Trump Administration Releases Budget Slashing Energy Research
President Donald Trump wants to balance the federal budget in 10 years, and it appears he believes that to do so, deep cuts to the nation’s energy research funding are needed.
The administration’s fiscal year 2018 (FY18) budget request, released Tuesday, May 23, cuts funding for the Department of Energy (DOE) by $1.7 billion, a 5.6% decrease from fiscal year 2017 (FY17) funding levels. However, within the DOE’s proposed FY18 budget, the National Nuclear Security Administration, which is “responsible for enhancing national security through the military application of nuclear science,” gets a boost of $1.4 billion to $13.9 billion, an increase of 11.4% from FY17. Funding for the rest of the department is cut 18% to $14.1 billion, down $3.1 billion from FY17’s $17.2 billion.
The budgets for the department’s offices of science, nuclear energy, fossil energy, and energy efficiency and renewable energy are all cut significantly under the budget request.
The DOE’s Office of Nuclear Energy would be funded at $703 million for FY18 under the administration’s budget request. According to the request, the office will be focused on early-stage research and development. The office was funded at roughly $1 billion in the FY17 omnibus.
The administration requests $94 million to fund reactor concepts research development and deployment, a $38 million decrease from the FY17 funding contained in the recent omnibus.
Fuel cycle research and development would be funded at $89 million under the request, less than half of its FY17 funding of $207.5 million.
Taking less of a hit, funding for nuclear energy enabling technologies research and development is requested at $105 million, a decrease of just $10.1 million.
The budget request zeros out funding for the Small Modular Reactor Licensing Technical Support Program, which was funded at $95 million in the FY17 omnibus.
Interestingly, fossil energy research and development (FER&D) also takes significant hits in the budget. Throughout the Obama administration, FER&D was a sticking point in the DOE’s appropriations process. Obama regularly requested cuts to the FE programs, and in turn, Republicans in Congress regularly restored the funding, decrying Obama for underfunding the programs and showing favor to renewables.
Under the Trump budget request, FER&D would be funded at $280 million, down 44% from the FY17 omnibus funding level. Obama’s final budget request called for FER&D funding of $600 million, making use of a $240 million balance left over from FY16.
The FY18 budget request would fund research into carbon capture at $16 million, down from $101 million in the FY17 omnibus. Carbon storage research would be funded at $15 million, down from $95.3 million. Advanced energy storage, which was funded at $105 million in the FY17 omnibus, would be funded at $46 million under the FY18 request. Funding for cross-cutting research in the request is $38 million, down from $45 million in the omnibus.
The budget request zeros out funding for supercritical transformational electric power research and development.
During his campaign, Trump seemed to signal his support for fossil energy innovation, saying several times that he “loves clean coal.”
The budget also looks to make noteworthy changes to the National Energy Technology Laboratories (NETL). “The NETL Infrastructure and Operations program supports the upkeep of NETL’s lab footprint in three geographic locations: Morgantown, WV; Pittsburgh, PA; and Albany, OR. This budget request initiates an effort to consolidate NETL’s multi-site footprint to a single operational complex,” according to the request.