Republicans today questioned Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Steven Chu on the Administration's fiscal year 2013 energy research and development (R&D) budget proposal and the President's policy goals.
"The President continues to push for a mandate that Americans purchase more expensive electricity, while other countries seek to make energy cheaper for their citizens," Chairman Ralph Hall (R-TX) said in his opening remarks. "This is especially disappointing and should again be soundly rejected by Congress, as was his previous proposal to increase the cost of energy through a cap-and-trade scheme."
Chairman Hall also questioned the misplaced priorities of the President's request for DOE's R&D programs, and the budget's call to "double-down" on clean energy spending. "After a year in which American taxpayers saw their money wasted in high-profile failures of government-backed, so-called clean energy companies, it is surprising that DOE now uses that same term, "double-down,' to describe the Department's budget proposal. In this context, I think I can at least understand the Administration's use of a gambling metaphor to describe its plans for risking taxpayer dollars."
During candid questioning, Vice Chairman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) and Rep. Sandy Adams (R-FL) both explicitly gave Secretary Chu an opportunity to retract statements, made as long ago as 2008 and as recently as this week, that gas prices should be increased to European levels and that reducing the price of gasoline is not the Administration's overall goal. While not retracting his previous statements, the Secretary adjusted his rhetoric and said he does want to reduce gas prices. Members were quick to point out that the Administration's actions do not match his words.
Further, the merit of the Administration's top energy priorities were criticized, in light of skyrocketing gasoline prices and a struggling economy. The President continues to push for a new requirement that the U.S. produce 80 percent of its electricity from "clean" sources by 2035. Chairman Hall highlighted DOE's own analysis that such a Clean Energy Standard would increase electricity prices by almost 30% by 2035 and reduce gross domestic product by approximately $100 billion annually.
Republicans also highlighted the need for increased domestic energy production to alleviate high gasoline prices, asking Chu to reconcile the President's call for "all of the above" with his decision to block the Keystone pipeline and limit oil and gas exploration and production on Federal lands. Several Members also pressed the Secretary on why the President has taken the Yucca Mountain nuclear repository off the table, after a $15 billion taxpayer investment.
However, while there were considerable differences of opinion represented today, one area of bipartisan agreement was support for basic scientific research at the DOE Office of Science.