*Neither House nor Senate appropriations bills concerning the DOE were passed in the 111th Congress, and a continuing resolution has kept budgets at FY 2010 levels through March 2011.
Congress passed the Continuing Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2011 (H.R. 3082) and the President signed the measure into law on December 21, 2010. The measure keeps the federal government operating at 2010 funding levels until March 4, 2011. Discretionary spending would be about $1.16 billion more than 2010 levels, with most of the increase for the Veterans Benefits Administration and the National Nuclear Security Administration (related to the implementation of the ratified START Treaty). The Department of the Interior's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (formerly the Minerals Management Service) will receive an additional $23 million for increased oil rig inspections in the Gulf of Mexico, but the increase is offset by a rescission of unobligated balances. Federal civilian employee salaries will be frozen for two years under the continuing resolution.
The 112th Congress will need to consider the FY 2011 budget as soon as the new session begins on January 5 and will need to balance their considerations with appropriations for FY 2012. Incoming Speaker of the House John Boehner has suggested that discretionary spending for FY2011 be cut by about $100 billion to FY 2008 levels, however, many legislators have publicly stated that such cuts are unlikely to gain passage.
The Senate had initiated FY 2011 omnibus appropriations with a target of $1.108 trillion for total spending as proposed by the McCain-McCaskill cap amendment. This level was $29 billion below the President's FY 2011 budget request. Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies would have received about $58 billion ($6.4 billion less than FY 2010), Energy and Water Development would have received $34.5 billion ($1.05 billion less than FY 2010) and Interior, Environment and Related Agencies would have reeceived $32.2 billion (equal to FY 2010). The omnibus negotiations template may serve as a blueprint for any potential omnibus for FY 2011 appropriations in the 112th Congress. A full year continuing resolution for FY 2011 is also a strong possibility.
Energy Department Invests to Lead the World
The Office of Science would receive $5.1 billion, an increase of 4.4 percent (+$218 million) over FY 2010. Within the Office of Science, Chu has worked hard to support and develop Energy Innovation Hubs, Energy Frontier Research Centers and the Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E) because he strongly believes these specialized and focused facilities can develop the innovation the nation needs in energy resources and energy use. These facilities are well-funded in the President’s request and time will tell if Congress agrees to support these initiatives after raising concerns about redundancies and nebulous objectives in the past year. ARPA-E would receive $300 million in the request, building on the stimulus funds the new agency received after Congress chose not to appropriate any funding in FY 2010.
The Office of Science would provide $191 million for the U.S. Global Change Research Program, $51 million for Geosciences (+$28 million over FY 2010), $305 million for Environmental and Climate Sciences, $86 million for Climate and Earth System Modeling, and $101 million for the Climate and Environmental Facilities and Infrastructure. There would be support for support for simulations and analyses needed for part of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fifth Assessment. There will also be support for research in carbon capture and sequestration, subsurface biogeochemistry, radiochemistry, nuclear waste clean-up and experiments that may be located in the National Science Foundation’s proposed Deep Underground Science and Engineering Laboratory (DUSEL). DUSEL will include some rock mechanics and related experiments besides a primary focus on high energy physics experiments.
The request would provide $36 million (+$15 million) for Workforce Development for Teachers and Scientists and would fund the RE-ENERGYSE program at $55 million. Both programs will support training for teachers and students in science and engineering fields that are relevant to Department of Energy work.
The Office of Fossil Energy will focus on clean coal research and development (R&D) almost exclusively with significant funding for carbon capture and sequestration research, development and demonstration. Investments in oil, natural gas and unconventional fossil energy R&D are terminated in the President’s budget request.
The Office of Nuclear Energy will receive an increase of 4.9 percent (+$42 million) for a total budget request of $912 million to support research, development and demonstration in nuclear power, nuclear reactors, nuclear energy systems, fuel cells, fuel cycles and other activities related to nuclear energy. The President’s request terminates the Yucca Mountain geologic nuclear waste repository and a special Blue Ribbon Commission has been set-up to consider alternatives for nuclear waste.
For details on specific geoscience-related programs with the Energy Department see AGI’s budget tables above.
For more details about the DOE FY11 budget, please visit the DOE budget web site.
The Energy and Water Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee is chaired by Representative Visclosky (D-IN)*. Other members include Representatives Edwards (D-TX), Pastor (D-AZ), Berry (B-AR), Fattah (D-PA), Israel (D-NY), Olver (D-MA), Davis (D-TN), Salazar (D-CO), Murphy (D-PA), Obey (D-WI) (ex officio), Frelinghuysen (R-NJ), Wamp (R-TN), Simpson (R-ID), Rehberg (R-MT), Calvert (R-CA), Alexander (R-LA) and Lewis (R-CA)(ex officio).
*Visclosky has temporarily handed control over to Representative Ed Pastor (D-AZ)
The Energy and Water Subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee is chaired by Senator Dorgan (D-ND). Other members include Senators Byrd (D-WV), Murray (D-WA), Feinstein (D-CA), Johnson (D-SD), Landrieu (D-LA), Inouye (D-HI), Reed (D-RI)(ex officio), Lautenberg (D-NJ), Harkin (D-IA), Tester (D-MT), Ranking Member Bennett (R-UT), Cochran (R-MS) (ex officio), McConnell (R-KY), Bond (R-MO), Hutchison (R-TX), Shelby (R-AL), Alexander (R-TN), Voinovich (R-OH).
Committee Members Present
“Although, American science is still arguably the best in the world,” Chairman Pro Tempore Ed Pastor (D-AZ) began, “our margin of leadership is neither as wide nor as clear-cut as it has been in the past.” The House Appropriations Energy and Water Subcommittee continued hearings on the Department of Energy (DOE) fiscal year (FY) 2011 budgets, focusing on the DOE Office of Science and Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E). Pastor was concerned about redundancy in DOE programs, especially since the FY2011 budget requests a 4.4 percent increase in “tough times.” Ranking Member Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ) had similar concerns, requesting the panel give the committee tangible results of how appropriated funds had been used successfully, and demonstrated a good investment of U.S. tax money.
Dr. Steven Koonin, Under Secretary for Science at DOE, discussed DOE’s plans to develop strategic mission-oriented science, applying decades of research to help solve current energy questions. This includes projects developed using American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funding, such as Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E). The Office of Science climate and Earth system modeling programs have proposed increases of $15.8 million from FY2010. Koonin, arguing for the increase stated, “While current generation of models are more than sufficient to prompt concern over rising greenhouse gas levels, we must work to reduce model uncertainties and refine scientific understanding.”
Koonin clarified the differences between the ARRA-funded DOE programs: Energy Frontier Research Centers (EFRCs), Energy Innovation Hubs, and ARPA-E. Science. EFRCs, he explained, are university-based and problem-oriented groups aimed at overcoming scientific obstacles. Hubs are goal-oriented research centers that house teams of scientists and researchers to answer “ripe” multidisciplinary questions using a side-by-side integration of science and engineering to facilitates early commercialization of the research. ARPA-E is discovery-oriented and “on the hunt for new technologies” by focusing on high-risk, high-reward research. He argued that science integrated knowledge about the natural world into useable descriptions for engineering applications while engineering research designs and manufactures technologies to serve a specific function. The EFRCs, Hubs and ARPA-E will cover the entire spectrum from science to engineering.
Dr. William Brinkman, the director of the Office of Science, said the Basic Energy Sciences (BES) would receive a 12.1 percent increase to $1.835 million. The gas hydrate research program would be moved from the Office of Fossil Energy to BES. BES will investigate the natural and engineered stability of gas hydrate formations in the Arctic and the Gulf of Mexico through controlled experiments and multi-scale models.
Brinkman also discussed the Biological and Environmental Research (BER) program, which would receive a 3.8 percent increase to improve climate model resolution. BER will support continued data collection to improve understanding of atmospheric aerosol feedback cycles and ecosystem response to climate change. Brinkman underscored the importance of a rigorous peer-review system to DOE climate research efforts.
ARPA-E Director Dr. Arun Majumdar discussed the growth of ARPA-E since its inception a year ago. ARPA-E seeks to leapfrog over current approaches and create technologies where none currently exist to reduce dependence on foreign energy sources, reduce energy-related emissions and ensure U.S. technological leadership. Projects funded through ARPA-E have been identified as too risky for private industry, but have potential for high-reward. Majumdar highlighted how fast the first round of grant submissions was funded, and an ARPA-E workshop that brought together 1,700 leaders in research, industry and government. “We are living through the Sputnik moment of our generation,” and Majumdar emphasized that “we must step up our clean energy efforts. Business as usual is not a viable option.”
Pastor asked about current innovative energy projects and how an EFRC, Hub, or ARPA-E would approach it. Majumdar responded that ARPA-E supports research and development (R&D) efforts of the small teams located at an EFRC, Hub or even National Lab, and teams from different research centers may collaborate. Following initial R&D, ARPA-E will leverage results to develop a product in a timely manner. Pastor acknowledged the efforts of the panel members to reduce redundancy in their programs, however he reminded the panel that it was the job of the appropriators to make sure they received the greatest return from American tax dollars.
Frelinghuysen was interested in the role private industry was playing, noting the DOE was not DOE Inc. All three panelists shared personal narratives of how small businesses and large corporations used DOE money to move forward by applying the scientific principles investigated in federal labs. Majumdar summarized the efforts saying programs, like ARPA-E, allow businesses to get venture capital that would otherwise come from private industry.
Lincoln Davis (D-TN) summarized some of the points the panel made, saying American R&D was like an agricultural garden where “you plant the best seeds hoping many of them will grow.” He suspected the efforts made through such rigorous funding would allow R&D efforts to “move faster than greased lightning.” Davis asked the panel how the U.S. was going to keep its competitive edge through simulations. Koonin and Brinkman both lauded and extolled the potential of supercomputing national labs because further data collection will lead to more predictable model variables.
Michael K. Simpson (R-ID) was curious about the goals between the private sector and the government, noting the private sector’s bottom line was always profit. Majumdar said ARPA-E has a commercial ready team that reviews the portfolios on what can be done to help a company and to enable business. Simpson and Pastor questioned whether business actually needed these programs. Simpson also had questions on gas hydrates, but he submitted these to the record.
Steve Israel (D-NY) reminded the audience that America had a history of fantastic scientific achievements, like putting a man on the moon. He asked about projects and progress on batteries. All three panelists agreed that U.S. battery research efforts are 10-15 years behind where they need to be. Majumdar said the lithium ion battery was invented in the U.S., but U.S. only accounts for 1 percent of global lithium ion battery production. Following ARRA investments, the U.S. now holds 15 percent. However Brinkman said, regardless of the U.S. investment, the Chinese are still spending more on R&D.
Noting the current statistics were ominous for the U.S., Frelinghuysen asked the panel, “What keeps you awake at night?” Majumar responded, “Innovation is not the issue, rather how do we sustain and scale these projects.”
Witness testimony and Pastor’s opening statement is available on the subcommittee web site.
Committee Members Present
Vice Chairman Ed Pastor (D-AZ) opened the energy hearing, which focused on fossil and renewable energy, energy efficiency, and energy delivery, by noting the U.S. economy relies heavily on fossil energy – most of which is imported from other nations. He was very interested in how the Department of Energy (DOE) would develop a low-carbon economy using U.S. coal and natural gas. Ranking Member Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ) discussed these issues, and was particularly interested in how DOE efforts affected both private- and state-level job creation.
Kristina Johnson, Under Secretary for Energy at the Department of Energy (DOE), echoed the President’s State of the Union address, stating it was the administration’s hope that the U.S. would become the global leader in clean energy technology, and such an effort will spur the next industrial revolution. Rather than “business as usual” at the DOE, Johnson discussed the many ways the DOE hopes to utilize “new and inspired research” to achieve this goal. The DOE fiscal year (FY) 2011 budget request includes research and development (R&D) funds for Energy Frontier Research Centers (EFRCs), the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Energy (ARPA-E) and Energy Innovation Hubs. Johnson discussed overall cuts in the Fossil Energy budget and the DOE’s commitment to the development of renewable energy resources and improving energy efficiency technology.
Cathy Zoi, Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), discussed the DOE programs developing renewable energy resources and increasing energy efficiency. Requests for EERE in FY2011 total $2.355 billion, or a 5 percent increase from FY2010. Several R&D programs received increases, including the Geothermal Technologies Program, which would receive $55 million, an increase of 25 percent over FY2010. Part of those funds will be used to develop seismic imaging tools at Sandia National Laboratory, test nano-tracers at Stanford University, advanced spallation drilling processes, and electricity generation capacity with the hot water waste products co-produced at geothermal sites. The Water Power Program, which is developing and testing marine and hydrokinetic power systems and developing open-ocean renewable energy test facilities, would receive $40.5 million, a 19.5 percent decrease from FY2010.
The Fossil Energy (FE) program request was $760 million, or a 20 percent decrease from FY2010. James Markowsky, FE Assistant Secretary, discussed the program highlights for FY2011. The FE program is very interested in focusing on U.S. reserves of coal and natural gas, and continuing carbon capture and storage (CCS) research. FE R&D requests for FY2011 were $586.6 million. Markowsky discussed progress on the nine large scale Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnerships for long-term geologic storage of carbon dioxide, several of which will begin carbon dioxide injections in FY2011.
FE funding for unconventional oil and gas technologies were zeroed out in FY2011, a savings of $20 million. Johnson’s testimony justified these decisions by stating the administration felt industry was capable of continuing this research. Markowsky explained gas hydrate research was zeroed out because it was moved to the Office of Science.
Patricia Hoffman, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability discussed the DOE’s efforts to increase the reliability of the grid, advancing grid modeling and enhancing cyber security.
Pastor and Frelinghuysen were interested in how the DOE had aided in job creation, and what oversight existed for DOE funds. They were concerned with the proportion of government jobs to private sector jobs, fearing the consequence of under-supporting private sector economic stimulation. Johnson explained a large percentage of private sector jobs were maintained and created by American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds. Zoi and Johnson explained a lag existed for reported jobs and fund use. As of December such numbers appeared low, but Johnson explained the DOE had not yet finished FE and Smart Grid grants.
Dennis Rehberg (R-MT) described the FY2011 budget as “one size fits all” and felt it may not be applicable to the entire U.S. “Quite frankly the budget angers me,” he exclaimed, frustrated by the funding cuts in FE. He explained his state uses all energy technologies, with the exception of offshore drilling though he joked, “When the big one hits California we’ll have offshore drilling too.” He asked the DOE to not turn its back on fossil fuels. Markowsky responded there was tremendous potential in clean carbon. Markowsky believed it feasible to remove 90 percent of carbon dioxide in the short term, although he felt it was imperative industry be involved to create a market for CCS.
John Salazar (D-CO) agreed with Rehberg that the budget should not discriminate so heavily against fossil fuels. Salazar asked about a discrepancy between what ARRA funds had been reportedly spent and the appropriated amount. Johnson explained 100 percent had been obligated, and it was DOE policy not to pay until a full bill had been issued to them. Salazar was also interested in what technology ARRA funds had been used for. Johnson discussed an all-liquid battery project funded through ARPA-E, but Salazar wanted a timeframe. Johnson responded, “If I knew when this technology will take off, I would quit my job and invest in these companies.”
Rodney Alexander (R-LA) inquired about the possibility of tax incentives for natural gas exploration, citing the advances in natural gas recovery technology and gas hydrates. He wondered if the President was even aware of the large discoveries made in the U.S. Markowsky, not wanting to comment for the President, suspected President Obama was aware, citing increased domestic natural gas and coal production. Markowsky assuaged Alexander’s frustrations, saying natural gas will undoubtedly have to play a role in the development of a clean energy economy. Alexander also focused on hydraulic fracturing and potential impacts on groundwater. Markowsky said more information was needed and the method of natural gas extraction required further investigation. He was unaware of any known impacts or potential regulatory policies.
Lincoln Davis (D-TN) felt the current budget continued to move further away from hydrogen vehicles. The last administration had touted the potential benefits of a hydrogen fuel cell, but it was absent from the FY2011 budget. He also wondered why the DOE did not fully utilize nuclear power, saying a $1.2 trillion investment for 300 nuclear plants would provide 60 percent of U.S. energy needs and would be a low-carbon alternative. He suggested, before the hearing ended, that the DOE fully examine their portfolio to determine if all methods of low-carbon energy production were receiving the appropriate attention.
Witness testimony and the vice chairman’s opening statement are available from the subcommittee web site.
Sources: Department of Energy; Environment and Energy Daily; Greenwire; U.S. House of Representatives; United States Senate; Hearing testimony and Thomas.
Please send any comments or requests for information to the AGI Government Affairs Program at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Contributed by: Linda Rowan, AGI Government Affairs Staff; and Maureen Moses, 2010 AGI/AAPG Spring Intern.
Last updated January 13, 2011