American Geological Institute

Government Affairs Program

House Hearing on Department of Energy Fossil Energy and Energy Efficiency Programs FY 1998 Budget Request

Hearing of the Interior and Related Agencies Subcommittee
of the House Committee on Appropriations

March 18, 1997

Witness List
Principal Witness - Federico F. Pena, Secretary of Energy
Supporting Witnesses -
Robert S. Kripowicz, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, Office of Fossil Energy and Joseph J. Romm, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy

Subcommittee members present:
Chairman Ralph Regula (R-OH); Ranking Member Sidney Yates (D-IL); Zach Wamp (R-TN); David Skaggs (D-CO); Dan Miller (R-FL); Norman Dicks (D-WA); George Nethercutt (R-WA); Joe Skeen (R-NM); and James Moran (D-VA).

Secretary Pena testified in support of that portion of the President's FY 1998 budget request for the Department of Energy under the jurisdiction of the above captioned subcommittee. He stressed the need to support the President's plan to balance the federal budget which is the reason the FY 1998 request equals the FY 1997 appropriation of $1,138 million. To offset the 25% increase requested for energy conservation, fossil energy R&D would be decreased by 5%, the Naval Petroleum Reserve reduced by 19%, and a rescission of $286 million provided in earlier years for clean coal technology. Despite the level budget, Pena testified that energy security and adequate energy supplies would be assured.

Pena stated that over the next 15 years, petroleum imports are expected to reach 60% with an accompanying increase in OPEC prices. Foreign supply disruptions as occurred in the past, are not acceptable to this Administration. In addition to increased petroleum use, it was predicted that the nation would significantly escalate its use of natural gas and electricity. Greater energy efficiency will have to react to these increases. An article from the Washington Post was presented describing a new prototype automobile Ford was developing to operate with alternate fuels. That prototype and the clean coal technology program were cited as excellent examples of the beneficial outcomes of public/private partnerships.

The Secretary listed four priorities for the Department of Energy: 1) Enhancing energy security by improving energy efficiency of the nation's economy and with the development and use of affordable energy supplies; 2) Ensuring a safe and reliable nuclear weapons stockpile and reducing the global nuclear danger; 3) Cleaning up former nuclear weapons sites and finding more effective and timely disposal of nuclear waste; and 4) Leveraging science and technology to advance fundamental knowledge and our country's economic competitiveness with a stronger partnership with the private sector.

Questions & Comments
From Chairman Regula: the Secretary responded to a question indicating that existing electrical industry coal-fired plants could increase efficiency while reducing pollution.

With respect to EPA's new clean air regulations - DOE did not play a role in the development of new rules, they are making every effort to work with the total federal sector on all matters related to energy.

The Secretary stated that DOE provides the leadership for the design team of the government-wide Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles, which is a multi-agency/industry initiative led by the Department of Commerce.

The Naval Petroleum Reserve at Elk Hills will not be sold unless the government receives an appropriate price. That price is to be determined by a five-member consortium, plus a separate independent entity to evaluate the worth of the field. Since money is not being provided in the current budget to fully operate Elk Hills, DOE will need an additional appropriation to continue operations if a fair price is not offered for the field.

From Zach Wamp: Hoped Pena would restore public and congressional confidence in the Secretary of Energy. Suggested the Secretary reflect on the mission of the National Labs in the post cold war era. Advised the Secretary to consider the maintenance of nuclear weapons to assure national security. Supported the investment in science and technology, energy efficiency, renewable resources, and environmental protection. Noted that his district in Tennessee was producing and exporting electric busses which represented one aspect of energy efficiency in transportation.

From Dan Miller: Questioned the continuation of forward funding for the Clean Coal Technology program. Pena indicated that despite the programs' success in developing many new commercial technologies, no new projects are anticipated, and funds provided in earlier budgets would be returned to the U.S. Treasury. The program would also return funds for any non-performing existing projects.

From David Skaggs: Regretted the lack of adequate funding for the USGS global seismic monitoring program. Asked whether western oil shale lands would be returned to government management. Pena stated that the oil shale issue was currently under study and the department would issue a report shortly.

From Norman Dicks: Hoped the department would keep the Hanford reactor operationally ready should it be required for the production of tritium.

From George Nethercutt: Asked if the carbonate fuel cell was close to commercialization, and if DOE fully supported the project. Pena explained that the decrease in the proposed budget for fuel cell activity was not a lack of support for the program, but a consequence of difficult fiscal decisions. DOE does not intend to abandon the program, but to delay it a year or two while more pressing programs are pursued.

From Joe Skeen: Questioned whether the delays at the WIPP disposal site were caused by DOE or EPA. Pena expressed DOE's high priority for disposal of hazardous waste, and declared his intention to strongly support scientific efforts for such activities.

From James Moran: Suggested that DOE should consider funding energy conservation measures for inadequately insulated residences, rather than subsidizing very wasteful energy use by those being assisted under poverty programs. The Secretary and the assembled representatives agreed on the need for some form of legislation to correct the situation.

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Contributed by John Dragonetti, AGI Government Affairs.

Last updated March 28, 1997

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