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Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2012

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. SCHIFF. I rise to speak in favor of the Holt-Bishop amendment to support funding for the Department of Energy Office of Science. This is a vital investment in the Nation's future.

We have tough decisions to make about where to make cuts. And certainly there is a lot of opportunity to cut things that aren't effective that we can't afford to continue with, but we don't want to cut things that are integral to our future. And an investment in science, in research and technology, that is the future of this country.

We're not going to compete with the rest of the world on wages. We're not going to compete with the Third World on wages. We have to compete in the area of productivity. And we can't be the most productive nation on Earth unless we invest in science and technology.

I have a letter here from the Energy Sciences Coalition in support of Mr. Holt and Mr. Bishop's efforts that talk about the need for scientific research, world-class user facilities, teams of skilled scientists and engineers that are funded by the Department of Energy Office of Science at universities and national labs around the country. Economic experts have asserted as much, crediting past investments in science and technology for up to half the growth in GDP in the 50 years following the end of World War II. At this time when we're being challenged by other nations for our leadership in science and technology, this is not the right time to disinvest from this vital research.

The amendment by Mr. Holt and Mr. Bishop is supported by countless associations of physics and chemistry, countless universities and institutions of higher learning--my own University of California campuses at Berkeley, Davis, Irvine, Merced, Riverside, San Diego, San Francisco, Santa Barbara, and Santa Cruz, but also around the country, from the University of Chicago to U.S.C. to the University of Tennessee and the University of Virginia, all over the Nation, not to mention Princeton University. And why? Because these institutions of higher learning have been leading the way in path-breaking developments that have just boosted our economy and our understanding of energy and the world around us.

So this is a vital investment in the future, and I urge support for my colleagues' amendment.

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Mr. SCHIFF. Mr. Chairman, my amendment as offered by my colleagues, Representative Bass and Representative Fudge, would simply restore ARPA-E funding to the fiscal year 2011 level of $179.6 million.

ARPA-E was created in 2009 to bring the kind of innovative thinking that is well known at DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, to the energy sector. That includes a focus on high-risk, high-reward R&D and a quick-moving culture made up of experts who stay for just a few years to ensure that new ideas are continually being brought forward. Unlike some government agencies, its philosophy, much like a tech start-up, is to hire the best technical staff and then hire the managers and leadership that can get the best out of them.

This reinvention of the way that government does business is something that we should be encouraging. A leaner approach adopted from the private sector, with a more agile leadership and the mandate to cut underperforming research avenues, is exactly what the Department of Energy needs. The American Energy Innovation

Council, made up of CEOs and chairmen of some of America's biggest companies, including Bill Gates, Norm Augustine and Jeff Immelt, have proposed spending $1 billion a year on ARPA-E, seeing it as a vital part of our energy future. This bill provides just $100 million, so they endorsed a version of this amendment in the Appropriations Committee.

I recognize that we have a serious deficit problem as a member of the Blue Dog Coalition, and we need to deal with it. But as we make the difficult choices to do that, I don't believe that as we emerge from a recession that we should cut the innovative research that makes America great and has fueled our economic growth for generations.

Energy is not just an economic issue, of course. It is also a national security issue. Some of our ARPA-E's research may help us cut down on fuel convoys in Afghanistan, and every bit of energy independence protects us from even higher energy prices driven by either instability in the Middle East or skyrocketing demand from China.

More than 50 universities, venture capital firms and professional societies--the Association of American Universities and the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities--have signed a letter in support of increasing ARPA-E funding. They and I hope that we will provide the funds that ARPA-E needs to continue to do the research that will change our world, not today, but tomorrow and for decades to come.

This amendment offsets the increase with a cut to the departmental administration account. As many people have noted, the Department of Energy has a serious management problem, and perhaps cutting this account will send a message that a new approach is needed.

But this invests in our future. Energy is a national security issue, it's an economic imperative, it's a health issue, and it's an environmental issue; and to invest in this kind of cutting-edge research in a reinvention-of-government kind of an agency is exactly the direction we should go. It's a proven approach that has been proven in the Defense Department with DARPA. It can work here in Energy. It's off to a very promising start, developing new battery technologies where we can lead the development of new batteries for electric vehicles for another generation.

I was very moved by a speech from a CEO of Google about a year ago, and he talked about how the revolution in energy that is just beginning will dwarf the revolution we have just come through in telecommunications because energy is a far bigger sector of our economy. We want to lead that energy revolution. If we do, the benefits to our economic development will be enormous, just as they were in terms of the telecommunications revolution. We don't want to see this leadership go to China, India or any other nation. But if we're serious about it, we need to invest in cutting-edge research. That's exactly what ARPA-E does.

I urge this Congress not to cut back on the Nation's future, but to support the innovative work being done by ARPA-E.

I yield back the balance of my time.

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