Hearings and Business Meetings

SD-366 Energy Committee Hearing Room 10:30 AM

Senator Pete V. Domenici

Opening Statement

Full Committee Hearing on PACE-Energy Legislation

February 15, 2006

The subject of our hearing today is the “Protecting America’s Competitive Edge Act through Energy Act,” also known as,  “the PACE-Energy Act.”  PACE-Energy is one of a package of three bills that together will implement the twenty recommendations of the recent National Academy of Sciences (NAS) report, Rising Above the Gathering Storm. 

The Gathering Storm report describes an issue of national urgency. It sounds the alarm that our global competitiveness will continue to erode if we do not take action.  

There are already troubling signs that the United States is losing its relative advantage in science and high-tech fields. For example, In Industry:

•  The share of leading-edge semiconductor manufacturing capacity owned or partly owned by U.S. companies today is half what it was as recently as 2001.

• Of 120 new chemical plants being built around the world with price tags of $1 billion or more, only one will be in the U.S. while 50 will be in China.

In Education:

• In 1999, 68 percent of 8th grade students received instruction from a mathematics teacher who did not hold a degree in math or science

• In 2000, 93 percent of students in grades 5 through 9 were taught physical science by a teacher lacking a major or certification in the physical sciences.

For more perspective on our performance in science and math education, consider what Jeffrey Immelt, Chairman and CEO, General Electric said recently on the topic:

“If you want good manufacturing jobs, one thing you could do is graduate more engineers.  We had more sports exercise majors graduate than electrical engineering grads last year.  If you want to be the massage capital of the world, you’re on your way.”

The Gathering Storm report was written by a committee chaired by Norm Augustine, the former chairman of Lockheed Martin.  Mr. Augustine’s committee included twenty individuals from the highest levels of industry, universities, and government.  The committee included three Nobel laureates, presidents of leading U.S. universities, and the chief executive officers of multinational corporations. 

The charge to Mr. Augustine and his committee was to develop a list of specific policy recommendations to bolster U.S. Competitiveness.  The Committee produced an impressive report, and a list of twenty recommendations, after an intense ten weeks of effort. 

Their recommendations all address a central problem.  That is, we are not doing enough to harness, and develop, our national brainpower.   The report recommends significant increases in our investments in science and mathematics education at all levels – kindergarten through high school, college, and graduate school. 

We are going to put those recommendations into action through our PACE legislation.  Here’s some of what our legislation will accomplish.

PACE-Energy will build on the existing educational programs sponsored by the Department of Energy, particularly leveraging the resources of the National Laboratories.  These education programs will help ensure that we are preparing today’s young people for the demands of tomorrow’s high-tech workforce.

For example, one program will improve the skills of 50,000 thousand math and science teachers each year through summer institutes hosted at the National Laboratories.  The PACE legislation will provide for the training of an additional 70,000 instructors for advanced placement and International Baccalaureate courses in science and mathematics.   And the PACE Act will provide 30,000 scholarships and fellowships to attract the best and the brightest to careers as scientists and engineers.

In his recent State of the Union address, the President announced the American Competitiveness Initiative.  I applaud the President for his bold vision and leadership on the issue of U.S. competitiveness.  The President’s Initiative includes plans to double basic research funding for the physical sciences at the Department of Energy’s Office of Science, the National Science Foundation, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology. 
Our PACE legislation is a good partner to the President’s Competitiveness Initiative.  PACE-Energy provides authorization for doubling research dollars at the Department of Energy Office of Science. I was pleased to see the President’s budget request for the Office of Science calls for an increase just over 14 percent, putting it on track to double in a decade.

PACE-Energy also calls for the creation of a new authority within the Department of Energy, the Advanced Research Programs Authority – Energy, or, “ARPA-E.”  ARPA-E will drive innovation in energy technologies by supporting high-risk but potentially high-pay-off research.  I would like ARPA-E to provide the kind of successes that we have seen emerge from the Laboratory Directed Research and Development funds, called “LDRD.”   
We need to take U.S. competitiveness seriously.  We need to take action to support our standard of living, and ensure we continue to grow and prosper.  If we do not, we can expect other nations to rival our global competitiveness – and one day to surpass us.
I am looking forward to learning more about these issues from our witnesses. I’ll turn now to the ranking member, Senator Bingaman, for his opening statement.