Monday, March 30, 2009

Energy R&D Gets a Boost

The budget for the Department of Energy (DoE), a chart showed, was $24.2 billion in 2008. This year Congress gave the DoE $38.7 billion in the stimulus package and another $27 billion in appropriations. Mr Mason’s main message was simple: “We’ve really got to deliver.”

Politicians have been making noises about energy independence and climate change for some time. Federal spending on research and development, however, has remained far below the levels of the 1970s (see chart). Now rhetoric is finally being matched by cash. Within the DoE’s budget, Congress has appropriated $7.8 billion for energy R&D, 18% more than last year, and the stimulus provided about $8 billion. On March 23rd President Barack Obama and Steven Chu, the energy secretary, explained how some of the money would be spent, with money for labs—a new building at Oak Ridge will house researchers for solar batteries and superconducting transmission lines—as well as support for scientists exploring everything from carbon sequestration to hydrogen.

The stimulus gives $400m to ARPA-E, a new programme modelled after one at the Department of Defence, to conduct speculative research. On March 23rd Mr Chu announced that $277m would go to Energy Frontier Research Centres, with teams at universities and labs working in many different fields, from photovoltaics to nuclear energy.
I have mentioned before how little of the national R&D budget was allocated to energy and how total funding had actually been going down. Glad to see that this is being rectified. I also am a huge fan of DARPA and it is great to see that the DoE is copying the model.

via The Economist

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