Heinrich: America COMPETES Act Puts U.S. On Path To Double Basic Energy Research

Legislation would reauthorize energy programs in the America COMPETES Act to help create jobs, streamline U.S. Department of Energy research

WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), a member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, is an original cosponsor of legislation to reauthorize the energy programs included in the America COMPETES Act.

The America COMPETES Act will be considered by the Senate Committee Energy and Natural Resources as part of the committee's effort to produce broad energy legislation this summer.

"We are in a global race that America needs to win," said Sen. Heinrich. "It is our history of innovation and new technology that drive New Mexico's economy and our contributions to this great nation. The COMPETES Act will help build a 21st century economy that focuses on expanding our energy sector. And with continued investment in R&D programs, we not only create jobs, but we also inspire next generation of STEM leaders and entrepreneurs."

The America COMPETES Act would:

  • Authorize a 4 percent increase in funding each year for basic energy research, and reauthorize for five years the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Science and ARPA-E, an agency that supports research in energy technology. The legislation would put the U.S. Department of Energy on a path toward doubling the roughly $5 billion it spends on basic energy research.
  • Attract and keep the country's most talented scientists through competitive grant programs funded through the Department of Energy.

Nearly a decade ago, U.S. Senators Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) and Pete Domenici (R-N.M.) authored the original America COMPETES Act and were instrumental in the bill's passage and enactment into law in 2007--with 70 bipartisan Senate cosponsors. In 2010, Congress reauthorized the America COMPETES Act, with unanimous approval in the U.S. Senate.

In New Mexico, the legislation, through DOE's Office of Science, has helped fund:

  • Sandia National Laboratories' Combustion Research Facility. (crf.sandia.gov)
  • Center for Integrated Nanotechnologies (CINT) in Albuquerque and Los Alamos. CINT is a DOE user facility jointly managed by Sandia and Los Alamos National Laboratories. CINT provides universities and businesses access to world-class research capabilities. (cint.lanl.gov)
  • Sandia's involvement in the Joint Center for Energy Storage Research, which aims to develop batteries for electric vehicles and grid tied energy storage. (www.jcesr.org)

Last July, Senator Heinrich toured CINT and received a briefing on the facility's latest projects. CINT has more than 120 laboratory employees working in its Core Facility at Sandia and its Gateway Facility in Los Alamos, in addition to more than 450 visitors annually working in both facilities.

The America COMPETES Act grew out of the "Rising Above the Gathering Storm" report on American competitiveness, written in 2005 by a commission headed by former Lockheed Martin Chairman and CEO Norm Augustine. The legislation set out to double the federal government's investment in basic research in order to maintain America's competitiveness in science and technology.

A 2014 update to the "Rising Above the Gathering Storm" report further demonstrated the need to support government-sponsored research in order to provide for long-term sustainability of the country's science and engineering research system to benefit the American people. The report recommended a sustainable growth rate of 4 percent in the federal investment in basic research. 

U.S. Senators Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Chris Coons (D-Del.) are sponsors of the bill. Additional cosponsors include the chair and ranking member of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Maria Cantwell, (D-Wash.), and Senators Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), ranking member of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development.