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Republican News

U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, today underscored the importance of innovation to lower energy costs and make energy more abundant and reliable. As she delivered remarks on the Senate Floor, Murkowski used her home state to demonstrate the substantial benefits of innovation, as many remote communities in Alaska are developing their natural resources to generate clean, renewable, and affordable energy.


Click to view video of Murkowski’s remarks on energy innovation

Murkowski, chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, emphasized the committee’s efforts to promote energy innovation through legislation like the Energy Policy Modernization Act – the broad, bipartisan energy bill the committee reported in late July.

“Our energy bill supports innovation in a number of areas: in energy efficiency, in energy storage, and in distribution; for vehicles, for hybrid microgrid systems, and for recycling; for geothermal power, for marine hydrokinetic, and for many other developing technologies,” Murkowski said.

Throughout her remarks, Murkowski pointed to Alaska, where innovative energy research and development are helping to mitigate the high costs of diesel fuel in remote communities. Many Alaska communities are leading the way on energy innovation by working to integrate wind, solar, geothermal into their microgrids.

“Innovation is essential to moving our rural communities off of diesel and onto more sustainable, locally generated, and less expensive energy systems. And Alaska is bringing these innovative technologies to communities around the state through a variety of state-run programs largely financed by the revenues derived from our oil production,” Murkowski said.

Sen. Murkowski meets with Bill Gates to discuss the
importance of promoting energy innovation.

When it comes to advancing energy innovation, Murkowski recognizes that the private sector will play a key role. In October, Murkowski met with Microsoft co-founder and philanthropist, Bill Gates, who has announced his commitment to invest $1 billion over five years to advance new technologies. Murkowski said that efforts to advance new energy technologies in both the public and private sectors “have the potential to transform the way that energy is produced, delivered, and consumed. This, too, will help drive energy innovation in America.”

Murkowski’s concluded her remarks with a commitment to work with her colleagues to promote innovation as a clear path to a future with lower energy costs and cleaner air and cleaner water.

Video and prepared text of Murkowski’s remarks are available on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee website.

As Prepared for Delivery

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska,

Chairman, Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee

November 19, 2015

Mr. President, I have come to the Floor many times to highlight the Obama Administration’s shortsighted, anti-energy decisions.  Whether the more than seven years of delay and eventual rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline, the burdensome rules coming out of the EPA that will raise the cost of energy, or actions by the Department of the Interior that seek to halt resource development in federal areas, this Administration has rarely ever worked with us to promote responsible energy, mineral, and timber development. 

In my home state of Alaska, the ever-shifting federal regulatory environment played a key role in Shell’s decision to abandon seven years of work and $7 billion of investment in the offshore Arctic.  Another company, looking at low oil prices and seeing the same deteriorating regulatory environment, decided to follow suit. 

The Obama Administration has also canceled offshore lease sales in Alaska.  It has hamstrung projects in our National Petroleum Reserve, which we need to refill our Trans-Alaska Pipeline.  It has placed half of that Reserve off-limits, even though it was specifically designated for development. And it is trying to lock away more than 10 billion barrels of oil in the non-wilderness portion of ANWR, which could be safely produced with development of just 0.01 percent of its surface area. 

The list goes on and on.  I could continue with more examples, explaining what they will mean for our nation and why the Senate should care – and I will be back here, repeatedly, to do just that.  But today, I want to focus on another area, innovation, where I believe there is greater hope for working together with this administration to make a real difference for our nation.  Innovation holds tremendous promise – not just for us, as policymakers, but also in terms of the long-lasting benefits it can deliver for our nation and the world.    

Innovation does not require more complex and costly regulations, nor does it choose winners or losers in the energy sector.  Instead, innovation offers a chance at common ground that will deliver results and help power our nation for decades to come.  No matter your motivation for seeking cleaner and more affordable energy – we should all be able to agree that without innovation, our energy future and our economic prosperity are hardly secure.

The good news is that the United States is the global leader in innovation.  We hear this is a race, and that America is falling behind, but our strengths are still unmatched.  Our innovations – our ideas and our inventions, our products and our processes – have changed history and changed the world. 

The United States has led the way in research and development that has changed our lives – and lives across the world – for the better.  Among Federal agencies, the Department of Energy in particular, has played an important role in these efforts, and I believe that it can make even greater contributions, especially to vital, basic research.   

The Department of Energy is hardly perfect.  Many of us would make changes to the scope of its mission, and improve its priorities, if given the chance.  But for all its faults, the Department has also sparked innovation that has helped transform the global energy landscape. 

The most successful innovations give us more energy, reduce the amount of energy that we use, and lower the costs we pay for energy.  Going forward, those should remain our goals.  Increasing access to energy, making it more affordable, and improving its environmental performance should be key factors that drive our innovation policy.

Those of us on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee regularly discuss innovation, and how best to promote it through responsible federal policies.  We understand how critical it is to our nation’s future.  And that’s why innovation is a key part of the broad, bipartisan energy bill that we reported in July through a vote of 18 to 4.

Our bipartisan bill also includes legislation authored by my good friend from Tennessee, Senator Alexander, to renew some of the energy-related portions of the America COMPETES Act.  We have agreed to authorize a four percent increase in funding for basic energy research each year, which will put us on a responsible path to double our nation’s commitment to it. 

It is basic research that is at the heart of the mission of our system of national laboratories and also of our many research universities.  The men and women in the research sector are pushing to make that fundamental discovery – to conduct the basic research that could find the next big thing for energy.  This type of research should be a priority for us, and the Department of Energy should be committed to helping new discoveries transition to market viability.

Our bill also reauthorizes the ARPA-E program, which solicits ideas that are too early for private-sector investment, but with bridge funding have the opportunity to transform the energy sector.  ARPA-E is a true hands-on program that ensures awardees meet milestones toward the goal of market viability.  ARPA-E hasn’t been around for that long, but it is promoting good ideas and producing good results. 

Our bill also supports innovation in a number of other areas: in energy efficiency, in energy storage, and in distribution; for vehicles, for hybrid microgrid systems, and for recycling; for geothermal power, for marine hydrokinetic, and for many other developing technologies. 

Recently, we have also seen more reports of private individuals and companies that plan to invest in energy technologies with the potential to transform the way that energy is produced, delivered, and consumed.  This, too, will help drive energy innovation in America.

In July, Bill Gates announced his personal commitment to invest $1 billion over five years to advance new technologies.  He made that commitment based on his recognition that currently available energy options will not allow the world to achieve its much-discussed climate goals in a way that also reduces costs for the people using the energy.  His focus is as much on clean air and clean water as it is on lifting people around the world out of poverty.

I enjoyed meeting with Mr. Gates several weeks ago, and look forward to seeing what comes of his commitment.  I’m also following the possibilities that are coming out of venture capital and other private investments.  Those efforts augment federal research and development dollars and in many cases are ensuring that promising technologies are not set on a shelf, but pursued to a hopefully successful and productive result.

Nowhere in our country is the effort to spur energy innovation seen more clearly than in Alaska.  Energy prices in many parts of Alaska are much higher than those paid by our friends in the Lower 48.  Many factors contribute to the high costs, including our vast geography and a lack of a comprehensive and interconnected energy delivery system.  Although Alaska is home to a tremendous amount of energy development, our communities are not directly powered by it.  Many communities in rural Alaska still rely on diesel to generate their power and delivering that diesel, whether by barge or by plane, is hugely expensive.

Innovation is essential to moving these rural communities off of diesel and onto more sustainable, locally generated, and less expensive energy systems.  And Alaska is bringing these innovative technologies to communities around the state through a variety of state-run programs largely financed by the revenues derived from our oil production.

Responsible development of Alaska’s resources has enabled the state to take the necessary steps to improve energy delivery in our remote communities.  This is in many ways a virtuous circle – where current energy production helps fund the next generation of energy production, and where we harness today’s energy to significantly improve the lives of our people.

Several communities in Alaska are working with various state agencies to integrate wind, solar, and geothermal into their electricity delivery system in an effort to displace the power normally generated from expensive diesel.  Microgrids are a big part of this endeavor.

Alaska is home to more microgrids than any other state – largely because they are the only option for many of our communities that lie far outside the regional transmission grids of Fairbanks and Anchorage.  This provides the state and the federal government with ample opportunities to conduct research and develop solutions to better integrate renewable technologies into these microgrids.

In order for renewable technologies to be effective in Alaska, innovative research and development is required and the result of these efforts has made a dramatic difference in many communities.  Bringing renewables online in remote communities has in some cases displaced hundreds of thousands of gallons of diesel fuel, saving the people who live there hundreds of thousands of dollars.

It is exciting to think about what a difference future innovations in renewable technologies and energy storage could mean for communities in Alaska, the rest of our country, and the rest of the world. 

Whether it is through federal research and development, state programs, or private capital, promoting innovation is a clear path to lower energy costs and a future with cleaner air and cleaner water.

 We may not agree on every energy policy that comes before this chamber – but we should all be able to agree that energy innovation is one key to our assuring our economic growth, national security, and international competitiveness.   

Mr. President, I yield the Floor.

 

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