Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee

The research, development, priorities and imperatives needed to meet the medium and long term challenges associated with climate change

366 Dirksen
Thu, 21 Jan 2010 15:00:00 GMT

Witness
  • Steven Chu, Secretary of Energy, U.S. Department of Energy

10:05 Bingaman Obama proposed spending $15 billion a year on energy efficiency and renewable energy research and development. It is troubling that some of the climate proposals before Congress don’t emphasize the need for energy R&D. In the coming weeks we have scheduled hearings on the DOE budget request and the loan guarantee program.

10:11 Murkowski As we look to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, we need to look at all the technologies that are out there. Oil, coal, and natural gas will continue to be primary sources of energy for our nation for years to come. Also nuclear.

10:13 Chu I’m here to speak up for clean energy R&D.

10:21 Bingaman Some of us who have tried to understand these climate change proposals is that these cap-and-trade proposals would have much more impact on some sectors than others. The transportation sector has 1/3 of emissions, but putting a price on carbon is not going to substantially affect the transportation sector compared to the electric power sector. If this is the case, then we are back to trying to find other policy intiatives to deal with emissions from the transportation sector, which means R&D should be particularly focused there. Does that make sense?

Chu I agree with you. The transportation sector is most difficult. We should continue to improve the efficiency of our vehicles. We think in long-haul trucking we can reduce energy consumption by 30 percent. The electrification of short-range personal vehicles. People in cities and suburbs typically don’t drive more than 50 miles per day. We think we can make batteries with are two to three times more energy density. And the last part is how you move away from traditional fuels.

10:27 Murkowski Nuclear nuclear nuclear.

Chu The White House is supportive of nuclear. We’re looking aggressively to help restart the American nuclear industry.

Murkowski ARPA-E did not make any nuclear funding.

Chu If we received any nuclear proposals, there were only a very few. In ARPA-E, we’re looking at short-term funding, two to three years. Many of the things that are nuclear take ten to twenty years.

Murkowksi Does the administration agree we need some kind of geologic repository?

Chu Yes.

10:32 Dorgan Power of government R&D.

Chu We need a long-term signal. Industry has to get a long-term signal that carbon limits are going down. Right now, from utility companies there’s a lot of money sitting on the sidelines wanting to know when it’s going to happen. It’s money not invested it’s jobs not created.

Dorgan We’re headed to a lower-carbon future, and we need to find ways to do that. I see two issues: energy security and the need to address climate change in a thoughtful and appropriate way.

Chu High-technology vehicles, biofuels, electrification. The loan guarantee program is held up by still frozen credit. We constantly talk about this opportunity and responsibility. We see ourselves as a major innovator in the United States for our economic prosperity. If we do this right this will be a key to American prosperity.

10:40 Bunning Nuclear nuclear nuclear! Do you know how long the nuclear industry has been on the sidelines?

Chu The last plant constructed went online in the 70s.

Bunning Isn’t it time that this and other administration have failed to pursue nuclear as an alternative, if we want a green production of electricity, that that is the prime source of doing it?

Chu I would agree that it is a very important part of the portfolio we need in the coming century.

Bunning Why do we drag our feet in licensing, assisting with the moneys available?

Chu I wouldn’t characterize it as dragging our feet. NRC is working to streamlining the procedures.

Bunning If a country like France, which I don’t consider a very progressive country, can produce 80% of its electricity from nuclear, and we’re at 20%, there’s a big gap there! If we’re going to have a greener America, nuclear power has got to be at the top of the list.

Chu I don’t think we have a disagreement here.

10:45 Sanders We have a transformational moment. Energy conservation.

Chu A lot of it will actually save money. We’re looking very hard at how we can develop self-sustaining programs.

10:51 Corker I do think 35% of energy consumption can be reduced through energy efficiency. I hope we can find ways of leveraging efficiency. To me the whole vision of using underutilized baseload to charge vehicles in the evenings is something we can get behind. Nuclear nuclear nuclear! It feels to us you’re slow-walking nuclear. It’s carbon free! It makes me less trustful of the department.

Chu I can assure you that I am not slow-walking this.

Corker To the degree climate enthusiasts can figure out how to do that without it being a net extraction from people’s pockets that would be great.

10:58 Stabenow You’ve done a good job with cars.

Chu Clean energy investment will create meaningful jobs. We should not say manufacturing is not important. It’s vitally important. There are a lot of policy tools, all of them important. You need market demand, long-term signals, tax credits, loan guarantees. If hydro power is made more efficient and better for the fish, should we give them renewable credit? Yes.

11:06 Barrasso Fascinated with carbon capture with enzymes. Coal is abundant, reliable, secure.

Chu Scientists threw the tree ring data out. It’s being investigated. It’s just a snippet. There are all these warts and bumps as science moves forward.

11:14 Menendez What policies are most important to lowering the price of solar?

11:24 Wyden Import-export and commerce.

11:32 Cantwell

11:38 Shaheen

11:45 Risch Nuclear loan guarantees to move the renaissance forward!

11:45 Murkowski I’ll submit further questions for the record. I found it troubling about White House interference with nuclear funding.

11:49 Chu Energy reaches into everything. We will be living in a carbon-constrained environment worldwide. There are a lot of smart people who are very concerned about this.