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

			   April 1995

	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 
federal deficit.

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 
discussed below:

(	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 
marginal fields."

(	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.

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Last updated December 1, 1995

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