In a recent edition, Well Servicing Magazine published an insightful article about the importance of new environmental, social and governance (ESG) technologies to the energy industry. As an example of the strides being made in the industry, the author mentioned that recent hydrogen demonstrations have been garnering attention as an alternative fuel source in reciprocating engines and in dual fuel and natural gas applications.1 Moreover, the Energy Workforce & Technology Council’s (the Council) ESG certification process gives participating companies a year-long opportunity to explore and adopt new technologies that lead to lower carbon and overall emissions. The remaining challenge, as with most new technologies and R&D, is cost.
While there has been mixed sentiment from the current administration and Congress toward the fossil fuel industry, there have been recent examples where our political leaders have sought to assist the industry with exploring and adoption of new technologies. One bipartisan example is the United States Innovation and Competition Act (USICA).2 The $250 billion authorization bill, passing the U.S. Senate on June 8, 2021, was originally conceived to assist semiconductor companies, but later expanded to include a collection of multi-sectoral science and technology initiatives.
The expansive USICA included the Strategic Competition Act of 2021.3 Title I pertains to investing in a competitive future with subtitles focusing on authorizations to assist U.S. companies with global supply chain diversification and management as well as global infrastructure and energy development.4 The Strategic Competition Act has a dual purpose of countering predatory lending and financing by China in the energy sector in developing countries and increasing exports of U.S. advanced energy technologies. By spreading development costs across a broader geography, this piece of legislation has the potential to lower the incremental costs for new ESG technologies in the U.S.
After passage of the USICA, the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources reported out a broad bipartisan bill designed, among other major initiatives, to spur development of new technologies in the energy sector. The bill, known as the Energy Infrastructure Act, supports energy R&D in a number of ways.5 First, if passed, the U.S. Geological Service would receive an appropriation of $167 million to build an energy and minerals research facility with academic partners.6 Second, and more relevant to the Council’s ESG initiatives, the U.S. Department of Energy would receive an appropriation of $8 billion to fund the development of at least four clean hydrogen hubs.7 The hydrogen hubs are to be located across the country, with two designated for natural gas producing regions. The bill would also appropriate another $500 million to support the research and development and demonstration of manufacturing equipment used for hydrogen production, processing, delivery, storage and use.
With these bills serving as examples of the bipartisan support in an otherwise deadlocked Congress, now is the opportune time for companies developing new technologies in the energy sector to engage our political leadership to support passage of these types of bills on terms acceptable to the industry. By establishing cooperative agreements with relevant agencies and research institutions, the industry has an opportunity to reduce the costs of developing and deploying its new technologies, reducing overall emissions and securing the competitive future of the U.S. energy industry. Now is the time to act.
1“Emerging Technologies: How they Impact the Industry”, Mark Reed, Mustang Cat, Well Servicing Magazine, Q3 2021, found at: https://issuu.com/wellservicingmagazine/docs/wsm_q3_2021_final/s/13045470.
2“US Innovation & Competition Act”, S. 1260 of the 117th Congress (2021 – 2022) found at: https://www.congress.gov/bill/117th-congress/senate-bill/1260/text.
3“US Strategic Competition Act”, Division C, Section 3101, et seq.
4Id at Subtitles A and B, Sections 3101 – 3111-3116.
5“Energy Infrastructure Act of 2021”, S. 2377 of the 117th Congress (2021 – 2022) introduced in the Senate on July 9, 2021. See also, US Senate Energy & Infrastructure Committee, reporting out bipartisan Energy Infrastructure Act, found at: https://www.energy.senate.gov/2021/7/energy-committee-advances-manchin-s-bipartisan-energy-infrastructure-act.
6See Section 2004 of the Energy Infrastructure Act.
7See Section 3101 of the Energy Infrastructure Act, amending Title VIII of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, 42 USC 16151 et seq, Sections 813 to 816.