Energy Innovation Will Bolster U.S. Competitiveness
U.S. House Committee on Science Ranking Member Rep. Bart Gordon (D-TN) reiterated a call for House action on competitiveness legislation to insure U.S. jobs and industries are equipped to compete in the global marketplace.
Speaking before a crowd attending the Nuclear Energy Institute’s (NEI) Nuclear Energy R&D Summit in Washington, D.C., today, Rep. Gordon sought their support for legislation that will equip the U.S. in retaining and creating quality jobs, educating the next generation of scientists and facilitate energy independence.
"Today Americans are in competition for their job, not with their classmates, but with educated and trained people all over the world. We began first to see the signs in manufacturing as plant jobs in many parts of the country moved offshore," Rep. Gordon told NEI members. "That trend is now moving up the skill ladder and affecting many 'high-end' jobs. We are rapidly reaching the point where the only 'safe' jobs are those that require the physical presence at a particular location."
Last fall, Rep. Gordon introduced legislation that directly implements recommendations of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) Rising Above The Gathering Storm report on U.S. competitiveness. The report found that the U.S. has much work to do to assure the competitiveness of our students, workers and businesses.
One piece of the Gordon legislative package - H.R. 4435 - creates an Advanced Research Projects Agency for Energy (ARPA-E), modeled on the successful DARPA program at the Department of Defense, with the goal of reducing U.S. foreign energy dependence by 20% over a 10-year period through the development of transforming energy technologies.
Rep. Gordon discussed with NEI members the importance of math and science education in ensuring a highly trained workforce in the nuclear industry.
"The nuclear industry is a case study for the need to educate the next generation of workers. With a large portion of the nuclear workforce retiring in the next decade, a new workforce will be needed for construction and operation of anticipated power plants, as well as for scientific talent focused on research and development of new reactors," added Rep. Gordon.
The pace of technology development in the energy sector does not match the urgency of future economic, environmental and security challenges. New streamlined mechanisms for technology transfer are needed to get potentially revolutionary technologies into the marketplace faster than ever before and an ARPA-E type agency could speed the process.
"I believe all the necessary studies have been conducted. Now it is time to act. Congress needs to get the essential elements of an innovation and competitiveness program into place as soon as possible," concluded Rep. Gordon.
Gordon has introduced the only House legislative package aimed at fully implementing a U.S. competitiveness plan. In addition to H.R. 4435, the Gordon innovation package also includes H.R. 4434, 10,000 Teachers, 10 Million Minds Science and Math Scholarship Act and H.R. 4596, Sowing the Seeds Through Science and Engineering Research Act. The package has been endorsed by the American Society of Civil Engineers and fourteen other organizations have endorsed one or more of the bills.
The Science Committee has scheduled a hearing on the ARPA-E recommendations on March 9.