OAK RIDGE – U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., on Wednesday opened the 2013 Tennessee Valley Corridor National Summit with a major speech on energy policy, calling for the government to double its funding for energy research, get rid of long-running subsidies for wind and oil, and focus efforts on clean energy sources – not just those that are renewable.
Alexander, the ranking Republican on the Senate Appropriations’ subcommittee on energy and water, said the U.S. should let the marketplace drive energy solutions and pursue cheaper, not more expensive energy in the drive toward energy independence.
He used Germany as an example of what not to do and said the United States has “a better national energy policy than most people give us credit for having.”
“Five years ago, all the talk was about a cap-and-trade program for the United States, and deliberately raising the price of energy as a way
of achieving clean energy independence,” he said. “ Last year, I visited Germany, a country that adopted exactly that policy.”
Alexander noted that Germany is now closing its nuclear power plants and becoming more dependent on natural gas. At the same time, it’s buying both of those forms of energy from other countries – not producing it on its own.
The result of Germany’s strategy, he said, is an “energy policy mess” that discourages job growth and drives manufacturers worried about energy costs to other countries, including the U.S.
Alexander was the keynote speaker for the first day of the two-day summit, which is being held at the New Hope Center at the Y-12 National Security Complex. U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, R-Ootlewah, whose district includes Oak Ridge, is hosting this year’s summit. The summit began in 1995 and now rotates among sites in the five-state region.
More than 420 registered for this year’s event.
The Tennessee Valley Corridor summit is focused on economic development and support of government-sponsored activities. The theme of this year’s event is “Security America’s Future,” with focus on manufacturing, energy, environment, workforce and innovation.
U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., also was on Wednesday agenda, along with Pete Lyons, the Department of Energy’s assistant secretary for nuclear energy.
Highlighting Thursday’s schedule will be U.S. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Virgnia, along with TVA President Bill Johnson and Bob Raines, an executive with the National Nuclear Security Administration.
In his speech Wednesday, Alexander listed four “grand principles” that he thinks should guide U.S. energy policy in the future: Cheaper, not more expensive, energy; clean, not just renewable, energy; research and development, not government mandates; and free market, not government picking winners and losers.
Some states have mandates on the use of renewable energy, often defined as wind and solar power, and Alexander said there’s been pressure on Congress to pass such “narrowly defined” energy mandates. Those mandates miss the point of clean energy and make consumers pay more for their power, he said.
Often excluded in these mandates are nuclear and hydropower, Alexander said, calling them the nation’s cheapest and most-available sources of “air-pollution-free electricity.”
He added: “In the Tennessee Valley, more than 95 percent of our pollution-free electricity comes from TVA’s dams and six (nuclear) reactors.”
The senator is an ardent supporter of small, modular reactors as a flexible energy option for the future.
He said he’s concerned about strategies that would impose higher prices as a way of forcing innovation in the energy sector.
He said a “surer path” is to double the $9 billion the government spends annually on non-military related energy research and trust the marketplace to produce better results.