FY2007 Department of Energy Appropriations (3-21-07)

Untitled Document


The Department of Energy (DOE) programs of interest to the geosciences include programs for renewable energy and activities within the Office of Science, such as the Basic Energy Science program which has a geoscience division. Also of interest is the Yucca Mountain site characterization activities and environmental remediation of the nuclear weapons complex.

The priorities of the Department of Energy's (DOE) energy program are to: increase domestic energy production; revolutionize our approach to energy conservation and efficiency; and promote the development of renewable and alternative energy sources. Fossil fuels – coal, oil and natural gas -- currently provide more than 85% of all the energy consumed in the United States, nearly two-thirds of our electricity, and virtually all of our transportation fuels. Moreover, it is likely that the nation’s reliance on fossil fuels to power an expanding economy will increase over at least the next two decades even with aggressive development and deployment of new renewable and nuclear technologies. Because our economic health depends on the continued availability of reliable and affordable fossil fuels, the Department of Energy’s Office of Fossil Energy oversees two major fossil fuel efforts: emergency stockpiles of crude oil and heating oil and research and development of future fossil energy technologies.

For analysis of hearings held by Congress on Energy appropriations, click here.

Fiscal Year (FY) 2007 Department of Energy Appropriations Process


FY06 Enacted

House Action

Senate Action

Department of Energy (total)




Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy






Fossil Energy


-- Natural Gas Technologies


-- Petroleum - Oil Technology


-- Coal Technology

---Clean Coal Power Initiative/FutureGen
Office of Science
--Basic Energy Sciences
---Chemical Sciences, Geosciences, and Energy Biosciences
--Biological and Environmental Research
---Climate Change Research
Environmental Management
--Defense Environmental Clean-up

--Non-Defense Environmental Clean-up


---Uranium Enrichment D&D Funding

Civilian Radioactive Waste Management

--Nuclear Waste Disposal*


--Defense Nuclear Waste Disposal*


* These two accounts combined fund the Yucca Mountain project. ** Numbers are approximate and may change.

President's Request

Samuel Bodman, the Secretary of the Department of Energy (DOE), unveiled the President's budget request for the Department of Energy at a press conference on February 6. He noted the importance of the President's initiatives on American competitiveness and energy that were discussed in the State of the Union address on January 31. For DOE, the American Competitiveness Initiative would mean an increase of $505 million to the $3.5 billion Office of Science budget in fiscal year 2007 (FY 2007) to begin to achieve a doubling of basic research funding over the next 10 years.

The Advanced Energy Initiative would increase funding for clean energy research by 22% with most of the increased funds going to solar, biomass/biofuels, hydrogen fuel, FutureGen and nuclear power. Research for geothermal and hydropower would be zeroed out of the FY 2007 appropriations. The initiative would also establish a new international program, Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP) at a cost of $250 million. GNEP will reduce the threat of nuclear proliferation and anticipate a 50% increase in energy demand over the next 20 years. Bodman emphasized that the United States will work to reduce its dependency on foreign oil by developing "safe, emissions-free nuclear power" and "by emphasizing the potential of U.S. coal reserves". GNEP represents a change in U.S. policy regarding the recycling of nuclear waste. GNEP will work to develop proliferation-resistant recycling of nuclear fuel for greater efficiency and less waste and to develop a new generation of small scale reactors to utilize recycled fuel in developing countries. Bodman concluded his introduction to the energy budget by emphasizing the department's commitment to Yucca Mountain and improved management of programs and people. DOE is now planning programs on a multiple year time scale to ensure that the department honors its commitments in a timely fashion.

Overall DOE funding for FY 2007 would remain flat at $23.6 billion, but in terms of real dollars it would represent a $500 million decrease compared to FY 2006 appropriations. Science would receive a boost from $3.6 billion in FY06 to $4.1 billion, Energy and Environment would receive a decrease from $9.9 billion to $9.2 billion and National Security would receive an increase from $9.1 billion to $9.3 billion.

Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy

The overall budget of this office would increase by 0.2% to $1.176 billion. Spending on Hydrogen Technology would increase 25.8% from $155.6 million last year to $195.8 million in FY 2007, Wind Energy would increase by 12.8% from $38.8 million last year to $43.8 million, Biomass and Biorefinery Systems R&D would increase by 65% from roughly $91 million last year to about $150 million and Solar Energy would increase by 78.5% from $83 million to $148 million.Geothermal Technology and Hydropower would receive no funds and both program would be terminated.

Office of Fossil Energy

Within the Office of Fossil Energy, research for natural gas technologies and petroleum/oil technologies would be zeroed out as in previous years because the administration believes that energy companies should be conducting this research with the large profits from the recent high prices of gasoline and other fossil fuel commodities. In addition the programs have received Office of Management and Budget assessments that are scored as "ineffective". Besides eliminating oil and gas research, the President requests that the Ultra-Deepwater and Unconventional Natural Gas and Other Petroleum Research Fund passed as a mandatory funding program with revenues through oil and gas leases in the Energy Policy Act of 2005 be repealed by future legislation. The program was meant to fund ultra-deep research at $50 million per year over 5 years. Cooperative research and development and advanced metallurgical research were also zeroed out of the President's budget request. Most of the funding in this office would be concentrated in coal research ($330 million), program direction ($129 million) and the strategic petroleum reserve ($155 million) and except for program direction these other programs would see decreases in their budgets of more than 20%. The total budget for the office would fall from $841 million in FY 2006 to $649 million, a 22% cut.

Office of Science

The Office of Science would receive an increase of 14% compared to FY 2006 appropriations, consistent with the American Competitiveness Initiative, for a total budget of $4.1 billion. All programs would see increases except for Biological and Environmental Research (BER), which would receive a 12% cut. Climate Change Research within BER would be reduced by 5% from $142 million in FY 2006 to $135 million in FY 2007. The Basic Energy Sciences (BES) would remain the largest program in the office with an increase of 25% from $1.134 billion in FY 2006 to $1.420 billion in FY 2007. Within the BES, Chemical Sciences, Geosciences and Biosciences would receive a $47.9 million increase over their FY 2006 budget. About half of this increase would go toward the President's Hydrogen Initiative ($6 million increase) and basic research related to energy technologies ($22.4 million increase) and the other half would go toward nanoscale science research ($22.2 million increase). Other programs would be reduced by $3.2 million to make up the difference between these increases and the overall budget.

Office of Civilian Radioactive Waste Management (OCRWM)

The primary mission of OCRWM is to develop a geologic repository, Yucca Mountain, for spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste from commercial reactors and atomic energy defense activities. OCRWM receives funds from defense and non-defense waste disposal programs within DOE. The Nuclear Waste Disposal program contains funding for Yucca Mountain, Transportation, Program Management and Program Direction, while the Defense Nuclear Waste Disposal program only contains funding for Yucca Mountain. The Nuclear Waste Disposal program would increase by 5.3% from $148.5 million last year to $156.4 million, while the Defense Nuclear Waste Program would rise by 12% from $346.5 million last year to $388 million.

Yucca Mountain was approved for development in 2002 and DOE had to delay their request for a site license for construction in 2004. Submission of a license application was delayed for several reasons, however, two primary and persistent problems are a court ruling that invalidates the EPA compliance period for waste disposal and under funding of the Yucca Mountain project by about $1 billion over the past 10 years. Spending within OCRWM will focus on defending the department's license application at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, improving decaying site infrastructure, planning facilities for the receipt of spent waste and developing a transportation infrastructure for spent waste.

Overall the Yucca Mountain project would receive $355.4 million, an increase of $49.5 million over FY 2006 funding. Transportation development would increase from $19.9 million in FY 2006 to $67.8 million and the President's request eliminates funding for the Integrated Spent Fuel Recycling program that Congress appropriated $49.5 million for in FY 2006.

Office of Environmental Management

The Office of Environmental Management was established in 1989 to clean up the waste and contamination from nuclear weapons development and energy research. It includes an environmental clean-up account for defense and non-defense activities. Non-Defense Environmental Clean-up would be decrease by 11.2% from $349.6 million appropriated in FY 2006 to $310 million. Defense Environmental Clean-up would decrease by 12% from $6,130 million last year to $5,390 million. The Uranium Enrichment Decontamination and Decommissioning Fund would increase by 4% from $556.6 million in FY 2006 to $579.4 million.

House Action

The House passed its version of the fiscal year 2007 Department of Energy Appropriations bill (H.R. 5427) on May 24th by a 404-20 vote. The House recommended a total budget of $24.373 billion, about $327 million more than the fiscal year 2006 enacted level and $299 million more than the President's request. The bill would fully fund the President's American Competitive Initiative request for a 14 percent increase for the Office of Science and the President's Advanced Energy Initiative for increased funding for clean energy technologies, including hydrogen, solar, wind and clean coal.

During floor debate, several amendments were passed, including an amendment (H.Amdt.916) by Rep. Juanita Millender-McDonald (D-CA) that would increase the funding for the Geothermal Technology Program by $5 million and another amendment by Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) that would increase funding for the State Energy program by $25 million. The accompanying report to the House bill (H. Rept. 109-474) includes a section on the proposed Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) that has been suggested as a part of the response to the National Academies "Rising Above the Gathering Storm" report. The House notes that while it recognizes the importance and value of research at the Department of Energy, "the proposal is not yet ripe" and does not recommend any funds for this program.

Funding for the Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Resources activities would receive a total of $1.3 billion, which is an increase of $143 million more than the President's budget request. Within this amount, Hydrogen Technology would receive the requested $196 million, Biomass and Biorefinery Systems Research and Development would receive $150 million, and Wind Energy would receive the requested $44 million. The President's budget request recommended the elimination of the Geothermal Technology and Hydropower programs, and the House committee agreed with this recommendation by providing no funds for either program. When the bill was brought to the full House for debate, however, the Millender-McDonald amendment passed by a voice vote and would provide $5 million for the Geothermal Technology program. The House would also terminate funding for the state energy activities (about $49.5 million in fiscal year 2006) because the committee believes this money is going to state employees for salaries, meetings and travel rather than applied research and technology transfer. During the floor debate, however, Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) offered an amendment (H. Amdt. 915) that would provide $25 million for State Energy Programs and the amendment was passed by a vote of 217-204. The bill would increase the budgets of the Vehicle Technologies, Building Technologies and Industrial Technologies activities above the President's request. These activities promote partnerships and technology transfer between research and industry to increase energy efficiency.

The House would provide $500 million for Nuclear Energy programs, which includes $18.7 million for the Nuclear Hydrogen Initiative, $27 million for nuclear science and engineering education (a $24 million increase compared to the request) and $120 million for the Advanced Fuel Cycle Initiative. The Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP) is a proposed new initiative on developing small nuclear reactors that use recycled fuel for power generation that could be shared with developing countries. GNEP received a lukewarm reception in the House because the details of the initiative are not well defined and funding related to parts of this initiative were incorporated into the Advanced Fuel Cycle budget. The House requested that the funds be used in the following manner:

The statutory authorization level established in the Energy Policy Act of 2005, Section 951(d)(1)(A) for the Advanced Fuel Cycle Initiative is $120,000,000. As such, the Committee's recommendation of $120,000,000 should be allocated as follows: $11,000,000 for separations technology development; $9,000,000 for advanced fuels development; $6,000,000 for transmutation engineering; $10,000,000 for systems analysis; $20,000,000 for the advanced fuel cycle facility; $39,000,000 for technology development in support of the several UREX+ processes; and $25,000,000 for the advanced burner reactor. No funds have been provided for transmutation education. The Committee does not at this time support the development of small modular reactors for export.

Funding for the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository would receive $574 million, with $186.4 million of those funds coming from the Nuclear Waste Disposal account (an increase of $38 million above the budget request) and $388 million from the Defense Nuclear Waste Disposal account. Most of these funds will be used by the agency to prepare another license application for the repository to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The report includes a long discussion on the committee's view of the current planning path of the repository, noting:

The Department has made a number of significant technical and management changes to the repository. In general, the Committee views these as positive changes that will put the repository program on a more secure foundation, will provide a clearer path to repository licensing, and will increase public and Congressional confidence in the safety and efficiency of the final repository. The Committee supports the adoption of the phased approach to repository licensing and construction. Such an approach is consistent with the "adaptive staging" recommended by the National Research Council in its 2003 report, "One Step at a Time: The Staged Development of Geologic Repositories for High-Level Radioactive Waste."

Funding for programs within the Office of Fossil Energy would receive an increase of $89 million above the request to total $737.4 million. This amount would include $558 million for research and development programs, which is an increase of $89 million from the budget request but a $34 million decrease from last year's allocation. The bill would terminate the Natural Gas Technologies activity ($20 million in fiscal year 2006) and would provide only $2.7 million for the Petroleum Oil Technologies activity ($33 million in fiscal year 2006). The committee noted that the Energy Policy Act of 2005 authorizes $50 million in mandatory spending for oil and gas research and therefore these other activities do not need funding. The $2.7 million in the Petroleum Oil Technologies activity would be divided between $1.5 million for the Stripper Well Consortium and $1.2 million for the states Risk Based Data Management System, two activities the committee did not believe were covered by the funding provided in the Energy Policy Act of 2005. The Clean Coal Power Initiative would receive an increase of $36.4 million over the President's request and the Fuels and Power Systems activity also would receive an increase of $25 million over the President's request. The $1 billion FutureGen project to build "the world's first coal-fired, zero emissions, electricity, heat and hydrogen producing power plant" would receive $54 million, same as requested, to continue design and licensing. Finally the House would provide $12 million for gas hydrates research, funded under the Natural Gas Technology program.

The Office of Science would receive even more than the requested 14% increase related to the President's American Competitiveness Initiative. Funding for this office would total $4.13 billion, which is $535 million above last year's funded level and $30 million above the budget request. Within this account, High Energy Physics program would receive $775 million, Nuclear Physics programs would receive $454 million, Biological and Environmental Research programs would receive $540 million, Advanced Scientific Computing Research programs would receive $319 million, and Fusion Energy Sciences programs would receive $319 million. Funding for the Basic Energy Sciences program would total $1.4 billion, which includes $286 million for chemical sciences, geosciences, and energy biosciences research.

The Energy and Water Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee is chaired by Representative Hobson (R-OH) other members include Frelinghuysen (R-NJ), Latham (R-IA), Wamp (R-TN), Emerson (R-MO), Doolittle (R-CA), Simpson (R-ID), Rehberg (R-MT), Visclosky (D-IN), Edwards (D-TX), Pastor (D-AZ), Clyburn (D-SC) and Berry (B-AR).

Senate Action

The Senate did not complete action on the Energy and Water Appropriations Act, 2007 before the 109th Congress adjourned on December 15, 2006. Instead Congress passed four continuing resolutions to keep the agencies affected by this bill running on either fiscal year 2006 or the House-approved funding levels, whichever was the lower amount of the two. See the continuing resolution action below for more details on how the fiscal year 2007 budget was eventually finished by the 110th Congress.

The Energy and Water Subcommittee is chaired by Senator Domenici (R-NM). Other members include Senators Cochran (R-MS), McConnell (R-KY), Bennett (R-UT), Burns (R-MT), Craig (R-ID), Bond (R-MO), Hutchison (R-TX), Allard (R-CO), Reid (D-NV), Byrd (D-WV), Murray (D-WA), Dorgan (D-ND), Feinstein (D-CA), Johnson (D-SD), Landrieu (D-LA) and Inouye (D-HI)

Continuing Resolution Action

The 110th Congress Finishes the Fiscal Year 2007 Budget

The Senate passed a year-long continuing resolution for the 9 unfinished appropriations bills for fiscal year 2007 (H.J. Res. 20) on February 14, 2007 without any significant changes to the House version of this continuing resolution (see below). The President signed the bill into law (Public Law 110-5) on February 15, 2007. All federal agencies, except the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security, will have their budgets defined by this continuing resolution through September 30, 2007. Departments with potential unstipulated funds have 30 days to inform Congress how they will distribute these funds.

House Passes Fourth Continuing Resolution with Some Increases for Science and Education

Even though the President released his fiscal year 2008 budget request on February 5th, Congress still has to finish work on the budget for fiscal year 2007. The nascent 110th Congress decided in January to consider passing another continuing resolution for the full year rather than try to pass 9 separate appropriation bills leftover from the 109th Congress.

On January 30th, the House passed a new continuing resolution (H.J. Res. 20) that would fund most of the government at the lowest of two possible levels either the fiscal year 2006 or the House-approved levels. The resolution worked out jointly by House Appropriations Chairman David Obey (D-WI) and Senate Appropriations Chairman, Robert Byrd (D-WV) added some adjustments that would increase funding for some research and education. The resolution explicitly eliminates earmarks and hopes to put a moratorium on earmarking until a reformed process is put in place.

The adjustments would include a proposed 6 percent increase compared to fiscal year 2006 funding for the National Science Foundation, so the agency would receive an increase of $335 million for a total budget of $5,916.2 million and $4,665.95 million would be allocated for Research and Related Activities, a 7.7 percent increase for that account. The Office of Science in the Department of Energy would receive a 5.6 percent increase compared to fiscal year 2006 funding for a total budget of $3,796.4 million. The Office would see a $200 million increase plus $130 million of previously earmarked funds that can be re-allocated for other purposes. Also within the Department of Energy, the Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Resources program would receive $1.5 billion, an increase of $300 million to accelerate research and development activities for renewable energy and energy efficiency programs.

No adjustments for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) or the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) were included in the joint resolution, so NOAA and NASA would have flat budgets. However, some funds for research and development would be available because earmarks would be eliminated. In addition, the resolution specifies funding levels for NASA's science mission as follows: Science, Aeronautics and Exploration would receive $10 billion, of which $5.2 billion would be for science, $890 million would be for aeronautics research and $3.4 billion would be for exploration systems.

The U. S. Geological Survey would receive $977.6 million, which includes a restoration of the President's requested cut to the Mineral Resources Program (about a $22 million increase) and a small increase over the fiscal year 2006 budget. The Smithsonian Institution would receive $533 million, a decrease compared to a budget of $618 million for fiscal year 2006. Congress did specify, however, that the Smithsonian would not be required to fund a specific grant for the Council of American Overseas Research Centers or the reopening of the Patent Office Building. This may free up some funds for research, infrastructure and fixed costs.

The resolution also would include increases for Pell Grants for undergraduate education, the Clean Water State Revolving Fund for water and wastewater infrastructure projects in every state, for parks and other lands to cover budget shortfalls and for the Forest Service/Wildland fire management account to meet shortfalls caused by the intense 2006 wildfire season.

The legislation now must be considered by the Senate and then if necessary voted on again by both chambers. If the legislation passes, it would then need to be signed by the President. The current continuing resolution expires on February 15th, so Congress does not have much time left. If Congress is unable to pass this legislation or some amended resolution, the government will shut down the day after Valentine's Day.

More information about the federal research and development budget for fiscal year 2007 is available at the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

New 110th Congress Considers Fiscal Year 2007 Budget

The 110th Congress, which started their first session on January 4, 2007, has indicated that they plan to extend the continuing resolution (CR) passed by the 109th Congress for the full year, rather than trying to work out a new budget for the 9 unfinished bills. This means that the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Department of Energy's Office of Science and the National Institute of Standards and Technology have started FY 2007 without the potential budget increases proposed by the President and the previous Congress. The 109th Congress had supported the President's American Competitiveness Initiative by increasing funding for the Department of Energy's Office of Science by 15 percent, the National Science Foundation by almost 8 percent and the National Institute of Standards and Technology laboratories by 21 percent in appropriations work.

These proposed increases will be lost if the CR is extended for a full year. The 110th Congress has indicated that it might consider "limited adjustments" to some appropriations when they bring forward a new CR that will be extended until September 30, 2007. Adjustments might include bringing all programs to at least their FY 2006 funding levels to avoid some of the steep cuts proposed by the House or Senate or providing specific funding increases for some specific programs.

If the CR is extended for a full year without any adjustments, here is how federal agencies that support Earth science research and development would be affected. The National Science Foundation would see a reduction in funding of about $439 million and this reduction would translate into a loss of about 800 new research grants for FY 2007. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) would be funded at the House-proposed level of $3.4 billion, which is $288 million below the President's request, almost $1 billion below the Senate-proposed level and more than $500 million below the FY 2006 budget. Such a significant reduction for NOAA would impede progress for core programs, such as the National Weather Service functions and stifle the development of new programs, such as the National Water Quality Monitoring Network, a national Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS) and the implementation of the recently updated Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the United States Geological Survey (USGS) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) would receive almost the same funding as they received in FY 2006 with no significant increases or decreases to research and development funding.

The American Association for the Advancement of Science has a useful summary of the affect of the CR on the FY 2007 budget for research and development (R&D) that is available online. The AAAS analysis concludes that the federal investment in basic and applied research funding will decrease for the third straight year, that the federal investment for development is increasing, and that the increases for research and development will go primarily to the Department of Defense. The Department of Defense research and development budget for FY 2007 is a record-breaking $76.8 billion, thanks to a 4.8 percent increase (about $3.5 billion). The Department of Homeland Security research and development funding will be slashed by 22 percent, giving them a FY 2007 budget of about $1.0 billion.

Please see the American Association for the Advancement of Science, R&D Budget and Policy Program for more details on the federal budget for R&D.

Third Continuing Resolution: December 8, 2006 to February 15, 2007

The 109th Congress returned from the mid-term election recess and was unable to complete any of the unfinished appropriation bills. Only the appropriations for the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security were finished in September and only these large departments started fiscal year 2007 on October 1, 2006 with new budgets. Before turning out the lights, Congress did pass another continuing resolution (H.J. Res. 102) through February 15, 2007. The continuing resolution (CR) means that all of the other federal agencies will be funded at the lowest funding level of three options, the fiscal year 2006 budget, the House approved FY 2007 budget or the Senate committee approved FY 2007 budget.

One quirk of the current CR is that congressionally-designated FY 2007 funding for specific projects (earmarks) are not specified, allowing the funds designated for these earmarks to be used for other projects. This gives federal agencies with earmarks some flexibility in transferring funds to alleviate shortfalls in core programs.

H.J. Res. 102 is available from Thomas, thomas.loc.gov

Second Continuing Resolution: November 17, 2006 to December 8, 2006

The 109th Congress was unable to reach any agreements or compromises on the 9 unfinished appropriations bills and passed a second continuing resolution to keep the government funded at some level before adjourning for the Thanksgiving holiday.

H.J. Res.100 is available from Thomas, thomas.loc.gov

First Continuing Resolution: October 1, 2006 to November 17, 2006

The 109th Congress adjourned on September 29th with lots of work left to complete when they return after the mid-term elections for at least one lame duck session from November 13-17. The biggest task to complete is the fiscal year 2007 budget for much of the federal government. Congress is likely to try to combine many separate bills into one large appropriation bill called an omnibus and if this happens, then policymakers are also likely to try to balance budget priorities for such an omnibus by applying a small rescission (probably about 1%) across all programs. It is also possible that Congress will not be able complete their budget work in November and may return for an additional lame duck session in December.

Congress passed only two of 12 fiscal year 2007 appropriation bills - one for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and one for the Department of Defense. The DHS appropriations bill contains a continuing resolution for the other appropriation bills that have not been completed. The resolution extends to November 17 and maintains the funding of all government agencies, except DHS and DOD, at the lower value of three possible levels: the fiscal year 2006 budget, the House-approved funding or the Senate committee approved funding. The House completed work on all 11 of their appropriation bills, however, the 12 Senate bills have not been considered by the full chamber and thus remain with their respective committees.

Appropriations Hearings

  • April 5, 2006: House Committee on Appropriations, Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development, hearing on "DOE Energy Supply and Conservation, Fossil Energy"

House Committee on Appropriations
Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development
Hearing on "DOE Energy Supply and Conservation, Fossil Energy"
April 5, 2006

David K. Garman, Undersecretary of Energy, U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)
Kevin Kolevar, Director of the Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability
Alexander Karsner, Assistant Secretary of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy
Dennis Spurgeon, Assistant Secretary of Nuclear Energy
George Rudins, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Clean Coal

On April 5, 2006, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development held a hearing to discuss the proposed fiscal year (FY) 2007 budget for energy supply, energy conservation, and fossil energy programs at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). Nearly every subcommittee member attended the three-hour hearing, peppering DOE officials with questions about coal, the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository, and the proposed Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP). "The budget request for FY 2007 appears very aggressive for renewables," said Subcommittee Chair David Hobson (R-OH), adding that the increase has come at the expense of other DOE programs. "I don't think that's going to hold," he said.

Undersecretary of Energy David Garman stressed that the DOE budget had been crafted to reflect the priorities of the President's American Competitiveness Initiative and Advanced Energy Initiative. "This is a budget that begins to put the 'energy' back in the Department of Energy," Garman said, adding that a key focus of the budget is to "strengthen connections between basic and applied" energy research.

Appropriators remained skeptical about the budgetary priorities in the DOE request. Ranking Member Pete Visclosky (D-IN) and Representative Dennis Rehberg (R-MT) questioned the logic of a twelve percent cut in the Clean Coal Power Initiative. Garman justified the reduction by pointing out that clean coal plants have been very successful in the market. He added DOE is emphasizing diversifying the country's primary energy sources rather than focusing on any one technology. Rehberg also expressed his displeasure at the elimination of funds for oil and gas research and development.

Members also touched on conservation and efficiency issues. Representative Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ) noted that the DOE budget placed little emphasis on conservation. "Conservation is fundamental and implicit if not explicit," Garman responded. "Energy efficiency is the most affordable and quickest energy resource we as a nation can tap." Nonetheless, Representative Ed Pastor (D-AZ) pointed out that the efficiency-increasing State Weatherization Assistance Program is slated for a 78 percent cut. Garman agreed that the program was "very dependable" and "low risk," but explained that the administration has chosen to invest in programs that are higher-risk but could carry a higher payoff.

Several representatives expressed significant interest in the progress of biofuels, including bio-diesel and cellulosic ethanol. In response to questioning from Representatives Tom Latham (R-IA) and Jo Ann Emerson (R-MO), Garman told appropriators that the U.S. currently produces about four billion gallons of ethanol from corn each year, and that DOE is looking to cellulosic ethanol to raise that number to sixty billion gallons per year. To be competitive in the market, however, ethanol prices would have to decrease from current levels of roughly two dollars per gallon to around one dollar per gallon. Garman added that funding for cellulosic ethanol research and development increased by 65 percent in the President's FY 2007 request.

The hearing concluded with a heated discussion of GNEP and the Yucca Mountain project. Hobson grilled Garman and Assistant Secretary of Nuclear Energy Dennis Spurgeon about interim storage facilities for nuclear waste. He cited information that despite guidelines requiring all nuclear waste recycling sites to include interim storage facilities, DOE is considering awarding a recycling project to a site that refuses to store waste. Furthermore, GNEP lacks provisions for interim storage.

Hobson and Visclosky also criticized the administration's treatment of the Yucca Mountain project. Visclosky accused DOE of "legislating away" Yucca's problems without solving the nuclear waste issue. Hobson remained unconvinced by Garman's assertions that the administration is continuing to emphasize Yucca. He noted that the Yucca project has been flat-funded for the past five years, and that by the time Yucca opens there will already be enough nuclear waste to fill the repository. DOE has no plan to "open the other seven Yuccas that you need," he added. Hobson stressed that "the committee is united" in dealing with the issue of interim waste. "I would propose allowing interim storage in any state that wants to take it except Nevada," he said.

To read Undersecretary Garman's written testimony, click here.


Sources: Department of Energy; Environment and Energy Daily; Greenwire; U.S. House of Representatives; United States Senate; Hearing testimony.

Please send any comments or requests for information to the AGI Government Affairs Program at govt@agiweb.org.

Contributed by Linda Rowan, AGI Director of Government Affairs and Jenny Fisher, 2006 AGI/AAPG Spring Intern.

Last Update March 21, 2007