Senate to take up energy modernization bill

Sen. Murkowski delivered the GOP weekly address on Saturday. Photo: YouTube.
Sen. Murkowski delivered the GOP weekly address on Saturday. Photo: YouTube.

U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who chairs the Senate Energy Committee, gave the Republican weekly address this weekend. She used the opportunity to talk about the energy modernization bill she co-sponsored with the top Democrat on her committee, Sen. Maria Cantwell of Washington state. Murkowski says the energy world has changed a lot since 2007, when the last such bill passed Congress.

Download Audio

“It’s been over eight years, folks,” she said. “Back then, we were living in an era of energy scarcity, with many afraid that America was running out of resources.”

The fracking revolution changed all that, and Murkowski says U.S. policy needs to change, too.

“On top of that, the cost of many other technologies – from solar panels to batteries for electric vehicles – has declined dramatically,” she said.

Murkowski says the bill will help bring electricity policy into the modern age.

Congress is off to a delayed start this week, due to the big snow storm that immobilized much of the East Coast over the weekend. When senators return to take up bills, the energy bill is at the top of the agenda

Murkowski and Cantwell wrote the bill to steer clear of controversy. Still, environmental groups object to parts of the bill that loosen rules for energy savings and green-building standards for government facilities. Some conservatives, on the other hand, complain the bill interferes with the free market by directing public money to efficiency programs and selected technologies.

Murkowski and her staff point to several aspects of the bill that could benefit Alaska.  It authorizes federal research on geothermal energy, for example, and promotes hybrid micro-grid systems and other power technologies well suited to rural Alaska.

Nationally, the bill aims to encourage LNG export projects. It would speed decisions on export licenses and construction of new terminals. It does not provide any financing for the big Alaska LNG project. In her televised address, Murkowski focused on the bill’s benefits to the country as a whole.

“It will help America produce more energy. It will help Americans pay less for energy. And it will firmly establish America as a global energy superpower,” said.

The full Senate is likely to begin work on the energy bill mid-week.