EnergySource: The Hill | Devin Henry | May 20, 2015

A bipartisan group of senators introduced a bill Wednesday to bump up energy research funding and tweak the structure of American energy research programs.

Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Chris Coons (D-Del.) introduced the bill, which would reauthorize energy programs included in the America COMPETES Act, an eight-year-old law that supports federal research and development.

The bill would increase funding for energy research by 4 percent annually and reauthorize two Department of Energy research offices. The overall goal is to double the $5 billion the Energy Department spends on energy research.

The bill would also eliminate six Department of Energy programs that Alexander’s office said were never fully implemented and reform five others.

“If we want to maintain our brainpower advantage and create an abundance of clean, cheap, reliable energy to compete in our 21st-century economy, we need to fuel innovation in our free enterprise system,” Alexander said in a statement.

“Governing is about setting priorities, and this legislation will put us on a path to double basic energy research – one of the best ways to keep good-paying jobs from going overseas – while streamlining basic energy research programs at the U.S. Department of Energy.”

Alexander’s bill has bipartisan support. Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), the ranking members on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, have signed on, signaling that it eventually could be incorporated into a larger energy reform bill the committee is working on right now.

The bill covers only the energy research provisions in the America COMPETES Act. The House is scheduled to vote on a broader reauthorization measure on Wednesday, but that bill is significantly more controversial because of the way it shuffles around funding for federal research programs.

House Democrats have opposed that bill, and the White House’s Office of Management and Budget has threatened a veto if it were to pass.