The new budget proposal would raise funding for the Energy Department by 3.2 percent to $27.2 billion, boosting money for clean energy, research and development, advanced manufacturing and energy efficiency. As in the past, the administration has again proposed to eliminate tax incentives worth about $4 billion a year for oil and gas companies.
Much of the proposed spending increase is in the department’s National Nuclear Security Administration for maintaining and extending the life of nuclear weapons in the nation’s stockpile. About two-thirds of the Energy Department’s discretionary spending goes to defense-related purposes.
The budget also includes $150 million for research and development of a new processing facility being built by the U.S. Enrichment Corp. Many critics have questioned whether the facility is needed, but the struggling company wants to build an expensive new facility in the swing state of Ohio, and has attracted a great deal of political support.
The Energy Department’s overall actual outlays are expected to drop to $35 billion, down from $40.6 billion in the current fiscal year, as clean energy programs that were authorized earlier, including the 2009 stimulus package, wind down.
The proposed budget for the next fiscal year includes an 80 percent increase in money to promote energy efficiency in commercial buildings and industries; $310 million for the Solar Shot Initiative to make solar cost competitive by the end of the decade; and $95 million for research on offshore wind technologies.
“With the budget axes swinging everywhere in this city, to come out not only unscathed but with some significant increases is important and speaks to the bipartisan nature of the issue of investing in our nation’s energy efficiency,” said Kateri Callahan, president of the Alliance to Save Energy.
There were some gestures to other forms of energy. The office Office of Nuclear Energy would get $770 million, devoting a greater portion of those funds toward research and development of small modular reactors. And the fossil energy programs would increase, largely to research new technologies for hydraulic fracturing that would be less likely to cause environmental damage.
The administration would also maintain about the same level of funding, about $5 billion, for science programs, including the national laboratories and new energy research hubs that Energy Secretary Steven Chu supports.
Among the losers in the budget proposal: 35 projects that did not hit milestones the department set, including six that received funds from the ARPA-E research program. The administration also wants to slash funds for hydrogen and fuel cell programs by 23 percent.
The budget “reflects some tough choices,” Chu said in a briefing, cutting some programs to maintain “strategic priorities.”