(Senate - July 12, 2016)

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[Pages S5004-S5006]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office []


      By Mr. REED (for himself and Mr. Heller):
  S. 3162. A bill to provide for the consideration of energy storage 
systems by electric utilities as part of a supply side resource 
process, and for other purposes; to the Committee on Energy and Natural 
  Mr. REED. Mr. President, today, along with my colleague Senator 
Heller, I am introducing the Storage Technology for Operational 
Readiness and Generating Energy Act, or STORAGE Act. I thank Senator 
Heller for his work with me on this bipartisan bill.
  The advent of energy storage capacity means unused energy from 
renewable sources can be made available for use when needed, rather 
than wasted. As a result, advances in energy storage can help improve 
the reliability, resiliency, and flexibility of the grid, as well as 
reduce the potential for future rate increases for consumers.
  To further encourage the research and development of energy storage, 
the legislation we are introducing authorizes the Secretary of Energy 
to coordinate efforts among various existing programs at the Department 
of Energy. By streamlining these energy storage research and 
development programs, we hope we will maximize efficiency of funds and 
expand this vital research. I am pleased that the Senate has already 
included an amendment I offered with Senator Heller to add these 
provisions as part of the Energy Policy Modernization Act that we 
passed earlier this year.
  Our bill also amends the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act of 
19781, or PURPA, to add energy storage systems to the list of 
strategies states should consider when developing their energy plan in 
an effort to promote energy conservation and greater use of domestic 
energy. The bill does not mandate the implementation of this or any 
technology. Rather it simply encourages states to analyze whether 
energy storage would provide benefits to the overall system. I look 
forward to working with Senator Heller and our colleagues to also find 
a path forward for these provisions.
  I urge our colleagues to join in supporting the STORAGE Act and 
taking commonsense steps to advance energy storage technology.
      By Mr. ALEXANDER:
  S. 3169. A bill to support basic energy research and eliminate the 
wind production tax credit; to the Committee on Finance.
  Mr. ALEXANDER. Mr. President, I am here to talk about the importance 
of doubling funding for basic energy research and making $8.1 billion 
available in the Federal budget to pay for it.
  The United States does many things well, but one thing we do better 
than any other country in the world is innovation through basic 
research. I have been talking a lot this year about biomedical 
research. Dr. Francis Collins, the Director of the National Institutes 
of Health--which he calls the ``National Institute of Hope''--tells me 
that in 10 years, researchers in our country may be rebuilding hearts 
from stem cells, giving patients an artificial pancreas which would 
help patients with diabetes, and there may be a vaccine for HIV/AIDS.
  Just as remarkable are the opportunities available in clean energy 
research: lowering the cost of energy, cleaning up the air, improving 
health, reducing poverty, and helping us deal with climate change--not 
just in the United States, but all around the world.
  Congress has been focused on doubling energy research since the 2007 
America COMPETES Act that was passed with overwhelming bipartisan 
support and signed into law by President Bush. America COMPETES grew 
out of a report called ``Rising Above the Gathering Storm,'' a report 
on American competitiveness, written by Norm Augustine, who was the 
committee's chair. The report's main recommendation was to increase 
energy research because of the benefits it would provide to our country 
and around the world.
  Eight years ago, in a speech at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, I 
called for a project that would duplicate the urgency of the World War 
II Manhattan Project and put the United States on a path to clean 
energy innovation. I proposed seven ``grand challenges''--No. 1, make 
plug-in electric vehicles commonplace; No. 2, find a way to capture and 
use carbon; No. 3, help solar become cost-competitive; No. 4, safely 
manage nuclear waste; No. 5, encourage cellulosic biofuels; No. 6, make 
new buildings green buildings; and No. 7, create energy from fusion.
  In 8 years, energy researchers have made tremendous progress in these 
areas. For example, the price of solar panels has fallen over 80 
percent since 2008. In some of the other challenges, we still have a 
long way to go. That is why we need to keep our focus on making energy 
research a priority. The biggest problem we have in funding basic 
energy research is how we pay for it.
  Today I am introducing legislation that finds a way to pay for it by 
ending the 24-year-old wind production tax credit at the end of this 
year, rather than in 2019, as the law now says. Instead of slowly 
allowing the wind production tax credit to phase out, this bill would 
end it on January 1, 2017. Then Congress could use the $8.1 billion in 
savings to increase the funding authorization for the Office of Science 
for the same kind of basic energy research that helped drive our 
natural gas boom and will provide the basis for the next generation of 
energy innovation that will mean cleaner, cheaper, and more reliable 
  Research at the Office of Science benefits other Department of Energy 
programs, including advanced nuclear reactor research at the Office of 
Nuclear Energy and research on carbon-capture technology at ARPA-E, 
which was formed by the America COMPETES Act. Energy research through 
the Office of Science, nuclear and fossil energy programs, energy 
efficiency research, and ARPA-E have led to amazing new discoveries. If 
more funding is available, it could be used to make sure energy 
research is a priority.
  Let's not continue to give away this money to wind developers that 
have been using it to get rich over the last 24 years, often over the 
objections of communities, towns, and homeowners who don't want their 
farmlands and mountain lands covered with 45-story turbines with blades 
as long as a football field.
  It is obvious what Congress ought to do, and it is obvious how we 
ought to

[[Page S5005]]

pay for it. In 2014, taxpayers committed to spend--or Congress 
committed for them--another $6 billion to extend the wind subsidy for 1 
year. Let me emphasize that--$6 billion to extend the wind subsidy for 
1 year. That amount is more than the United States of America spends in 
an entire year on energy research through the Office of Science. That 
money could be used instead to put us on a path to double government 
funding for basic energy research.
  Let's not make that same mistake again. Basic energy research is one 
of the most important things we can do in this country. We need to 
unleash our free enterprise system to provide clean, cheap, reliable 
energy that will power our 21st century economy, create good jobs, and 
keep America competitive in the global economy.
  Political scientist Bjorn Lomborg wrote in the Wall Street Journal 
last month that ``the Obama administration's signature power policy, 
the Clean Power Plan . . . will accomplish almost nothing.'' He said:

       We should focus more on green-energy research and 
     development, like that promoted by Bill Gates and the 
     Breakthrough Coalition. Mr. Gates has announced that private 
     investors are committing $7 billion for clean energy R&D 
     while the White House will double its annual $5 billion green 
     innovation fund. Sadly, this sorely needed investment is a 
     fraction of the cost of the same administration's misguided 
     carbon-cut policies.
       Instead of rhetoric and ever-larger subsidies of today's 
     inefficient green technologies, those who want to combat 
     climate change should focus on dramatically boosting 
     innovation to drive down the cost of future green energy.

  Finally, Bjorn Lomborg writes:

       The U.S. has already shown the way. With its relentless 
     pursuit of fracking driving down the cost of natural gas, 
     America has made a momentous switch from coal to gas that has 
     done more to drive down carbon dioxide emissions than any 
     recent climate policy.

  That is the end of the quote from the article in the Wall Street 
  In my own conversations with Mr. Gates, he has said the government 
should double its $5 billion annual investment in basic energy research 
in order to support clean energy innovation in the private sector. For 
example, that research could help develop small modular reactors which 
would allow inherently safe nuclear power to be produced with less 
capital investment and less resulting nuclear waste in more places. 
Small modular reactors are one way the country can increase cheap, 
clean, reliable power. Another way is to continue to develop new 
advanced reactors and do the research that is necessary to begin the 
process of extending reactor licenses from 60 to 80 years.
  Why should we close reactors when our 100 reactors provide 60 percent 
of the carbon-free electricity in the United States? Nuclear power 
provides 60 percent of the carbon-free electricity in the United States 
today. It is available 92 percent of the time. On the other hand, wind, 
despite these huge subsidies, produces 15 percent of our country's 
carbon-free electricity. The wind often blows at night when electricity 
isn't needed, and it isn't easy to store that electricity.
  It is hard to think of an important technological innovation since 
World War II that hasn't involved at least some form of government-
sponsored research. Natural gas, our latest energy boom, is a very good 
example. The development of unconventional gas was enabled in part by 
3-D mapping at Sandia National Laboratory in New Mexico and the 
Department of Energy's large-scale demonstration project. Then our free 
enterprise system and our tradition of private ownership of mineral 
rights capitalized on our basic energy research.
  Supercomputing, which is part of the Office of Science, is another 
tool for energy innovation. Supercomputing could do for nuclear power 
what massive hydraulic fracturing, new mapping tools, and horizontal 
drilling did for natural gas. By the end of next year, we expect the 
world's fastest supercomputer will again be in the United States, and 
once again, it will be at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in 
  That computer is called Summit, and it will help researchers better 
understand materials, nuclear power, and basic energy science to drive 
breakthroughs. Supporting the next generation of computers, known as 
exascale, an area of agreement between the Obama administration and 
Congress, is also essential to our ability to solve the most complex 
scientific problems for both our country's competitiveness and national 
  Exascale computers will have a 1,000-fold increase in sustained 
performance over today's petascale computers, which have been operating 
since 2008.
  Congress can invest in this kind of innovation or we can invest in 
subsidizing giant wind turbines that produce a puny amount of 
electricity at a great cost to taxpayers. Some energy developers are 
reaping great financial benefits provided by the wind production tax 
credit, which has been in place now for 24 years. It has provided 
billions in subsidies to the wind industry and has been extended 10 
different times.
  The subsidy to Big Wind is so generous that, in some markets, wind 
producers can literally give their electricity away and still make a 
profit. This phenomenon is called negative pricing. Most of the time, 
wind power is unreliable and ineffective at meeting the demands of our 
industries, our computers, our homes, and almost everything else we 
depend upon. Nationwide, wind power is available about 35 percent of 
the time, and only 18 percent of the time in Tennessee, my home State, 
while nuclear power on the other hand is available 92 percent of the 
  Wind is not effective at meeting peak power demands because the wind 
blows, as I said, mostly when demand is low at night and does not blow 
when demand is high during the day. Wind production tends to peak in 
the spring and fall when the need for energy is at its lowest. In fact, 
wind production decreases in the winter and summer, when heating and 
cooling needs can dramatically increase the demand for electricity.
  Until there is some way to cost-effectively store wind power, it 
would be dangerous for a country our size to rely significantly on 
wind. Relying on wind when nuclear plants are available is the energy 
equivalent of going to war in sailboats when a nuclear navy is 
  If reliable, cheap, and clean electricity is the goal, then four 
nuclear reactors, each occupying 1 square mile, would equal the 
production of a row of 45-story wind turbines strung the entire length 
of the 2,178-mile Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine. Even if you 
wanted to build all of those turbines along the most picturesque 
mountains in the Eastern United States, you would still need a nuclear 
reactor or gas plant to power your home or business when the wind does 
not blow.
  These are not your grandma's windmills. Each one is over two times as 
tall as the skyboxes at the University of Tennessee football stadium 
and taller than the Statue of Liberty. The blades on each one are as 
long as a football field. Their blinking lights can be seen for 20 
  Many communities--take a look at the windmills in Palm Springs, CA--
where wind projects have been proposed have tried to stop them before 
they go up because, once the wind turbines and new transmission lines 
are built, it is hard to take them down.
  In October, the residents of Irasburg, VT, voted 274 to 9 against a 
plan to install a pair of 500-foot turbines on a ridgeline visible from 
their neighborhoods.
  In New York, three counties opposed 500- to 600-foot wind turbines 
next to Lake Ontario. People in the town of Yates voted unanimously to 
oppose the project in order to ``preserve their rural landscape.'' Yet 
utilities are talking about closing nuclear reactors, which produce 60 
percent of our carbon-free electricity.
  In January, Apex Clean Energy announced it would spoil Tennessee's 
mountain beauty by building up to 23 wind turbines in Cumberland 
County, less than 10 miles from Cumberland Mountain State Park, where 
for a half century Tennesseans and tourists have camped, fished, 
canoed, and kayaked alongside herons and belted kingfishers around Byrd 
Lake. Residents are voicing their opposition. The city council has 
voted to oppose it.
  Finally, Clean Line Energy is proposing to build a single 700-mile 
direct current transmission line from Oklahoma, through Arkansas, to 
deliver wind power to Tennessee and other

[[Page S5006]]

Southeastern States even though the Tennessee Valley Authority has 
announced publicly that it does not need the power. Yet the subsidies 
for wind are so large that developers are continuing with wind projects 
anyway. Arkansas objects to the project. Tennessee does not need the 
power. But the Federal Government is attempting to use Federal eminent 
domain to proceed. According to the Congressional Research Service, 
this would be the first time that Federal eminent domain authority has 
been used for electric transmission lines over the objection of a 
  The wind production tax credit is as bad for taxpayers as giant wind 
turbines are bad for the environment. Clean energy research can help us 
lower the cost of energy, clean the air and improve health, reduce 
poverty, and deal with climate change. Let's end the wind production 
tax credit this year instead of 2019 and authorize the $8.1 billion in 
basic energy research to find more ways to ensure that the United 
States has reliable sources of cheap, efficient, and carbon-free