Yesterday the House Appropriations Committee passed their FY 2014 Energy & Water spending bill on a 28-21 vote. The bill is perhaps most notable for rather staggering cuts to low-carbon energy R&D funding across multiple offices, agencies and accounts. AAAS has previously reported on the House’s apparent interest in targeting these programs, including in the budget resolution; those threats appear to have been carried out so far. According to current AAAS estimates, Department of Energy (DOE) applied energy technology programs would be cut by 34.4 percent below FY 2012 levels, 31.3 percent below estimated FY 2013 post-sequester levels, and 55.9 percent of the President’s request.
Office of Science R&D would fare somewhat better but would still lose ground relative to recent history, falling 4.0 percent below FY 2012 levels and 9.7 percent below the President’s request, while increasing 1.1 percent above the AAAS FY 2013 post-sequester estimate. The third category of DOE R&D, atomic defense-related R&D at the National Nuclear Security Administration, fares best in the House bill by far. Total atomic defense R&D would increase by 9.7 percent above FY 2012 levels and 14.1 percent above FY 2013 post-sequester estimates, though it would fall 4.4 percent short of the President’s request, mainly due to cuts in naval propulsion R&D. These figures do not account for inflation, which will reach 4.0 percent between FY 2012 and FY 2014.
In historical terms, DOE R&D would fall to its lowest point since FY 2007. Office of Science would fall to FY 2008 levels, while other offices would fall somewhat further relative to their historical funding levels. NNSA would continue its recent growth, and the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), with a $50 million funding level, faces what can only be called an existential threat.
The Committee has expressed concern with the proliferation of research centers throughout DOE. The Committee directs the Department to provide additional detail about the variety of research centers receiving funding with identifiable goals and termination dates, and to consider closing less-effective programs in the portfolio. The bill also includes legislative text to require the Secretary of Energy to notify the Appropriations Committee of any million-dollar grants awarded; and it would require most energy research programs to forward-fund most multiyear R&D awards, essentially meaning that the entirety of project funding must come from the current-year budget rather than future budget years.
Office of Science. The Office of Science would receive $4.3 billion for R&D, a $460 million cut below the request. Within the Office of Science, the only program that would increase ahead of inflation is the Fusion Energy Sciences program, which would receive a 28.8 percent increase above FY 2012 and 10.4 percent above the President’s request. The program’s domestic research component, slated for a cut by the Administration, fares particularly well in the bill. Included in this funding is $22.3 million for the Alcator C-Mod facility at MIT, which had been scheduled for shutdown by the Administration. The Basic Energy Sciences program would be cut by 3.7 percent below FY 2012, and the Energy Frontier Research Centers program would not receive the increase requested by the Administration. The largest relative reduction is reserved for the Biological and Environmental Research program, though the BioEnergy Research Centers would receive full funding.
Energy Programs. As stated above, most low-carbon energy technology programs would receive hefty reductions in the House bill. Only the Fossil Energy program would receive a boost above the request, of 7.0 percent, though it would remain below FY 2012 levels. Every program within the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy would receive cuts of at least 35.9 percent, though some – including programs for solar, wind, building efficiency, and geothermal energy – would receive far larger relative cuts below FY 2012. ARPA-E’s $50 million appropriation would represent an 81.8 percent reduction below FY 2012 and 86.8 percent below the request, representing a potential death blow to the agency should it come to pass. The Committee also declines to fund the proposed Electricity Systems Energy Innovation Hub.
Atomic Defense. In contrast to the developments elsewhere, NNSA would do relatively well under the House bill. While nonproliferation R&D would stagnate, the Committee would match the request in several other accounts, and would provide $329 million for the beleaguered National Ignition Facility, a major increase above the request.