Barrasso: Radically Expanding Another Federal Agency to Compete with the Dept. of Energy is Not the Answer

April 15, 2021

Click here to watch Ranking Member Barrasso’s remarks.  

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), ranking member of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources (ENR), delivered the following remarks at a full committee hearing to examine the leading role of the Department of Energy in American energy innovation. 

The hearing featured testimony from Dr. Thomas Mason, director of the Los Alamos National Laboratory; the Honorable Paul M. Dabbar, chairman and CEO of Bohr Quantum Technologies Corporation and former undersecretary for science at the U.S. Department of Energy; Sarah Ladislaw, managing director of the U.S. program at the Rocky Mountain Institute; and Dr. Lara Pierpoint, director of climate at Actuate. 

For more information on witness testimony click here. 

Senator Barrasso’s remarks: 

“If our experience with the COVID-19 pandemic proves anything, it proves that innovation isn’t a luxury – it’s a necessity. 

“It’s hard to imagine managing this pandemic without innovations in human gene mapping, in advanced computing, and in vaccine development. 

“Likewise, it’s hard to imagine addressing environmental challenges, like climate change, without further innovations in energy production and consumption. 

“Innovation is a source of strength, and a key advantage in our geopolitical competition with China. 

“The Department of Energy is our country’s preeminent agency for driving innovation in technology. 

“It has made significant contributions to the energy sector.

“It has been a leader in other critical areas of basic and applied science.

“The department’s research helped bring about hydraulic fracturing – the technology to extract oil and natural gas from dense rock formations called shale. 

“This technology has made the United States the world’s top producer of oil and natural gas, it’s created millions of high-paying jobs, and it’s given Americans among the lowest energy prices in the industrialized world. 

“The department offered early support to TESLA – now the world’s most valuable car company. 

“The department’s national labs develop the fuel necessary for NASA’s deep space missions, including missions to Mars and Pluto. 

“The energy department has contributed to the discovery of a number of new elements and has helped revolutionize the fields of electronics and quantum computing. 

“The department’s 17 national labs are America’s – and the world’s – crown jewels of science and technology innovation. 

“Two of the world’s three largest, fastest supercomputers are located at national labs. 

“Using these computers, the department played a significant role in helping us understand and treat COVID-19. 

“In partnership with the National Institutes of Health, the Department of Energy played a leading role in helping us understand DNA and the structure of human genes. 

“The department also plays a leading role in advanced manufacturing, and does critical work on cybersecurity.

“With a track record like this, you wouldn’t think that the department would have to worry about Congress giving its mission to another federal agency.  

“Yet that’s exactly what is being contemplated. 

“Majority Leader Schumer wants to take up legislation that would duplicate much of the department’s mission at the National Science Foundation. 

“Schumer’s bill would give the Foundation $100 billion to create a new technology directorate.

“The directorate would duplicate and compete with the Department of Energy. 

“To make matters worse, the legislation would explicitly prohibit our national laboratories from competing for this funding. 

“Mr. Chairman, before the Schumer bill gets floor consideration, we all should be asking some basic questions, including: 

“How is this duplication of effort a responsible use of taxpayer money? 

“How does such duplication help us compete with China? 

“What kind of message does it send to the Department of Energy’s researchers, who have devoted their lives to innovation? 

“What does it mean for the future of this committee’s work on science and technology?

“Make no mistake, the Department of Energy can make improvements in its research and development programs. 

“I would like to see more investment in building research capacity at universities in rural states, including Wyoming. 

“Radically expanding another federal agency’s mission and funding to compete with the department is not the answer. 

“Our competition is with China. 

“We should stay focused on China, instead of creating wasteful rivalries between federal agencies. 

“Thanks so much, Mr. Chairman, for holding this very important hearing and I look forward to hearing the testimony.”