Obama wants billions to ‘modernize’ energy infrastructure

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The Obama administration released a report Tuesday calling for billions of dollars to “modernize” and “transform” the nation’s energy infrastructure.

The plan comes from the findings in the first installment of the Energy Department’s “Quadrennial Energy Review,” which it hopes to write every four years.

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The report describes a system of energy transportation, storage and distribution that is largely based on decades-old principles.

Vice President Biden and Energy Secretary Ernest MonizErnest MonizThe Trail 2016: Donald and the Supremes Overnight Energy: EPA wants higher ethanol mandate Moniz dismisses Trump’s call to change climate deal MORE are traveling to Philadelphia to speak at Peco Energy Co., a local utility, and promote the report and its recommendations.

Federal officials complain in the 348-page report that the energy infrastructure system does not fit into current needs regarding domestic energy production, renewable energy, resilience needs, climate change and international security, among other concerns.

The report highlights domestic energy changes, the moving balance of imports and exports, renewable energy shifts and greenhouse gas reduction as some of the top changes that have happened in the last decade regarding energy.

“The United States has the most advanced energy systems in the world, supplying the reliable, affordable and increasingly clean power and fuels that underpin every facet of our nation’s economy,” the White House said in unveiling the report.

“But our energy landscape is changing dramatically. Solar electricity generation has increased 20-fold since 2008, and electricity generation from wind energy has more than tripled,” it said. “During that period, the United States has also become the world’s leading producer of oil and natural gas combined.”

The administration is asking in the report for billions of dollars to upgrade the “resilience, reliability, safety and security” of energy infrastructure.

It says it would cost up to $3.5 billion over 10 years to replace natural gas pipelines and improve maintenance.

The Energy Department also wants to spend up to $5 billion to support state “energy assurance” pipeline programs, to help them protect their energy infrastructure from various threats.

The administration calls for nearly $4 billion to modernize the electrical grid, as well as $2 billion to promote carbon dioxide capture and sequestration, along with pipelines to move the gas.

The billions in recommended upgrades would bolster infrastructure projects at the state and local level as well as in the private sector, White House energy and climate adviser Dan Utech said on a conference call. He cited natural gas distribution lines, which many states have begun overhauling on their own, as an example. 

“We think there is an opportunity there, with federal funds, to really try to nudge that process in a new direction and really accelerate that work,” Utech said. “Most of the proposals we have for new spending are of that variety.”

House Republicans countered the White House proposal by noting their own work on energy infrastructure issues session, including approving the Keystone XL oil pipeline, reforming natural gas pipeline permitting and expediting liquefied natural gas exports. The bills had varying degrees of bipartisan support, and a spokesman for Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) called for Obama's support.

Utech said the administration would look for agreement with Congress on recommendations within the report, some of which were included in Obama’s 2016 budget request. 

“We have a set of recommendations, some of those are things we can implement as an administration, others are proposals that are included in our [fiscal] ’16 budget, and others are proposals that go beyond what’s in our ’16 budget,” he said. “We are eager to engage with Congress and to see where we can find common ground. We think that this is a very important area for working together.”

—Devin Henry contributed.

This story was updated at 10:40 a.m.