MURKOWSKI PRAISES PASSAGE OF SENATE ENERGY BILL
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Lisa Murkowski today welcomed final Senate passage of major energy legislation.
“This is a great step in reducing energy costs for Alaskans and the nation,” said Senator Murkowski. “While the bill is not the total solution to our country’s energy needs, it does make major advances in aid for renewable energy and promotes greater energy efficiency in vehicles, buildings and appliances. The bill does not contain the provisions many of us wanted to include to increase supplies of domestic energy. I am hopeful that now that Congress has agreed to significant conservation through an increase in CAFE and has agreed to provide for investments in renewable energy that we will address the third critical aspect of energy policy by increasing domestic production,” said Murkowski, a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.
The bill, the final Senate substitute for a House-passed energy bill (H.R. 6), will require a 40 percent increase in vehicle fuel economy standards (to an average of 35 mpg compared to the current 25) by 2020 covering not only cars, but sport utility vehicles and light trucks. But the measure crafted by Senator Ted Stevens, to protect the desires of Alaskans for vehicles capable of hauling and holding heavier loads, includes greater flexibility by keeping dual standards between cars and light trucks. The new standards should save more than 1.5 million barrels of oil a day by 2025.
The vehicle provisions also include one proposed by Murkowski earlier this year in her energy efficiency REFRESH Act. The provision will require a study of the fuel savings that could result from enacting of a Corporate Average Fuel Efficiency (CAFE) standard on heavy commercial trucks, those weighing over 10,000 pounds. Estimates are that the nation could save about 450,000 barrels of oil each day and save the trucking industry enough money on fuel to pay for the upgrades in only a few years if trucks and tractor-trailers achieved a 30 percent increase in fuel efficiency over current levels. If studies confirm the estimates Congress still will have to approve future legislation to extend CAFE requirements to commercial trucks.
The energy bill includes a host of provisions to further renewable energy development including a Renewable Energy Deployment Grant program that Murkowski authored with Senator Stevens. That measure will provide federal grants of up to 50 percent of the cost of building a wide variety of renewable electricity projects: wind, geothermal, ocean (wave, tidal and current), biomass, solar, landfill gas and small hydroelectric projects in Alaska. The grant program, when funded, should help with the installation of potential projects like the Fire Island wind farm, and ocean energy projects in Cook Inlet or Southeast.
Additionally, the legislation includes:
• A federal grant program specifically to help with construction of geothermal energy projects in areas of high electricity costs like Alaska. The provision, part of a major initiative to fund research and deployment of geothermal energy nationwide, could help with installation of geothermal projects from Mt. Spurr to Naknek and Unalaska to Chena Hot Springs.
• An amendment co-authored by Murkowski with Hawaii Sen. Daniel Akaka that provides major federal aid to ocean energy development; including the establishment of at least one and perhaps six national ocean research centers to fund research on development of technology that will generate power from wave and tidal energy.
• Several sections to aid in the capture and storage of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas. It specifically requires a study by the U.S. Geological Survey to find geologic structures to store carbon underground, keeping it out of the environment. The bill also includes funding for research on building large-scale carbon capture and storage facilities and calls for construction of demonstration storage facilities to prove that carbon can be stored at reasonable cost in the future. These provisions may help the Agrium coal gasification project at Kenai.
• Promotes renewable fuels by raising the renewable fuels standard to require the production of 36 billion gallons of biofuels by 2022, compared to the current production of about 7 billion gallons a year. That would be enough to equal about 20 percent of the nation’s transportation fuel needs in 15 years. The standard, however, to cut excessive increases in corn costs, only allows 15 billion gallons of the fuel to come from corn-kernel-based ethanol. Cellulosic ethanol and other forms of biofuels and biodiesel, including fuels made from fish oils, will be expected to fill the rest of the requirement. The bill includes a host of provisions: research, aid for biorefinery construction and aid in development of ethanol pipelines and transportation delivery and distribution systems to help meet the standards.
• Promotes new lighting standards, and tightens energy standards for a host of appliances and furnaces, and sets new goals for U.S. energy use and conservation and requires the federal government to reduce energy use in its buildings, setting up a “green buildings” performance standard.
• A provision authored by Murkowski to promote improved appliances in cold weather states. The provision gives tax breaks to companies that design and build dual-fuel appliances that run on both conventional and renewable energy and gives tax credits to buyers under the national “Energy Star” program.
Finally, in one of the few provisions that might increase traditional domestic energy production, the bill includes a provision authored by Murkowski and Sen. Ted Stevens that makes improvements in the operation of the Alaska Gas Pipeline Coordinator’s Office to help speed regulatory approval for construction of an Alaska natural gas pipeline project. The provision will grant the coordinator a waiver of federal personnel rules so the office can hire staff more quickly and includes a provision granting the coordinator the right to assess fees from a successful applicant to pay for permit reviews and regulation of the construction of a gas project to move Alaska natural gas to market.
“For Alaska, which has some of the best potential for renewable energy development in the nation, this bill, if finally passed and funded in a reasonable manner, offers the promise for lower-priced and cleaner energy in the future. Combined with the Energy Policy Act in 2005 that provided loan guarantees and assistance for nuclear, hydrogen fuel cell and coal gasification technology, plus aid for wind, solar, biomass and landfill gas, Congress has taken huge steps to promote alternative energy and energy efficiency.
“We still need to promote more conventional fuel production to help us bridge the gap until these new technologies can work. We still need to promote natural gas production from Alaska, open the Arctic coastal plain to oil development and work to increase natural gas production and revenue sharing from our offshore waters. I remain committed to press those goals in the future,” concluded Murkowski.