April 5, 2011

Debate Over Energy Bills, Policies Heats Up

By Brianna C. Fields

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee held a hearing last week to assess hydrokinetic energy as an untapped resource with enormous potential opportunity. Bill S630 regarding Marine and Hydrokinetic Renewable Energy Promotion Act of 2011 was the primary focus of the hearing and if passed would secure funding for research and development of this natural, clean energy resource towards reaching the President’s goal of 33% domestic energy dependency by 2025. Currently, there are no tidal energy facilities within the US, demonstrating a critical need for such a facility. In order for the US to maintain its standing as a world leader in renewable energy, Senator Murkowski (R-AK) had proposed Bill S630 to invest in hydrokinetic energy, as it remains at least twenty years behind wind and solar power in terms of research and development. Witnesses at the hearing also mentioned a proposed increase for higher education student grants in the environmental and marine science fields to contribute to R&D in hydrokinetic tidal power.

Senator Shaheen (D-NH) expressed considerable interest in implementing new hydrokinetic facilities on the coasts of the United States, namely through the supervision of universities or national laboratories, to conduct research and development in this field for renewable energy purposes. Senator Murkowski (R-AK) was also interested in prospective opportunities to secure funding for facility grants by the Department of Energy, as she considers marine hydropower to be the largest untapped source of natural energy in the United States. After construction of an effective hydrokinetic facility, it is projected that power could be generated for 2-4 US cents per kilowatt hour and that 1.4 million jobs could be created in the next 15 years in the field of hydropower in both the public and private sectors. Within the House, Congressman Doc Hastings (R-WA)  has set forth several hearings towards an initiative that will speed up developments in offshore oil production as a means of domestic dependence and will consequently create jobs.

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