxpayers won’t have to pay the price for keeping them open.”

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