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17 April 2014 12:48 pm ,
Vol. 344 ,
Officials last week revealed that the U.S. contribution to ITER could cost $3.9 billion by 2034—roughly four times the...
An experimental hepatitis B drug that looked safe in animal trials tragically killed five of 15 patients in 1993. Now,...
Using the two high-quality genomes that exist for Neandertals and Denisovans, researchers find clues to gene activity...
A new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concludes that humanity has done little to slow...
Astronomers have discovered an Earth-sized planet in the habitable zone of a red dwarf—a star cooler than the sun—500...
Three years ago, Jennifer Francis of Rutgers University proposed that a warming Arctic was altering the behavior of the...
- 17 April 2014 12:48 pm , Vol. 344 , #6181
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U.S. Senate Bill Includes Generous Funding for Energy Science Programs
13 November 2013 5:15 pm
A bipartisan proposal from two U.S. senators calls for boosting the Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) science budget by nearly 23% over the next 2 years to $5.4 billion—a more generous raise than either Republicans or Democrats in the House of Representatives have proposed.
The draft legislation is intended to become part of larger bill, still under discussion, that would reauthorize the 2010 America COMPETES Act, which expired at the end of September. It would set overall policy and maximum spending levels at several key science agencies, including the National Science Foundation and DOE’s Office of Science, which runs 10 national laboratories and is one of the nation’s major funders of the physical sciences.
The proposal is authored by senators Lamar Alexander (R-TN), a senior Republican who serves on key committees that oversee DOE and its budget, and Christopher Coons (D-DE), who serves on the appropriations committee. It calls for authorizing DOE science program to spend up to $6.9 billion in 2018, a 49% increase over its current level of $4.6 billion.
A similar proposal released by Democrats on the House science panel would boost the science office's budget by a smaller amount, 33.7% over 5 years to $6.3 billion. Both bills would give DOE more in fiscal year 2014 than the $5.2 billion that President Barack Obama has requested from Congress.
House Republicans envision much more modest increases. Their proposal, available so far only in summary, would increase DOE science spending by 2.7% over 2 years, to $4.8 billion. In contrast, over that same 2-year period the Senate would boost DOE science spending by 22.9% , and the House Democrats by 17.1%. (Click here for a table comparing the proposals.)
The Senate proposal also includes a funding plan for the Advanced Research Projects-Energy (ARPA-E), which calls for boosting its current $264 million budget by 67% over 5 years, to $440 million. The House Democrats proposal calls for a heftier 75% increase to $461 million over the same period. House Republicans have not proposed funding levels for ARPA-E.
Not surprisingly, the Senate proposal has pleased research groups who advocate for bigger DOE budgets. But the numbers come with some big caveats. One is that these authorized levels, even if approved by Congress, don’t actually commit Congress to provide those sums. Indeed, appropriators rarely meet authorized spending limits. In fiscal year 2013, for instance, DOE’s science programs received $1.4 billion less than the spending target of about $6 billion in the 2010 law.
Another is that it is not clear whether the House and Senate will agree on new authorizing legislation to replace COMPETES. Both bodies are contemplating action, and several bills have been floated in the House. But prospects for finishing the job anytime soon are murky.