The U.S. Senate’s recent passage of the Energy and Water Development Appropriations bill was a momentous accomplishment for Washington. In addition to funding infrastructure development and renewable energy research, it also sought to ensure responsible cost savings for taxpayers and set America on a course to modernize our energy infrastructure and strengthen our national security.
U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tennessee, deserves to be applauded for not only serving as the lead author of the bill, but also for seeking to build bipartisan consensus for renewable energy during each step of the legislative process.
Making smart investments in renewable energy technology that will save taxpayers money is but one policy area where the Senate majority has led America in a new direction. According to polling conducted by Citizens for Responsible Energy Solutions, nearly seven in 10 Americans believe Congress should embrace research, funding and incentives to drive free-market innovation and job creation with wind, solar and hydroelectric power. It is clearly important to voters that our elected leaders are actively engaged in efforts to advance the market-based approaches that comprise key provisions of the Energy and Water Appropriations bill.
Alexander reached across the aisle to work with Democratic Sens. Brian Schatz of Hawaii and Diane Feinstein of California to incorporate provisions that mean big things for Tennessee and the future of our nation’s energy infrastructure as a whole. Their work increases funding for the Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency program by $33 million, and it will support the development of new technologies that will lead to increased investment in clean, affordable and safe nuclear technology — $94.5 million was allocated for advanced reactors, and $95 million was designated for next-generation small modular reactors.
DOE’s Office of Science, which supports research in the physical sciences, is also funded at $5.4 billion, a record level of support. The bill also makes strong strides in the effort to improve public health and the quality of water and air by providing $6 billion to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Alexander and members of the committee saw to it that these resources would explicitly go to the construction of facilities for rivers and harbors, flood and storm damage reduction, improvements in shore protection, and aquatic ecosystem restoration.
When President Barack Obama charted a course toward onerous regulatory overreach and dramatic spending increases, Alexander proved to be a tireless fighter for a responsible package that was friendly to energy consumers and taxpayers. That’s one of the reasons why this appropriations bill was rightly heralded as a “step in the right direction” by spending watchdog groups. For example, the bill saves taxpayers more than $125 million by eliminating funding for the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor project in France. As a result of Alexander’s work, the bill passed with an overwhelmingly favorable vote of 90-8.
Alexander has demonstrated a proven understanding of the importance of overcoming gridlock to advance innovation in new technologies. Not only is this innovation necessary to create jobs here at home, but it is also imperative in the effort to protect our air, water and climate, while preserving our tax dollars. Other Republican members of Congress should take note of Alexander’s leadership, and follow his lead to ensure clean energy and water for America’s future generations.
James Dozier is executive director of Citizens for Responsible Energy Solutions.