A wide-ranging discussion on Capitol Hill today reflected a lingering lack of consensus on US energy policy.

At a scattered meeting this morning, intended to focus on the proposed H.R. 909 energy bill, House Republicans and Democrats heard testimony from a wide array of expert witnesses.

Topics of discussion ranged from nuclear storage to electric vehicles and the capabilities of various renewable power generators at The American Energy Initiative: H.R. 909, A Roadmap for America’s Energy hearing of the House Energy & Commerce Committee.

The proposed bill is intended to reduce US dependence on foreign imported oil by further developing domestic reserves of oil and gas, increasing development of nuclear power and encouraging deployment of clean technology with a reverse auction open to private sector bidders.

“We need to explore more green ways to produce electricity for the American people,” said chairman of the committee Congressman Ed Whitfield (R-KY) in his opening remarks. He lauded the proposed bill and encouraged loosening restriction on domestic production of oil and gas.

Representative Henry Waxman (D-CA) strongly opposed the bill in his opening statements, calling it a Republican gimmick, a view he later softened when an expert witnesses from his own state pointed out the benefits of the proposal.

“Increasing oil production will not help our energy needs,” Waxman said. He spoke highly of renewables development but opposed the bill, which he said promotes nuclear development and does not sufficiently address environmental concerns.

The expert witnesses generally took less partisan views than the congressmen, but each touted his own project and goals.

David Sandalow, Department of Energy’s (DOE) assistant secretary for policy and international affairs, described the DOE’s efforts to increase American energy independence. He encouraged further adoption of electric vehicles, noting that the government would need to invest in lithium for batteries.

He also supported the reverse auction for increased renewables deployment, an idea that was specifically discussed by Neil Auerbach, managing partner of Hudson Clean Energy Partners, a private equity firm that invests exclusively in clean energy technology.

In response to significant skepticism from various congressman on the ability of renewables to provide sufficient energy to Americans, Auerbach noted that renewable power sources were already very much in place and were proving extremely profitable for investors.

“Clean energy,” he said, “is good for energy security, good for economic growth and good for the environment.”

The US Navy also had a say in the hearing, with Deputy Assistant Secretary Thomas Hicks explaining the Navy’s efforts to reduce oil consumption. He noted that conversion to biofuel has been extremely effective along with increasing efficiency of ships and airplanes with various coatings.

“The best barrel of oil is that barrel that we do not use,” he told the congressmen.

Picture: Congressman Ed Whitfield (R-KY)