Mr. ROYCE. Mr. Chairman, this amendment would decrease the allocation of the Department of Science and the Department of Energy budget by $10 million. And let me give you an example of what $10 million is used for, by way of example, in this department. There's $10 million for appropriating money to methane hydrate research and development.
Now, Mr. Chairman, I was once a capital projects manager and I understand the impulse to invest in technologies that are going to have a payback, that are going to provide a return. But to do that, not only do you have to be able to figure out whether or not it's possible to get that payback, but it has to be a viable alternative when compared against other competing alternatives. And that's what I want to speak to here.
The government here in the U.S. has already spent $155 million on research and development commercialization for this technology, for methane hydrate, over the last 5 years. Taxpayers do not need to subsidize the gas hydrate industry to find equivalent alternatives to replace oil. We are at $100-a-barrel oil. There is already enough financial incentive in the commercial market to research methane hydrate if it, in fact, were a viable energy option. I just have to tell you, no one has tried to
extract methane hydrates in a commercial way because it is not economical.
Think about this for a moment: It is only found in the Arctic. It is only found offshore. It's essentially methane gas compressed under high-pressure conditions at great depths. And basically the point here would be, you'd liquify it.
The reality is there are real hazards of developing gas hydrates. And because it's such an incredibly hazardous substance, I can't foresee gas drilling and production operations adopting this scenario, especially when you consider all of the other fossil fuels that would be utilized first before such a technology would ever be deployed. You've got oil shale. You've got oil sands, tar sands. You've got the existing conventional deposits of oil under capped wells.
Now, with every one of these challenges, a solution could be found much more economically in terms of extracting energy than you would ever find by producing energy from natural gas in this particular methodology. So the government has spent 10 years researching and developing ways to extract methane hydrates. We are still at a very primitive phase.
As I have shared with you, it is very hazardous if we were ever to deploy such a technology. There is a long list of alternatives which we certainly would go through first before we ever got to this. So it is time to eliminate the funding that can be appropriated toward methane hydrate research and development and use that more productively.
And let me make one other observation about this. We are in a situation now where we're borrowing 40 cents of every dollar we spend. When we identify an area of the budget where we can make these types of savings, we should [Page: H5004]
be cognizant of the fact that this type of borrowing, this sheer amount of borrowing has an impact not only on job creation, on economic growth, but also basically on the long-term solvency of the government.
If we're running up debt at these levels and we find areas in the budget to slice off these sums, we can bring down that deficit. The impact on the market is such that the market sees us ratcheting down expenditures to come back into compliance with economic reality. And as a consequence of that, we avoid some of the adverse impacts that come with the overborrowing--as I indicated, 40 cents on every dollar--the overborrowing that is creating the kind of uncertainty in this economy today in which
employers are reluctant to go out and hire, in which the impacts are not just felt in the jobless rates that we just saw climb up here in the United States but are also filled in the way in which we are perceived internationally in terms of our capacity to deal with our debt.
Now is the time to make some commonsense decisions here, and here is $10 million that can be saved.
I yield back the balance of my time.
Mr. FRELINGHUYSEN. I rise to oppose the amendment of the gentleman from California, but I do recognize and agree with his view in terms of the economy but not the purpose for which he rises.
My colleague's amendment would eliminate methane hydrates research at the Department of Energy. This is a good example of a program that would not be otherwise funded by the private sector and has the potential to make a significant contribution to our Nation's energy needs.
Vast quantities of methane gas are stuck in frozen deposits deep at the bottom of the ocean and in the Arctic permafrost. Some of these deposits may evaporate over time and escape into the atmosphere. If we can understand how to use these resources rather than letting the methane float away into the air, we could tap a vast new natural gas resource and prevent large quantities of methane from entering the atmosphere.
The research for this is too risky for industry to do. The science is too difficult for there to be an economic return. That is a proper role of government, research the private sector cannot do that can substantially reduce our dependence on foreign imports while inventing new science and technology that puts America in the lead.
I, therefore, respectfully rise to oppose the amendment and urge other Members to do so as well.
I will be happy to yield to the gentleman from Indiana.
Mr. VISCLOSKY. I appreciate the chairman yielding, and would join him in his opposition to the amendment.
I would make a general observation. The gentleman's amendment would cut $10 million from the Office of Science. When you look at a $4 billion budget, your first impression might be it is of little consequence as far as the overall scientific research in this country. But I would point out that in fiscal year 2010 the account was for $4.904 billion. In fiscal year 2011 it was reduced to $4.842 billion. For, prospectively, 2012 it's reduced another 43. The gentleman's amendment would increase that
reduction by almost 25 percent for the coming fiscal year. And I do think it is time to say ``no,'' and let us apply ourselves to serious scientific research.
I oppose the gentleman's amendment, and appreciate the chairman yielding.
Mr. BROUN of Georgia. Mr. Chairman, when I was just listening to my colleague on the other side talking about this is a small amount of money, I just did a town hall meeting in Thomson, Georgia, just recently. A lady there got up and said to me, ``Dr. Broun, a million dollars is a lot of money.'' And we here in Congress talk as if a million dollars, or even a billion dollars, is not a lot of money, and it is to the citizens of this country.
We cannot continue down this road of, as Mr. Royce was saying, of borrowing 40 cents on every dollar that the Federal Government spends. It's creating tremendous uncertainty out there in the economic world. And this debt is going to be crushing to us.
I believe we are in an economic emergency. So cutting $10 million for a project, though it might be interesting--I am a scientist, I am a physician, I have a science background--there are a lot of things that would be interesting to research and interesting things to do. But just like a business when it gets overextended, what's it do? It lowers its borrowing limit. Then it starts trying to work out that debt. Then it starts looking at every expense that it has, every corner of its expenses,
and tries to cut expenses. Besides that, then they start looking at revenue.
Now, my Democratic colleagues and the President want to raise taxes to increase the revenue, but that actually is a tax that will drive away jobs. In fact, I have got a lot of businesses, small as well as large, in my district that tell me the tax burden today is so high that they are not hiring new people. And increasing taxes on small business is going to further drive away jobs from this country.
So cutting $10 million may not sound like a lot to Members of Congress, but I am going to support this amendment. I urge its adoption.
I yield to the gentleman from California.