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Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2014

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. SCHIFF. Mr. Chairman, I offer this amendment, along with my colleague, Representative Woodall of Georgia, and my colleague, Representative Polis of Colorado. It would increase funding for the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, otherwise known as ARPA-E.

The bill provides only $50 million for ARPA-E, a reduction of $215 million, or 81 percent, from fiscal year 2013. Moreover, the bill would reduce ARPA-E by 87 percent compared to the 2014 budget request.

This amendment would increase the funding by $20 million, with the increase offset by a reduction in the Department Administration account. This is a very modest investment for an agency whose work has the potential to remake our economy.

While the amendment would leave us a long way short of where the funding for this program should be, as well as where it is in the Senate bill and in the President's budget, passing it would send a strong signal that there's bipartisan support for this kind of research.

In 2011, I offered a similar amendment to restore funding to ARPA-E, which was adopted by a bipartisan majority in the House.

Started in 2009, ARPA-E is a revolutionary program that advances high-potential, high-impact energy technologies that are too early for private sector investment. This is an innovative agency modeled on DARPA, which has spearheaded incredible breakthroughs in the Defense Department, with both military and civilian applications.

ARPA-E was created to bring that same kind of innovative thinking 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. Its philosophy, much like a tech startup, is to hire the best technical staff and then hire the managers and leadership that can get the most out of them.

As the committee report notes, ARPA-E works on ``developing energy technologies whose development and commercialization are too risky to attract significant private sector investment but are capable of significantly changing the energy sector to address our critical economic and energy security challenges.''

That's a great description of ARPA-E, and I'd ask the House to consider whether it sounds like something we should be cutting by 81 percent.

Mr. Chair, there are cuts I can support in this bill, but a cut to our investment in new generations of energy technology is shortsighted in the extreme.

As we cut spending to return the budget to balance, we must not cut those programs that are vital to our economic future and our national security. ARPA-E is just such an agency. Even if we cannot make the investment the President called for in his budget, let's at least not destroy an agency that is pointing the way toward a more energy-secure future.

Cutting programs like ARPA-E so severely is akin to shutting them down completely. No agency can absorb an 81 percent cut to its budget in a single year, but even less so an agency that relies on attracting elite scientists and engineers.

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 the kind of cutting-edge research that's going on at ARPA-E is exactly the direction we need to go.

We want to lead the energy revolution. We don't want to see that leadership go to China, India or any other nation. But if we're serious about it, we need to invest in cutting edge research, and that means ARPA-E.

Our competitiveness in a global economy where we have to compete with labor that costs a fraction of what American workers costs depends on research and development.

I can't understand why we'd want to give away that big advantage. So I urge support for this amendment to support cutting-edge investments in our energy future, and I yield back the balance of my time.


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