September 24, 2015
Capitol Update

In this issue:


On September 22nd, a group of Senate Democrats led by Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), ranking member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, introduced an energy bill that lays out Senate Democrat’s vision for a cleaner energy future. The bill focuses on several of the themes laid out earlier this year in the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Quadrennial Energy Review, which projected an 18 percent rise in the cost of electricity, a 72 percent increase in clean energy generation and the need to fill an additional 1.5 million new jobs in the energy industry within the next 15 years.

The American Energy Innovation Act includes provisions to:

  • Advance policies that give consumers access to their electricity data;
  • Create a federal Energy Efficiency Resource Standard, which could save consumers $150 billion over the next 15 years, and support research and development on smart buildings;
  • Invest in energy storage, integrate clean energy onto the grid, improve the security of the grid and help manage electricity demand;
  • Implement recommendations from the Quadrennial Energy Review to improve the resilience of the U.S. electric grid, natural gas distribution system and the Strategic Petroleum Reserve;
  • Cut greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to all passenger vehicles and a third of U.S. homes and secure carbon reduction targets from other countries;
  • Triple funding for basic energy science and engineering research, to maintain global leadership and to invest in the next generation of clean energy technologies that we can export internationally;
  • Double investments in cybersecurity research and develop and designate DOE as the sector-specific lead for energy;
  • Prepare a new generation of skilled workers for a 21st century energy workforce through job training and model energy workforce curriculum;
  • Offer technical assistance to small and medium manufacturers to implement smart manufacturing technologies and expands the Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing Program to include trucks; and,
  •  Invest in clean energy technologies and repeal subsidies for fossil fuels.

A summary of the bill is available at:

The complete bill may be viewed at:

Additional information can be found at:


The House Energy and Commerce Committee on September 16th approved legislation to lift the nearly 40-year-old ban on crude oil exports. H.R. 702, to adapt to crude oil market conditions, passed the committee by a vote of 31-19. The bipartisan legislation is expected to be considered by the full house later this month.

A study by the Brookings Institution found that, “Lifting the ban actually lowers gasoline prices by increasing the total amount of crude supply.” More information about the Brooking study can be found at:

In a related development, at a September 15th press briefing, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest was asked if the White House has a position on H.R. 702.  Mr. Earnest responded that “we’ve got a position on this, which is that this is a policy decision that is made over at the Commerce Department.  And for that reason, we wouldn’t support legislation like the one that’s been put forward.”

For more information about the White House’s position, please visit:, and scroll down to near the end.


The DOE is announcing up to $70 million in funding for the next Clean Energy Manufacturing Innovation Institute, which will be focused on smart manufacturing. With this investment, the Department aims to support research and development advancements that could reduce the cost of deployment for technologies such as advanced sensors, controls, platforms, and modeling for manufacturing by as much as 50 percent.

As part of President Obama’s National Network for Manufacturing Innovation (NNMI) institutes, the institute will also demonstrate these technologies in manufacturing processes with a goal to increase energy efficiency by at least 15 percent and improve energy productivity by at least 50 percent. With increased deployment and reduced costs, these SMART technologies can transform American manufacturing, enabling businesses to manufacture more while using less energy and spending less.

Through Clean Energy Manufacturing Innovation Institutes, in particular, DOE is aiming to drive down the cost of energy efficient materials and technologies making them cost competitive for manufacturing in the U.S. The Administration’s recent Advanced Manufacturing Partnership 2.0, a partnership with the private sector and university leaders, identified smart manufacturing as one of the highest impact priority areas for the development of new technology affecting manufacturing and recommended that the Energy Department take the lead in addressing gaps in the development of smart manufacturing technology.

The full funding opportunity announcement for the Innovation Institute on Smart Manufacturing can be found at:


The U.S. commercial space launch industry has changed considerably since the enactment of the Commercial Space Launch Amendments Act of 2004. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)  is required to license or permit commercial space launches, but to allow the space tourism industry to develop, the act prohibited FAA from regulating crew and spaceflight participant safety before 2012—a moratorium that was later extended but will now expire on September 30, 2015. Since October 2014, there have been three mishaps involving FAA licensed or permitted launches.

GAO was asked to examine the changes in the commercial space launch industry and FAA's oversight of the industry. This report addresses, among other things:

  • Changes in the industry over the last decade;
  • FAA challenges in addressing industry developments; and,
  • FAA's launch licensing workload and budget.

The report was undertaken at the request of Lamar Smith (R-TX), Chair of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee. It acknowledges the “multiple challenges” the FAA faces in addressing industry developments. The report also underscores the need for extending the crucial “learning period” beyond September 2015. The SPACE Act would extend the learning period for 10 years while introducing additional accountability and transparency measures.

Among its findings, the report revealed a mismatch of expectations for the office and realized workload, a lack of justification for increased funding and authority, an absence of important additional workload metrics for Congress to use to evaluate changes to the FAA’s needs, and the need to update the risk methodology that informs launch indemnification.

To review the GAO report, please visit:


To advance research in nanoscale science, engineering and technology, the National Science Foundation (NSF) will provide a total of $81 million over five years to support 16 sites and a coordinating office as part of a new National Nanotechnology Coordinated Infrastructure (NNCI). The NNCI sites will provide researchers from academia, government, and companies large and small with access to university user facilities with leading-edge fabrication and characterization tools, instrumentation, and expertise within all disciplines of nanoscale science, engineering and technology.

The awards are up to five years and range from $500,000 to $1.6 million each per year. Nine of the sites have at least one regional partner institution. These 16 sites are located in 15 states and involve 27 universities across the nation.

Through a fiscal year 2016 competition, one of the newly awarded sites will be chosen to coordinate the facilities. This coordinating office will enhance the sites' impact as a national nanotechnology infrastructure and establish a web portal to link the individual facilities' websites to provide a unified entry point to the user community of overall capabilities, tools and instrumentation. The office will also help to coordinate and disseminate best practices for national-level education and outreach programs across sites.

For additional information, please visit:


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