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Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2012

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

Mr. HOLT. Mr. Chair, I rise in opposition to the Fiscal Year 2012 Energy and Water Appropriations bill. At a time when our economy is already fragile, the Majority appears intent on reducing Federal funding for the very programs that drive technological innovation, economic growth, and job creation.

Scientific research lies at the very heart of the national innovation system that keeps us competitive, enhances our quality of life, fuels our economy, and improves our national security. Investments in our Federal science agencies and our national innovation infrastructure are not big government spending programs that we cannot afford. They are minimum down-payments on our country's national security, public health, and economic vitality that we cannot afford to postpone.

Yet, this bill contains enormous cuts to several programs at the Department of Energy that are critical for supporting innovation and increasing American economic competitiveness.

This bill slashes nearly $43 million in funding from the Department of Energy's (DOE) Office of Science compared to Fiscal Year 2011. The Office of Science is the Nation's primary sponsor of research in the physical sciences and has been integral to the development of dozens of innovative technologies. Some have become the underpinnings of modem scientific disciplines; some have revolutionized medicine; some have advanced our national energy security; some have made our troops safer. That is the nature and the power of scientific research--the ultimate outcomes cannot necessarily be known in advance, but investments in basic discovery can yield enormous dividends. I offered an amendment to restore funding to the DOE Office of Science so that it could maintain current operations. Unfortunately, my amendment was defeated.

This bill provided $100 million for the Department of Energy's Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E). ARPA-E supports high-risk, high-reward research on energy technologies. Funding for ARPA-E directly contributes to the creation of new technologies, new industries, and new jobs. Yet, the Majority intended to slash funding for this valuable program by an astonishing 81 percent relative to the President's request.

Fortunately, the House passed an amendment offered by my colleague Mr. Schiff that will restore funding for ARPA-E to Fiscal Year 2011 levels. I was pleased to join my colleagues in voting for this important amendment.

This legislation contains $1.3 billion for energy efficiency and renewable energy programs, a remarkable 59 percent less than President Obama's request. This is the worst possible moment to slash funding for sustainable energy technologies. The DOE's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy supports research and development of sustainable energy technologies that strengthen the economy and protect the environment. Research in sustainable and efficient energy technologies increases our energy security, reduces our dependence on foreign oil, creates jobs, and increases our economic competitiveness. Yet the Majority made devastating cuts to this valuable program.

Remarkably, the Majority was not satisfied with these cuts to energy efficiency programs. The House adopted by voice vote an amendment that would bar the Department of Energy from using funds to enforce energy efficiency standards for light bulbs enacted by the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. Yet, just days before, the House rejected an identical measure. This efficiency standard, enacted in a bipartisan bill signed into law by President Bush, simply requires that new light bulbs use 25 to 30 percent less energy than traditional incandescent light bulbs. No light bulbs are banned. No consumers will be forced to use one type of light bulb over another type.

Since Congress acted 4 years ago, lighting companies have invested significant capital and resources into research, development, and new technologies--exactly the kind of investments that our economy desperately needs. So again, the Majority has voted to thwart technological progress and cost America jobs and money.

While I do not object to the committee's decision to add disaster relief funding for projects resulting from tornadoes, storms, and floods across the Midwest and Southeast, I oppose strongly the decision to rescind $1 billion in unobligated funding for high-speed rail projects. In May, the U.S. Department of Transportation awarded Amtrak $450 million in funding to upgrade its rail infrastructure to support more frequent and faster high-speed rail service, and to improve reliability of current service between New York and Washington. Now this funding will be unavailable. This will result in a loss of jobs and infrastructure in my Central New Jersey district--one of the busiest segments of the Northeast Corridor and where the densest concentration of Acela Express high-speed rail operations occurs. This provision amounts to a step backward in the development of the nation's intercity rail infrastructure.

In May, the U.S. Department of Transportation awarded Amtrak $450 million in funding to upgrade its rail infrastructure to support more frequent and faster high-speed rail service, and to improve reliability of current service between New York and Washington. Specifically, this award would upgrade electrical power, signal systems, track and overhead catenary wires in my Central New Jersey district--one of the busiest segments of the Northeast Corridor (NEC) and where the densest concentration of Acela Express high-speed rail operations occurs. This work is critical to Amtrak's plan to double high-speed Acela service between New York and Washington by 2022.

Budgets reflect, in dollars and cents, our priorities as a nation. We must provide Federal support for programs that encourage scientific research and support economic development. At a time when our economy is already fragile, abandoning scientific research would cause the U.S. to lose even more high-tech jobs to our foreign competitors. That is not the way to compete in the future, especially when the economy is in a fragile recovery. For all of these reasons, I am voting against this bill.


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