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

Richard M. Jones
Number 87 - July 13, 2011  |  Search FYI  |   FYI Archives  |   Subscribe to FYI

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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.

Richard M. Jones
Government Relations Division
American Institute of Physics