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The Department of Energy Fiscal Year 2008 Research and Development Budget Proposal

Date: 
Wednesday, March 7, 2007 - 12:00am
Location: 
Washington, DC

Opening Statement By Chairman Nick Lampson

I would like to extend a warm welcome to all five witnesses. Thank you for being here today and testifying before the Subcommittee on Energy and Environment.  The focus of our inquiry today is the President’s 2008 budget request for research and development programs in the Department of Energy.

I know I don’t have to remind anyone in this room just how much high energy prices and calls for action to mitigate climate change have propelled “energy” to the forefront of public debate in the last few years. 

Our nation’s energy challenges are momentous and incredibly diverse, and I am pleased to see that the President’s budget request for FY08 takes a number of important steps, and even some grand leaps, in pursuit of technological solutions to these challenges. 

However, one can’t help but notice serious gaps in R&D funding for certain programs.  While resources are lavished on some high-profile research areas, other valuable programs are left to languish.  In a time of intense challenge, it is important that we keep all possibilities on the table.  

For instance, in the President’s budget, hydrogen, solar and cellulosic ethanol are beneficiaries of major funding increases. But this encouraging trend is offset by large cuts and flat-funding of equally valuable programs in areas such as geothermal, hydropower, ocean wave power, advanced grid technologies, and even oil & gas research.

Furthermore, the administration continues its trend of slashing funds for valuable energy efficiency programs that help states, low-income consumers, industries, vehicle manufacturers and even the Federal Government use energy more efficiently.  Efficiency must be regarded another valuable “source” of energy. After all, the cheapest, cleanest, most secure, and most domestic energy is the energy you never have to produce at all.   

Enormous opportunities exist to increase the efficiency, intelligence, and security of the nation’s electricity grid without simply erecting more towers and stringing more wire.  However, the nation has not deployed these technologies widely yet, and R&D funding in many of the related programs has been cut in this budget request. 

The Administration requests a very aggressive increase in funding for nuclear energy, primarily to fund the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP).  Carbon-free nuclear energy may very well play a vital role in addressing our climate crisis, and it is clear that issues of waste disposal have to be resolved.  But the Department must convince this Congress and the public that the billions it will cost to implement the program and deploy a fleet of these technologies is warranted, and conduct a full systems analysis for GNEP.

I am particularly disappointed to see that, for the second year in a row, the Administration insists on ignoring EPAct 2005 by failing to carry out vital research and development into Ultra-Deepwater and Unconventional drilling technologies. This illustrates a fundamental misunderstanding both of what the program is intended to do and the need to expand domestic resources of fossil fuels.

I’d like to acknowledge the special role of the Office of Science within DOE.  Although sometimes overlooked in the in the greater energy debate, the Office of Science, as the leading federal sponsor of research in the physical sciences, plays a critical part in our nation’s scientific and technological competitiveness.

The Office of Science has a long-standing role as steward of large, world-class scientific research facilities.  However, construction and operation of facilities has come at the expense of funding for actual research at these facilities.  I am glad to see that Dr. Orbach plans to put this back on track. 

Furthermore, as the Department pursues plans for additional large-scale scientific facilities, demonstrable measures should be taken to assure due diligence in the areas of cost estimates and design. This gives everyone a higher level of comfort when multi-billion dollar research machines, such as the I.L.C. are proposed to Congress. 

The FY08 request makes a commitment to the Office of Science that is essential to maintaining our economic competitiveness, drawing a new generation into the physical sciences, and successfully meeting future challenges, whether they be energy-related or otherwise.

In the end, it is encouraging that the President’s FY08 budget request for DOE R&D programs takes a solid step forward. However, it is important that that step forward benefit all worthwhile programs, not just a few, high-profile, exciting ones.

Today’s witnesses find themselves at the crossroads of intense political pressures, and the technological cutting edge, and probably spend much of their time reconciling the two – never an easy job.  Again, we thank them and look forward to hearing their testimony today. 

Witnesses

Panel

1 - Dr. Ray Orbach
Under Secretary for Science Department of Energy Department of Energy
Download the Witness Testimony

3 - Andrew Karsner
Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Department of Energy Department of Energy
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5 - Thomas D. Shope
Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Fossil Energy Department of Energy Department of Energy
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2 - Dennis Spurgeon
Assistant Secretary for Nuclear Energy Department of Energy Department of Energy
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4 - Kevin Kolevar
Director Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability Department of Energy Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability Department of Energy
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Witness Panel
Witnesses testify before subcommittee
L-R: Dr. Orbach, Mr. Spurgeon, Mr. Karsner, Mr. Kolevar, Mr. Shope
For information on the witnesses, use the links at left
110th Congress