DOE:

Chu takes R&D budget request to House Science panel

Energy Secretary Steven Chu will defend his department's hefty research and development budget request this week to House lawmakers.

The White House's $28.4 billion fiscal 2011 budget request for the Energy Department includes an $8.75 billion nod to nondefense energy-related R&D efforts, including $5.1 billion for the Office of Science, $2.4 billion for the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, and $300 million for the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, or ARPA-E.

Total R&D spending throughout the department would increase by 3.5 percent over fiscal 2010 appropriated levels under the White House proposal.

The administration's spending proposal is up from $8.45 billion appropriated by Congress in fiscal 2010 and $8.47 billion in fiscal 2009. DOE research and development spending also got a $5.5 billion leg up from the stimulus bill.

President Obama said investments in clean energy and scientific research would help boost the economy.

"That's why we build on the largest investment in clean energy in history, as well as increase investment in scientific research, so that we are fostering the industries and jobs of the future right here in America," Obama said last week.

The House Science and Technology Committee meets Thursday to discuss the R&D budget request with Chu. The committee has jurisdiction over research and development efforts at most federal agencies.

The committee was responsible for crafting and pushing through a broad 2007 research and education bill that first authorized ARPA-E. Committee Chairman Bart Gordon (D-Tenn.) is an avid proponent of the program and is currently working to push a bill reauthorizing the agency through his committee. He will likely praise Chu for his department's proposal to boost funding for that program, which is designed to foster high-risk, high-reward research into new energy technologies.

The fledgling program got its first funding -- $15 million -- in a fiscal 2009 omnibus spending bill and a $400 million boost in last year's stimulus package. But Congress failed to appropriate any more funds in fiscal 2010, and if accepted, the funding for fiscal 2011 would be the first regular funding for the agency, which has so far awarded 37 grants of about $4 million each.

The administration's proposal to establish another energy "innovation hub" for batteries and energy storage is another topic that lawmakers will likely broach with Chu. In the administration's fiscal 2010 spending request, Chu laid plans for establishing eight hubs at about $30 million each that would bring together scientists from universities, national laboratories and the private sector to focus on advancing specific energy technology problems.

But Congress appropriated funds for only three of the hubs -- fuels from sunlight, energy efficiency in buildings, and nuclear simulation and modeling -- at $22 million each.

In its 2011 proposal, the administration is requesting a total of $107 million for the hubs: $34 million for the new batteries and energy storage hub and additional funding for each of the previously existing hubs.

"Of all the R&D programs, I personally feel very strongly about ARPA-E and the innovation hubs," Chu said last week (E&ENews PM, Feb. 1).

But while the administration has proposed a boost for renewable and clean energy research efforts within DOE, it would cut funding for fossil energy research programs. The administration would spend $587 million on fossil energy research and development, a 13 percent decrease from the level appropriated by Congress in fiscal 2010.

Most of the proposed fossil research funding for 2011 would focus on carbon capture and sequestration for coal-fired power plants. In fact, the administration's budget request cuts funding entirely for oil and natural gas R&D programs, including funding for a program researching the potential to extract natural gas from methane hydrates and about $50 million for an ultra-deepwater exploration program.

"We feel the oil and gas companies can take that on," Chu said (E&E Daily, Feb. 2).

But he could face questions from lawmakers about the wisdom behind cutting funding for traditional energy research.

Last week, senators on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee raised eyebrows at the move, as well as others within the department that would hinder oil and gas companies (Greenwire, Feb. 4).

Other federal R&D programs

The Science Committee will also take a look at the administration's broad $66 billion request for all federal nondefense R&D programs at a separate hearing Wednesday.

The funding request would cover R&D efforts at DOE as well as other agencies, like the National Science Foundation, NASA, U.S. EPA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Transportation Department, among others.

John Holdren, director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, meets Wednesday with the full committee to discuss the administration's broad R&D request, which is $3.7 billion more than the 2010 enacted level.

"The president understands that more than ever before, science holds the key to the prosperity of our nation, the security of our people, the health of our planet and the richness of our lives," Holdren said in a statement. "His new budget makes clear that he is serious about fueling American innovation to strengthen our economy and address the grand challenges of the 21st century."

Schedule: The DOE research and development budget hearing is Thursday, Feb. 11, at 10 a.m. in 2318 Rayburn.

Witness: Energy Secretary Steven Chu.

Schedule: The administration's R&D budget hearing is Wednesday, Feb. 10, at 10 a.m. in 2318 Rayburn.

Witness: John Holdren, director, Office of Science and Technology Policy.

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