Bipartisan Energy Bill: Innovation Key to US Energy Superpower Status

Senate push to modernize U.S. energy laws, drive innovation
March 4, 2020 Updated: March 4, 2020

The U.S. Senate voted overwhelmingly on Monday to take up the American Energy Innovation Act (AEIA)—a bipartisan bill that proponents say will comprehensively update the nation’s energy regulations. According to the Department of Energy, the bill “will modernize domestic energy laws to ensure the United States remains a global energy leader while also strengthening national security, increasing our international competitiveness, and investing in clean energy technologies.”

The AEIA (pdf) was introduced last week by U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), chairman of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.). Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) filed cloture on Feb. 27 on a motion to proceed to Bill S.2657 (pdf), a geothermal R&D bill that Murkowski and Manchin are using as the legislative vehicle for their broader AEIA energy package. Senators voted to commence consideration of the bill by 84 votes to 3.

“It has now been more than 12 years since Congress enacted comprehensive legislation to update our nation’s energy laws,” said Murkowski. “During that time, the shale revolution has turned America into an energy superpower. The costs of renewable resources have come down dramatically. New technologies are emerging, but our policies have not kept pace. We are missing out on opportunities to further our energy leadership, and we are failing to adequately address some very significant challenges.”

“This bill is our best chance to modernize our nation’s energy policies in more than 12 years,” Murkowski said. “By working together to pass it into law, we can promote a range of emerging technologies that will help keep energy affordable even as it becomes cleaner and cleaner. Our bill also addresses national needs by taking overdue steps to enhance our cybersecurity, grid security, and mineral security.

The American Energy Innovation Act

The AEIA is an amalgam of measures sponsored throughout the last year by more than 60 senators. The key provisions of the AEIA focus on innovations in the fields of energy efficiency and energy storage, renewable energy, carbon capture, utilization and storage technologies, advanced nuclear technologies, mineral security, internet security, grid security and modernization, the Department of Energy, industrial and vehicle technologies, and workforce development initiatives.

A Department of Energy statement said that “AEIA will strengthen our domestic economy, national security, and international competitiveness while facilitating cleaner energy that protects human health and the global environment.”

The Consumer Energy Alliance praised the senators for championing the bill. “Too many of our discussions about energy are mired in partisan bickering and extreme positions that close off productive discussion … We are grateful for the leadership of Senators Murkowski and Manchin. Their bill provides opportunities to make real progress on the energy issues and environmental protections that all Americans support.”

National Mining Association President and CEO Rich Nolan praised the bill for addressing the United State’s reliance on mineral import, and for its focus on the development of carbon capture technologies. “Mining has never been more important to all of our energy needs,” said Nolan. “From the fuels that provide the foundation for the nation’s electricity grid, to the materials essential to future technologies and transportation systems, mining is the often overlooked but essential and irreplaceable part of our energy story.”

“The World Bank projects that demand for the key minerals needed for future technologies could jump 1,000 percent in the coming years,” he said. “Without action, as demand increases, permitting hurdles will continue to obstruct our domestic supply, causing alarming overreliance on foreign imports for the minerals we need and weakening the competitiveness of critical industries. This legislation will better-position the U.S. to achieve lasting minerals security while securing the essential supply chains of tomorrow from within our own borders.”

Energy and Commerce Committee Republican Leader Greg Walden (R-Ore.), said in a statement that he believes that the most cost-effective method of securing national economic success and security interests is through innovation and, Walden added, through nuclear innovation in particular.

“U.S. global leadership here is sorely needed,” said Walden. “Exporting clean power and clean power technologies will do more to drive down global Co2 emissions than arbitrary caps that countries fail to meet.”