Committee on Science and Technology
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Press Releases :: March 17, 2009

Secretary Chu, Committee Discuss Future Directions for the Department of Energy


(Washington, DC) –Today, Secretary of Energy Steven Chu testified before the Committee on Science and Technology.  This was the first Cabinet-level witness for the Committee, and the Secretary’s first appearance at a House panel.  The Secretary testified about the Administration’s near-term objectives and priority issues for its research and development (R&D) activities.  The conversation touched on issues including: international collaboration; carbon capture and sequestration; disposal of nuclear waste, and climate change.
“The Department of Energy has a critical task ahead in energy and climate research and technology development,” said Chairman Bart Gordon (D-TN).  “Make no mistake. At this time, gas prices may be low and the effects of climate change may not be apparent to everyone, but this will not last. We must take action now to become a cleaner, more efficient energy economy. To do this we must diversify our sources of energy by expanding the use of renewable energy and using fossil resources more cleanly and efficiently.”   

The Secretary testified that oceans have become 30 percent more acidic since the industrial revolution -- a process known as ocean acidification.   The pH of seawater is being lowered as the ocean absorbs carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere. The oceans have absorbed about half of the CO2 released over the past 200 years due to human activities.  As the oceans become more acidic, it will be more difficult for shellfish, corals, and plankton to extract minerals from sea water to form their structures, like shells and skeletons. Loss of these organisms will affect the entire ocean food web because fish and marine mammals rely upon plankton and shellfish as a food source.

“Billions of people across the world, including many in Southwest Washington, depend on the oceans to put food on their table, and money in their pockets,” said Subcommittee on Energy and Environment Chairman Brian Baird (D-WA).  “I’m encouraged that the Obama Administration and Secretary Chu understand the catastrophic impact that an increasingly acidic ocean will have on the world and are committed to addressing the problem.”
“President Obama has set an ambitious agenda for energy policy, and today Secretary Chu confirmed that he is the best person to meet those challenges,” said Subcommittee on Technology and Innovation Chairman David Wu (D-OR), who chaired a portion of the hearing.  “As we move toward addressing cap-and-trade and implementing a smart grid, we need to establish metrics and interoperability standards for both, since as I have always said, if you cannot measure something, it does not exist. This committee, working with Secretary Chu, has our work cut out for us on these and many other issues.”
Members and the Secretary discussed the $39 billion dollars allocated to DOE in the Recovery Act. 
“The funding will make critical investments in a wide range of activities spanning the innovation spectrum from basic research to supporting the market for new energy technologies,” said Gordon.  “It presents a historic opportunity to put people to work building a more sustainable future for the country. However, when it comes to the taxpayers’ money we must work together to ensure these funds are spent wisely.”
The Advanced Research Projects Agency for Energy (ARPA-E)
In his previous role, Dr. Chu was a key member of the National Academies’ Rising Above the Gathering Storm panel, on which Dr. Chu was intimately involved in laying the groundwork for the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Energy or ARPA-E.  The panel’s recommendations were translated into the America COMPETES Act, which was signed into law in 2007.  ARPA-E received start-up funding in the Recovery package.  
“The Advanced Research Projects Agency for Energy will be a nimble, non-bureaucratic program at DOE to pursue high-risk, high-reward energy technology development,” said Gordon.  “This Committee will continue to work with the Secretary to ensure the success of ARPA-E.  We need the breakthroughs, not just incremental change.  Half the growth of our GDP over the past fifty years is attributed to the development and adoption of new technologies.   New energy technologies will be key to meeting our growing need for energy we produce at home, mitigating climate change, and creating jobs of the future.”
For more information, please see the Committee’s website.

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