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Thune: Energy Innovation is Key to Maintaining Affordable, Abundant Resources

“I hope we’ll be able to continue discussing this bill and that the Senate will take it up again in the near future.”

March 11, 2020

Washington — 

U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) today expressed his disappointment in the Senate’s failure to move forward on the American Energy Innovation Act this week. This bipartisan legislation would promote clean energy development, help maintain a strong domestic energy supply, increase the security of our energy grid, and invest in American workers. Forward action on this is necessary to keep energy affordable and abundant for Americans and to ensure that America stays on the cutting edge of energy innovation.

Click here to watch Thune’s speech.

Thune’s remarks below (as prepared for delivery):

“Mr. President, yesterday afternoon South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem notified me that multiple residents of South Dakota have tested positive for coronavirus.

“While this is obviously something we had hoped to avoid, we knew that this was a possibility, and South Dakota has spent weeks preparing to deal with an outbreak.

“Over the next few days, public health officials will be checking into where these individuals have been so that anyone with whom they came in contact can be notified.

“My staff and I are working closely with the governor and her team, and I will continue to carefully monitor this situation.

“At the federal level, I’m focused on making sure that state and local governments have the resources they need to deal with the virus.

“Last week, I was proud to support bipartisan legislation committing significant federal resources to the coronavirus fight.

“Mr. President, I’m praying for all the South Dakotans affected by the virus.

“And I want to thank the health care workers who are on the front lines of this fight.

“We are lucky to have you.


“Mr. President, I’m disappointed that the Senate failed to move forward on the American Energy Innovation Act this week.

“This is a bipartisan piece of legislation that should have been able to advance in the Senate.

“It contains measures from more than 60 senators, and 90 senators voted last week to begin debate on the bill.

“I’m disappointed that we couldn’t maintain that bipartisan momentum and get this bill over the finish line.

“Mr. President, the United States is in a pretty good position energy-wise.

“Our energy supply is abundant, and energy prices are generally affordable.

“But we’re in this position for a reason – because we took steps to increase our domestic energy supply and lessen our dependence on foreign oil.

“And we can’t afford to become complacent.

“If we want to keep American energy affordable and abundant, we need to make sure we stay on the cutting edge of energy innovation and continue to invest in our domestic energy supply – from oil and natural gas to renewable energy sources like hydropower and wind.

“We also need to make sure we stay on top of threats to our energy grid and our energy security.

“The American Energy Innovation Act is designed to help maintain American strength in the energy sector.

“It invests in a wide range of clean energy technologies, from wind and solar to hydropower and geothermal.

“It focuses on improving research into carbon capture, and it directs the establishment of a research and development program to identify ways to use captured carbon.

“The bill also invests in advanced nuclear energy research, so we can regain our edge in the use of this clean-energy technology.

“And it focuses on improving energy storage.

“Many modern clean-energy technologies are intermittent or lack the reliability of traditional electric sources.

“The amount of energy produced from wind, for example, is dependent on the amount of wind on any given day, so it must be backed up by a traditional plant – often powered by natural gas.

“Creating new ways to store clean energy will allow us to increase our reliance on renewable energy sources.

“Another area that needs to be addressed when it comes to renewable energy is recycling. 

“Solar panels, wind turbine blades, and electric car batteries are key components of clean energy production.

“But all of these components eventually reach the end of their life.

“Both solar panels and wind turbine blades eventually have to be replaced, and car batteries eventually lose their ability to hold a full charge.

“And then the question becomes what to do with these components.

“Wind turbine blades can be well over 150 feet long and weigh somewhere around 15 tons.

“That takes up a lot of room in a landfill.

“And in the case of electric vehicle batteries, we’re not just talking about filling up landfills, we’re talking about potentially hazardous waste, if lithium or other materials leak from the battery.

“While recycling and reuse methods exist for clean energy components, much more work needs to be done to ensure that clean energy doesn’t eventually result in massive buildups in landfills.

“Since roughly a quarter of the net electricity generated in my home state of South Dakota comes from wind, I’m particularly interested in what it would take to recycle or reuse the blades from wind turbines on a large scale.

“I’m very pleased that my wind energy recycling amendment was included in the chairman’s substitute amendment to the American Energy Innovation Act.

“My amendment would establish a competition to identify innovative uses for wind blades that have reached the end of their life, with a focus on uses that present the greatest potential for large-scale commercial deployment.

“With an estimated 32,000 wind blades likely to be removed from U.S. wind turbines in the next four years, it’s past time to get American innovators focused on this problem.

“I appreciate Chairman Murkowski’s interest in addressing this side of green energy and hope we can continue this work.

“Mr. President, in addition to clean energy and innovation, the American Energy Innovation Act focuses on boosting the security of our electric grid. 

“It invests in cybersecurity and grid modernization, and it focuses on improving our domestic supply of some of the key elements and minerals that we rely on for manufacturing everything from computer chips to batteries to defense applications.

“Right now, we have to import too much of these critical minerals from countries like China.

“For the sake of our national security, it’s important that we find ways to identify supplies of these minerals here at home.

“Finally, Mr. President, the American Energy Innovation Act invests in workforce development.

“All the innovative technologies in the world won’t help us if we don’t have the skilled workers to operate and maintain these technologies.

“We need to ensure that while we’re investing in innovation, we’re also investing in the energy workforce of the future.

“Mr. President, as I said, it’s disappointing that the Senate wasn’t able to move forward on this bipartisan legislation.

“I hope we’ll be able to continue discussing this bill and that the Senate will take it up again in the near future. 

“The American Energy Innovation Act will promote clean energy development, help maintain a strong domestic energy supply, increase the security of our energy grid, and invest in American workers.

“We need to get this legislation across the finish line.”