Wicker: Senate Sets Sights on Comprehensive Energy Bill

Bill Would Promote Efficiency, Accountability, and ‘All-of-the-Above’ Energy Approach

February 1, 2016

The future of U.S. energy has reached the forefront of the Senate’s legislative agenda. The time is ripe for a major energy bill, following the bipartisan success of education and transportation reforms in the 114th Congress. In fact, the “Energy Policy Modernization Act,” sponsored by Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), is the first comprehensive energy bill to reach the Senate floor in nearly a decade.

Modernizing Infrastructure, Lowering Utility Bills

America’s energy landscape has changed drastically since the last energy bill eight years ago, thanks in large part to groundbreaking technological advances. We have a responsibility to realize the potential of our abundant human and natural resources, build the infrastructure needed to optimize their wise use, and safeguard access to affordable and reliable energy for U.S. families and businesses. Achieving these goals depends on having a strategic energy blueprint that keeps pace with emerging technologies and evolving markets.

Moreover, ensuring our energy security should not jeopardize American jobs. The “Energy Policy Modernization Act” is designed to promote job creation, not stifle it. Equally important, it would not raise taxes or increase the federal deficit. Instead, it would promote energy efficiency and savings, including repeal of redundancies in the U.S. code. It would also take advantage of an “all-of-the-above” energy approach by including both traditional and renewable supplies, from oil and natural gas to hydropower and bioenergy. Likewise, it would advance cybersecurity measures to protect power networks and make significant upgrades to the electric grid, which could lead to savings on consumers’ utility bills.

Strengthening Energy Jobs in Mississippi

Mississippi has a strong and diverse energy sector that could benefit from provisions in the new energy bill, such as a streamlined process for liquefied natural gas exports and the reauthorization of state energy programs. Thousands of Mississippians rely on the energy industry for work, and the future of the sector is critical to bolstering our state’s economy and creating well-paying jobs.

Our charge as policymakers is not to pick winners and losers but rather to establish a long-term, sustainable national energy policy. Time and again, the Obama Administration has focused on boosting the energy technologies and companies it favors, while hampering others with new regulations and higher taxes. Failures like that of the solar-panel company Solyndra, which defaulted on a stimulus-funded loan, and the drawn-out rejection of the job-creating Keystone XL pipeline reflect the President’s misguided energy approach.

Fostering Meaningful Debate, Bipartisan Support

Instead of curbing America’s energy independence with rules and regulations unilaterally imposed by the Administration, this broad energy bill seeks to protect and advance our country’s energy leadership by forging common ground around constructive ideas, regardless of political ideology. The Energy and Natural Resources Committee held six hearings on more than a hundred measures before finalizing the current bill with bipartisan support. The legislation that is now being considered on the Senate floor earned a vote of 18-4 in committee.

Americans deserve to have their voices heard when it comes to the future of U.S. energy policy. A comprehensive energy bill and the Senate’s return to regular order allow for this important public debate. Energy has a profound impact on the way we live and work. Policies and innovations that can lower energy bills, diversify our energy options, and ensure a stable and reliable network are opportunities that we cannot afford to miss.