Senate Energy (D): Bingaman Statement at DOE Budget Hearing

February 9, 2006
01:17 PM

Hearing on FY 2007 Budget Request for the

Department of Energy

February 9, 2006

 Opening Statement

Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM)

“Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for convening this hearing so promptly after the release of the President’s budget request.  Welcome, Mr. Secretary.

“One year ago, in February of 2005, the Administration sent to Congress a budget request for the Department of Energy totaling about $23.4 billion.  Congress responded to that request last summer by appropriating slightly more for the Department than the President requested -- a total of $23.6 billion.  This week, we have received a new budget for fiscal year 2007.  This new proposed budget is essentially flat with current spending levels.

“One could look at this flat budget as good news, since many other parts of the Federal budget are being cut.  But I think that this flat overall budget for the Department is bad news and hard to justify.  Since the last budget submittal, Congress passed, and the President signed, the first comprehensive energy bill in 13 years -- the Energy Policy Act of 2005.  At the bill signing last August, in Albuquerque, the President declared that “This bill launches an energy strategy for the 21st century.”  He also observed that, prior to the bill’s enactment, “For more than a decade, has gone without a national energy policy.”  If we finally have a new energy strategy for the 21st century, then where is the funding to implement that new strategy?

“Looking through the details of the Department’s budget for 2007, one can find some programs that have been favorably affected by the passage of the Energy Policy Act of 2005.  For example, the budget of the Office of Science is requested at about its authorized level in the energy bill.  That represents a substantial increase of a half-billion dollars for energy science, or about 14 percent.  Funding levels for solar energy, wind energy and biomass energy are also up, in sync with the spirit of the Energy Policy Act.  You deserve credit, Mr. Secretary, for your decisions to increase these important programs for our future energy security.

“But too many other important programs are being cut in this budget, in some cases in areas singled out by the President in the past as being worthy of increased funding.

“For example, in his remarks when he signed the energy bill last August, the President gave special attention to energy efficiency.  Here are his words: ‘The bill makes an unprecedented commitment to energy conservation and efficiency -- an unprecedented commitment. The bill sets higher efficiency standards for federal buildings and for household products. It directs the Department of Transportation to study the potential for sensible improvements in fuel-efficiency standards for cars and trucks and SUVs. It authorizes new funding for research into cutting-edge technologies that will help us do more with less energy.’  Yet in this first budget that we are getting after the enactment of the bill, those authorizations for cutting-edge energy efficiency technologies are being cut, as is funding for energy efficiency in Federal buildings.

“As another example, when the President signed the bill, he favorably singled out some of the oil and gas programs it authorized.  Here are his words: ‘The bill authorizes research into the prospects of unlocking vast amounts of now -- energy now trapped in shale and tar sands.’  And last October, you announced funding for 13 R&D projects aimed at tapping unconventional sources of natural gas.  That funding, like most of DOE’s funding for oil and gas R&D, went to universities, National Laboratories and independent oil and gas producers.  In announcing these projects, you stated, ‘The projects we are funding today are an investment in our Nation’s energy security and economic security, and will help us obtain the maximum benefit of our domestic energy resources in an environmentally sensitive way.’  But those programs are now being zeroed out in this budget, at a time when our need for new domestic sources of natural gas and oil are quite clear.

“I’ll give a third example, and then move on.  The Department is proposing a 32 percent cut in low-income weatherization programs, just at a time when home energy bills are at historically high levels.  This is puzzling given the high priority that the President has previously placed on this program – beginning with his campaign pledge in 2000 to nearly double funding for weatherization by 2010, and followed by a recommendation from the National Energy Policy task force headed by the Vice President to increase funding for the program.  The Energy Policy Act of 2005 authorized $600 million for weatherization in 2007 – yet the Administration is requesting only $164 million. 

“Earlier this week, I asked my staff to compile a cross-walk between the authorizations called for in the Energy Policy Act of 2005 and the President’s Budget Request for FY 2007.  They have prepared a preliminary analysis that I would like to share with you today.  I am going to ask that you have your budget experts in the Department review it, to consult with their colleagues in other affected agencies where appropriate, and to tell us if we have a correct understanding of the relationship between the energy bill and the budget.  I think that this would be a very helpful comparison to have before next Friday when we have to submit our Committee Views and Estimates to the Budget Committee.  We want to give you credit for what the Administration did do, and ask the Budget Committee to make an additional allowance for implementation of the Energy Policy Act when it puts together the Congressional Budget Resolution, to make up for what the Administration didn’t do.

"I would like to work with you, with the Chairman, and with our colleagues on both sides of the aisle to see if we ultimately get more funds appropriated to implement the Energy Policy Act of 2005 than was requested earlier this week.  I don’t think it’s appropriate to be forced into some zero-sum game on the DOE budget, where we have to rob Peter to pay Paul.  The provisions of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 are important enough to the country that we should be working together to increase the bottom line for all energy programs at DOE.

“A lot of hard work went into crafting this law on the part of all of us on this Committee.  Important priorities for many members of this Committee ­-- both Republican and Democratic -- in areas such as energy efficiency, oil, natural gas, clean coal, and others have not been requested at levels that will allow the Act to be properly implemented.  We were serious about what we legislated last year, and I hope that we can all work together to improve the inadequate parts of this budget request.