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Fri Sep 14, 2018, 04:15 AM

Congress sends Trump energy spending bill that includes healthy boost for science

The U.S. Congress today sent President Donald Trump a 2019 spending bill that boosts funding for the Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) basic research efforts—and rejects deep cuts to the department’s applied research programs that the White House had proposed.

If Trump signs the bill into law—as many observers expect—DOE’s Office of Science would get a 5.2% spending boost, to $6.585 billion, in fiscal year 2019, which begins 1 October. In contrast, the Trump administration had proposed slashing the Office of Science budget by 13.9% to $5.39 billion.

The White House had called for an even bigger cut to applied energy research supported through DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy (EERE), a 70% whack to $696 million. Instead, the bill—which the House of Representatives approved today and the Senate passed yesterday—gives EERE a 2.5% increase to $2.379 billion. Similarly, the White House had sought to eliminate the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), which seeks to quickly translate the best ideas from DOE-funded basic research into budding technologies that can be developed further by private industry. The bill gives ARPA-E a healthy 3.7% boost to $366 million.

In a report accompanying the bill, congressional appropriators warn the administration against trying to cut or kill the EERE and ARPA-E programs. “The Department shall not use any appropriated funds to plan or execute the termination of ARPA-E,” it states. “In addition, the Department is directed to disburse funds appropriated for ARPA-E on eligible projects with a reasonable time period, consistent with past practices.” In April 2017, DOE came under fire from Congress for refusing to dispense the grant money Congress had appropriated for ARPA-E.

The report contains similar language ordering DOE “to maintain a diverse portfolio of early-, mid-, and late-stage research, development, and market transformation activities” within EERE. In its call to slash the EERE budget, the White House had said it would do so in large measure by shifting the program’s focus to early stage research alone.

More: http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2018/09/congress-sends-trump-energy-spending-bill-includes-healthy-boost-science

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