Over the last several years, we have begun exploring the potential of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and its application across a variety of sectors—health care, finance, manufacturing, agriculture, and so on. In the Energy Subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, we recently held a hearing examining the ways that AI could be used to benefit our energy sector.
As energy consumption and our standard of living increases decade after decade, we must find new ways to provide Americans with safe, reliable, and affordable energy. AI is being used to support those goals.
We heard from witnesses about how AI is accelerating cutting-edge energy technologies by processing data to aid researchers, while also helping to reduce both cost and time when developing new technologies.
In the oil and gas industry, AI is being used to better process geothermal 3D seismic data and optimize drilling operations. It can increase production in refineries, help manage wells and reservoirs, increase yield, all while finding ways to decrease oil well energy usage, which will in turn bring down costs.
When it comes to electricity, AI could be used by utilities and wholesale market makers to continuously pinpoint when to dispatch power plants and help power plant managers balance supply and demand. It can also monitor utility polls for any issues, order needed parts, or create work orders for when technicians are needed to go into the field to fix something.
However, a drawback to the implementation of AI in our energy sector is that operating AI requires data centers to use massive amounts of power. According to the International Energy Agency, data centers globally used 1–1.3% of global electricity demand in 2022. According to one of our witnesses, Loudoun County, Virginia, would need the equivalent of three large nuclear plants every year to power new AI enabled data centers.
As AI use grows, so will its electricity demand. With electrical grids already under pressure and stressed for more capacity, and with the Biden Administration determined to eliminate the fossil fuels which stabilize our electrical grid, we will have to find a way to ensure that AI doesn’t further strain our grid.
Another challenge is the risk of AI-assisted cyber-attacks. An ever-increasing issue in our world, it will be paramount as we move forward with AI development, that we find meaningful ways to protect our energy sector against this threat.
Medical Devices Must Work
Ten to 15 million medical devices are used by U.S. hospitals and doctor’s offices daily to help diagnosis and treat patients.
Unfortunately, some of these medical devices are sold with manufacturer-imposed restrictions on repairs, meaning only the manufacturer itself can make a repair. Articles that I have seen include among those devices CT scanners, EKG machines, MRI machines, and ventilators.
Restrictions on who can repair a medical device can come with potentially deadly consequences. This is especially true in rural areas, like the 9th District of Virginia. In rural areas, having a repair person nearby is less likely. Being forced to use only the manufacturer’s representative could mean longer wait times for hospital and doctor’s office equipment to be repaired.
If your doctor and/or health care team don’t have access to working equipment, they can not properly diagnose your condition or disease. This can lead to catastrophic consequences.
I can not accept that people could become more ill or risk death because they are unable to receive help due to repair restrictions. Medical devices save lives. Manufacturers cannot in good conscious stand in the way of the mission to treat people.
That is why I am looking at the concept of allowing independent contractors to be able to repair the equipment for hospitals and doctor’s offices who request that service. We are checking with our local hospitals about their needs.
This issue reminds me of my friend, Bill Bradley, who unfortunately passed away in 2017. He started Valley Biomedical Services, to service medical devices in need of repair. Bill started the company working out of a van and grew it into a success, working hard to provide a variety of medical repair services in the Roanoke area and beyond for over 30 years.
Ending manufacturer restrictions could benefit skilled technicians like my friend Bill, while also, and more importantly, providing better access to health care in rural areas.
When facing life or death issues, you should neither have to wait for the repair team to fly in nor have the patient travel to another hospital.
If you have questions, concerns, or comments, feel free to contact my office. You can call my Abingdon office at 276-525-1405 or my Christiansburg office at 540-381-5671. To reach my office via email, please visit my website at www.morgangriffith.house.gov.
This page is available to subscribers. Click here to sign in or get access.