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Member Speeches :: April 3, 2009

Chairman Gordon's Written Testimony to the Subcommittee on Energy and Water House Committee on Appropriations

I am submitting this statement today to urge the Subcommittee to continue its commitment to the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Energy (ARPA-E) at the Department of Energy. I want to thank the Subcommittee for providing $15 million in crucial, start-up funding for ARPA-E in the Fiscal Year 2009 Omnibus Appropriations bill, and for providing $400 million in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to enable this program to become fully operational.

Diminishing global energy supplies, the rising cost of energy to consumers, and the looming threat of global climate change have reinforced the need for transformational, science-based energy solutions that can be deployed in the marketplace. I know the members of this Subcommittee share my belief that incremental change will not be enough to solve our current energy crisis and that we must take aggressive and unprecedented steps to promote innovative approaches to energy technology development.

In 2007, Congress passed the America COMPETES Act by a bipartisan vote of 367-57 in the House and by unanimous consent in the Senate. The America COMPETES Act implemented the recommendations of the 2005 National Academies report, Rising Above the Gathering Storm. In addition to a wide range of recommendations for boosting the global competitiveness of the U.S., the Gathering Storm report called on the federal government to create a new energy research agency within the Department of Energy modeled loosely after the successful Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) within the Department of Defense. The report called for ARPA-E to “sponsor creative, out-of-the-box, transformational, generic energy research in those areas where industry itself cannot or will not undertake such sponsorships…and where success could provide dramatic benefits for the Nation.” The program has been enthusiastically accepted by members of the energy community, and has gained the support of President Obama, Secretary Chu, and Speaker Pelosi.

Experts agree that in order for ARPA-E to be successful, it must be funded at a level that matches both the magnitude of the energy challenge and the high costs of energy research and technology demonstration. Despite being a relatively small organization with minimal overhead,
ARPA-E will be most successful with a sustained commitment of significant financial resources that will enable it to carry out multiple projects at one time. The Gathering Storm report calls for ARPA-E to be funded at $300 million in the first year, and quickly escalate to at least $1 billion in funding within five years. As ARPA-E proves itself to be an integral part of our country’s clean energy future, I am confident that it will justify funding at the maximum levels prescribed in the Gathering Storm report.

As I am sure you are aware, the funding provided to ARPA-E in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act creates a unique situation. In general, the programs funded in the recovery package were existing programs within existing government agencies. In contrast, ARPA-E is a new program in a new agency and does not currently have in place the organizational structure and personnel required to get funding out the door. I recognize and appreciate that it will take the Department of Energy some time to get ARPA-E up and running using the $15 million provided in the Fiscal Year 2009 Omnibus Appropriations bill. I believe the $400 million provided in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act will allow ARPA-E to become fully operational in Fiscal Year 2010 and provides the program with an appropriate foundation of funding in its first year.

I am respectfully requesting that the Subcommittee include language in the report to accompany the Fiscal Year 2010 Energy and Water Appropriations bill to clarify this unique situation. It is my hope that this report language will make clear that the $400 million provided in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is what is required for this new program to become fully operational and attain the goals Congress has laid out for it in Fiscal Year 2010, and that the decision not to include additional funds for Fiscal Year 2010 does not suggest a lack of commitment to this new program by the Committee.

Once again, I appreciate the Subcommittee’s commitment to this groundbreaking new agency by providing vital start-up funding in the Fiscal Year 2009 Omnibus Appropriations bill and by supplying $400 million in necessary operational funding for Fiscal Year 2010 in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. I look forward to working with the Subcommittee to ensure that ARPA-E continues to receive the funding that it needs to accomplish its mission and to revolutionize how the United States develops new energy technologies.

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Bart Gordon, Chairman


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