U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Chair of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, joined Kelly Evans on CNBC’s The Exchange on Tuesday, August 9, 2022, following today’s White House ceremony where President Biden signed the CHIPS and Science Act into law.
“The story today is the United States is sending a big message that we're going to invest in bringing the manufacturing sector of semiconductors back to the United States, growing our percentage of that, because we have supply chain problems, and making sure that we have the science and technology to lead in the next generation of design. So we know that this is investment today, jobs tomorrow,” said Sen. Cantwell.
EVANS: Joining me now in an exclusive CNBC interview is the senator who led negotiations on the CHIPS Act, Maria Cantwell, the Democrat from Washington State and Chair of the Senate Commerce Committee. Senator, welcome. Thank you, are we sure Intel is going to be the best steward of all of these funds, just looking at the fact that it shares peaked in the year 2000, and have fallen about in half over the past 18 months, you know, their struggles probably better than I?
CANTWELL: Well, there's a lot going on here in what you're saying about the numbers. But you know, first of all, the third quarter is never a great quarter for technology. If you think about it, people are out and about. They’re not inside buying product. And secondly, we know that Intel is doing everything it can to make investment in what will make it the leader in chip design. So the CEO has said, we're not doing stock buybacks, we're making this investment. So that might affect the market for a while.
But, the story today is the United States is sending a big message that we're going to invest in bringing the manufacturing sector of semiconductors back to the United States, growing our percentage of that, because we have supply chain problems, and making sure that we have the science and technology to lead in the next generation of design. So we know that this is investment today, jobs tomorrow. So these numbers will, they will have good numbers. And this is the right investment.
EVANS: You know the timing of this, the irony of it struck me a little bit as well with Speaker Pelosi’s trip to Taiwan. This will arguably make the U.S. less dependent on Taiwan for the manufacturing of chips that NVIDIA and AMD and the others make. So at the same time that we're sort of more vociferously than ever backing Taiwan, we're also moving our supply chain away from them in this key area.
CANTWELL: Well, anytime you're 80% dependent on something, it's not a good idea, if you have risks to that supply. And the pandemic showed us that we do have vulnerabilities in our supply chain. So the United States now wants to up its percentage of manufacturing in supply. And also, again, be the best in design. The next ideas that integrate Big Data AI into delivery, whether it's driverless cars, precision agriculture, new medical devices. And so to do that, we have to make sure that the ecosystem of chips is here in the United States…and we have really slipped down to 12% over the last decade, not a position we want to be in.
EVANS: Absolutely, I think it was 80%, or something like that, in the past and Intel used to be one of the most incredible companies in America. Let me just ask you as well, as we look to move this entire industry more or less, you know, onshore, is there a precedent for success in something like this? I don't know what the correct term is for industrial, you know, some sort of industrial national strategic program. But do we know that that this will succeed?
CANTWELL: Well, this is really about investment. This is about an investment tax credit… we've done investment tax credits for solar and wind and we can see that we've created more of that economy here, we're really investing now in that for the smart grid so that our grid system can integrate… at the White House ceremony was an entrepreneur talking about concurrent, I think that was the name of it, concurrent or current, maybe just concurrent. But he's come up with a technology that basically can recharge cars on the spot without infrastructure, you know, the physical infrastructure around. So, great idea. So what we're going to do is with this investment, and lots of investment by the private sector, make us the hub, again, of this innovation. So the more that we're pouring in and getting the collaboration between business and universities and the National Science Foundation, the more that collaboration produces results for the United States, the more people want to be on the cutting edge, the more they want to come here. So it is really trying to turn the tide and basically saying there's a new day in America when it comes to semiconductor manufacturing. And that day is going to be an investment by all of us to make sure that we continue to lead in this particular day.
EVANS: I hope you're right, I hope it works. It almost reminds me a little bit of, who was it, Kaiser during World War II had to pivot from, you know, pivot into shipbuilding and manage to do you know, just pull off these incredible feats of engineering in a very short period of time with a big program behind him. You sort of raised energy. So I just wanted to ask you as well about whether we need a similar investment, and you're an expert in this space, obviously, and have been for years. Do we need a similar effort in our domestic energy infrastructure right now? Because when I look at the headlines coming from Europe, and I mean, it's pretty scary some of the stuff going on right now. And while we appreciate that we're doing clean energy investments, just shoring up the grid in general, do we need a program of a similar scale to make sure that bills aren't going to spike and we're not going to have, you know, outages?