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By Matthew Stepp on Jun 27, 2013 with 8 responses

Energy Innovation Targeted for Devastating Cuts in Budget Debate

The House Energy and Water Appropriations subcommittee voted this week on an energy appropriations bill that decimates federal investment in clean energy innovation in the name of prioritizing funding for national security and economic growth. This bill presents the harshest proposed cuts to energy innovation programs in the last two years, cutting total funding for key Department of Energy offices by nearly 20 percent from already-sequestered FY2013 levels.

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To make matters worse, the most significantly impacted programs under the proposal are arguably the most important efforts for ensuring the future growth of clean energy in the United States. The legislation cuts the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) budget by 43 percent from FY2013 levels under sequestration, or nearly 65 percent from the President’s requested levels for FY2014. EERE’s responsibility as the “connective tissue” of the U.S. energy innovation ecosystem, as well as its efforts to enable and develop an advanced manufacturing sector in the United States would likely be derailed by such significant funding cuts.

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The proposal also calls for combining the programs within the Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability (OE) with those at EERE. Lack of specific details within the legislation prevent a full understanding of which projects within the two offices might be cut or eliminated, however it is clear that the proposal, which funds both EERE and OE at $982 million, would be a 67 percent cut from the President’s FY2014 request for the combined budgets ($2.9 billion).

Lastly, and most significantly, the House proposal slashes the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) budget by 80 percent from FY2013 levels and 87 percent from the President’s request for FY2014. ARPA-E’s mission is to invest in high-risk, high-reward energy technologies and systems that could result in transformative breakthroughs for clean energy. Budget cuts of this size – reducing its funding to $50 million – would likely end ARPA-E’s ability to perform, effectively shrugging off an invaluable program that invests in the nation’s best opportunities for advancing clean energy and mitigating climate change.

No matter how you look at it, cutting energy innovation doesn’t make sense. If the House Energy and Water appropriators are interested in ensuring national security and economic growth, then their proposed energy budget would look the opposite it does today. The appropriators cannot afford to push devastating cuts to the very programs critical to developing breakthrough affordable clean energy technologies that will reduce carbon emissions while preserving and even growing the nation’s economic prosperity. Federal investment in energy innovation – especially directed at ARPA-E – enhance the United States’ economic advantage and energy security, so it makes little sense how cutting those investments advances those goals.

  1. By Ivor O'Connor on June 27, 2013 at 4:54 pm

    It probably does not matter. I notice most people in southern california live off the government in one way or another. Teachers, police, firemen, soldiers, what not. And the service industries that feed off them. Very few people have honest jobs that produce anything that can be sold. As such they expect the system will take care of them. They are not looking at the economy as a whole. They seem to think society will continue to run despite the fact the only thing they do is consume. The solution is to not ask for money to divert into what should be done. The solution is instead to cut government down so that these people will figure out what needs to be done on their own.

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    • By mtracy9 on June 27, 2013 at 6:29 pm

      In fact California is the richest state in the union whose Silicon Valley leads with the technological innovation. Compare that to the impoverished right-wing hick states of the South, filled with with superstitious ignoramuses who deny evolution and global warming.

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    • By exdent11 on June 28, 2013 at 8:26 am

      You strike me as a ‘Atlas Shrugged ” fan kind of guy. Would I put the decisions of ‘what needs to be done’ in your hands? Not likely.

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      • By Ivor O'Connor on June 28, 2013 at 11:57 am

        Nope. Atlas Shrugged is too simplistic and wrong.

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  2. By John on June 28, 2013 at 8:22 am

    A useful article concerning a serious situation. Some six or seven years ago the then-Chief of Naval Operations (Admiral Mullen) recognized that energy security is one of the most serious strategic threats that we face in the coming decades — and that energy R&D was an important component of any plan forward that assures US national security. The situation is improved today with the advent of new fossil fuel resources in North America, but the issue has hardly disappeared. Longer term, higher risk energy R&D continues to a necessary investment for the government.

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  3. By Gordon Hervey on June 29, 2013 at 8:09 am

    I would like to make a simple point: don’t waste another dime on solar. You’ll find out…

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  4. By Kirk on June 29, 2013 at 10:45 am

    Very shortsighted. Energy is a matter of national security AND economic growth. Although DARPA and other federal labs also explore new energy technologies, ARPA-E is uniquely qualified and focused on this critical area. We need to continue exploring alternative energy as well as storage technology like high power density battery chemistries (lithium sulpher/lithium air). An 80% cut to energy R&D shows that lawmakers don’t have the big picture.

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  5. By Sidney Clouston on June 29, 2013 at 11:45 am

    Perhaps we can ask the Chinese to put in a few bucks, since they will get the IP anyway.

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