Senate appropriators ‘reject’ cuts to energy research

By Adrian Cho, Science.

Many observers hoped Senate budgetmakers would oppose cuts to the Department of Energy's (DOE's) basic and applied research programs proposed by the White House in May. But they may not have expected them to be quite so blunt about it. The detailed report that accompanies the Senate version of the so-called energy and water bill, which funds DOE, contains several passages in which Senate appropriators express their objections to cuts in unusually frank language.

For example, in its budget request for fiscal year 2018, which begins 1 October, the White House seeks to eliminate the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), the 8-year-old agency that aims to quickly transform the best ideas from basic research into budding energy technologies. House of Representatives appropriators have voted to go along with that elimination, but Senate appropriators are having none of it. "The Committee definitively rejects this short-sighted proposal," the report says. Instead, Senate appropriators would increase ARPA-E's budget by 8% to $330 million. Their report expressly forbids DOE from using money to shut down ARPA-E.

Similarly, within DOE's Office of Science, the White House has called for cutting spending on biological and environmental research (BER) by 43% to $349 million. But the Senate appropriations committee "rejects the short-sighted reductions proposed in the budget request." Instead, Senate budgetmakers would boost BER research by 3% to $630 million. Senate appropriators also would give DOE's applied research in its Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy $1.937 billion, a 7% cut from last year, but far above the $636 million proposed by the White House.

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