ENERGY EFFICIENCY:

Manufacturing in focus as Energy Committee moves toward major bill

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee turns its attention Thursday to improving the efficiency of U.S. manufacturing as the panel examines bipartisan legislation on the matter.

Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) is expected to fold the new bill into a bigger energy measure the committee plans to begin marking up next week. Thursday's session is one in a suite of hearings in recent weeks on renewable and fossil energy, transmission, efficiency, utility green power mandates and other topics.

Backers of the new bill call it a way to help address energy and climate change goals while ensuring the United States stays competitive. "Our global competitors are gaining in productivity and capturing high-value manufacturing capabilities and products that were invented in the U.S.," warns a committee summary of the bill.

The committee says the new bill can reinvigorate the U.S. manufacturing sector while reducing use of fossil fuels and will also help map out the future of the sector. In addition to Bingaman, the sponsors are Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Olympia Snowe (R-Maine). Evan Bayh (D-Ind.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Mark Pryor (D-Ark.).

Specific provisions include a new Energy Department industrial efficiency financing program, in which DOE would provide grants to lenders such as local economic development agencies and partnerships between state governments and banks.

These grants would provide the federal share for a new revolving loan program that helps manufacturers use technologies that curb energy use. The federal share must be matched by non-federal funds, and grants to lenders cannot exceed $100 million in any year. The bill authorizes $500 million annually between fiscal 2010 and 2012.

Another provision requires new internal DOE collaboration to create research and development partnerships between the department's Industrial Technologies Program and other branches, including the building technologies program that is also within the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.

The industrial program would also work with partners outside EERE -- the Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability, and the Office of Science. The goal is to promote early stage efficiency technology development.

In addition, the bill directs the creation of "industry-specific road maps" in which DOE and energy-thirsty industries would jointly study specific sectors' energy use, greenhouse gas emissions and costs by process. The road maps would set "targets of opportunity" for improving efficiency and sustainability, and create plans to meet these goals.

The bill would also have the Industrial Technologies Program to conduct onsite reviews to help industry reduce emissions and waste and find environmentally friendly substitute materials. The bill also has provisions that increase work with small- and medium-sized manufacturers on efficiency.

Another section provides for "industry innovation grants" in which DOE funnels money to state-industry partnerships for developing and deploying industrial technologies and processes that curb energy use and greenhouse emissions while improving cost-competitiveness. The state-industry partnerships must match the federal share.

Schedule: The hearing is Thursday, March 26, at 9:30 a.m. in 366 Dirksen.

Witnesses: TBA.

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