Republican Bill in Congress Increasing Nation's Dependency on Coal, Oil and Gas Interests

07/11/2011 04:26 pm ET | Updated Sep 10, 2011
  • Rep. Mike Honda U.S. Representative, California's 15th Congressional District

The Energy and Water Development Appropriations bill, which is being considered on the House floor this week, is yet another glaring example of the flawed nature of the Republican budget. To try to meet their unrealistic goal of reducing the deficit solely through domestic non-defense discretionary spending cuts, Republicans are proposing to make crippling cuts to our national investment in improving energy efficiency and the development of renewable energy sources.

These cuts will only serve to make our nation more dependent on the coal, oil, and gas interests that own the Republican Party and more dependent on importing our energy from insecure foreign sources. Meanwhile, our global competitors recognize that this is an area in which there are many gains to be made and they are investing heavily to develop their own renewable resources and promote domestic economic and job growth.

Investment in clean energy is much more cost effective than continued giveaways to the oil and gas industry -- the Commerce Department has found that clean energy generates 17 jobs for every $1 million spent on it, compared to just 5 jobs for every $1 million we throw at an oil and gas industry that doesn't need subsidies but continues to fight for subsidies and tax breaks.

As a representative from Silicon Valley, I hear every day from the companies in and around my district about how renewable energy sources like solar, wind, fuel cells, and hydrokinetic are the wave of the future. To reach their full potential, these sources must be enabled by basic science underlying new energy technologies, by the development of advanced batteries for electricity storage and through improved energy efficiency across the board, through solid state lighting technologies, building technologies, and smarter electronic devices that know when to reduce their energy consumption.

These fields are where the jobs are -- WIRED magazine asked the professional networking service LinkedIn to survey its members who have switched industries in the last five years, and what it found was that the growth in Renewables and the Environment was 56.8 percent, far more than any other. The Silicon Valley Leadership Group, an organization of influential high-tech CEOs, includes "greater deployment of clean energy and clean technology coupled with investments in energy efficiency" in its federal policy agenda, because they know it "will contribute to this objective [energy independence] while generating hundreds of thousands of new, sustainable jobs here in the United States."

Sadly, this Energy and Water Development Appropriations bill does not reflect these important priorities. Instead, it provides only $1.3 billion for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy programs, 27 percent below than the current funding level and 59 percent below the President's Budget Request. Funding is slashed for many activities: solar energy, 64 percent below the President's request; fuel efficient vehicle technologies, 57 percent below the President's request; building technologies, 68 percent below the President's request; biomass and bio-refinery research and development, 56 percent below the President's request; home weatherization assistance, nearly 90 percent below the President's request; and the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, 82 percent below the President's request.

The unrealistic Republican budget has left us with an allocation for this bill that is too small for our nation's needs, and too small to offer meaningful amendments to improve these woefully inadequate funding levels. To make matters worse, Republicans have been so driven by ideology that they required the chairman to include an offset in this bill for emergency spending to deal with recovery from the storms and flooding along the Mississippi River, an offset that would gut our national investment in High Speed Rail. This requirement marks yet another way in which this Energy and Water Development bill would take our nation backwards, away from achieving a sustainable future.

We need to do better than this bill. We need to aggressively pursue clean energy while we still have control of the game, before it is too late and our climate has changed forever, we are running out of oil, and we are running out of time. Silicon Valley is ready to lead, we just need the rest of the nation to join us. I oppose this bill because it fails our nation.

Rep Michael Honda is a member of the House Budget and Appropriations Committees and represents Silicon Valley. Follow Rep Honda on Facebook and Twitter.