The leadership of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee might differ on what America’s energy future should look like, but they agree that innovation led by the Department of Energy’s ARPA-E program will play an important part.
Chairman Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and ranking member Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, praised the program for fostering ingenuity and the next big thing in energy. Both senators spoke at the ARPA-E Energy Innovation Summit in Maryland.
“It’s quite obvious … that the world is going to need some new tools to effectively impact climate change and promote a low-carbon economy,” said Wyden, adding that the private sector will develop the technology to give the world those tools.
The program has a proven record of forming public-private partnerships that can help convert research into commercial products, showing taxpayers the worth of funding the program, while creating jobs in the industry when the new products reach the market, Wyden said.
The chairman said that he believes energy storage is an area of great potential. If technology could improve the ability to store energy in regions with low demand and release it to areas with high demand when needed, renewable energy like wind and solar would have a significant advantage, he told the audience.
Murkowski said that while the U.S. is now experiencing an abundance of natural gas, thanks to hydraulic fracturing, the country must move forward with a sound energy policy of both development of resources and innovation of technology. Just a few years ago, the most popular school of thought was that the country was running out of oil and gas, but technology has helped turned that on its head. She called for a reassessment of researchers’ though processes to ensure that outdated notions of resource scarcity were not affecting decisions.
The U.S. should expand conventional energy production on federal land from current levels, and use the additional revenue from those leases to fund the development of new energy technologies across the industry, she said. The type of innovation she calls for are the type ARPA-E is designed to facilitate today. Murkowski said that she has called for the continuing funding of the program, despite federal budget constraints. The program seeks radical energy advancements, which are necessary for the U.S., she said.