Rep. Heather Wilson, R-N.M., came to Sandia last week to say "thanks" to Labs employees for the work they’ve done over the years to help build America’s energy security and to talk to Sandians, community leaders, and news reporters about the need for a balanced national energy policy.
Her visit to Sandia’s National Solar Thermal Test Facility was part of a coordinated nationwide "day of energy awareness" on July 16. The day was organized by Vice President Dick Cheney, who conducted an energy-related town hall meeting in Philadelphia. In addition to Wilson, at least 25 other GOP members of Congress held similar sessions in districts across the country.
Wilson said emphatically that the US House of Representatives will pass a national energy plan this year, one that takes a balanced approach to energy issues.
"We have a serious energy problem [in the US]," she said, adding that the issue long ago should have been given more attention by policymakers. "The silver lining of problems," she added, "is that they cause people to focus."
Recently, Wilson helped pass a bipartisan national energy plan in the House Energy and Air Quality Subcommittee. The bill includes provisions on energy conservation, renewable energy, clean coal technology, nuclear energy production, and advances in hydropower production.
In a Wilson-introduced amendment to the bill, the national laboratories will conduct a national assessment of renewable energy resources. Wilson also sponsored amendments to extend federal renewable R&D and strengthen nuclear energy programs.
In recent months, Wilson has emerged as a key Republican representative on energy policy matters. She was named by House GOP leadership to the 20-member House Energy Action Team (HEAT), which spearheads energy legislation in the US House of Representatives. She is a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which has jurisdiction over energy policy. Wilson is a close political ally of Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., widely recognized as one of the nation’s key champions for nuclear energy and for a vibrant role for Sandia and other national labs in energy R&D.
Indeed, during her visit to Sandia, Wilson said she expects that Sandia’s long record of involvement with energy research "will be even stronger in the years ahead."
Wilson spoke about the need for the nation to take a new look at nuclear energy, which has been the stepchild of the energy industry for most of a generation.
"It’s time to re-think our position," she said. "Nuclear energy is safe, it’s reliable, and it can help us reduce our reliance on foreign sources of energy."
Wilson spelled out what she views as "the bottom line" regarding energy supply in the US.
We want an energy policy, she said, that "allows us to flip a switch and have the lights come on. We want a gasoline supply where the prices are not exorbitant. . . and we want an energy supply that allows us to enjoy and protect our environment.
"We can achieve these goals with a balanced long-term approach," she said.
Prior to her comments, Wilson heard Sandia President Paul Robinson note that Sandia is "the total energy portfolio laboratory," with a history of work in fossil fuel R&D, conservation, renewables, nuclear energy, and supply surety.
Sandia chief economist Arnie Baker (6002) shared with Wilson a computer model tool, PowerSim, that allows the user to see the relationship between energy supply policy decisions and greenhouse gases. The software, while robust enough to be a useful learning tool, is compact enough to run on a laptop PC.
Sandia Energy Div. 6000 VP Bob Eagan welcomed Wilson "on behalf of the 900 people at Sandia who work in energy," providing her with an overview of some of the many research areas his division is involved in.
Following her remarks, Wilson received more detailed briefings from a number of Sandians about specific energy-related projects.