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Republicans Question President’s Science Policies and Priorities

Jun 20, 2012
Press Release

Washington, D.C. – Today in a hearing of the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, Republicans expressed a number of concerns to Dr. John Holdren, Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

“I remain concerned about a number of this Administration’s science and technology policy issues, ranging from an unprecedented emphasis on clean energy at the expense of other priorities to a larger focus on applied research at the expense of basic scientific research to the lack of a clearly defined and compelling long-term mission for human space flight,” said Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chairman Ralph Hall (R-TX).  “We may not always agree with the advice the Director provides to the President, but science and technology have played a vital role in the making of this Nation and will continue to fulfill that role in the future.”

Republicans raised many concerns with the Administration’s initiatives and priorities, including issues related to scientific integrity, transparency and data access; concerns over policies to restrict oil and gas exploration and production, and reject the Keystone pipeline; concerns over EPA regulations on coal plants, refineries, automobiles, and numerous other industries that ultimately will raise energy prices for all Americans; concerns over the Administration’s research direction for nuclear reactors at the Department of Energy (DOE); and concerns over the President’s proposed Clean Energy Standard (CES) that would mandate Americans buy electricity from more expensive and less reliable energy sources such as wind and solar power.

Regarding the proposed CES, Members questioned Dr. Holdren about a report that was requested by Chairman Hall and prepared by DOE’s Energy Information Administration.  The report outlines potential massive costs associated with a CES.  The report projects that in 2035, the CES would increase electricity generation costs by almost 30 percent. Dr. Holdren said that he has not reviewed the report and that he has no position on whether the mandates for wind and solar energy in the CES would increase electricity costs.

Dr. Holdren was also questioned for failing to include natural gas as a “clean energy” in his prepared testimony before the Committee.  Dr. Holdren said that he does consider natural gas to be a clean energy.  He further confirmed that over the course of 1.2 million instances in which hydraulic fracturing has been employed over the last fifty years, he is aware of no instances of drinking water contamination. VIDEO HERE

Further, Members requested clarity on the Administration’s definition and accounting of what constitutes a “green job.” President Obama has made clean energy spending and the green jobs associated with them a centerpiece of his domestic policy agenda.  However, a senior Labor Department official testified to Congress two weeks ago that occupations such as antique dealers, school bus drivers, and college professors teaching environmental courses all fall under the Administration’s definition.  Dr. Holdren acknowledged the definition may be too broad if it includes such occupations. VIDEO HERE

Republicans also followed up on a May 31st Technology and Innovation Subcommittee hearing that examined the President’s newly proposed National Network for Manufacturing Innovation (NNMI) program. Dr. Holdren was asked today to justify the $2.5 billion program and was questioned on the wisdom of commencing such a large program before a pilot version has achieved any success.

Regarding the nation’s human spaceflight program, Members asked Dr. Holdren about extending a waiver from the Iran North Korea Syria Nonproliferation Act, or INKSNA, that will be necessary for American astronauts to be able to continue to fly aboard the Russian Soyuz spacecraft.  Dr. Holdren did not commit specifically to a policy statement from the President on the issue, but he indicated that the Administration plans to work closely with Congress in order to solve the problem.   

Members on both sides of the aisle also discussed with Dr. Holdren the importance of improving science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education at all levels, in order to stay competitive in the global economy.
 

112th Congress