Smith: Research, Not Subsidies, Key to Energy Success

Apr 10, 2014

Washington, D.C. – The Committee on Science, Space, and Technology today held a hearing with Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz to examine the Department of Energy’s (DOE) science and technology priorities as reflected in the President’s fiscal year (FY) 2015 budget request. 

Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas): “Although the Obama Administration claims it supports a balanced energy portfolio, its budget request shows a different set of priorities.  For instance, while research and development for fossil energy programs remains stagnant, funding for renewable energy has increased exponentially. The Administration should not ‘pick winners’ and give subsidies to favored companies that promote uncompetitive technologies.  Instead, we should focus our resources on research and development that will produce technologies that will enable alternative energy sources to become economically competitive without the need for subsidies. Basic energy research is the stepping stone to our continued success.”

The Science, Space, and Technology Committee has jurisdiction over all civilian science and technology issues at DOE representing nearly $9 billion. This includes DOE’s Office of Science, which conducts critical research in areas like high energy physics, advanced scientific computing and basic energy sciences.  The Committee also oversees research, development and demonstration in fossil, nuclear and renewable energy. The President’s FY15 budget request includes a 2.6 percent increase over current spending.

DOE’s Office of Science is the largest federal sponsor of basic research in the physical sciences and aims to deliver scientific discoveries that transform our understanding of energy. Republicans today expressed strong support for the Office of Science and were critical of the President’s budget which requested less than a one percent increase over current appropriations. 

On the other hand, the President requested $2.3 billion for DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy – more than a 22 percent increase over current spending. Committee members questioned whether this discrepancy in funding priorities is consistent with the President’s “all of the above” rhetoric.

Secretary Moniz spoke in favor of pursuing more public-private partnerships to develop innovative new technologies. Such collaborations were highlighted as a way to leverage taxpayer investments.   

Members also discussed DOE’s role in the ongoing energy revolution driven by hydraulic fracturing that has enabled dramatic increases in unconventional oil and natural gas production.  Members raised concerns over how the federal government should regulate hydraulic fracturing.

During questioning, Secretary Moniz expressed support for alternative forms of energy. However, when questioned about continued funding for offshore wind power, Secretary Moniz conceded that the high cost per kilowatt hour makes it one of the most expensive forms of energy and not a near term solution.

For more information about today’s hearing, including witness testimony, visit the Science, Space, and Technology Committee website.