Democratic News

Opening Statement – Feb. 16, 2011
“Today’s hearing will examine the President’s proposed Fiscal Year 2012 budget for the Department of Energy.  I want to welcome Secretary Chu and thank him for testifying today.
“The President has proposed an overall budget for the Federal government that reflects his desire for fiscal restraint, but he has made a strong statement that energy is a priority for his Administration even within this constrained picture.  The DOE budget before the committee today represents a significant investment in our nation’s ability to compete in global clean energy markets, whether it is making solar energy cost competitive with other electricity sources or maintaining our nation’s lead in innovative nuclear power plant designs using small modular reactors.
“There can be no doubt about the seriousness of the competitive challenge we face in energy.  I would like to call everyone’s attention to two charts.  The first chart shows that we actually spend less than China on energy R&D per unit of GDP.  China is investing heavily in manufacturing and deploying wind, solar, and nuclear power plants.  These investments are already translating into global sales and domestic Chinese jobs in an area where the United States once led the world.  The second chart shows that our investment in energy R&D is far below other areas of our nation’s R&D.  The proposed FY 2012 DOE budget for energy R&D brings us up from the 2007 figure of $1.8 billion to $4.8 billion, but still remains well below other areas of research.  So I compliment the Secretary for successfully advocating for a budget that contains much that I support and I hope the Senate can fully fund many of the research and development initiatives proposed as well as that for the Energy Information Administration. 
“I do have one or two concerns, though, that I would like to mention and that I will pursue in my questions.  First, the budget proposes to sell $500 million of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, with very little in the way of justification.  Second, the budget has a series of cuts to R&D in the DOE’s fossil energy programs.  While I strongly believe in the clean energy objectives of the Administration and this budget request, I believe that fossil energy sources can be made much cleaner by the application of appropriate R&D, and that should also be a priority.  And in any case, we face a long period of transition from our dependence on fossil fuels, so continued research relating to advanced coal technologies, natural gas, and unconventional sources of fossil energy is a sensible part of an overall energy strategy.  But we can discuss that further, and I would not want any shortcomings in this area to obscure the fact that the majority of calls made in this budget request for DOE are the right ones.
“Again let me thank the Secretary for coming before the committee today.  I look forward to his testimony.”
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