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Opening Statement of Energy Subcommittee Ranking Member Randy Weber at Markup of H.R. 3597, H.R. 3609, H.R. 3607

Jul 10, 2019
Opening Statement

Good afternoon.  Thank you, Chairman Lamb, for the opportunity to speak on H.R. 3597, the Solar Energy Research and Development Act of 2019, H.R. 3609, the Wind Energy Research and Development Act of 2019, H.R. 3607, the Fossil Energy Research and Development Act of 2019.

On the Science Committee - as my friends on both sides of the aisle here can attest - we pride ourselves on our ability to do great, bipartisan work to support the research and development activities that will grow our economy, strengthen our national security, protect our environment, and help maintain U.S. leadership in science and technology.      

That’s why it’s unfortunate that we could not come to an agreement on this legislation today. The three bills we will consider this afternoon are focused on demonstrating energy technologies – many of which are already currently available in the commercial marketplace – and they propose unrealistic budget increases to a number of Department of Energy applied programs.  If enacted, these bills could further limit federal investment available for truly innovative, early-stage research that industry cannot undertake.

The Solar Energy Research and Development Act authorizes solar energy research conducted by the Department of Energy (DOE)’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE). EERE is the largest applied program at DOE by far – and received almost $2.4 billion dollars in funding in 2019. 

This legislation would authorize approximately one and a half billion dollars for this work, reaching a 33% total increase in funding from enacted levels by 2024. 

And while this legislation makes references to “next generation” solar technologies, and does include authorizations for some critical basic research priorities that I support like innovative energy storage and advanced computing capabilities, it focuses heavily on expanding the deployment of today’s solar technologies.

Similarly, the Wind Energy Research and Development Act authorizes wind energy research conducted under EERE and would provide over $570 million for this work. This amounts to a 37% increase from enacted levels by 2024. 

And while this legislation addresses some shared priorities, like basic research in materials science and hybrid energy systems, its primary focus is on reducing “market barriers” for existing wind technologies.

I think I can safely say we all support the incredible growth we’ve seen in the wind and solar industries in the past decade.  But American industry is already leading the way on deploying these technologies – and we won’t discover the next game-changing technology by duplicating their efforts.   

Finally, the Fossil Energy Research and Development Act reauthorizes DOE’s Fossil Energy Research and Development programs and brings total spending in this area to over $1 billion by FY 2024, a 36% increase from enacted levels.  And while I’m supportive of funding research to help us better capture, storage, and utilize carbon, this can’t be our only goal when it comes fossil to energy technology.  

This bill’s singular focus on emissions control technologies ignores the reality of our nation’s continued reliance on fossil fuel resources and their role in our clean energy future.

Now, I want to be clear – I’m supportive of DOE funding for innovative research that will lead to new solar, wind, and fossil energy technologies.  But, as stewards of taxpayer resources, we must focus funding on projects that are truly cutting edge – like basic research in advanced computing, advanced manufacturing, and the development of new materials.  The fact is, fundamental research often leads to improvements in all forms of energy technologies – not just the ones that get attention from members of Congress. 

With our national debt at $22 trillion and rising, we simply can’t afford to increase spending for every program.

So instead of trying to pick and choose, or just setting aspirational spending goals, let’s take the common-sense approach, and work together to invest in the basic research we all support.

Issues: 
116th Congress