Energy & Environment Subcommittee Markup -- H.R. 2774
Opening Statement By Chairman Nick Lampson
While I believe that fossil fuels still remain an important part of any viable, balanced energy strategy, we must enhance our efforts to develop a diverse set of alternative energy sources. Biofuels represent one of our best opportunities to accomplish this.
Though we have seen amazing growth in our country’s biofuels development - mostly in the forms of corn based ethanol and soy based biodiesel - ethanol still represents only 5% of the total gasoline sold, and biodiesel is an even smaller portion of the total diesel market.
Surely, we would not be where we are today without the efforts of those who pioneered the development of our corn-based ethanol industry. But the future of biofuels lies in diversifying the feedstocks to include cellulosic materials such as grasses, wood, and waste materials. Current technologies for the development of cellulosic biofuels continue to be expensive and not yet cost-competitive with corn-based ethanol. Research breakthroughs could bring down costs and greatly increase the process efficiencies, sparking another revolution in the biofuels industry.
H.R. 2773, the Biofuels Research and Development Enhancements Act represents another effort toward reducing our country’s dependence on foreign sources of oil, and building a domestic industry for clean renewable fuels.
The bill has several key components.
The bill creates two focused research efforts within the existing Bioenergy Research Program created in the Energy Policy Act of 2005.
First, recognizing the inherent problems with transporting and storing biofuels in the existing petroleum fuels infrastructure, this section establishes a program of research, development, and demonstration for modifications and treatments to existing infrastructure and research and development of new infrastructure system for biofuels.
Recognizing the technical barriers to increasing the production of biofuels, the bill also establishes a program of research, development, demonstration and commercial application of technologies to increase the energy efficiency and reduce the energy consumption of biorefinery facilities.
The bill will help to better coordinate and compile the rapidly expanding base of information from biofuels research programs by setting up a DOE center to serve as a clearinghouse of information related to the research, development, and commercial applications of technologies related to biofuels and biorefinery technologies.
The bill will provide research grants in states with low rates of biofuels production to work toward the development of biofuels assets.
And the bill will expand the Bioresearch Center program created in the Energy Policy Act of 2005, allowing for the establishment of additional, regionally dispersed centers.
The bill also directs the Secretary to conduct several studies. These studies relate to the increasing the utilization of biodiesel; examining the feasibility of mid-level ethanol blended gasoline and the challenges of using such blends; the engine durability associated with use of differing blend levels of biodiesel; and the technical challenges to optimizing the engines of flex-fuel vehicles to more efficiently use E-85.
Last, the bill makes additional commitments to ongoing biofuels research programs by increasing the authorization levels for these programs. This increase will also accommodate the new focused infrastructure and efficiency research efforts I mentioned earlier.
This bill will help to enhance the on-going federal efforts to support biofuels research and development, as well provide necessary information back to Congress that will allow us to make additional research commitments in the future.
I urge the members of the Subcommittee to support the bill and yield back the balance of my time.
Opening Statement By Vice-Chair Gabrielle Giffords
I want to thank Chairman Lampson and Ranking Member Inglis for considering HR 2774, the Solar Energy Research and Advancement Act in Subcommittee this afternoon.
On Tuesday, we had the opportunity to hear from a very distinguished panel of witnesses, including the Director of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), the President of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), and the Solar Technology Coordinator for Arizona Public Service (APS), which is the second fastest growing electric utility in the U.S. over the last five years.
Many members of the Subcommittee attended the hearing, and we had a very informative and engaging dialogue on the discussion draft for this legislation.
The bill before us today contains two main components that will move research and development forward on concentrating solar power (CSP). The first would establish a “Thermal Energy Storage Research and Development Program” within the Department of Energy. This will help us solve perhaps the most significant problem with concentrating solar power technology: energy storage. We need more advanced technology so that we can store solar energy when the sun shines and use it at night or on a cloudy day. This is all about energy reliability and viability.
In giving his strong support for this research at the hearing, Dr. Dan Arvizu from NREL said that “the ability of CSP technologies to store energy presents an opportunity … [to] produce baseload power at about 5 cents per kilowatt-hour. Such systems would include 13-17 hrs of thermal storage and would compete with the cost of power from coal plants using carbon sequestration technology. It is expected that an aggressive R&D program could achieve the cost goal by 2020.”
The second component would require DOE to conduct two “Concentrating Solar Power Commercial Application Studies.”
One would study methods to integrate concentrating solar power energy into regional electricity transmission systems. The best time of the day to produce and use solar energy is from 10am-5pm. We need to research how to connect major solar power plants to the electric grid, relieve expensive demand on electric utilities, and use solar energy during these peak hours. We also need to figure out how to bring this abundant resource from the Southwest to the entire country.
The other report would require DOE to examine methods to reduce the amount of water consumed by concentrating solar power systems. Given the strain on water resources in the Southwest, we must study this subject so we can realize the full benefits of CSP technology.
In addition to the initiatives I’ve just laid out, I will also offer an amendment today to create a solar workforce development initiative, and I look forward to talking more about this shortly.
As I said on Tuesday, solar energy is a non-partisan issue. The sun beats down on Democrats, Republicans, and Independents with equal intensity, and we can all benefit from harnessing the power of the sun.
This bill will help us do just that.
I look forward to Members’ support of this legislation, and I will continue to work with you as we move to the full Committee markup next week.