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Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2012

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Ms. HIRONO. Mr. Chair, I rise today in strong opposition to the Fiscal Year 2012 Energy and Water Appropriations bill.

Last week, the Bureau of Labor Statistics announced that only 18,000 jobs were created in June and more than 14 million people are still looking for work--many for over six months.

As members of Congress, our focus must be on pursuing policies that will rebuild our economy by providing these Americans with opportunities to work hard and succeed--the very idea that underpins the middle class.

This legislation is a missed opportunity to respond to the jobs challenge in a serious way. Instead of investing in our infrastructure and supporting innovative new job-creating industries in the renewable energy sector, this bill under-invests in both these areas.

For example, this bill reduces funding for energy efficiency and renewable energy programs by $491 million--or 27 percent below the already abysmal FY2011 funding levels and 59 percent less than what President Obama requested.

The bill also cuts funding for the Department of Energy's Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) by $88 million, which is 44 percent below current levels and 81 percent less than requested. ARPA-E is modeled after the successful Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) which has been a catalyst in technological innovation since its creation in 1958.

Together, these programs fund crucial research and development in a variety of renewable technologies with the goals of ending our national dependence on fossil fuels, more efficiently powering our homes and businesses, and lessening the cost of energy for families.

These types of investments are incredibly important in my home state of Hawaii. We are the most oil dependent state in the nation--we must import 90 percent of the oil products that fuel our cars, homes, and businesses. So when the world markets that set the price of oil gyrates--as it has in recent months--our economic growth and quality of life are significantly impacted.

So renewable energy isn't just a feel-good idea--it's an economic and national security imperative both for Hawaii and our nation's future. Cutting funds that provide incentives for the private sector to continue innovating and growing jobs in this sector may seem penny-wise; but it is most certainly pound-foolish.

I am also disappointed that this bill fails to make a real dent in our nation's water infrastructure needs. The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) has given our nation's overall infrastructure a grade of "D.'' ASCE also estimates that Hawaii needs $1.97 billion to meet our water infrastructure needs. While I understand the need to carefully prioritize how we spend precious federal dollars, I believe that infrastructure should be at the top of that priority list. Infrastructure investments create jobs, strengthen our communities, and improve public health.

These are just two areas where this legislation fails to improve our economy, help rebuild the middle class, or lay the groundwork for our future prosperity. As a whole this bill is a disappointment, and I strongly oppose its passage.

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