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Energy Week Ahead: Green Energy Spending Draws House Scrutiny

Energy Week Ahead: Green Energy Spending Draws House Scrut

President Barack Obama speaks at Sempra U.S. Gas Power’s Copper Mountain Solar facility. Photo: Ethan Miller/Getty Images

A jump in spending on green energy
research coupled with the steady rise in gasoline prices give
House Republicans a chance this week to protest President Barack Obama’s policies and strategies on fuel costs.

For two days, tomorrow and March 28, lawmakers will subject
Energy Secretary Steven Chu’s lieutenants to a grilling on the
agency’s $27.2 billion budget for 2013. Programs for advanced
research along with energy efficiency and renewable energy
account for the biggest percentage increase in spending.

Assistant Secretary Patricia Hoffman and acting assistant
secretaries Henry Kelly and Charles McConnell will outline plans
for electricity delivery, renewables and fossil fuels at a March
27 hearing of the House Appropriations subcommittee on energy
and water development.

Republicans may direct their questions at Kelly, who leads
the agency’s renewable and energy efficiency office. President
Barack Obama’s administration is seeking $2.34 billion for
Kelly’s program, a 29 percent increase over the current level,
for the year beginning Oct. 1. That dwarfs the 3.2 percent
increase requested for the full department.

A day later, the same panel will hear Arun Majumdar,
director of the Energy Department’s advanced research office,
known as ARPA-E, and David Frantz, the loan guarantee program
director. Majumdar’s office is asking Congress for $350 million,
a 27 percent increase, in 2013.

The House Science, Space and Technology Committee has
questioned whether government funding for ARPA-E overlaps with
private investment. Other panels are investigating loan
guarantees following the bankruptcy of Solyndra LLC, the
recipient of $535 million in U.S. backing.

When Chu visited Capitol Hill last month to testify on his
agency’s budget, questions turned to gasoline prices, which have
more than doubled since Obama took office in January 2009.
Prices climbed every day except March 5-7 this month and all but
one day in February.

Congress continues its examination of fuel costs this week.
The House Natural Resources Committee on March 27 holds a
hearing on the impact of rising gasoline prices on U.S. tourism.
The chamber’s Energy and Commerce Committee on March 28
discusses proposed legislation aimed at stemming the rise in
fuel costs.

Expect to hear more about this issue as the election season
wears on. With the Democratic administration signaling that a
release from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve is possible, and
congressional Republicans blaming the president for high energy
costs, both sides are eager to show they’re on the consumer’s
side.

ALSO WORTH WATCHING:

HOUSE INTERIOR SUBPOENAS: The House Natural Resources Committee
on March 28 discusses subpoenas in its investigations of the
Interior Department’s coal-production regulation and moratorium
on deepwater drilling after the 2010 BP Gulf of Mexico oil
spill. The committee is seeking documents relating to edits in
an agency report to make it “falsely appear” that engineers
backed the post-spill ban on drilling.

NUCLEAR LOANS: The Nuclear Energy Institute’s top lobbyist, Alex Flint, joins a discussion March 29 on the Energy Department loan
guarantees for nuclear power at the Center for Strategic and
International Studies. The Energy Department has conditionally
approved $10.3 billion in nuclear-energy loan backing.

To contact the reporter on this story:
Brian Wingfield in Washington at
bwingfield3@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story:
Daniel Enoch at
denoch@bloomberg.net

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