Washington, D.C. – The Science, Space, and Technology Committee today held an oversight hearing on the Department of Energy’s science and technology priorities, and related management and policy challenges. The Science Committee has jurisdiction over the Energy Department’s civilian science and technology activities, which comprise around $8.5 billion, or one-third of the agency’s current budget.  Recently confirmed Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz testified before the Committee about his vision for the Department’s science and technology programs.  

In his opening statement, Science Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) urged Secretary Moniz to place a higher priority on fundamental research that will enable new energy technologies to become more cost-effective both in the U.S. and around the world. By reducing the costs of alternative energy worldwide, we can help provide a practical, long-term solution to energy challenges. 

Chairman Smith:  “While the U.S. has reduced carbon emissions in recent years, developing countries have shown little desire for voluntarily switching to more expensive forms of alternative energy.  For example, China and India are expected to build a combined 200 coal plants in the next three years.  Global coal use is expected to increase 50 percent by 2035, which will dramatically increase carbon dioxide emissions.  This won’t change unless alternative forms of energy become more cost-effective.” 

Committee members also focused discussion on the energy revolution driven by hydraulic fracturing (fracking) that has enabled dramatic increases in unconventional oil and natural gas production.  This energy revolution is critical to the long-pursued, national goal of attaining American energy independence. But it has triggered important energy policy debates, including whether the Federal government should regulate fracking and how best to handle liquefied natural gas exports.

During questioning, Secretary Moniz expressed support for continuing to pursue alternative forms of energy including wind, solar and geothermal power. However, he conceded that the high cost of offshore wind power is a problem that needs to be addressed.