Lisa Murkowski

Opening Remarks in the Secretary of Energy Confirmation Hearing - Jan. 19, 2017

Lisa Murkowski
January 19, 2017— Washington, D.C.
Print friendly

Good morning. The committee will come to order.

I'd like to welcome you all to our second cabinet level confirmation hearing of this inaugural week. I would like to start by thanking Senator Cornyn—our senior senator from Texas-- and for being here to speak on behalf of our nominee is. Always good to have you before the committee. And also our fellow committee member, Senator Manchin from West Virginia is prepared to also offer introductory remarks for our nominee.

Governor Perry, I would like to extend a warm welcome to you and to your family. Know that I appreciate your desire to serve, your willingness to become our next Secretary of Energy. I've enjoyed the meeting that we had together, learning more about your leadership as Governor of the state of Texas, including your accomplishments in the area of energy and environment. I'm going to withhold this morning any reference to Texas size versus Alaska size. We've had that discussion.

But in all seriousness, we know that you are seeking to leave the Department of Energy at an interesting time in critical time. D.O.E. has helped make our nation a global leader in research and development is supporting basic research, by encouraging scientific exploration and fostering innovation.

At the heart of these efforts are scientific research funded by the department and the 17 national laboratories that employ the department's greatest asset, and that asset of course are the scientists who dedicate not just their careers, but in so many cases they dedicate their lives to solving some of the toughest challenges that face our nation and really face the world.

I'm hopeful if you are come armed, and you will take a broad view of the importance of basic scientific research and continue to pursue the significant benefits that will result from it. Done right and in a disciplined manner, a good set of innovation policies will provide us with more energy, reduce the amount of energy that we use and lower the cost that we pay for energy.

In my view, those are the guiding principles for the department, so I would encourage you as you move forward to work with the rest of the administration to increase access to energy, to make energy more affordable and continue to improve its environmental goals.

Folks here at the committee know I have a set of principles that are pretty easy: it’s affordable, accessible, clean, diverse and secure. There's no acronym there, it is in alphabetical order so that we remember it all. I sum it all up in one bumper sticker that says “Energy is Good,” because I believe that and I hope you believe that as well. So if these are your goals, if we share the same outcome here, I think that we can greatly contribute to the prosperity of this country, of our standard of living, and to the health of our planet.

I would also encourage you to ensure the Department of Energy steps up and becomes an advocate or energy supply within the councils of our government. It seems that in these past years we've seen other agencies that have been successful in taking resources off the table regardless of the long-term consequences for the American people.

One of the biggest challenges facing the Secretary of Energy is the management of a large and very complex organization with thousands of employees and tens of thousands of contractors. I do not subscribe to the view that only a scientist can manage other scientists. Instead I think what we need is a good manager.

We need a manager to manage all these scientist, one who acknowledges, maybe I don't know everything in that space, but being capable of organizing, setting direction, imposing accountability, making the greatest possible use of taxpayer dollars and reaching goals.

Governor Perry, as the longest-serving Governor of Texas, you have considerable experience bidding of big and very sophisticated enterprise. I believe that will serve you well as secretary and look forward to hearing how you would carry that experience over to the department. If you are confirmed, you will also find yourself in a position to make the department run more effectively.

Secretary Monet as I think has made some very good progress in breaking down some of the silos that have historically frustrated the department, but I think we all recognize there is more that can be done. Offices within the department must do a better job working together to utilize limited resources and reduce unnecessary duplication.

I know that in our conversation he made a commitment to travel to my state. I'm sure as you have visited with other members, you have made similar commitments to them. But I do appreciate your willingness to come to Alaska to see my home state firsthand. And while the Department of Interior is usually the one that makes the headlines in Alaska, the Department of Energy is also very important and perhaps three key ways that I can point out to you this morning.

First is that the department can do to help reduce extremely high energy costs in the state of Alaska. Our energy costs are the greatest challenge facing our rural areas. Many of our communities are still reliant on diesel as their primary energy source. Many of the small interior communities, again, inaccessible by road—they get a barge twice a year-- they may be experiencing fuel prices in the range of $9 to $10 a gallon for their fuel. It is not sustainable, it simply does not work. It's a huge burden and what ultimately cannot happen is you have families that just say we can't live here.

We can't stay in the village, in a region that we have been in for a thousand years. Because the energy costs are driving them away. So they leave their villages and go to town, Anchorage, Fairbanks, but it really is not the right choice. I think our challenge should be to help them find those energy solutions.

This is where, I think, we in Alaska can offer a great deal of opportunity because we have been innovative. Innovative because the necessity and we have a lot to share with the rest of the country in terms of demonstrating how we can find energy solutions very locally. We have more micro grids and more to talk about in the micro-grid space than anywhere else in the country.

And so, I ask you to use us. Use that expertise. I think the Department of Energy has some great opportunity to partner with communities and organizations not only in Alaska at around the country to develop real solutions particularly with renewable energy that can help reduce our energy costs.

I've told you that I think Alaska can be that proving ground and we look at it and say if you've got new technologies that make sense somewhere else, we can pretty much guarantee that they'll make sense in Alaska and we are the beneficiary because we see the reduce costs. I want to see the department make a much greater effort to capitalize on that going forward.

The second way that the department can work with Alaska is to help us bring our stranded natural gas to market. Last year the department granted a conditional export license to the Alaska Gas Line Project, but we have to continue receiving good strong support in timely approvals from the federal government if the project is going to succeed.

Finally, the Department of Energy can help Alaska commercialize more of its vast resource base. The office of fossil energy has focused almost exclusively on environmental aspects of fuels in recent years, but its mission is supposed to be considerably broader than that. A renewed focus on pre-competitive research on methane hydrates and other resources could lead to new breakthroughs and boost our nation's energy security and long into the future.

I do think it is important to recognize this committee, which has a reputation of working collaboratively in a good bipartisan way. Senator Cantwell and I have along with our colleagues been able to move the ball forward on some very important energy issues.

And we've been able to do that in part with the Department of Energy because we've has a good relationship, positive relationship with the current Secretary of Energy, Ernie Monies is. I think he's done well as secretary and while I didn't always agree with him, it was a working relationship that was solid. And there was good respect and I hope that in that respect, you will follow his lead working with us, and making yourself available to us about whether to testify here, to just keep in contact, stay in touch, generally be responsive to our members here.

If you can do that, you'll be on the right track and we will work together as we seek to maintain America’s energy’s leadership.

I thank you for being here this morning and your willingness to serve. And I now turn to ranking member Cantwell.

Speech from