The House Appropriations Committee just passed their appropriations bill for next year’s Department of Energy that slashes $1 billion from current spending for the department putting them at a cash equivalent of what they were allotted in 2006. The bill was passed out of committee with a 26-20 vote — with just one Republican voting against — and totals a whopping $5.9 billion less than what President Obama had requested for the DOE earlier this year. The bill slashes figures around the table for energy efficiency programs and research but not surprisingly, some of the bill’s only budget increases are for the DOE’s Fossil Energy Office. Clean energy advocates and congressional supporters are furious about the bill fearing that we are sliding away from a stable energy future.
The bill, officially called the Energy and Water Appropriations bill, aims to cut the DOE budget in order to reign in our, admittedly, unsustainable federal spending. Though cuts are necessary, it seems the House has quite the vintage view of where our future energy security should come from. “Now is the worst possible moment to slash funding for the research and development of sustainable energy technologies,” said Representative Rush Holt (D-N.J.) about the $30.6 billion bill. “At a time when our economy is already fragile, abandoning scientific research would cause the United States to lose even more high-tech jobs to our foreign competitors.”
The budget for the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) — which provides funding for private and public advanced energy research around the country — was slashed by $80 million in the bill (and clocked in at $450 million below Obama’s request). The line item spending cuts — which one can see here — show cuts of $491 million for the DOE Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, $42 million for the DOE Office of Science and $42 million for environmental cleanup initiatives. Those cuts are just in comparison to this year’s spending, the contrast between what was requested from President Obama earlier this year is even more drastic with the numbers reaching $1.8 billion, $616 million and $469 million respectively.
Notably increases in the budget are alloted for quite a few programs — including fossil energy research and development, weapons activities and quite a few nuclear programs including those for naval reactors — which seem to say that the House Appropriations Committee would like to put the future of our country’s energy security in the hands of the oil industry (a finite resource) and the nuclear power industry (a still volatile science) both of which have pretty poor track records as of late.