Congress’ Latest Moves Will Hurt U.S. Manufacturing Competitiveness

The U.S. has a long history of leadership in innovation spurred and encouraged by forward-looking partnership with government. From the Apollo program, which brought us to the moon, to DARPA, which brought us the Internet, our nation’s history is full of smart programs supported by federal agencies that have helped the U.S. push the bounds of technology. Unfortunately, at a time when the competitiveness of the nation’s businesses and jobs most depends on it, proposals from our own government appear to be leaving that American tradition behind.

June 8, 2018

Yesterday, the House voted to pass H.R. 3, the “Spending Cuts to Expired and Unnecessary Programs Act.” The bill, modeled after the Trump administration’s proposed rescission package, withdraws $15.4 billion in budget authority for valuable programs—including the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Loan Programs Office. Among other misguided proposals, the bill cuts $4.3 billion from the Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing (ATVM) program and $685 million from the Title XVII Innovate Technology Loan Guarantee Program.

The ATVM and Title XVII loan programs make critical investments in advanced technology that have enabled American companies to lead the way in demonstrating first–in-class, full-scale commercial deployment of innovative energy technology. This set the stage for enhanced private investment in America in these technologies. Meanwhile, the ATVM plays a unique role in helping companies build, upgrade, or retool factories to manufacture the latest in advanced vehicle technology at scale here in the U.S. The program helps ensure that America doesn’t just lead in inventing or using the latest technology, but that it is built here, too.

These investments have spurred American manufacturing, innovation, expansion, and job growth and retention. Today 40,000 American manufacturing workers are employed at American factories built or retooled with loans from the ATVM. Those jobs, in turn, support another 200,000 jobs throughout the economy.

It is important to note that, to date, the majority of loans secured through these programs have been paid back in full, with interest. In fact, both programs are currently operating in the black, returning funds to the U.S. treasury, and saving taxpayers’ money.

To add insult to injury, just hours after this vote, the House will vote on the Fiscal Year 2019 Energy and Water appropriations bill, which makes cuts to a host of critical federal efforts driving energy innovation – beyond the Loan Programs Office to the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy and the Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy, referred to as ARPA-E. See our full analysis of this bill here. These programs are key to maintaining our nation’s global competitiveness and innovation edge when it comes to energy and transportation.

Across the globe, nations are investing billions in the next generation of advanced, clean, and efficient energy technology of all kinds. If we are serious about rebuilding, sustaining, and enhancing American competitiveness, manufacturing, and jobs in energy and transportation technology, we shouldn’t step away from these important programs. We must instead act to improve and enhance them.

The proposed cuts to ATVM and Title XVII move us further away from a strong manufacturing future. To support American manufacturing and manufacturing workers, the DOE and its loan programs should be doing more to secure America’s place inventing and building the next generation of energy and vehicle technology in the US, not less.