It’s not a surprise – it never really was – but the just-released House FY2012 Energy and Water Appropriations bill predictably seeks hefty cuts to the nation’s innovative capacity in clean energy, in a continuation of efforts by opponentsof public-private innovation and clean energy alike.
The Administration has rightly been gearing up a major push to accelerate cleantech innovation and strategy, in part by seeking necessary and appropriate boosts to federal investment in the Recovery Act and FY21012 budget request. The Energy and Water bill seeks to roll much of that back and then some, not only denying these boosts in investment but setting budgetary levels back to pre-2010 levels.
Department-wide, the bill would pile on top of cuts already made to innovation investments earlier this yearby trimming $6 billion from the Administration’s request, which would leave departmental funding nearly $2 billion below FY 2010 levels. The kicker—and the real problem—is that according to the Committee’s math, most of this cutting comes out of clean energy’s hide. Compared with the current year’s budget, more than half of the proposed cuts come from clean energy innovation programs like the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, the Office of Science, and ARPA-E (see chart).
Again, the current year’s budget is already a step back from prior investment levels – so the draft bill is insult to injury as far as investment is concerned. Some lowlights:
- The Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, which handles much of the applied R&D portfolio, has programs to develop almost every form of efficiency or renewable technology, will soon host multiple Energy Innovation Hubs, and fosters rather extensive public-private partnerships, would get it worst in absolute terms. The draft bill would cut the office’s budget by 40% below FY 2010 levels and 60% below what the Administration had been seeking.
- The Office of Science, which among other things performs fundamental research to overcome the major challenges in science and technology, hosts the Energy Frontier Research Centers, and has a track record of impressive breakthroughs, fares a bit better given its basic research profile and the fact that its budget is larger to begin with. The draft bill would trim the office’s budget by 11% below the Administration’s request and only 3% below 2010 levels.
- The real trouble is for ARPA-E, as feared. A long line of experts, including Bill Gates himself, has called for billion-dollar funding levels for the dynamic agency, but the draft bill would deliver only a tenth of that. It would leave the agency’s budget at $100 million, well below both the Administration’s request and the original budget provided by the Recovery Act.
- What’s the only energy program in which draft bill exceeds the White House’s expectations? Fossil energy, of course. The draft bill would leave fossil energy $24 million above the request and $32 million above FY 2011 levels.
- Nuclear energy would also receive a big cut though the Committee doesn’t seem to want to draw attention to it, by more than $100 million below both the Administration’s request and the current budget, representing roughly a 14% decrease.
The Energy & Water Subcommittee marks up the bill Thursday morning. We’ll see if any voices can step up in favor of innovation.