Sen. Bingaman eyes committee vote on clean-energy agency

CEDA is designed to provide an array of financing tools, including loans, loan guarantees and other kinds of support, to promising technologies that are facing the “valley of death” between technology invention and commercial deployment.

“The high capital requirements, coupled with the unavailability of affordable financing, has generally steered investments toward largely proven technologies, while the real ‘game changing’ technologies have not been able to get the money they need,” Bingaman said in the hearing.

But a key question is where to find the roughly $10 billion to launch what backers hope would be an ultimately self-sustaining entity.

Bingaman said that finding offsetting revenues would likely have to wait until after the committee approves the bill, given the panel’s limited options.

“Realistically the Energy Committee does not have a lot of ways to pay for much of anything, in the sense that we don’t have access to the ability to raise funds for various legislation in our jurisdiction,” he said.

Bingaman said that addressing a “pay-for” could occur once the measure reaches the Senate floor.

Bingaman also listed other measures that could move through the committee before the upcoming recess, including offshore drilling-safety legislation.

The panel unanimously approved broad legislation in the last Congress that would take steps such as increasing civil penalties, expanding inspections and beefing up blowout prevention system requirements, among other provisions.

The Interior Department has strengthened its drilling safety rules and oversight under its existing powers since the BP spill, but a top official recently noted that congressional action is needed in some key areas.