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Sen. Murkowski’s Comments on Energy Innovation

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, today gave the following remarks at a Senate Energy and Natural Resources hearing on a report produced by the American Energy Innovation Council entitled "Catalyzing American Ingenuity: The Role of Government in Energy Innovation."

“Good morning, Mr. Chairman. I’d like to thank you for scheduling this hearing, and extend a warm welcome to our witnesses.

“Mr. Augustine’s work on a report about competitiveness – called Rising Above the Gathering Storm – served as the foundation for legislation that passed by an overwhelming margin back in 2007. It wouldn’t surprise me if his work on energy innovation, encapsulated in the report we’ll learn more about today, ultimately leads to a similar result.  

“I think most would agree that it’s time for us to renew a coherent, long-term approach to energy development – truly an “all of the above” approach. Innovation will be right at the core of that strategy, and I believe it’s one of the few areas where the government can and should provide greater funding.

“At the same time, I’m aware that even if we do decide to spend more on energy innovation, we will have to make some truly difficult decisions about the amount and duration of spending as well as what our priorities are for it. 

“I have just a few comments in each of those areas.   

“First, the obvious: ‘Investment’ has become a code word for spending – and that requires taxpayer dollars. With our nation more than $15 trillion in debt right now, greater spending in this area will need to be fully offset.  

“It will be challenging to find space in the budget, but that also presents an opportunity to be financially creative.  

“For years now, I’ve suggested that a portion of the revenues from increased domestic energy production should be devoted to energy innovation. That’s a key part of my ANWR legislation, which would raise an estimated $150 billion for the federal treasury at today’s oil prices. Even a fraction of those revenues could go a long way towards developing the resources and technologies that we will rely on in the future. And so I was glad to see the revenues from energy production listed as a possibility in the “Catalyzing American Ingenuity” report.

“Beyond how much we spend, we’ll also need to think carefully about our priorities.  When we look back at where taxpayer dollars have been spent in recent years, it’s clear that we’re not even close to an “all of the above” policy. We can see that in how much the federal government has spent on solar and wind, as opposed to unlocking the potential of methane hydrates. And we can see that in how much this administration has spent on electric vehicles compared to other promising alternatives. 

“Finally, a point about how long we should be involved here. It makes good sense to invest in energy R&D. That’s in our interest. But it’s against our interest to keep subsidizing the same resources and technologies year after year without a clear path toward allowing those technologies to stand on their own in the market. To strike the right balance will require reform of existing programs, and the phase-out of many of the subsidies currently in place. Some experts believe that federal efforts should be oriented more towards basic research, and away from deployment, because in a tight fiscal climate the government should spend on priorities that no other institution will fund. I tend to agree with them.  

“When it comes to energy innovation, we have a lot of thinking to do, and a lot of decisions to make.  This hearing gives us an opportunity to hear from some of the top experts on this issue, so Mr. Chairman, I’ll stop here and give them a chance to speak.”

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