Murkowski: DOE Request Hits on Minerals, Misses on Innovation

Committee Also Reports FERC Nominee to Full Senate

U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, today chaired an oversight hearing to examine the proposed fiscal year 2021 budget for the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). Secretary Dan Brouillette testified in support of the President’s budget request, which focuses on a number of key cross-cutting challenges – including grid modernization, energy storage, and plastics innovation – while proposing steep cuts to important innovation-focused programs. 

Murkowski highlighted DOE’s new Critical Minerals Initiative, which will bring together the Office of Science and the applied energy offices to help rebuild a stable, sustainable supply chain in the U.S.

“I have long sounded the alarm about our nation’s dependence on foreign minerals. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, we import more than half of our supply of 46 different minerals, and are completely reliant on imports for 17 of them,” Murkowski said. “If we want to lead on emerging technologies, such as energy storage and electric vehicles, that has to change. We can’t surrender the front end of the supply chain and hope to somehow recover the rest. I’m glad to see the Department utilizing so many of its assets to address this problem.”

Murkowski expressed disappointment in the President’s request to eliminate or make deep cuts to innovation-focused programs such as the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) and the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.

During the question-and-answer period, Murkowski asked Brouillette about his commitment to re-establish the Arctic Energy Office in Alaska. While the budget request does not reflect that decision, Brouillette re-assured Murkowski that the Department is moving full speed to re-open it and hopes to make an announcement in about 90 days.

“While you may not see the numbers that you’d wish to see in the President’s budget, I want to assure you … we do have the authorities to organize the Department under the DOE Organizational Act in the matter in which the Secretary deems appropriate,” Brouillette said. “In this case I have deemed it appropriate that we will expand the office.”

The committee also held a business meeting to re-report the nomination of James Danly to be a member of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).

“Mr. Danly is a good choice for FERC, and I welcomed his re-nomination to be a commissioner,” Murkowski said. “He is well-qualified and his confirmation will help ensure FERC maintains a quorum.”

Murkowski is chairman of the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. An archived video of today’s hearing can be found on the committee’s website. Click here and here to view Murkowski’s questions for Brouillette.

Related Issues: Energy