H.R. 3585, the Solar Technology Roadmap Act, was designed to identify and plan for solar technology needs, and to provide $2.2 billion over five years to schools and laboratories for solar research and development. This vote was on an amendment offered by Rep. Broun (R-GA) to change the number of years for which the funding was authorized from five to three, and to reduce the amount authorized in each of those three years.
Rep. Broun began his statement in support of his amendment by saying: “(E)nergy independence and innovation are essential to America's national as well as economic security . . . Many believe the debate is oil and gas versus wind, solar, and renewable sources of energy. That assumption is absolutely false. We need all of the sources of fuel that we know about, both current and any possible ones that we can develop in the future . . . The technological advances in solar-generated energy are growing every day.”
He then added: “(D)espite my strong support of these innovative and cleaner technologies, this Congress must recognize a simple fact: We do not have enough money to do all the programs that we would all like to do.” Broun noted that his amendment would reduce the amount authorized in the bill to $250 million a year for 3 years. He claimed its purposed was “to balance the noble goals of this legislation with the overwhelming pressures placed on the budget.” Broun pointed out that the House had previously passed $342 million for solar energy spending in two other measures, including the stimulus bill that was developed in response to the economic crisis the country was facing.
Broun then argued: “(T)his is more than Congress can and should be doing for solar and other renewable resources . . . I urge my colleagues to support this commonsense, economically responsible amendment and . . . stop the outrageous spending that this Congress is doing . . . .” He added that “government is not the only source of funds. The private sector is already developing (solar technology) . . . .”
Rep. Giffords (D-AZ), the sponsor of H.R. 3585, opposed Broun’s amendment. Giffords noted that “between 1978 and fiscal year 2007, the United States Government spent $30 billion on R&D for nuclear energy . . . $24 billion on fossil fuel research . . . (and) less than $6.5 billion on solar energy . . . maybe some people think these disparities are appropriate. Maybe they think that solar does not merit the same levels of investment because it is not able to provide as much energy as those technologies. However, looking at the research and where we are with the technology today, that is simply false.”
Giffords added: “I fully support having strong research programs in other types of energy, whether it's nuclear or coal and a variety of other important energy options. The funding levels in this bill just recognize and help us properly take advantage of the enormous solar resources that we have in the United States.” Rep. Gordon (D-TN), who chairs the House Science and Technology Committee, also opposed the amendment. He noted that, although the “United States invented the technology for the solar industry . . . China is the largest manufacturer, exporter and deployer of solar in the world right now. The United States simply cannot compete with them in terms of wages . . . So we have to be ahead of them in technology.”
The amendment was defeated by a vote of 162-256. One hundred and fifty-five Republicans and seven Democrats voted “aye”. Two hundred and forty-three Democrats and thirteen Republicans voted “nay”. As a result, the five-year $2.2 billion total for solar technology remained in H.R. 3585.