The Natural Resources Defense Council today urged Congress to investigate why the Department of Energy (DOE) still has not distributed as much as $600 million in congressionally approved clean energy R&D funding more than two months after the end of fiscal year 2018.
Citing the findings in a new NRDC analysis, NRDC Managing Director of Government Affairs Ana Unruh Cohen described the delays as “uncharacteristic and concerning” in her letter to the leadership of the House and Senate Appropriations Subcommittees on Energy and Water.
“The consequences of the funds remaining unspent with no apparent plan for utilization is not only an insult to congressional direction but undermines US businesses and entrepreneurs in developing the next generation of clean energy technologies,” she said.
NRDC analyzed publicly available data to track research, development, and demonstration (RD&D) spending and found:
- DOE’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) office – which the organization says the Trump administration tried twice to eliminate – has not spent more than 79% of its $353 million FY18 research budget ($280 million); and
- The Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) – which Trump had hoped to cut by nearly 70% – has failed to spend more than $319 million (14%) of its $2.32 billion FY18 research budget.
Cohen says the NRDC fears that administration officials at the DOE may be attempting to support the Trump administration’s efforts to “eliminate or significantly cut funding for key research programs and offices” by blocking clean energy R&D funding from ever finding its way to US businesses.
Members of the NRDC Climate & Clean Energy Program team said that the US’s global competitiveness is being put at risk by our lack of strong funding for R&D. They pointed out in a blog post that energy accounts for 20% of the Chinese R&D budget, compared to just 2% in the US, and that China’s total federal R&D budget is projected to grow at a much faster rate than the US.
Earlier this year, the Trump administration proposed to slash EERE funding by nearly 70%; instead, Congress rejected the administration’s proposal by increasing funding to ARPA-E and EERE to historic levels, the authors pointed out.