American Geological Institute
Government Affairs Program
U.S. Geological Survey and Dept. of Energy -- House Testimony (FY 1996)
Statement by the
American Geological Institute to the
Subcommittee on Interior and Related Agencies
Committee on Appropriations
U.S. House of Representatives
U.S. Geological Survey and
Fossil Energy R&D, Department of Energy
FY 1996 Appropriations
Prepared by Craig M. Schiffries and Marcus E. Milling
The American Geological Institute (AGI) appreciates this opportunity to
present testimony in support of fiscal year 1996 appropriations for the
U.S. Geological Survey and the Department of Energy's Fossil Energy
Research and Development Program. AGI is a nonprofit federation of 27
geoscientific and professional associations that represent more than
80,000 geologists, geophysicists, and other earth scientists. In
addition, 115 colleges and universities are AGI Academic Associates, and
30 private companies are AGI Corporate Members. Founding in 1948, AGI
provides information services to geoscientists, serves as a voice for
shared interests in our profession, plays a major role in strengthening
geoscience education, and strives to increase public awareness of the
vital role the geosciences play in mankind's use of resources and
interaction with the environment.
Social Imperative for Earth Sciences and Resources
Geoscience agencies under the jurisdiction of the Appropriations
Subcommittee on Interior and Related Agencies are facing the most
serious challenge in their history. Some geoscience agencies have been
targeted for complete elimination and the others have been targeted for
massive cuts. It would be irresponsible for the federal government to
abdicate its legitimate role in supporting geoscience research and
information, especially at a time when the United States is beginning to
recognize its increasing vulnerability to earthquakes, floods, droughts,
water pollution, volcanic eruptions, global environmental change,
contamination from waste disposal, and reliance on unstable sources of
foreign oil and minerals. The social imperative for the federal
government's role in the geosciences is based on the following principles:
( The survival of our society is absolutely dependent on the Earth. The
demand and competition for Earth's land, water, energy, and materials
continually increases. Furthermore, the impact of natural hazards such
as floods and earthquakes will increase as population grows.
( This historic and continuing dependency of society establishes Earth
resources as a fundamental public good, reflected in the establishment of
a national geologic survey to guide their use. Such surveys have been
formed in virtually all nations.
( An integrated national effort is required to provide a coherent and
continuing framework for obtaining information about natural resources
and geologic hazards. This information is required by the private
sector and by government agencies at all levels as the basis for
exploration, planning, environmental policy, and land-use decisions.
( The United States has historically met its needs for information about
natural resources and geologic hazards. This information is required by
the private sector and by government agencies at all levels as the basis
for exploration, planning, environmental policy, and land-use decisions.
( We believe an integrated national effort must be maintained to provide
information about natural resources and geologic hazards. It is
imperative that this effort be as cost effective and efficient as possible.
Federal investments in the geosciences continue to pay enormous
dividends, and the rationale for continuing federal support remains
strong. When it comes to appropriations for geoscience research and
development, nothing less than the survival of our way of life and our
planet are at stake.
U.S. Geological Survey
Earth science in the public service is the central mission of the U.S.
Geological Survey (USGS). Virtually every American citizen and
virtually every federal, state, and local agency benefits either
directly or indirectly from USGS products and services. The USGS is
internationally recognized for its scientific and technical
achievements. AGI supports and encourages the increasing emphasis the
USGS places on responding to the changing needs for reliable, objective
earth science information, and on the rapid and effective transfer of
information and technologies to its user communities.
Recent earthquakes and floods provide powerful reminders of the vital
role the geosciences play in an ever growing range of national goals.
The magnitude 6.7 Northridge earthquake on January 17, 1994, caused 57
deaths and $30 billion in damage in Southern California. The earthquake
that struck Kobe, Japan, on January 17, 1995, caused more than 5,100
deaths and about $100 billion in damage. According to USGS Director
Gordon Eaton, the two earthquakes were about equal in magnitude, but
"the lower losses in the United States were, in part, because of
improved earthquake design incorporating knowledge gained from the U.S.
Geological Survey earthquake studies."
The reduction of geologic hazards provides a clear example of linking
science and technology to societal goals. The societal benefits of
geoscience R&D on earthquakes and other geologic hazards extend to such
areas as housing, transportation, commerce, agriculture, and human
health and safety. If recent history is a reliable guide, then funds
spent on geologic hazards reduction programs will be repaid many times
over by reduced losses, reduced loss of tax revenues, and reduced
expenditure for federal emergency and disaster relief funds.
The health of the nation's water resources is another prominent national
concern. Depletion of surface water and ground water supplies has
reached significant proportions in some regions, and ground water
contamination is a problem in many communities.
The USGS is the primary source of data on the nation's water resources.
It contributes to the remarkable levels of public health enjoyed by
Americans in all fifty states by monitoring ground water contamination
and other threats to our water supplies.
The USGS needs the resources and flexibility to address an evolving
mission and adapt to changing national priorities. AGI supports the
USGS FY 1996 budget request of $586.4 million, an increase of $14.9
million over the FY 1996 enacted level, but a decrease of $10.6 million
below the FY 1994 level. This is a modest investment in the future of
our nation and our planet. A failure to maintain our federal investment
in the USGS will result in costly tragedies that will increase the
DOE Fossil Energy Research and Development
In 1994, domestic oil production declined to its lowest level since
1946. The United States currently imports more than 50 percent of its
total oil demand. Imported oil accounted for about 31 percent of the
merchandise trade deficit in 1994. Further decreases in domestic
production will exacerbate the trade deficit problem and increase
foreign dependence on a resource that is vital to the economic strength
and national security of the nation. While research on renewable
resources and energy efficiency is critical to America's future,
continued research on fossil energy is no less important. The societal
benefits of fossil energy R&D extend to such areas as economic and
national security, job creation, capital investment, and reduction of
the trade deficit.
DOE's fossil energy R&D program is making a significant contribution to
development of new technologies required for cost effective development
of U.S. oil and gas resources. Reductions in the program would
adversely affect the domestic oil and gas industry, particularly small
independent producers, and would not be in the best interests of the
nation. Several key components of DOE's Fossil Energy programs are
( Reservoir Class Demonstration Program. Premature abandonment of
productive domestic oil fields is one of America's most serious energy
problems. The DOE Reservoir Class Demonstration Program focuses on
identifying and maintaining economic access to geologic classes of U.S.
reservoirs that are in danger of being prematurely abandoned despite the
fact they contain large amounts of potentially recoverable crude oil.
The program is sponsoring upwards of $300 million of industry
cost-shared joint ventures, with the industry share well over 50
percent. It is providing the new technologies required for recovery of
billions of barrels of oil in existing fields, rather than from new
fields opened in environmentally sensitive regions. Two-thirds of the
oil found in the United States will remain unrecovered if only
conventional production methods are used. According to a February 28,
1995, report by the National Research Council, "the DOE Field
Demonstration Program is proving effective in demonstrating the
application of new and existing technologies to prolong the lives of
( Advanced Computational Technology Initiative. This program
successfully elicited 122 private sector proposals valued at more than
$85 million, and is providing a strong link for joint development of
advanced technology among the private sector, national laboratories, and
universities to address the nation's oil and gas supply needs.
( Gas Supply Program. The Gas Supply Program supports the
efficient, and cost-effective use of the "fuel of choice" to achieve the
simultaneous benefits of low cost, environmental enhancement, and
improved energy security.
( Geoscience Data Repository System. Domestic geological and
geophysical data are critical to the energy security and economic
prosperity of the United States. A consequence of the ongoing
downsizing of the U.S. oil and gas industry is that billions of dollars
worth of domestic geological and geophysical data are in jeopardy of
being irrevocably lost or destroyed. According to many independent oil
producers, a national geoscience data repository system would enable
them to expand their search for and development of domestic oil and gas
resources. The private sector is working with DOE and AGI to assess the
feasibility of establishing a national geoscience data repository system
for the use of industry, government, and the scientific research community.
( Technology Transfer. The historic symbiotic relationship between
oil companies and independent producers has largely disappeared, and
independent producers do not have access to existing and emerging
advanced exploration, reservoir management, and production
technologies. AGI supports DOE's efforts to accelerate the
dissemination of these technologies through the Petroleum Technology
Transfer Council and other mechanisms so that more domestic petroleum may
be produced, and fewer producing fields are abandoned.
AGI supports the Department of Energy's FY 1996 budget request of $436.5
million for Fossil Energy R&D. The budget request calls a decrease of
$5.3 million or 1 percent relative to FY 1995 appropriations.
Substantial increases in funding for natural gas (25 percent) and
petroleum R&D (6 percent) would be offset by a large decrease in coal
R&D (26 percent). The oil and gas programs are a small fraction of
DOE's total budget. The programs are designed and implemented in
concert with industry, and they are providing U.S.-based energy
companies with the edge to remain technologically competitive and cost
effective in order to develop the nation's oil and gas resources.
Please send any comments or requests for information to AGI Government Affairs
Last updated December 1, 1995