Skip to main content

Energy accountability and reform legislation

Hydrocarbon Engineering,

Below are highlights from a testimony given by AEIC member, Norman R. Augustine on ‘Energy Accountability and Reform Legislation’ before the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources of the US Senate.

“Despite it importance to our economy and future, federal energy innovation investments have stagnated over the last five years, remaining at or below 2010 levels in real dollars. The extent of America’s disinvestment in research is such that America now ranks 29th among development nations in the fraction of research that is governmentally funded. It is projected that within about five years China will surpass the US in research funding as both a fraction of GDP and in absolute terms. This does not portend well for national security, jobs, the economy or the well being of America’s citizens. Simply stated, America must compete. And if it is going to compete, it needs to invest in ingenuity.”

Return on investment

“In addition to increasing energy technology investments, the federal government must seek to maximise the returns on those investments.

“Most federal energy innovation investments are channelled through the 17 National Laboratories, which fill a role otherwise largely neglected by industry: namely, long term, high risk/high payoff, often large scale projects whose applications may not be evident at their outset. Having observed the Labs closely in my roles as Undersecretary of the Army, CEO of Lockheed Martin Corporation, and a frequent chair of National Academies and other studies, I understand that the large body of research conducted in the National Labs not only has advanced scientific energy technologies, like nuclear power and hydraulic fracturing, but also tends to find applications in industry in non-energy fields. Unfortunately, in my view relatively little of this potential is being realised by American industry as it seeks to compete in the global marketplace. Among the many reasons for this, one is that industry, especially small firms, has little idea what research is being conducted at the national laboratories. A second reason is that well intended rules and oversight mechanisms make it difficult for the laboratories to work closely with industry and also discourage the best means of technology transfer, the movement of people between government and industry. Other nations seem to have found solutions to these problems, albeit not without accepting certain risks. It is my view that the national laboratories are generally well run and are a national treasure that could make an even greater contribution than is the case today. But to do this they will need to be given greater latitude to create and additional funding, especially ARPA-E.

“The Committee today is considering a number of bills that address different aspects of this challenge. What unites them all is a strong, bipartisan agreement on the importance of public/private partnerships in energy technology innovation, primarily through the National Laboratories.”

“These federal investments in energy research must be guided by long term vision. My colleagues and I support a national planning process, such as is recommended in the S. 1033 and Quadrennial Energy Review Act. I also want to acknowledge Chairwoman Murkowski’s bill S. 1229, which would direct DOE to develop an implementation plan for recommendations given by the Commission to Review the Effectiveness of the National Energy Laboratories. As a sitting member of that committee, I appreciate your support in advance of our final conclusions, it not only is a vote of confidence for our work, but also for underscoring the urgency of reforms to ensure federal investments best support America’s competitiveness.”


“I will conclude my remarks by addressing the question that often seems to be on people’s minds when they observe my commitment to strengthening research in America. Why, they ask, would a fellow creeping up on 80 years of age, a non-researcher, view this as such a critical issue. The reason is that everything I have observed in my various roles in industry, government and academia suggests that other than our freedom and Free Enterprise system, discovery, invention and education are the nation’s most fundamental assets and as such are the keys to a prosperous and secure future for America’s citizens.”

Edited from testimony by Claira Lloyd

Read the article online at:


Embed article link: (copy the HTML code below):