Murkowski Comments on Global Trends in Clean Energy Technologies

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, today made the following opening statement at a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing to examine current global investment trends in clean energy technologies and the impact of domestic policies on that investment:

“Today’s hearing is on a very broad topic and one where the conversation often leads to a comparison of American policies with those in other countries. These comparisons can be useful, but in making them we must be crystal clear about some very important factors, including what our own Constitution permits, how much taxpayer money we can afford to spend and what the American people will support.

“The best example of the need for this honesty is our ongoing conversation about China, a country that has only partially opened its markets. The United States, on the other hand, operates as a capitalist democracy. In so many ways, conversations about our status versus China’s rely upon apples-to-oranges comparisons. Our basic approaches to governance are vastly different – and so are the ways our nations choose to make investments. I hope this committee remains aware of those fundamental differences.

“It has become popular, particularly when focused on energy policy, to say that we are ‘falling behind’ China in a sort of ‘clean energy race.’ I would challenge that. We can and should work with China, wherever possible, to make progress on our energy challenges. But we should not merely copy what they do or how they do it, whether in terms of total investment dollars or individual technologies.

“Even China’s more progressive energy policies have been imposed with less-than-ideal results. China has a national goal of producing 15 percent of its energy from non-fossil fuel sources by 2020. The Three Gorges dam – a source of renewable energy – is now producing enough electricity to replace 31 million tons of coal and reduce China’s carbon emissions by 100 million tons annually. The dam, however, caused the displacement of several million people from their homes and communities.

“Another Chinese project meant to help meet greenhouse gas emission reduction targets involves the construction of 13 dams in a World Heritage Site that is home to more than 80 endangered species. I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess that the EPA would probably block that project if it was proposed here in the United States.

“Of course, our country’s policies are not perfect either. Even here at home – where laws like the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act have been in place for decades – biofuels have played a role in rising global food prices, nuclear power has left us with spent fuel that must be safely stored, and the siting of transmission lines to connect renewable assets to the grid has resulted in controversy.

“I raise these issues, not in an attempt to throw cold water on the enthusiasm for deploying clean energy technologies, but perhaps to provide some much-needed context and remind my colleagues of the scope of the energy and environmental challenges we face. I understand that many believe we should be just as enthusiastic as China when it comes to clean energy.  Others look at prices at the pump and say we should be just as enthusiastic as China when it comes to the development of oil, natural gas, coal and other minerals.

 “This is not just about lowering the cost of financing projects we all support, or finding money in the budget for subsidies. It is about looking honestly at the whole picture, and devoting as much attention to identifying the areas where the government can play a constructive role as we do identifying areas where areas where the government is getting in the way.  It’s about reaching agreement on a viable energy policy that addresses both our immediate and long-term needs.”