House Rejects Amendments to Increase FY 2012 ARPA-E Funding, Cut DOE Funding

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Publication date: 
13 July 2011
Number: 
87

The House of Representatives has rejected an  amendment offered by Rep. John Garamendi (D-CA) to increase FY 2012 funding for  ARPA-E to $550 million.  The vote   of 145 “yes” votes to 276 “no” votes occurred yesterday afternoon during floor  consideration of the FY 2012 Energy and Water Development Appropriations bill.

The current ARPA-E budget is $179.6 million.  The Obama Administration requested $550.0  million.  The Energy and Water  Development Appropriations Subcommittee’s bill provided $100.0 million, a  reduction of 44.3 percent from this year.   When the bill was considered by the full House Appropriations Committee  on June 15, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) offered  an amendment to maintain ARPA-E’s FY 2012 budget at the current level.  This amendment failed by a voice vote.

Debate on the Garamendi amendment when the full  House considered the bill on July 11 (with procedural language omitted)  follows:

Rep. Garamendi:

“This amendment would transfer $450 million from the  [DOE] Fossil Fuel Research Account to ARPA-E. The reason for the amendment is  that we have to move off the 19th-century fuel, that is, coal and oil, and move  to future energy sources, one of which I talked about a few moments ago, that  is, the nuclear. The other energy sources are out there. We discussed on this  floor here over the last hour the issue of solar. There are fuels, advanced  biofuels. There are also wind, solar, wave, geothermal. All of these are being  advanced at this time by the ARPA-E program within the Department of Energy.  That's where the future is.

“Now, we can make a choice here about staying with  the past and trying to figure out how to create clean coal, which is probably  the oxymoron of the century, or we can simply shift our resources to look at  other energy sources, and that's what we have to do. The purpose of this  amendment is to do that, to shift $450 million into ARPA-E so that we can look  for the energy systems of the future, providing the support that they need both  in the research and in the early development of those resources.

“There has been much success in this area. There  have been numerous research programs that have been done not only at the  Department of Energy facilities, but at universities around this country that  have taken advantage of the ARPA-E program. It is modeled after the very  successful and very long-lasting Department of Defense ARPA program, and it  works. We've actually seen major scientific breakthroughs that have occurred as  a result of the funding from the ARPA-E program.

“Modest as it was, if this amendment were to be  adopted, it would be a very big program, one that has the potential of  advancing this Nation's future and freeing us - in the case of oil - from the  petro dictators of the world and also, in the case of coal, from the  extraordinary problems that coal brings to the environment and to communities  throughout this Nation. I understand the coal industry and their desire to  continue to dig for coal, but we know that at some point we're going to have to  move away into the future, and that is what this amendment would attempt to  accomplish.”

House Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee  Ranking Member Peter Visclosky (D-IN):

“With all respect, I do rise in opposition to the  gentleman's amendment. I appreciate his comments about ARPA-E. I appreciate the  purpose behind its creation. And I will certainly acknowledge that it would  appear at ARPA-E there is a new culture, if you would, at that element of the  Department of Energy to move projects along and to have a conclusion to  research.

“As I indicated in my opening remarks in general  debate on this bill, I wish the Department of Energy had brought the same vigor  and that same commitment that they had to ARPA-E to existing programs at the  Department of Energy because my concern is that at some point in time we have  too many programs that are going to solve the problem and we're tripping over  each other.

“At this point, we have 46 Energy Frontier Research  Centers, and there is a request to add three to eight more. We have a new  administration, and it is not unique to the Obama administration that at the  Department of Energy we need, as I would characterize it, a new silver ball to  chase around. We need new hubs so that people can talk to each other about  critical research. At this point in time, there are three hubs in place, as I  understand, for about 18 months. There are two more called for in this bill,  totaling five.

“We need a bioenergy research center. There are now  three in the United States: one in Berkeley, California; one in Madison,  Wisconsin; and one in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. We also need defined research being  done at the Joint Genome Institute that was established in 1997 under President  Clinton.

“I, at this point in time, would like to make sure  that ARPA-E works over a longer term, as advertised, and that as advertised the  Department takes that culture that is being developed at ARPA-E and to infuse  it into these other programs and to show the Congress of the United States  there is communication between these numerous programs before we provide any  additional monies over and above those called for in the bill.

“So again, very respectfully, I would oppose the  gentleman's amendment.”

House Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee  Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ):

“I rise to oppose the amendment but also to  associate myself with the ranking member's comments on ARPA-E, which I'm  supportive of. Of course our colleague's amendment would add funding to ARPA-E,  which receives some $100 million in our bill; but the way he would do it would  be virtually to eliminate funding for the Fossil Energy Research and Development  program, I think causing excessive job losses. And I think the program makes  major contributions.

“Of course we can't forget that fossil fuels, coal,  and natural gas generate about 70 percent of our Nation's electricity. ARPA-E  may someday generate a much greater percentage than perhaps it potentially does  today, but we're a long way from there. So I oppose the gentleman's amendment  and certainly the source, using the Fossil Fuels account for this additional  money, that he suggests.”

 

Also of note during the House’s consideration of the  Energy and Water Development Appropriations Bill was an amendment was offered  by Rep. Tom McClintock (R-CA) on July 11.   When describing his amendment, McClintock stated:

“I offer this amendment on behalf of the Republican  Study Committee to save roughly 10 percent from this appropriations bill, or  $3.25 billion, simply by getting the Federal Government out of the energy  subsidy business.

“For more than 30 years, the Department of Energy  has squandered billions of dollars subsidizing research and development that no  private investor would touch with the promise it would somehow make our Nation  energy independent.   Every year, we have  spent untold billions on these programs, and every year, we have become more  dependent on foreign oil. We are now running a deficit that threatens to  bankrupt our country, and this forces us to cast a critical eye on every  expenditure that fails to meet its objectives. None has failed so spectacularly  as the Department of Energy's subsidy of energy research, which has left us  billions of dollars poorer and has left us stuck with mediocre technologies  that only survive on a lifeline of public subsidies.”

Under the McClintock amendment, $820.5 million would  have been cut from general science funding, and ARPA-E funding would have been reduced  to zero.  Energy and Water Development  Subcommittee Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ), Ranking Member Peter  Visclosky (D-IN) and Rep. Edward Markey (D-MA) spoke against the amendment.  It was defeated by a vote   of 96 “yes” votes to 313 “no” votes.

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