Senate votes to increase wind energy funding

Senate votes to increase wind energy funding


By:  Timothy Cama

The Senate passed an amendment Tuesday that would keep funding for wind energy research and development at its current level and restore a cut that appropriators had put into their bill.

The amendment, from Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), would provide $95.4 million for the Department of Energy’s wind program, up from the $80 million in the bill proposed by Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.).

Alexander, chairman of the subcommittee that oversees energy and water spending bill, is a frequent critic of wind energy, which he says gets too much government assistance and should compete on its own.

“We have sometimes heard that wind is a mature industry and that that is why the funding for research should be revoked or lowered,” Merkley said on the Senate floor.

“But, in fact, as wind is emerging, we're seeing continuous innovations that are resulting in different designs and different strategies for integrating intermittent wind energy into the grid,” he said. “As that wind component becomes substantially larger, we need to understand the details about how we accommodate it effectively.”

Alexander defended the funding level in the original bill.

“I wonder if the American taxpayers wouldn't think that $32 billion is enough to spend on giant windmills,” Alexander said. “That's the amount that the Congressional Research Service has said that Congress has spent of taxpayers' money to subsidize wealthy people so they can build giant wind turbines across America.”

The amendment passed 54-42.

The Senate also voted to pass a bipartisan measure from Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) to add $50 million to fund the Army Corps of Engineers’ pilot projects aimed at conserving water in the Colorado River Basin.

Senators voted to reject a proposal from Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) to defund federal support for local and state environmental projects through the Army Corps.