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Development of Energy Sources Other Than Nuclear Fission

The Federal Nonnuclear Energy Research and Development Act of 1974 was enacted to establish and conduct a comprehensive national program of basic and applied research and development.  It includes demonstrations of practical applications of all potentially beneficial energy sources and utilization technologies within the Department of Energy (DOE)[i].

The Secretary of Energy is charged with the duties of reviewing the current status of nonnuclear energy sources and research and development activities, initiating and maintaining energy research, development, and demonstration programs or activities by means of fund transfers, grants, or contracts[ii].  Further, the Secretary of Energy initiates programs to design, construct, and operate energy facilities of sufficient size to demonstrate the technical and economic feasibility of utilizing various forms of nonnuclear energy[iii].

It is to be noted that the Secretary of Energy is required to transmit a comprehensive plan for energy research, development, and demonstration, which is to be revised annually.  S/he is also required to update annually a comprehensive nonnuclear energy research, development, and demonstration program designed to achieve solutions to the energy supply and associated environmental problems[iv].

Further, the Nonnuclear Research and Development Act authorizes the Secretary of Energy to identify opportunities to accelerate the commercial applications of new energy technologies, to provide federal assistance for or participation in demonstration projects, and to enter into cooperative agreements with nonfederal entities to demonstrate the technical feasibility and economic potential of energy technologies[v].

It is to be noted that title to any invention made or conceived in the course of or under any contract of the Department of Energy under specified circumstances vests in the U.S.  However, the Secretary can waive all or any part of the rights of the U.S. with respect to any invention made or which may be made by any person under any contract of the Department, if the Secretary determines that the interests of the U.S. and the general public will be best served by such a waiver[vi].

Similarly, the Solar Heating and Cooling Demonstration Act of 1974 was enacted to foster the development of solar heating and combined solar heating and cooling technologies.  It provides for adjustments in the restrictions on federal housing assistance or federally constructed housing to accommodate the inclusion of solar heating or combined solar heating and cooling.  The purpose of the Solar Heating and Cooling Demonstration Act of 1974 is to provide for the demonstration within a three year period of the practical use of solar heating technology, and to provide for the development and demonstration within a five year period of the practical use of combined heating and cooling technology[vii].

Further, the Geothermal Steam Act of 1970 empowers the Secretary of the Interior to issue leases for the development and utilization of geothermal resources in lands administered by the Secretary.  It includes public, withdrawn, and acquired lands, in any national forest or other lands administered by the Department of Agriculture and in lands that has conveyed by the U.S. subject to a reservation of the geothermal resources there[viii].

The Geothermal Steam Act of 1970 authorizes the Secretary of Interior to accept nominations from qualified companies and individuals of land to be leased for geothermal development.  Generally, land is leased to the highest responsible qualified bidder.  The Secretary of Interior must hold a competitive lease sale at least once every two years for land in a state that has nominations pending, if the land is otherwise available for leasing[ix].  Similarly, the Secretary of Interior must make available for noncompetitive leasing any tract for which a competitive lease sale is held for two years for which the Secretary of Interior does not receive any bids in a competitive lease sale[x].  However, lessees must use all reasonable precautions to prevent waste of geothermal steam and associated resources[xi].

It is to be noted that the Stock Raising Homestead Act of 1916 reserves to the U.S. all the coal and other minerals.  All of the elements of a geothermal system such as magma, porous rock strata, water may be classified as minerals.  Reservations will be deemed to embrace geothermal steam and associated geothermal resources[xii].  Similarly, the Energy Policy Act of 1992 establishes requirements for federal fleet use of alternative fuels.  It also makes provision for federal agency promotion, education, and coordination of programs concerning those fuels[xiii].

Further, the Biomass Energy and Alcohol Fuels Act of 1980 established a program for the production and use of biomass energy.  The Act further provides for use of municipal waste biomass energy and rural, agricultural, and forestry biomass energy.  The Secretary of Commerce must prepare and submit a report containing a complete description of any financial, institutional, environmental, and social barriers to the development and application of technologies for the recovery of energy from municipal wastes[xiv].  It is to be noted that the Energy Policy Act of 1992 included several provisions concerning renewable energy.  It promotes increase in the production and utilization of energy from renewable energy resources, further advances of renewable energy technologies, and exports of renewable energy technologies and services.

[i] 42 USCS § 5901.

[ii] 42 USCS § 5903.

[iii] Id.

[iv] 42 USCS § 5905.

[v] 42 USCS § 5907.

[vi] 42 USCS § 5908.

[vii] 42 USCS § 5501.

[viii] 30 USCS § 1002.

[ix] 30 USCS § 1003.

[x] Id.

[xi] 30 USCS § 1022.

[xii] United States v. Union Oil Co., 549 F.2d 1271 (9th Cir. Cal. 1977).

[xiii] 42 USCS § 13214.

[xiv] 42 USCS § 8831.

Inside Development of Energy Sources Other Than Nuclear Fission