January 10, 2011

Gillibrand Fights To Maintain $2 Million Funding For U.S.-Israel Energy Cooperative Agreement

Gillibrand Has Led Fight for Funding, Which Fosters Innovation And Economic Growth In Both Nations, Strengthening U.S.-Israel Bilateral Relations

Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, today wrote to the Secretary for the U.S. Department of Energy, Steven Chu, urging his agency to preserve $2 million in funding for the U.S.-Israel Energy Cooperative Agreement for FY2011. Because Congress failed to pass a new budget, the federal government is operating on a temporary spending bill, putting many important programs in jeopardy. Senator Gillibrand is urging the U.S. Department of Energy to ensure that this critical grant program between the United States and Israel continues.

In her letter, Senator Gillibrand wrote, “I write to request that you continue the $2 million annual allocation in Fiscal Year 2011 to support the U.S.-Israel Cooperative Energy Agreement… The projects funded by these appropriations to date include cooperative research grants to joint programs of significance to our country’s national security and economy. The U.S-Israel Cooperative Energy Agreement has helped to progress our energy goals; funding projects with New York companies and research institutions, as well as entities all across the United States.” 

To date, funding for the U.S.-Israel Energy Cooperative Agreement have yielded advances in important areas such as energy grid management, biodiesel, and solar energy – creating numerous opportunities for American companies in New York and across the United States.

Funding for the U.S.-Israel Energy Cooperative Agreement has been allocated in the last two appropriation acts – FY2009 and FY2010. This past year, Polytechnic Institute of New York and Holon Institute of Technology in Israel received $200,000 in funding for energy-efficient, large DC-gain switched-capacitor-based converters for alternative sources.

Last month, Senate Republicans blocked an omnibus spending measure by Democrats, forcing Congress to operate on stopgap measures, known as continuing resolutions, based on last year’s levels. The temporary spending bill, which expires in early March, however, does not specifically list all the programs that would be covered.

Senator Gillibrand has led the fight to preserve the continuation of this important private sector funding of energy research and development initiatives. In a June letter to Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Byron Dorgan and Ranking Member Senator Robert Bennett, Senator Gillibrand wrote, “I strongly support the aim of renewable energy collaboration between the U.S. and Israel.  Our work with Israel, a world leader in green energy research and development, has great promise for the future of marketable alternative energy technologies… U.S.-Israel collaboration and the work of foundations such as BIRD and BSF have had a lasting and fundamental impact on our countries' economies and relationship.”

The funds for this program will be administered by the United States-Israel Binational Industrial Research and Development Foundation (BIRD) and the United States-Israel Binational Science Foundation (BSF), for renewable-energy research and development cooperative projects between the two nations. Since first appropriated, the U.S. contribution to this partnership has been matched $3 to $1 by the Israeli government and the private sector, making this a sound investment for the U.S. government.

Businesses throughout the United States, including New York State, have benefited from the funding of scientific collaboration between the U.S. and Israel because it has served as a catalyst of innovation and economic growth. Senator Gillibrand believes that preserving this cooperative agreement is not only important for U.S.-Israel bilateral relationship, but beneficial for the United State’s economy and security.

The Senator’s full letter to Energy Secretary Chu is below:

Dear Secretary Chu,

I write to request that you continue the $2 million annual allocation in Fiscal Year 2011 to support the U.S.-Israel Cooperative Energy Agreement.

As you know, had Congress passed into law the FY2011 Energy and Water Appropriations legislation, or the Omnibus appropriations bill later this year, the committee would have included instructions to maintain the program at current levels.  Given that FY2011 funding is based on a Continuing Resolution through March 5, 2011, this Congressional intent may not be apparent.

Therefore, I want to work with you to make sure this very important program continues.

The U.S.-Israel Cooperative Energy Agreement allows the U.S. Government to fully honor its half of the funding commitment we have made to this bilateral commission, which supports important research and development projects – not administrative costs.  The projects funded by these appropriations to date include cooperative research grants to joint programs of significance to our country’s national security and economy.  The U.S-Israel Cooperative Energy Agreement has helped to progress our energy goals; funding projects with New York companies and research institutions, as well as entities all across the United States. 

Congress has consistently supported the funding of this successful collaborative model, which is not only important to our bilateral relationship, but beneficial to our economy and our security.  I appreciate your support of these programs and look forward to working with you.