Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriation Act, 2013

Floor Speech

By:  Ed Markey
Date: June 5, 2012
Location: Washington, DC


Mr. MARKEY. I rise in support of the Polis amendment. He and I are introducing this amendment so that we can, once again, demonstrate the lack of compatibility of the priorities of this budget to the overall well-being of our country.

The Cold War ended 20 years ago. We won. Since that time, there has been a dramatic reduction in the number of nuclear weapons that both the United States and the former Soviet Union deploy. That number continues to drop. Yet, here in this budget, there is additional profligate spending on new nuclear weapons programs, on weapons modernization. Well, let me just say this, ladies and gentlemen:

Each nuclear submarine that the United States has has 96 independently targetable nuclear warheads. That means that every single nuclear commander of a submarine in the United States can destroy the entire country of Russia, can destroy the entire country of China--each American nuclear submarine commander--and neither Russia nor China knows where those submarines are. We should be proud of ourselves. We are 10-feet tall compared to the Russians, compared to the Chinese.

By the way, any problems that we have with Iran or with Syria in terms of Russian support for them or Chinese support for them have nothing to do with our nuclear weapons capability. That's not influencing them one way or the other. If we needed to ever drop a nuclear bomb on any one of our enemies--let's just say we had a war with Iran--and after the nuclear sub commanders in the United States Navy were to send one nuclear weapon towards Tehran, what would the next target be?

What are we doing out here? Why are we talking about additional nuclear weapons in the 21st century? Why are we talking about cutting Medicare, cutting Medicaid, cutting programs for poor children, cutting nutrition programs for poor children, and at the same time saying that we need more nuclear weapons?

This is a wayback machine. It's a Cold War time machine that basically says that the inexorable investment of political capital already made continues to drive the investments of the future; that we aren't going to step back and reevaluate that we won the Cold War; that we're not going to have a nuclear war with Russia; that we're not going to have a nuclear war with China; that we are 10 feet tall. Even if all there is is parity, each country understands that it's a total annihilation to use these weapons.

Let's save this money. Vote ``aye'' on the Polis amendment. Send a signal to the world. Send a signal to our own people that at least we can find some expenditure in the defense budget which we can cut and which is not related to our national security. That's all that we ask from you: that please, on one vote, on the nuclear weapons issue, where we don't need new weapons, that there is a vote for sanity, that there is a vote that we send as a signal to the rest of the world and to our own people that we understand that that nuclear arms race is over. Vote ``aye'' on the Polis amendment.

I yield back the balance of my time.


Mr. MARKEY. Mr. Chairman, I rise in support of the amendment.

After Congress privatized the United States Enrichment Corporation in 1996, we quickly learned that it couldn't survive in the private sector without continued and repeated bailouts to the tune of billions of dollars. We've given it free centrifuge technology. We've given it free uranium that it enriches and then sells at below-market prices, undercutting its competitors. We've paid to clean up its radioactive messes. We have assumed its liabilities.

And what has happened to these investments? The entire company is worth less than the $100 million contained in this bill that's the next gift that the Congress is giving to this company. Adam Smith is spinning in his grave so rapidly right now that he would qualify as a new energy source. That's how violative of free-market principles this continued subsidy of this company is, knowing that there are other companies that can provide the same resource without the government subsidies.

Even after the Department of Energy's recent announcement of another gift of free uranium to USEC, Standard & Poor's downgraded it to junk-bond status. Who invests in something that has already achieved junk-bond status with the exception of the United States Congress? That's what we're voting on here today, funding of a company that is now in junk-bond status. And JPMorgan, the company's creditor, now directly controls every penny USEC spends because it felt the company could not manage its own precarious finances.

When I asked the Treasury Department whether government support for the company put taxpayers at risk, it said yes and that extreme care should be taken before offering any exposure to the taxpayer. But are we following the Treasury Department's advice? No. The Department of Energy has approved hundreds of millions of dollars' worth of subsidies for this company and is about to approve another $82 million bailout in the coming days. And Congress has acceded to pressure to insert even more money in no fewer than three pieces of legislation that are currently pending, including the $100 million contained in this bill.

We've been told this bailout is only about getting the tritium we need for our nuclear weapons, but this is just not true. The treaty that governs uranium enrichment technology does not prevent other companies from doing this work. Even if it did, there are even additional alternatives. When DOE examined its tritium options, it found that down-blending surplus highly enriched uranium that it already has would cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars less than obtaining the services from this company.

This amendment is supported by a coalition that spans the political horizon that makes it possible for Mr. Burgess--a very conservative Member from Texas--to join with a very liberal Congressman from Massachusetts in agreeing that the pragmatic center here has lost its bearings. It has lost touch with the free-market principles. And at least if we're going to subsidize something, let's see that it's not already reached junk-bond status and we're continuing to pour good money after bad.

This is something that in my opinion is unacceptable. The Department of Energy has already given $44 million for this program this year, and it is about to provide another $82 million as it prepares to buy the centrifuges that have yet to be demonstrated to work properly. That's right, $126 million that will buy centrifuges from a company whose total value is now less than $90 million.

As part of the deal, the taxpayers also have to assume liability for the company's nuclear waste.

We should not be throwing good money after bad. This is $100 million that should not be wasted. Please support the Burgess-Markey amendment.

I yield back the balance of my time.


Mr. MARKEY. The reason Mr. Fortenberry and I are making this amendment is that it would address a wrongheaded plan by the Department of Energy to build a facility to produce dangerous, highly radioactive nuclear fuel that no one actually wants to buy.

The Department wants to take uranium and plutonium from dismantled nuclear bombs and make fuel for commercial nuclear reactors.

This plan will cost taxpayers $2 billion. It is a nuclear bomb budget-buster. It is the most expensive way to boil water that has ever been proposed on the planet. It is also unnecessary--no electric utility in the United States wants to buy this fuel. It is also a serious threat to human health. The MOX--the mixed oxide plutonium fuel--is actually more dangerous than existing commercial nuclear fuel. And in the event of a nuclear disaster, the releases from a MOX fuels reactor will cause between 39 and 131 percent more fatalities than a traditional fuel nuclear reactor.

MOX is a reverse Field of Dreams. If you build it, they will not come. The utility industry is not going to arrive. Instead, it is a nightmare that will leave future generations to safeguard a dangerous fuel with no buyers.

I congratulate the gentleman, and I urge an ``aye'' vote.


Mr. MARKEY. I thank the gentleman from Indiana very much.

I just rise to briefly talk about light bulbs, because I know it's a subject of great interest to all of the Members, and I know that there is going to be an effort by some Republican Members later on tonight to repeal the new light bulb efficiency laws. And I just rise to do a little bit of an explanation of what has happened.

Five years ago a law passed here on the floor of the House, and it became law. And that law said that these old light bulbs, these light bulbs that Thomas Alva Edison invented and people really love, they had to be made 28 percent more efficient in order to be sold in the United States. They really hadn't been made much more efficient.

And a lot of people, they really love old light bulbs. They don't want their automobiles to look the same way they did 50 years ago. They don't want their television sets to look the same way they did 50 years, they don't want their cell phones to look the same way they did 15 years ago; but they really want their light bulbs to look the same, many people.

And so here's what the American lighting industry did: Sylvania and General Electric, they make the same light bulb now. It gives off the same color, looks the same. Grandma had this light bulb in her house that gave off that warm glow that you remember from when you visited Grandma. Well, the new one gives off the same warm glow, except for this, that over the life of this new light bulb, you save $5 over what Grandma had to pay to the electric company to keep it on. You save five bucks because it's so much more efficient.

Now, it seems to me that we shouldn't be trying to repeal a law like that that reduces the amount of electricity that every American needs to use in their home. And by the way, times every light bulb in your home over the course of a year, you're going to save $100 to $160 every year. Same light bulb. It's on the market today. You can go out and buy it. You don't have to hoard it.

I know some people are hoarding the old light bulbs that are 28 percent less efficient, and that's their right. They can do that. But you can go to the department store and buy the same light bulb, same looking light bulb, and save $5 over the life of that light bulb giving off the same amount of light.

Now, I'm not saying that you have to go out and buy one of these squiggly deals. Now, if you do go out and buy one of these squiggly deals, you actually have 78 percent more efficiency and you save even more money if you buy one of these. But no one's saying you have to. You can use the same old light bulb. It's in the store today. Nothing got banned in terms of the old light bulb technology. It's still the same incandescent light bulb that Grandma used, except it's 28 percent more efficient.

And I'm definitely not saying you've got to buy one of these new jobs which are in the stores as well. This only saves you $130 over the course of the 20-year life of this light bulb. In fact, increasingly, what's going to happen is that when people move, in addition to packing up their television sets and their sofas, they're going to be packing up their light bulbs because these things save you money, $130 per light bulb over the course of this light bulb.

But, again, you don't have to buy this if you don't like the way it looks. You don't have to buy one of these squiggly deals because you don't like the way it looks. You can go to the store and just buy the same light bulb that your grandma bought, that your great grandma bought, because this thing goes back, really, to the beginning of the 20th century. And you can have the exact same feel, look in your living room, in your kitchen, in your bedrooms.

Again, I just wanted to make this very clear to all of the Members, because in the course of the debate today, we're going to have this discussion, but I have no idea why you would want to ban something that's 28 percent more efficient. Refrigerators are more efficient than they were 50 years ago; automobiles are; there has been a dramatic reduction in the cost of making a phone call on a cell phone; and now light bulbs are in the same category, but they look exactly the same.

I am just, again, making the point so that later on in the day, as we perhaps have a roll call on this, that Members can understand what they're voting for.


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