White House plans to slash research funding at the Department of Energy are coming up against a wall in the Senate.
A report from the Senate Appropriations Committee, led by Energy and Water Development Subcommittee Chairman Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., criticizes numerous White House budget cuts as “short-sighted” and restores funding close for many programs to the current budget.
In the case of ARPA-E, the advanced energy research division President Donald Trump had proposed eliminating, the Senate recommends not only maintaining the division but increasing its budget 8 percent to $330 million.
“The Committee definitively rejects this short-sighted proposal, and instead increases investment in this transformational program,” the report reads.
ARPA-E funds research at institutions around the country, with eight projects currently underway in Texas. Texas A&M University and Rice University both count projects within their facilities, including research into improving solar panel efficiency and using micro-organisms to produce ammonia, a substance critical to numerous agricultural and chemical industries.
The recommendations counter that of the House, which agreed to eliminating ARPA-E, setting up a showdown between the two houses of Congress.
At a basic level senators are taking aim at Trump’s plans to shift the Department of Energy away from funding the commercialization of advanced energy technology, an initiative of former president Barack Obama.
“The President’s budget request proposes a shift away from later stage research and development
activities to refocus the Department on an early-stage research and development mission. The Committee believes that such an approach will not successfully integrate the results of early stage
research and development into the U.S. energy system,” the report reads.
The senate is also recommending restoring funding to the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy close to 2017 levels, with a $1.9 million budget. That represents an 8 percent cut but far from the 70 percent reduction recommended by the White House.
“The Committee recognizes the importance of the development and deployment of energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies, which are critical to expanding U.S. energy security and global leadership,” the report reads.
At the Office of Fossil Energy, which Trump cited for a 58 percent budget cut, the senate is recommending a 14 percent cut down to $571 million.